It’s About Time! Strategies for Effective Time Management

Throughout the day, in numerous environments and situations, we are called upon to manage our time.  Time management is an important skill that helps us set priorities, manage schedules and tasks effectively, and plan for the future.  Many students, however, struggle to organize and manage their time effectively.  The good news is that time management skills can be taught. 

Time management is an important step towards independence that begins in early childhood.  It starts with an awareness of time in daily routines and activities. We use calendars to increase awareness of discrete events and schedules to help recognize units of time.  We use timers, clocks, and digital devices to help students develop an awareness of the length of time for activities that have a clear start and end time.  We help them comprehend the passage of time by explicitly announcing, “We are working on our essays for twenty minutes” or “The bell will ring in five minutes”.  We teach our students how to tell time but extending that to being able to manage their time effectively will not happen without explicit instruction in time estimation.

Being able to estimate time is critical to becoming an effective time manager.  Teach students the necessary steps to estimate, predict, and compare time predictions through modeling, support, practice, and reinforcement by using the activities shown in the Estimating Time chart (located on the front side of the Time Management Strategy Card).  Talk through time estimation.  Compare units of time necessary for familiar routines such as getting to school and eating lunch, asking students to estimate which activity will take longer to complete. Next, ask students to predict how long it will take to complete specific daily activities. Finally, ask students to compare their estimate/prediction with the actual time it took to complete the activity.

Students who can accurately estimate the time needed to complete tasks as well as long-term projects are well on their way towards successful time management, and they benefit when teachers clearly integrate time management skills that are implied in academic standards into the curriculum at all grade levels.  Teach and reinforce time management skills using student-friendly time management tools.  A variety of tools are specifically created to help students understand and practice time management. Consider low technology–such as clocks, timers, watches, and calendars–to organize time and provide reminders. Higher-tech devices such as smartphones and tablets can be programmed to give auditory, visual, or kinesthetic reminders linked to either time or location.  The key is to use visuals and methods that relate to your students.  The Time Management Strategy Card can support your students in being successful time managers.

Parents can adapt these strategies for use in the home environment, supporting children from a young age in becoming successful time managers.  If you are an adult who has challenges with time management or support adults who do, these strategies work for that population as well.  It’s never too early or too late to teach strategies for time management, supporting individuals in managing their time as independently and effectively as possible! 

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