Schools have been back for a few days now and slowly the weight of the term time regime is starting to be felt once again in terms of time management and fitting everything in. Homework is being set, clubs and activities are kicking in again after the summer break, demands on social time are mounting and the pressure to squeeze all this and more into the shorter time period between the end of school and the end of the day is being reignited once again.
Why Use Time Management
For some this is a manageable task and the ease at which they fit so much into their day is amazing whilst for others the matter of time management and organising their day to fit even just the necessities in is an ordeal and quite overwhelming. How often do you look at other people’s children and wonder just how they fit so much into their lives without compromising anything! In fact how often do you look at others around you and ask the same question whether they are an adult or a child? A key part of the answer to those questions lies in how they manage their time.
Here at RESET we use a spectrum approach to time management to make the most of our days and get out of them as much as we can. We call it the Spectrum Approach because there are seven points in the approach akin to the colours in the rainbow. At the end of this rainbow though, the pot of gold found by helping our children organise their day more efficiently can release a great deal of stress, give them skills for life, help them become more effective and productive, lead a calmer and more balanced life, enhance their interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships and generally help them become more independent and responsible as a result.
The Spectrum Approach to Time Management
1. Take yourself out of the equation
Time Management for our children needs to be autonomous in terms of realizing their goals, ambitions and wishes not our own. It therefore needs to start from the basis of what the child in question would like to get out of their day rather than what the parent would like. Sometimes, the two synchronize but for effective time management the objectives set to be achieved in a set period of time need to be owned by the child so that they are intrinsically motivated. A good position to begin with is to identify what will motivate the individual child in positive terms such as a wish to get better results at school, or fit something else into their day without anything else suffering.
2. Assess what has already worked
Identifying where a child has already effectively been organised or used good time management skills will highlight a pattern for them to mimic with the other areas that they want to work on. So for instance, rather than point out the doom and gloom of the messy bedroom that needs organising, look further to see what area of their life is organised. It might be the fact that homework is always handed in on time despite the chaos or that they are able to get out of the door on time to see friends despite the fact that they always run late for school. Focus on the fact then that homework is handed in on time and the ability to be ready in one instance, as examples, and use these to show them that they already have the skills necessary that can be transferred to other areas of life too in order to become more organised there as well.
Ask your child to drawer up a comprehensive list of everything they want to achieve in a set time period; it might be a day, it might be a week, it might be a month. Then put the list in order of priority with the most important first. This isn’t about not doing some things which inevitably will cause stress but it’s about starting to focus on the important issues first; important being the key word.
4. Plan and have a system
The key now is to take the items on the list and allocate time periods to each item. How long will a set issue take to achieve. These can then be “time boxed” to ensure completion in a set time frame. Time boxing allocates a fixed amount of time to a task and assigns this to a “time box”. So for instance it might take a set task and assign it to a specific scale of time (say 30 minutes) in which to complete the task in hand. By putting a certain time pressure in place it can increase productivity and reduce procrastination. It’s also a really good way of approaching chores that might need several time boxes through the week to bring to total completeness but effectively and efficiently resolves to move the child forward at each stage.
At this juncture it is also probably a really good point to mention delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is something that many of us don’t like and take years to fully appreciate particularly in our instant world but it’s worthy of note in time management strategies when some items on the to do list may take a while to complete. By having an appreciation of delayed gratification, the working towards a goal becomes an important process in achieving it and as a result instils the motivation necessary to keep going even when the going gets tough. Such affirmation helps with planning a schedule too to ensure that certain tasks are seen through to completion by realising that they will take a while to accomplish, assessing how long they will take, appreciating any deadlines that have been externally imposed and setting appropriate time frames within the time management plan to achieve the end result.
So critically help your child decide on a system that will work for them, take their priorities in the order of most important to least important and start planning when they will be done or take place etc.
5. Act on It!
With all the time management in the world and all the systems in place, the next step is the most crucial! The expression “don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done today” comes to mind and doesn’t just apply to our children! With the schedule, plan or system in place, it is now necessary to simply action it! Ensure that nothing stops that plan coming together! Simply get on and do it!
6. Take Care of Yourself.
As with everything else it is important that through all this it is essential that children realize how important it is to take care of themselves and their time management plan needs to take account of that. There needs to be time for study, work, rest and play. They need to appreciate the need to build in an element of exercise into their daily routines if this isn’t afforded to them automatically as well as ensuring that they eat a healthy and balanced diet. Time Management isn’t just about the clock – it’s about handling the precious resource of our lives and each minute that ticks by during them. For an engine to run smoothly and efficiently it needs to be in top form, well-oiled with the appropriate fuel and maintained effectively so that it performs to the best of its ability. Similarly to get the most out of their days, children need to understand that they too will perform better if they are on top form with the correct diet, balance of activity and above all sufficient sleep as well! Sleep is sticking point with many children but as they start to take responsibility for their own effectiveness, so too will they recognize the need for an appropriate amount of sleep too in their daily routines!
7. Make it a Habit
By working consciously with the above plan, schedule or system over a comprehensive period of time, time management and organisation will become a habit in our children’s lives. Rather than a unique experience that they have to work at to achieve they will automatically manage their time better in the longer term. However, like with everything it takes practice and perseverance. Some say work at it for three weeks and you will have established a new habit that will be second nature, others say longer. The best advice is probably to approach time management like everything else in life with dedication and focus. Help your children respect the fact that to establish a better pattern of operation it will take time but never take it for granted to ensure that they go on to lead fulfilling and purposeful lives!