10 Time-Management Skills That Will Help Your Kid Win at School


Want your kids to succeed at school without spending every waking hour with their noses buried in books? Teach them how to manage their time most efficiently with these 11 tips on perfecting that September-to-May juggling act.

1. "Mind Map" Before a Writing Project

You may not have heard of "mind mapping," but the concept isn't new at all. It's really just a fancy 21st  century name for brainstorming, which we were taught as kids. Before your kid embarks on a project — particularly a written assignment — have them brainstorm their ideas, outline the steps of the project, and start organizing their thoughts into full-fledged ideas. That way, when it's time to get to the nitty-gritty of it all, the process will flow more seamlessly since all the moving parts will be in place.

"The best time-saving tip we know of is when a child has to write something — a book report, research paper, speech/presentation — is to use mind mapping," says Bryan Mattimore, chief idea guy at The Growth Engine Co., an innovation agency. "We have kids (and corporate innovation teams) create a mind map of what they might want to write first. It makes it a great deal easier for young and old alike to first get everything out in the mind map, so that they can write an outline and then more effectively and quickly write the piece."

2. Use a Calendar

I've used a monthly calendar to roughly plan out 30 days of advance assignments since I started my own business six years ago. I'm able to see what I've completed and what's coming up at a glance, and I can easily make room for additional assignments by moving other items around if need be. I've found this method of organization extremely helpful not only in terms of productivity, but also psychologically as the completed projects I cross off help ward off feelings of anxiety that I'm falling behind.

Author Patty Wood suggests taking a similar approach with your child.

"Post a big school calendar above the child's desk or workstation so they have a visual of time and their assignments," she says. "Have them put color stickers for tests and assignments on the due dates. When they look at any assignment, they can figure out how much work and time it will take to prepare and go on the calendar and assign time on days leading up to it. For example, if they have a speech on September 26, they can put an hour on, say, five days in the two weeks prior to the speech to get ready for it."

3. Prepare for the Next Day (or Week) in Advance

In addition to my monthly calendar, I also plan ahead on a more immediate level, like preparing my weekly meals all on one Sunday afternoon, as well as choosing and ironing that week's outfits. With all of those tasks out of the way for the week, I'm able to sleep in a few more minutes in the mornings and start my days with much less stress.

Let your kids choose the clothes they'd like to wear that week, and invite them into the kitchen to choose what snacks and drinks they'd like in their lunches. As they get older, if this has become routine over the years, they'll eventually do all of this on their own (hopefully), so you can rest assured that your young adult is well on his or her way to being A-okay in the real world.

4. Establish a Dedicated Homework Time and Location

You'll have an easier time getting your child to do homework if you establish a dedicated time and location to do it. Once the routine is solidly in place, it will become habitual with, ideally, no after-school fuss.

5. Create a Checklist

In addition to my monthly calendar of projects, I also keep a daily to-do list — which includes both personal and professional items — to help me stay on task throughout the day. I try to plan them out in terms of the time I think each activity will take, but that's not always reliable as sometimes things don't go according to plan. Your kids can benefit from this system — and so can you — by providing them an outline of what needs to be done for the day and by what deadline.

6. Avoid Over-Scheduling Extracurricular Activities

A lot of kids get sidetracked or fall behind because of over-scheduling, and if that's happening in your family, it's time to take a step back and examine your priorities. Extracurricular activities — like sports, music, art, and theater — are important to your children's physical, social, mental, and emotional development, but not at the cost of education and overall well being. If they're doing too much in a day, and their homework or other educational pursuits are suffering, something has to go.

Also, as a parent, stay sensitive to your child's demeanor and personality. If they're stressed out, unhappy, or constantly on edge, perhaps it's because they feel over-worked and overscheduled. Check in from time to time to see how they're doing in that regard.

7. Limit Phone/Social Media/TV Time

If you're addicted to social media, the Internet, or your e-mail like I am, you know firsthand how much time is wasted while you're on the phone and computer instead of concentrating on your work. This goes double for your kids whose hormones are raging amid all the traditional school drama that happens from pre-teen age all the way to high school graduation. To ensure their media doesn't interfere with their after-school responsibilities, limit the time they can spend on it by perhaps confiscating the devices until all homework, chores, etc. are finished, or granting them a certain amount of time to be online/the phone each night.

You probably won't win any Parent of the Year awards in their eyes, but you're doing the right thing — and they'll recognize that someday.

8. Set Artificial Deadlines for Assignments

If your child has trouble remembering assignments or just procrastinates (like every other teenager — and adult — in the world), another potential tactic to take is to set artificial deadlines for assignments. I sometimes do this for myself if I dread a certain assignment, and I also employ this tactic when scheduling activities with my always-late husband. By creating a "window of lateness" as I like to call it, you can almost be sure that everything (and everyone) will be on time, or at least on the actual, much-later deadline.

9. Prioritize Assignments in Order of Importance

Kids tend to gravitate toward the easiest work there is, but that's not always the best approach to their assignments given that not all assignments are created equal. Some count for much more of their final grade than others, which makes the highly weighted projects a priority over smaller, more easily accomplished assignments. Review your child's schedule with them to go over their projects in depth to understand what they entail, recognize how much work they will require, and create a plan to meet the deadlines.

10. Keep a Regimented Schedule at Home

An after-school free-for-all will lead to certain disaster for your children in terms of their educational priorities, which is why it's in your entire family's best interest to keep a regimented schedule at home.

"To best help children manage their time effectively while in school, help them to understand and practice time management outside of the school day; this will allow them to internalize this structure and use it elsewhere, especially at school," says Dr. Lindsay Popilskis, certified school psychologist. "Agree upon start and end times for academic tasks — such as homework — and fun tasks, and stick to those times. You may even set a timer for activities so that children can independently see how much time has been spent and how much time is left for each activity. With all that being said, the most important time for routine is bedtime. Without a good night sleep, children have difficulties maintaining their focus, which will not capitalize on their time no matter how managed it is."

Do you have other time-management tips to help kids win at school that you'd like to add? Let me know in the comments below.

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