Time Management

by Dr. Emily Levy
Can your child predict how much time it might take to finish a homework assignment or prepare for a test? Does he or she wait until the night before an exam to begin studying? Is there ever a last minute panic before an assignment is due?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child may be in need of some time management strategies. With so many tests, papers, handouts, assignments, and after school activities to keep track of, managing time can seems daunting to almost any student. So what is the best way to balance all of these demands? A helpful tool for time management success is to break tasks down into daily, weekly, and monthly views.

The Daily View

Maintaining a daily planner is of utmost importance to effective time management. Some teachers now post assignments or syllabi online. Students might feel that they just need to look on a website to figure out their assignments or test dates. To effectively manage time, however, all students, even those who attend a web-oriented school, should maintain and regularly use a daily assignment planner for all tests, assignments, and after school activities.

How should this planner be set up? A great strategy for integrating a time management strategy into a daily planner is to create five columns in each day’s box. This means that the planner should be large enough to have a wide box for each day – not one so tiny that it is nearly impossible to write legibly.

Each box should be divided into the following columns: ET, AT, O, D, and Assignment. For instance:

assignment-sheet2 assignment sheet

Students should create these columns at least two weeks ahead of time in their planners. At school, the only place where they should write their assignment is in the “Assignment” column. Each day, when they sit down at home to do their homework, the first task they should do is complete the “ET,” or “Estimated Time” Column. In this column, they should predict how long they think each task or assignment will take. Then, based on the estimated times, they should choose the order in which they would like to complete their assignments. They might choose to complete the shorter ones first to get those over with, or they may choose to work on the longer tasks fist. Either option is fine, as long as they stick with the plan.

The next step is completing the assignments in the order that they chose. They should keep a watch or clock handy and time themselves to see how long it actually takes to complete each assignment. After each assignment is complete, they should write the “AT,” or “Actual Time” for that assignment in the column. Students should always compare “Estimated Time” to “Actual Time” for each assignment. At first, they will likely be amazed at the difference between these two times. Yet the more they practice this strategy, the more realistic they will become with their time expectations, and the more these two times will likely merge. Finally, when they have completed each assignment, and it is put away in the proper place to be turned in, the student can put an “X” under the “D,” or “Done” column. A typical well-used planner might look like this:

assignment sheet

The Weekly View

It can be easy to lose sight of long-term assignments if students only see them as part of a daily plan. Thus, looking at a weekly calendar can help students view any assignments, projects, tests, or activities that are coming up in a given week. Every Sunday night, students (parent help is okay too!) should create a weekly calendar. This weekly calendar can be created either on paper, on a large white board, or even using computer software.

Any and all upcoming events and due dates for that week should be written on that weekly calendar. Baseball games, science fairs, quizzes, projects, and assignments should all be included. Any long-term task, such as a research project or cumulative exam, should be broken down into steps, and each step should be included in the calendar. This practice will help students plan for the week and start that week on a positive note.

The Monthly View

Purchasing a magnetic monthly calendar with a white board surface is a wise investment for helping your child to build effective time management skills. At the beginning of each month, all dates should be filled into the correct square and all upcoming due dates, activities, projects, appointments, practices, and exams should be put on this calendar. After each day passes, a red dry erase marker can be used to cross out each day. This perspective will help students plan for the month ahead and know what to expect from a broad viewpoint.

Time management can be a challenging task for many people. As students progress through school, the demands on their time increase quickly as the academic rigor of school begin to rise. Learning to manage time from daily, weekly, and monthly viewpoints can help students gain perspective on their near-term and long-term expectations. The earlier students can learn these tools and put them in practice, the easier their transition through school will be. So help your child put these practices in place – the clock is ticking!

Dr. Emily Levy is the director of EBL Coaching, which offers one-on-one tutoring and 3-week intensive summer programs. For more information, call 646-342-9380 or visit www.eblacoaching.com.

Dear Dr. Levy, My son received an excellent report card. I can’t say enough good things about his EBL tutor. She has done a tremendous job helping him improve his reading and writing skills. Most importantly, she is wise and kind. She is always patient with him. Because of his tutor, my son writes with much more ease.
– Parent