Chapter 23: Time Management
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Busy, busy, busy
Let’s face it, modern life is busy. After all, there’s just so much going on. There are bills to pay, pets to feed, laundry piling up and work obligations. Even our kids can be overscheduled. They have school, homework, play dates, sports practice, club meetings and church events.
With all that going on, time management is essential. It’s an important life skill but one that can be a challenge even for many adults. However, if you can help your child more effectively manage her schedule, she will not only have more time for schoolwork but also for reading just for fun. Here are some simple ways you can help your child master her schedule:
- Prioritize – Sometimes we just tumble from one activity to the next without looking at the overall picture. Things get done this way but not always the most important things. Sit down with your child and brainstorm a bit. What are the things that most need to get done? Write down the top three or four. School should make the list, of course, and homework. But be sure to add reading practice, as well.
- Make a schedule – Use the chart at the bottom of this page. Working with your child, write down all the obligations for the upcoming week. Don’t try to fill in every minute of the day, but block out the most important activities. These can include the “have to” items such as school, after-school activities, homework time and reading practice but should also include some “want to” items as well, like visits with friends, a trip to the park or going to the movies with the family. Don’t feel like you and your child have to follow the schedule too strictly. The whole idea is just to get an overview of the upcoming week, so the important stuff doesn’t get overlooked.
- Organize – You might be surprised by how much time the typical family wastes each week simply looking for stuff. Think about your own experience helping your child with homework or getting her out the door to school. “Where is my back pack?” “I need some paper.” “I lost my jacket!” Sound familiar? You can shave hours out of your weekly schedule by organizing some of the things your child needs regularly. Have a homework center, for instance, with paper, pencils and a dictionary all within easy reach. Create a school “launch pad” near the front door. Have your child put her coat, backpack, lunchbox and homework there right when she comes through the door. Then, when she needs these things in the morning, you won’t have to go hunting for them. Does she participate in sports or other after-school activities? Keep all of her equipment or supplies in a basket in the coat closet or near the front door.
- Focus on one thing at a time – Multitasking is a myth. When people try to do a bunch of things all at once, none of them get done well. Encourage your child to focus on the task at hand. When she’s reading, she should be reading. When she’s doing her homework, the TV and computer should be off; cellphones and tablets should be off limits. You can set a good example, as well. When you’re talking to your child, don’t check your text messages. When you’re paying the bills, don’t do it in front of the television.
- Keep a calendar – Get a calendar with large squares for each day. Forget about the fancy pictures; you want some real working space. Then, encourage everyone – parents included – to write down all the important events that are coming up. By writing back-to-school nights, flute lessons, soccer games and work schedules on the calendar, everyone will be able to tell at a glance what’s going on that day.
Below is a schedule for you and your child to fill out together. Write in specific times where they’re needed. Remember, you don’t have to follow this schedule to the letter! It’s just a good way to help your child start managing her time more consciously, instead of letting time manage her. PBS also has a cool, kid-friendly daily schedule you can print out. You can find it at PBS Kids.
PBS Kids, “It’s My Life School, Time Management, Daily Schedule,” http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/school/time/print_daily_schedule.html