Parents and students complain to me all the time that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, and while that may be true, there are usually plenty of untapped resources students and families could be using to budget their time more effectively.
Let’s consider why students may feel like they don’t have time.
They don’t actually try to manage it
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way: plenty of students don’t even attempt to manage their time. Studying happens the night before the test, homework is squeezed in around other, “more important” things, and leisure time and breaks get stretched out to unnecessarily long lengths. If your child is constantly procrastinating and stressed out because he or she is working down to the wire, then the first step is to help them set aside time for what’s important.
Many schools provide students with an agenda book in which they can write all their assignments. This is a good place to start. Alternatively, many schools instead provide students with netbooks, tablets, or laptops to use. No matter the operating system, there are plenty of tools to help students stay organized:
- Google Calendar
- Microsoft Outlook / OneNote
Any of these can sync to students’ other devices to help them keep on task, so they can be reminded without even having to open their agenda.
They don’t create specific-enough appointments or goals
Some students understand the importance of time management, write down their assignments, and earnestly try to complete them before the due date, but end up aimless because they only recorded due dates and didn’t create a study plan or set aside time dedicated to completing the assignment. Those who manage their time well set specific goals for each appointment so that there is a clear indication that they are done and so that time isn’t wasted on activities unrelated to the task at hand. The more clearly assignments/projects are broken up into manageable pieces, the easier they will be to complete. For younger students, this may mean setting goals for writing certain parts of an essay or reading certain parts of a book; for older students, this may mean using a tool like Trello to manage all the working pieces of a project.
They are inefficient because of habits or skills
No matter what your child tells you, there is no such thing as multitasking. Studying should happen in a quiet place that is as free from distractions as possible, but for most kids happens in a bedroom with a tv, computer, and/or cell phone readily accessible, all calling for their attention.
Alternatively, he or she may have weak foundational skills, especially reading. Sometimes students take 2-3 times as long as they should to get through material because they are inefficient readers or note-takers, not knowing what kind of information to focus on or how to best utilize that information in their studies.
There is only so much time in the day. Not everyone can be a star athlete, actor, musician, volunteer, etc. while maintaining an awesome GPA. Sometimes something has to give. If time isn’t being set aside to study, then that is a choice to prioritize something else over it. I’m not saying don’t have fun or be “well-rounded”—just you can’t complain about not having enough time when you are purposely stuffing your schedule with other things. Consider what is important to you. Make a list. Stick with the items that make it to the top of it.
Time Management is one of those skills that’s better learned early on, as it requires significant discipline and habit-building and only becomes more difficult to master as one gets older. The irony is that even busier students that learn how to manage their time are far less stressed than those who don’t because they have budgeted time for truly fun things and aren’t susceptible to major stressors that may result from procrastination. I definitely recommend fitting a discussion or two with your child about time-management into your busy schedule.