Executive Functioning: Time Management
When we look at a child’s Time Management abilities, the first problem we often think of is procrastination. While this can be a huge issue for many of our kids, being able to avoid procrastination is only a small piece of having good time management skills.
Time Management means having an accurate understanding of how long your tasks will take, and being able to accommodate for that time. Avoiding procrastination is a part of this, but it also takes the ability to pace yourself, prioritize your tasks, and utilize the time you have efficiently. Let’s look at each of these pieces.
Understanding How Long a Task Will Take You
This is a skill that can really only be accomplished through trial and error. It requires you to estimate how long you believe a task will take, and measuring how long it actually takes you, on a few occasions. Here is a step by step walkthrough of how to help your child do this with his or her homework.
Step 1: Look at the task at hand, and work with your child to estimate how much time it will take.
Step 2: Allow your child to complete the task (without looking at the clock).
Step 3: Note how long the task actually took.
Step 4: Repeat this a few times, and then average the times together. If on average you are finding that math worksheets take your child 15 minutes, you can use that as a guide when you are creating a schedule.
Being able to pace yourself is a crucial factor in having good time management skills. After you and your child have figured out how long tasks should take, you should be monitoring future assignments and trying to complete them in the time you have allotted. This will mean minimizing distractions and making sure that you/your child are being efficient during that time. This also means knowing when a break is necessary. If your child is trying to complete something challenging and getting frustrated, allowing for a break can provide a mental reset so the rest of the time can be spent working through the task instead of battling the frustration. Breaks can also be helpful when you have extra time so that you can reserve mental energy. By trying to rush through everything at once, you/your child will fatigue quickly.
As children get older, they will begin to receive more assignments at school and gain more responsibilities to manage. Helping them learn how to prioritize their tasks early on will help their ability to do this independently as they grow up.
Helpful Tip: Go through what assignments need to be done and help your child decide which need to be completed first. A suggestion would be to get the hardest task done right away, while they have the most mental energy and focus. Once that is done, it will be easier to do the more preferable tasks.
It is difficult to work efficiently when your attention constantly needs to be redirected. Ideally, when your child is trying to do their homework, they should be in an environment free of distractions. Remember that different items can be distracting for different kids. Some kids will benefit from alternative seating or assistive technology. These can be great resources when used appropriately, but can also be distracting if misused.
Helpful Tip: Set expectations ahead of time with your child. This will help determine when the accommodation is being used as a tool, and when it is being used as a toy. If you see that your child is using these resources as toys, it is not being used appropriately and should be considered a distraction.
Here are a few examples of expectations you can set.
A yoga ball or wiggle stool can be used as an alternative seating option. For children that need extra stimulation, the ball/stool engages the muscles in their core as they have to actively work to keep balanced. This muscular stimulation is enough to pacify the need for gross motor movements and can help them focus. If your child is bouncing up and down or is fidgeting so much that they fall off the ball, it is not being used appropriately and should be taken away.
A computer can offer an array of accommodations and help for students. They have the opportunity to look something up, they can use text to speech, they can type instead of handwriting assignments, etc. An expectation should be set that if anything is up on the computer that does not pertain to schoolwork (i.e. games & social media) during the time set for homework, the computer will be taken away.
Overall, time management skills require you to use your time efficiently. By helping your child develop and practice these skills early, it will help them build independence with these skills as they grow up.