Managing time can seem like an art – either you naturally master the 24-hours in your day, or you get trampled by distractions and wonder what happened to all of the hours in the day. When we are working from home, we can sometimes get lost in day. Without a routine, minutes turn to hours in the blink of an eye. Unless you have children – then the minutes feel like hours and you’re hiding in the bathroom with a bottle of wine, and it isn’t even lunch time yet. Before you get to that point, it is time to develop effective time management skills.
Before you can help your child manage his or her own time, you have to master your own time management. In the age of COVID, this can be a difficult task, but at the start of the pandemic outbreak, I wrote about ways to stay focused and organized through the doldrums of long days at home.
Setting the Stage to Develop Effective Time Management Skills
Much of what I am about to say will be contingent upon how your child’s school delivers their curriculum this school year – something you likely won’t know until the school year starts.
I am going to offer a few strategies that have worked for my child – and in the past, what has worked for my students.
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Order a wall calendar
These inexpensive white board calendars will be key to supporting your child’s time management and organization over the next few months. Hang the calendar in your child’s workspace. Every important assignment deadline, meeting with a teacher, or test date will go on this calendar.
Color code the calendar
Have your child decide the meaning of each color. For example, we use the following colors on our calendar:
Project Due Dates
When a new task is written on the calendar, write it in the appropriate color.
Hold Weekly Planning Meetings
Help your child understand what the week ahead looks like by holding a weekly planning meeting every Sunday afternoon or evening. For younger children, it will be your job to pull the weekly plans from your school website. Sit down with your child to show them what is coming up and add new information to the calendar. For older students, there should be an expectation in place that they will come to this meeting with the information in hand.
Parents of middle school and high school students: IT IS NOT YOUR JOB TO COMPILE THIS INFORMATION FOR YOUR CHILDREN.
At the start of the year – because we are all new to this – you can sit with your child as he or she shows you where they find their assignments. You can show them how to add this information to the calendar. But you should NOT be doing it for them.
During this weekly Sunday meeting, ask your child these important questions:
- When are your class meetings?
- What assignments are due this week?
- How much time do you expect each assignment to take?
- What steps need to be taken to complete each assignment?
- How can I support you this week?
Some assignments should only take 20 – 30 minutes (i.e. a standard homework assignment). Other assignments, such as projects or papers, will take longer and require more planning. Talk through this process with your child. What steps do they need to take? How much time do they expect each step to take? What supplies do they need to complete the project?
Print a Schedule
Many schools, after finding their sea legs during the school closures last Spring, are adopting a more synchronous learning platform for the new school year. Meaning, your child will be expected to sign in to Google Classroom or a Zoom Meeting at a designated time every day. While this is important for collaboration and maintaining some semblance to normalcy, it can create confusion.
Where am I supposed to be? What is the meeting ID? Password? What time is class? What day is it?
All valid questions when each class has their own meeting ID and password, and when the adults can’t even remember what day of the week it is.
Save yourself the headache and print out a schedule for your child. When your child’s teacher announces the schedule for the school year (or week), print out the template found here and fill it in with the important details:
- Class Name
- Start and End Times
- Meeting Platform (i.e. Zoom, Google Classroom, etc.)
- Meeting ID
Order a Student Planner
If your child’s school does not provide a planner, order one. Many kids will argue that they don’t need it – they do. Trust me on this. I have worked with countless middle school and high school students who say, “I don’t need to write it down because it’s on the website.”
Well, what happens if the website goes down? It’s possible given that 1,000+ students will be trying to access the school’s site every day.
And, how do you remember that you need to check the website? Hint: they don’t.
Lastly, how do you keep track of what still needs to be done? If you said, “they don’t,” you’re well on your way to mastering adolescent organization skills!
Seriously. They need to write it down. With an actual pen or pencil on a piece of paper. But not just any random piece of paper that will get crumpled up and lost. In an assignment book, with organized pages, dates, and designated sections for each subject.
The big wall calendar mentioned above is for the big assignments and important meetings. The assignment book is for the daily assignments. It acts as a checklist where you child will write down the assignment given during each class, and they will cross it off ONCE IT IS TURNED IN. Not when it is finished. It is not finished until it is turned in!
End the Day with a Wrap-Up Convo
I get it. At the end of the day, after you’ve been overseeing the entire schooling operation while (likely) trying to complete your own work from home, talking about the day with your children might seem exhausting. And what could you possibly have to talk about?
But this step is really important. This is a chance for you to get a sense of where your children are academically. Where did they struggle today? What assignments are still on their list of things to do? How much progress did they make on the bigger assignments? Are they struggling to pay attention during their class meetings?
By wrapping up the day with your child, you will have a better understanding of their progress, challenges, and wins. This will give you real-time updates, rather than waiting three weeks for the teacher to email you to say that your child is falling behind.
I know you are exhausted. Your children are exhausted, too. By putting these strategies into play at the start of the school year, you will be running on autopilot by the end of September.
I also offer free 15-minute consultations to parents needing additional support and guidance. If you are in need of specific-to-your-family support, please schedule your free consultation today.
What questions do you have about developing effective time management skills? Do you have other tips to share with your fellow readers?