“Work smart, not hard.”
We’ve probably all heard this phrase, and that’s because there’s wisdom in it. Working hard isn’t enough if one’s approach to the work is disorganized and inefficient. While this phrase is often directed at adults, it is especially important for kids who struggle with traditional learning approaches. When children struggle with time management, they have less time to engage in play activities that are important for their growth and development. Some children display persistence while doing homework but still work very slowly because they lack the vital planning, organization, and time management skills that are necessary for daily school tasks. Thankfully, strategies to improve efficiency through better time management can be taught. Below we discuss five different ways that time management can be used to help your child “work smarter, not harder”:
5 Tips for Improving Efficiency Through Better Time Management
Teach prioritization strategies for test and exam taking. Kids who learn to take tests “smartly” often do better than kids who are full of knowledge. Instruct a child directly in test-taking strategies. Teach him to respond to all of the questions to which he knows the answer before spending time on more difficult questions. Help him to construct very brief outlines in response to essay questions. He could learn to maximize the amount of time he will have to complete a test by sitting towards the front of the class, having all materials ready and available upon receiving the test, and using a watch as a timer so that he is aware of how much time he has left to complete the test.
Schedule big tasks during peak energy levels. Not only do adults have times where they tire, so do kids. Make a mental note of your child’s most active time of the day. This can vary greatly in children, some being more energetic before school in the morning and others before bed at night. Help your child develop better time management habits by scheduling homework and other projects and tasks for high-energy hours whenever possible.
Teach them to learn how they learn. Difficulty with time management can be related to particular “problem” areas for particular children. Watch your child in order to determine if they have a stylistic way of learning. Kids who tend to process verbal information very slowly may need to be given slow and deliberate directions or hear directions repeated before they can take all the information in and make sense of it. Others may readily understand verbal directions but be slower to produce a completed task through writing, movement, or a verbal response. Then, make sure that your child develops insights into their optimal learning approach. Keep an open dialogue with your child and be open to listening to them when they seem to be struggling with following directions to a specific task.
Take exercise breaks to improve time management and efficiency. Most adults have inefficiently spent hours trying to do something and then easily accomplished it after having taken a physical break. A child could benefit from taking a 10- to 15-minute exercise break that includes activities such as running around the house, doing a set of push-ups, or taking the dog out for a short walk. For kids with attention and learning problems, physical activity may energize them and make them more efficient. For example, if your daughter is struggling to complete her history homework, try talking through what she would need to get motivated again. Once she has learned when she needs breaks and can demonstrate that she is using them responsibly by willingly returning to work, allow her to schedule these interruptions on her own.
Be aware that chronic under-arousal in a child may be a sign of a sluggish cognitive tempo. Observe your child to see if he simply approaches everything in a very slow or sluggish fashion or if he seems to be chronically under-aroused. This could be a sign of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Inattentive Type, or of a sluggish cognitive tempo. Should this be a persistent problem, consult with his pediatrician to explore medical or nutritional issues.
What strategies have you used with your child to help them complete tasks on time? Share your thoughts in the comments sections below!