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Time management skill is the ability to make sure everything gets done in good time by estimating and allocating available time and staying within its limits.

A child with weak time management skills has difficulty managing long-term projects in particular. They tend to struggle to complete tasks without stress on time and to utilize available time effectively. Even daily, they hand in homework late, gets distracted by lower priority tasks, and fail to set, keep to, and monitor deadlines and plans.

A child with adequate time management is able to finish her homework before bedtime, can make good decisions about priorities when time is limited and is able to work on a longer-term project with multiple parts to meet the deadline. She is known to be “on top of everything” without much stress. Even when under pressure, she determines what is more urgent and which resources can be used to improve efficiency. It goes hand in hand with motivation, but, also, the practical know-how to set and utilize priorities and routines efficiently while still being adaptive.

For example, Shelley often loses track of time and does not seem to have a sense of urgency, especially with obligatory tasks and those requiring effort. This is becoming a growing frustration at school and home. Shelley is slow to get ready for school or to go anywhere else, especially if it is not a preferred destination. She is also often the last to finish work at school, although she does not have learning problems.

What do I do to help my child improve his/her time management skill?

Select one or two issues that you teen seems to have involving time management. Maybe she routine has difficulty to get tasks and assignments done in time, or stresses at the last moment to get something completed. Perhaps it is because she does not follow a daily planner or tackle thing in the wrong order. Use the questionnaire scores as a reference if needed. Define the issues that need improvement as specific as possible, noting the frequency, severity, and consequences. Also, consider whether there is a common antecedent or trigger, what the typical situation is and who is involved. Formulate a goal for each issue. Break it up into smaller goals if possible.

Before you start with the intervention, sit down with your child and explain the problem, process, and importance of achieving the goals that you have set. Ask your child for input in setting goals and plans for improvement. Make her feel empowered in the process. To improve time management skills a structured approach works best. Schedules, reminders, and cues are important. As soon as scheduling becomes a consistent habit the positive changes will be noticeable, including secondary benefits in other performance areas.

To improve time management, follow the following general steps:

  1. Identify an activity or area that needs improvement and set specific objectives that can be measured.
  2. Consider environmental supports or changes that can help achieve the target goal. Examples are a wall clock, timer, written schedule, and cues.
  3. Discuss your expectations and goal with your child.
  4. Set a daily schedule to complete the activity by a certain time or within a certain time period. Break it down and arrange in a preferred order where possible.
  5. Set a reminder or cue and monitor your child during the schedule.
  6. Decide on a reward if the child achieves the goal (e.g. points to be accumulated and converted to something desirable), and/or punishment if it is not achieved (e.g. less free time).

Make sure that you monitor your child’s performance against the goals that you have set and give him or her regular feedback.