Back-to-school help: teaching kids time-management techniques

Posted August 20

In the late 1990s, during my high school days, I lived and died by my Franklin Covey planner. It kept track of every homework assignment, shift at work and to-do item. I relied on that zip-around-organized-bundle-of-goodness so much that during my senior year, my friends thought it would be funny to steal it from me. They watched me walk around clueless, unsure of my next move for an entire week. And then finally one night, they surprised me with it.

It was so funny (insert sarcasm).

When I saw that beautiful mahogany faux-leather case again, I dropped to the ground and wept. Tears of joy streamed down my face as I was reunited with my long, lost friend.

It’s ridiculous, I know. But it’s true.

I also realize that my fetish for organization and time planning is not normal. And it’s not fair for me to expect any of my children — or anyone really — to crave time-management the same way I did. But it’s still a very important skill.

With back-to-school upon us, we can help position our school-aged kids for success by teaching them important time-management techniques. So even if this time-management stuff doesn’t come natural for you, and most of the time you just feel like a hot mess, these suggestions can help send your kids in the right direction.

1. Have your children time themselves

Trying to figure out a morning routine with my 11-year-old daughter, I asked her “how long does it take you to shower and get ready?”

She paused for a moment and then shrugged her shoulders in typical pre-teen fashion, “I dunno.”

“Time yourself,” I told her. “Let’s find out.”

We can begin helping our children grasp the concept of time management by helping them learn how long daily tasks even take.

2. Use that clock app

Nearly all of us and even our growing kids have an electronic device nearby with a clock, timer and alarm. Make sure your child or teenager knows how to use the app and encourage them to set timers to keep themself moving along in the morning or after school.

Even as early as first grade we use this simple app to time reading, clean up or play time.

3. Important things first

Shelly Coray is a mom and entrepreneur in Nephi, Utah. She is trying to help her children with these things as well. “We are trying hard to teach [our children] the concept of doing the essentials first thing, then using what time they have left to play or whatever.”

Corray offers great advice. We can help our children understand this "essentials first" principal by regularly asking, “what do you think is most important?” Or, “which of these things do you think is most time sensitive?”

4. Help kids create good habits

So much of time-management involves positive habits. And habits stem from cues that we experience, reminding us something needs to be done.

This week, the Wall Street Journal posted an article “What Teens Need Most From Their Parents.” The author, Sue Shellenbarger, spoke exactly to the importance of these early habits. Shellenbarger wrote, “coaching tweens in organizational skills can help. Parents can help build memory cues into daily routines, such as placing a gym bag by the front door.”

5. Encourage self-discipline

Since time-management involves self-discipline against a timeline, how do we encourage self-discipline?

We can model self-discipline for our children, teaching them by example. We can also encourage self-discipline by allowing natural consequences to occur for the choices our children make.

Last year in our home we watched as a child nearly missed an end-of-year party because they couldn’t find enough discipline to read all the books necessary to complete the class challenge.

Letting natural consequences fall is not easy.

6. Provide the right time-management tools

Sadly, my 1998 Franklin Covey day planner is no longer the most relevant tool to use for time-manangement. But there are so many other great options. It’s important that as parents we are aware of those options and take the time to learn them and then teach them to our children.

The first place I’d recommend starting is with a Google or iCal Calendar since it is free, available on all devices and can sync between family members. But paper planners like the Passion Planner or the Get To Work Book are great options if you’re trying to merge old school with new school techniques.

Or maybe, you won't need any of these suggestions because you'll have a child like I was and watch as they lose their mind over a deleted calendar event. For your sake, I sure hope not. That girl was cra-zy.

Nicole Carpenter is CEO of and creator of the Define Your Time time-management program. She is a speaker and bestselling author of "52 Weeks to Fortify Your Family." Nicole and her husband are raising four kids in Kaysville, Utah.


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