Thinking Skills: Time Management


Time Management involves the ability to respond to things in a timely fashion, estimate the time necessary to complete tasks, and have the ability to make and follow a schedule. It often involves monitoring one’s effort and actions, having an appropriate sense of urgency to complete tasks, and having the ability to follow a step-by-step procedure. The above definition of Time Management is derived directly from the Time Management executive function.

Time Management can play an important role in academic success. Many academic tasks involve managing time effectively, including completing nightly homework, working on group projects, taking tests and quizzes, working in a science lab, as well as completing long-term essays or research papers.

Click here for more Time Management Fundamentals.

Time Management Skills in the Classroom

Time Management skills are important for students to use to succeed in the classroom. The following list outlines some common classroom tasks that require the use of Time Management skills:

  • Completing in-class assignments: Whether students are working independently or in groups, completing in-class assignments requires time management skills. Though teachers can help guide students by providing clear time frame goals and warnings, students need to stay on task and effectively decide how much time should be spent on different elements of an in-class assignment.


  • Arriving to school or class on time: Arriving to school on time depends on students managing their time properly when getting ready in the morning. Also, moving between different classes requires that students be aware of the time it takes them to gather their materials, visit their lockers if needed, and walk to the next location without becoming distracted by activities in the hallway.


  • Using time wisely during assessments: Students need to use strategies to manage their time effectively during assessments and to not become distracted. Some of these strategies might include putting stars next to questions they are unsure of and returning to them later instead of getting stuck, beginning with an assessment task that they think will take the most time (like an essay question), or simply checking the clock every now and again or asking the teacher how much time is left.


  • Effectively managing homework and long-term assignments: Completing homework efficiently requires time management skills. If students need breaks, they need to be able to give themselves short breaks and then be able to return to the task at hand. Time management skills are also important when planning for long-term assignments. Students who manage their time effectively by working on the project a little at a time will not likely end up having to do a lot of work the night before it is due.

Teaching Time Management Skills with Digital Media

A multitude of digital technologies are available that help students develop time mangagement skills. Using the scheduling capabilities, such as those on cell phones and iPads, can help students keep track of when different classroom assignments are due and when they will be attending extra-curricular activities that week. Other time-saving technologies, such as Pinterest or Khan Academy, allow students to organize information and conveniently retrieve it when needed.

Digital game play also involves a need for prioritization and Time Management. Many games require that children prioritize their actions in order to move from one level to another in a game. Games frequently have time limits for completing levels/tasks. Estimation skills such as understanding the number of resources or “lives” that players have in a game are also important in decision-making. Learn more about how digital game play can help develop Time Management Skills.


Check out our classroom guides for information on how to use specific games and digital technologies to teach Time Management skills.

Alternative Learning Concerns & Time Management

Time Management can be a challenge for many Alternative Learners. Many of these students need help using strategies to use their time effectively when completing homework, working on an in-class assingment, and completing long-term independent projects. Our Classroom Guides provide teachers with ideas on how to integrate digital media into instruction in a meaningful and fun way that can help Alternative Learners work on their Time Management skills.

ADHD & Time Management

Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other attention difficulties can struggle to complete tasks effectively in a given time-frame. These students can often have trouble estimating the amount of time it will take them to complete a given task. They can also become easily distracted, causing them to spend too much time working on the same task. Many students with ADHD lack strategies to use when they are feeling distracted or need a break. Instead of getting up, taking a short break, and returning back to the task, many of these students will let their mind wander while still sitting in front of their work, often wasting even more time than they would have if they left the work and went back to it after a few minutes. Many students with attention difficulties also wait until the last minute to complete long-term projects, leaving them feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

There are many video games and other digital technologies available that teachers can use to teach students about Time Management. Time Management is important for success in a variety of video games, as well as in the functionality of many of today’s gadgets and apps. Many games require students to think about priorities in order to complete tasks in a given time. There are also different technologies available that students can use to help remind them about important due dates and assignments.

LD & Time Management

Time Management can also be a struggle for students with Learning Disabilities. While each students’ learning profile is different many students with LD can have trouble managing their time on a variety of classroom tasks. For example, some students may take an extended amount of time to complete homework. Others might have trouble during timed assessments. Others may need guidance as to how to break up a long-term project so that they are not stuck doing it at the last minute.

Incorporating digital media in the classroom provides many opportunities for differentiation in order to meet the needs of all students, and to help build Time Management skills. Our Classroom Guides are great tools to use for teachers of students with Learning Disabilities because they are adaptable, meaning teachers can decide how best to use them based on the individual needs of the students.

Educators Guide to the Executive-Functioning Skill of Time Management

Time Management involves the ability to respond to things in a timely fashion, estimate the time necessary to complete tasks, and make and follow a schedule.  It often requires monitoring of one’s effort and actions, having an appropriate sense of urgency to complete tasks, and being able to follow a step-by-step procedure.

Effective Time Management often involves the use of other executive- functioning skills.  Task initiation (where getting started on something in a prompt fashion is important), planning, organization, and sustained attention are also necessary skills for children to be efficient in scheduling, juggling activities, and completing tasks.  Time-Management skills help older children in being able to maintain effectiveness in school, social relationships, and extracurricular activities.  Younger children with good Time-Management skills may be more independent and have more time to engage in preferred activities.

Children must often also utilize task initiation (getting started on something in a prompt fashion) and sustained attention (being able to ignore distractions) in displaying skills in Time Management.  Effective use of Time Management helps children to be more efficient and more effectively juggle a number of activities.  With older children and teenagers this might involve being able to do their homework and be involved on a sports team or other extracurricular school activities and still having time for their friends or a job.  Younger children show independence skills such as being able to get themselves ready for school in the morning and still having time to watch a favorite television show or play outside before school

How can I tell if a student is having trouble with Time Management?

These descriptions might help you identify a student struggling with Time Management in the classroom.  In general, look for difficulty in estimating and wasting time.  Students who always take too much time to complete assignments due to an inability to know what they need for tasks may experience difficulty with Time Management.  As with all of the Thinking Skills in the Playing Smarter curriculum, struggles with Time Management are likely to co-occur in most students with other areas of weakness in thinking skills.

All Students:

  • Having difficulty planning how long something will take or how difficult a task will be
  • Struggling in doing things in the most efficient order and sequence
  • Appearing to be sluggish and slow moving on tasks
  • Needing extra time to finish classroom assignments and tests
  • Working below potential

Particularly Important for Elementary Students:

  • Needing very clear time limits in order to complete a task efficiently
  • Needing frequent prompts from the teacher to be efficient in completing task
  • Taking home classwork that is not complete to do as homework
  • Tending to have difficulty starting class work and wasting time at the beginning

Particularly Important for Middle School Students:

  • Having difficulty keeping up with the pace of classroom discussions
  • Displaying problems in orderly completion of a long-term project
  • Often seeming to need a moment or two to process directions or what has been said to them
  • Often exaggerating difficulties and time needed to complete an assignment

When do students use Time-Management skills at school?

These are common school-based situations where the thinking skill of Time Management is needed. The best way for students to learn the skill of Time Management is to practice it while engaged in daily activities.  Take the time to recognize these common situations and when you can encourage your students to employ and improve their Time-Management skills.

  • When working well under pressure
  • When completing in-class assignments on time
  • When prioritizing important things such as school over leisure
  • When arriving at school or class on time
  • When finishing a test or quiz in the allotted time period
  • When completing homework at home without having to finish any part of the assignment in class

How can I help my students practice their Time-Management skills in the classroom?

  • Help the students to estimate the time needed for tasks.  Knowing how long tasks might take is helpful in prioritizing them.  Encourage the students to create a list of things they need to accomplish and to jot down an estimate of how long they think it will take to complete each of the items.  Have them check how long activities actually took compared to their original estimations.  Doing this on a routine basis could help them to become more accurate in time estimation and lead to improvement in their overall time management.
  • Reward good time management.  Allow students who can budget their time to finish classwork to participate in a chosen activity.  By being rewarded for these behaviors, the students will become more apt to complete things on time and maintain good prioritization.
  • Help the students to break down bigger tasks into smaller ones.   Large tasks should be broken down into certain days and times for successful budgeting of time.  For example, help students who have a science fair project that due in a month to break down the task into weeks and require that certain parts of the project be done by the end of each week.
  • Play time-estimating games with the students.  Randomly ask the students what time it is or how long has it been since they came in from recess.  Be sure you know the exact amount of time that has elapsed.  This can help students to be more cognizant of time and the passage of time.
  • Make the consequence of poor time management meaningful to the students.  For example, students who are consistently late for school because of poor management skills may need to experience the consequence of staying after school because they were late.  Allow the students to experience these consequences rather than protect them from them.

What tips can I give my students to help them improve their Time- Management skills?

  • Stop, think, and figure out what’s the most important thing to do and do it first.
  • Try to figure out how long something will take before you start.
  • Use your cell phone, alarm clock, or watch to give you regular reminders every 10 or 15 minutes when you’re working on a task or chore.

Classroom Guides for Time Management

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