As we empower our students by giving them more control over the time, path, place, and pace of their learning, it becomes increasingly necessary for our learners to have strong time management skills. These skills are especially important during self-paced virtual learning, where we are not present to help guide and redirect their use of time like we would be in the face-to-face classroom.
In order for our students to gain these necessary skills, we need to be intentional in teaching them the strategies and digital tools that are available to help them manage their time. By doing so, we can help our students avoid the stress caused by procrastination and set them up to successfully meet their assignment deadlines.
Along with directly teaching our students these strategies and tools, we must provide them with repeated opportunities to apply these skills. The more opportunities that we can give our students to make the decisions regarding their time, the better they will be able to develop their time management skills. For example, rather than always directing every step in the learning, we need to give students opportunities to break larger projects into smaller tasks and to prioritize multiple tasks over an extended period of time. This, of course, will need to be scaffolded and adjusted depending upon the age and experience of the students, but all learners can work toward self-managing their time and tasks. It is also important to provide students with opportunities to reflect on their time management practices so that they may refine their own personal best practices.
When we develop our students’ time management skills, we not only help them successfully meet class deadlines, we also help them gain a life skill that will benefit them both personally and professionally in the years ahead.
I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Following are four overarching time management strategies and related digital tools to consider teaching your students. The strategies are written with the older student as the intended audience, so you may share them directly with your students. You can also reference these strategies and resources to design age-appropriate lessons and materials for teaching your younger students these skills. In fact, these time management strategies and tools are also great for us educators to manage our tasks and use of time, as well!
You can share this flyer with your students and families, as it conveniently summarizes the suggestions in a one-page document.
4 Strategies and Digital Tools to Effectively Manage Your Time
Effectively managing your time will help you meet classwork deadlines, increase the quality of your work, reduce your stress, and accomplish your goals, while also helping to ensure that you have time for your other interests and passions.
The older we get, the more that there is to juggle between school, work, and home. A first step is to use a digital calendar to keep track of upcoming school, work, and personal events (test dates, project due dates, piano practices, football games, work schedule, etc.). To help you keep to your daily study routines, block time in your calendar for a consistent time every day for studying. You can use the digital calendar in your learning management system and/or create your own calendar using Google Calendar or a Microsoft calendar.
- Customize your display and share settings.
- Toggle between day, week, and month view, as needed, to better keep track of current and upcoming deadlines.
- Consider color-coding calendar events and/or using multiple calendars. For example, create a calendar for classwork due dates using a different color for each subject. Some people find it helpful to use a calendar or color for personal events (piano practice, football games, and work schedule) and another for family events (a cousin’s wedding). If you use multiple calendars, you can then turn on and off specific calendars, as needed.
- Share your calendars with family and friends to help communicate upcoming events with each other.
- Leverage event options.
- Event Title: Be clear, concise, and consistent so that you can easily search for them (for example, Test: Math Unit 1).
- Links/Attachments: Add links and/or attachments to relevant files to save time digging for them later (like when creating a calendar event for the math test, include a link to your class notes).
- Notes/Description: Include reminder notes or other relevant details (for example, watch teacher video linked in LMS).
- Use the repeating events option to schedule recurring events, such as your daily homework times.
- Set up notifications.
- Set up calendar notifications on your school device and/or phone. Depending upon the digital calendar, you can send yourself pop-up reminders and even automated emails to arrive the week and day before the deadline or event.
Use these tips to achieve both academic success and personal goals.
- First, clearly define your goals.
- Set specific, measurable goals that include attainable action steps with corresponding deadlines (see SMART Goal Template). Add these deadlines to your calendar.
- Second, prioritize your tasks.
- Review deadlines and prioritize tasks from most urgent to least urgent.
- Complete urgent tasks first and schedule time to complete the less urgent tasks later.
- Anticipate the unexpected. Plan on completing assignments or studying for tests early to avoid issues caused when unexpected things come up. “To be early is to be on time.”
- If needed, remove nonessential tasks to ensure that you have time to dedicate to your essential tasks.
- Set reasonable time limits to dedicate to each task. This strategy can help you avoid issues related to perfectionism that keep you from moving onto the next task. Use a digital timer, like Classroomscreen (Tips), to monitor your time.
- Third, develop your to-do checklists.
- Break each major task into a checklist of things “to do.”
For larger projects, avoid the stress and issues related to procrastination by making a project plan. Consider how you can break the large project into three to five major tasks with to-do checklists for each major task. For each of those major tasks, assign a deadline that you can add to your calendar.
- Use a project planner to outline and monitor progress on your plan. See AVID Open Access templates for examples: Essay Project Planner, Progress Log, and Unit Checklist.
- For group work, collaboratively work as a team to identify and divide tasks. See examples from PBLWorks: Project Management Log: Team Tasks and Project Team Work Plan.
The next step is to create a daily or weekly action plan. Set aside time each week to review your calendar, goals, priority tasks, and related checklists that need to be accomplished for the week. From there, divide these tasks into daily agendas and/or a weekly planner.
This planner should also include the time that you blocked for studying. Select a time of day when you are at your mental peak. Everyone’s internal clock is different; select a time that works best for you (before school, after school, evening). Include time in this daily schedule for routine tasks, such as checking on assignment feedback, responding to emails, and reviewing your LMS for new assignments.
See the weekly planner templates from SlidesMania that you can download for free in PowerPoint and Google Slides formats.
Regularly reflect upon your goals, priority tasks, and action plans. Are plans helping you to achieve your goals and meet your deadlines? If not, what adjustments do you need to make to your plans? For example, do you need to adjust the amount of time designated to tasks? Are you using your time most efficiently (see the study space and routine flyer for more tips). Consider how you can refine and develop your own personal best practices for time management.
Related AVID Open Access Articles
- Establish Digital Study Spaces and Routines
- Support Student Reflection With Self-Paced Virtual Strategies and Tools (see the Progress Tracking Checklists section)