Does your child neglect to turn in homework on time or seem to have no sense of how long it takes to complete tasks or activities? Time management deficiencies are not only a concern for students with ADHD and Learning Disabilities, they can be also be debilitating to all types of students. Time management skills play an important role in determining the amount of success a student will achieve. Once a student reaches high school, time management skills become one of the most vital indicators of academic achievement. The importance of time management skills only grows once a student reaches college or enters the work world.
While students come with varying levels of ability, time management skills are not necessarily innate. This means we cannot expect that students will gain time management skills through osmosis. We must deliberately teach students how to manage their time effectively if they are to reach their full potential.
How to help:
- First sit down with your child and have them list two or three overall priorities that are important to them. These priorities should be generated by your child so they are meaningful to him/her.
- Then have your child develop measureable goals for each priority within 6 months — this should be much shorter if your child has ADHD ≈ 1 week to 1 month. Also, make sure the goal is attainable. In other words, if you child had a 2.0 gpa for the past four semesters, choose a goal of getting a 2.5 gpa or 3.0 gpa, rather than a 4.0. We do not want your child setting him/herself up for failure. Keep in mind this is not setting low expectations — rather the child is setting high expectations compared to his/her previous performances.
- Then have the child write a list of the tasks or activities that he/she will have to do in order to fulfill the goal.
- Priority: Get good grades
- Goal: I will get at least an A or B in all of my classes by the end of the semester.
- Task/Activities: 1) Turn in homework assignments on time; 2) Study for tests so I am prepared to do my best; 3) Attend class on time; 4) Take notes when the teacher is lecturing; 5) Ask questions if I do not understand; Etc.
Once your child sets personal goals, they are now working to fulfill their own wishes and desires and not yours. This is an important step. Now anytime your child behaves in a way contrary to their own goals, you can ask them “is what you are doing right now, helping you achieve your goals?” This is a powerfully reflective question that allows the child to take responsibility for his /her own behavior.
Now that the goals are set, you are ready to introduce time management skills. It is a good idea to revisit the goals every week with your child and review what they did well/not well for the week, and to make any revisions if necessary.
Time Management Tools and Techniques:
You may run into some resistance here. Many students feel the extra burden taking the time to plan is not worth it. This where a trip down memory lane can do some good in convincing them otherwise. Ask your child to think about a time they neglected to turn in homework on time or when they felt overwhelmed or rushed. Encourage them to tell you what went wrong. Then have them think about the goals they set. Most likely they are ambitious and will take a lot of effort to reach. Then tell them you know of some techniques that will help them to feel less stressed and reach their goals. A few minutes of planning each day can save a lot of time and stress later. You can also give your child all sorts of analogies. How would a house look if the builder didn’t draw out the plan first? What would happen if the quarterback didn’t know the play?
- Online Schedules
- Evernote.com is a free service that allows you to access your tasks and to-do lists from any computer or smart phone.
- Things Mac is an application for Macs and iPhones that allows you to divide your time according to tasks, projects, and areas of responsibility
- Google Calendar and Yahoo Calendar are free online tools you can use to make a schedule, create reminders, and even share your schedule with others.
- Voice Notes
- Use your voice memo or voice notes feature on your mobile phone to set reminders for yourself.
- Microsoft Outlook is an email and calendar software program. You can set appointments, tasks, due dates, etc. Many smart phones will allow you to sync your Outlook calendar with your computer so that you can take your calendar with you anywhere you go.
- Paper Planners
- Good old fashioned paper planners are still a great way to go. Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student, states that a helpful hint is to create a paper planner that allows you to see an entire week laid out on 2 pages. That way you can see what you need to do that night after school and also see how those tasks fit into your week as a whole. “This helps show you what absolutely cannot wait until the last minute,” she explains.
- Organize Materials and Documents
- Organize your work. Using colors to separate subjects. For example, Yellow divider signifies History work, Red divider is Math work, Blue divider is English work, etc.
- If you use a computer organize your documents into separate subject folders.
- Limit Distractions
- Give yourself the time and space to concentrate on your work. Find a quiet space where you will not be tempted or interrupted by distractions such as texts, emails, television, phone calls, Facebook, games, etc.
- Make Clock or Timer Visible
- Set time limits to complete tasks or portions of tasks. Use an oven timer, or one of the multitude electronic timers online or on your smart phone.
- Set a specific time to complete homework each day. Use whatever time of the day you will feel most productive. A majority of students will be most successful if they begin working on homework right after school.
- Set Priorities
- Prioritize your assignments, tasks, and activities into high, medium and low priority. High priority tasks are those that have imminent deadlines. Medium priorities are those tasks that need to be done sooner rather than later. Low Priority tasks are things that you can do later. Finish the items on your high priority list first, then move to the items on your medium priority list. If you have time left over work on the items on your low priority list. Items on your low priority and medium priority list can move up to high priority if you do not finish them.
- Plan Time After School
- Once you get home, set aside a few minutes to plan your time after school. For example:
- 4-4:30 Snack.
- 4:30-5 Pages 321-322 in my math book.
- 5-5:30 Chemistry project.
- 5:30-6 Chemistry project
- 6-6:30 Dinner
- 6:30-7 Poem for English class
- I have found success working with students in helping them to develop an after school time planner that they can save on their computer. We make it very simple, with pull down menus, and method for assigning level of priority. You can develop this yourself or I can make one for your child for a fee.
- Once you get home, set aside a few minutes to plan your time after school. For example:
- External Motivation – for some children, internal motivation will be enough (e.g. pride in meeting goals, getting good grades, meeting timelines). However, many children will need extra reinforcement to learn and utilize time management skills. It is best if you can sit down and collaboratively work on a reinforcement plan together with your child. Turn the plan into a contract that you both sign. Below are some suggestions about a reinforcement contract:
- Be specific – vague language leaves too many loopholes and causes confusion. What exactly will your child do? And what exactly will he/she get as reinforcement for meeting the terms of the contract?
- With your child create a menu of items and activities that will be reinforcing to your child. First choose smaller ticket items (e.g. 30 minutes playing video games, watch a movie, go outside and play soccer with Mom, etc.). These smaller ticket items should be given frequently – especially in the beginning (daily to weekly in frequency). Then generate a menu of a few big ticket items for long-term success (e.g. go out to dinner at favorite restaurant, or go shopping for a pair of shoes for earning 3.0 gpa).
- As time passes, allow your child, within reason, to add or subtract items from the reinforcement menu. The key is you do not want your child to get bored with the items or activities on the menu.
- Use verbal praise frequently. Be honest, but give praise liberally and make sure it is specific (e.g. “I really like how you sat down and planned your time after school today”)
- Make sure you stick to the contract. If your child meets the terms, make sure you give the reinforcement. Conversely, do not give the reinforcement if your child fails to completely meet the terms. If you do either of the above, you render the contract meaningless. In certain cases it will be necessary to renegotiate the contract, but do not change what you are doing until the contract is renegotiated.
Lastly, in order for your child to successfully learn and practice good time management skills he/she will need to be monitored daily until they show independence. You can gradually fade out monitoring over time by reducing it to two or three times per week, then once per week, and then once every two weeks. Some children will eventually only need monitoring once a month. However, do not rush this process. Allow your child to show success for at least two weeks before moving onto the next stage of reduction of monitoring. Your close observation and involvement will eventually pay big dividends for both you and your child.
If you have any questions about any of the above information or would like to inquire about my services, please visit my website at http://edpsychologist.webs.com/ or email me at JasonThomas4330@aol.com
* Some of the above strategies were provided by the January 2010 issue of Career World
Jason Thomas has worked both as a Special Education teacher and School Psychologist in the public school system where he served children from preschool through high school. Currently, he has a private Educational Psychology practice in Los Angeles. His private practice services primarily include psycho-educational assessments for students who are struggling academically and/or behaviorally. He also offer testing for the purpose of identifying Gifted students. He specializes in finding any underlying cognitive, emotional or behavioral difficulty that is negatively impacting the student’s educational performance and developing a plan to remediate or accommodate those difficulties so that the student can reach his/her full potential.