Time Management and Procrastination by Julie Shullo
When children are young, parents are actively involved in scheduling their child’s after school routines. Homework is part of that routine and often closely monitored by parents. However, as children get older and move to middle and high school, parent expectations and involvement change. Older children and teens are developing more independence and parents often expect homework to become an independent activity that no longer requires close monitoring. However, not all children/teens are equipped with the skills necessary to take on the task of completing their homework assignments on time independently. A reason for this could be due to poor time management and procrastination, which are components of executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills don’t fully develop until their mid-twenties, and if your student has ADHD or issues with executive functioning skills, it can feel as though they are behind. If time management and procrastination are areas of need in your household, try some of these suggestions.
- Help your child/teen manage her time by making time more visible to her. Have analog clocks, watches, and calendars in locations that will help her become more aware of time. This might include putting a clock in the kitchen, on her desk, in the bathroom, etc. Placing a calendar in a location that she’ll easily see will help her stay aware of upcoming activities and assignments. This can be something that she updates on a weekly basis or you update together. It should include any assigned homework/projects, extracurricular activities, appointments, and any important dates. Even if she’s more technology oriented, having visual reminders around to keep the concept of time visible to her is important.
- With that said, use technology too! Have your child/teen use his phone calendar to keep track of his assignments. The standard calendar that is on the phone is a simple and convenient tool for him to use. He can set reminder alerts to begin his homework at a specific time. He can use the clock tool to set a timer so that he stays on track as he completes his assignments. If he’s easily distracted by texts or social media, he could switch his phone to airplane mode so that he’s not accessing the internet but still able to use the clock and calendar functions.
- If you’re student really struggles with the concept of time, it might be necessary to sit down with her and have her estimate how long each assignment will take. Then have her complete the assignments, and record how long each took. This will help her build an inner sense of time.
- Develop an after school routine with your child/teen that works for your entire family. Make the expectations clear and come to an agreement on how the routine will be monitored. Schedule time together as a family to hold monitoring sessions where he gives a self-evaluation of how he feels the routine is working for himself. Together, determine what’s working and what’s not. If there are specific things that are not working, brainstorm ways to change the routine that will benefit everyone. The point is to help your child/teen develop good habits that will minimize the opportunity to procrastinate while giving your child the independence to figure out what works best for him. Ultimately, this is a life skill that you are teaching. It can take 30 or more days (sometimes even 90 days) before a routine becomes a habit so be patient as your child/teen develops this skill.
- For example, make it a routine that after school your student eats a snack and gets 30 minutes to himself that doesn’t involve screen time. Then, he needs to get started on his homework. By giving him time to decompress after school, he’ll feel more focused and refreshed to do his homework. I discourage any screen time during those 30 minutes though to prevent him from getting distracted and then having a difficult time transitioning back to school work. Instead encourage him to take a walk or get some exercise outside.
- As you develop an after school routine, it might be helpful to designate a regularly scheduled time as “work time” for the whole family. Scheduling “work time” can be a time that’s put aside for you as the parent to get your “homework” done too. This modeling helps reinforce the expectations and reminds everyone in the house that it’s a designated time to be completing homework. It will be a lot easier for her to get started on her homework (and a lot harder to procrastinate) if she knows the whole family is working at this time. It’s a lot easier to minimize household distractions this way too.
- For example, designate 30 minutes after dinner as quiet work time for the family. This means that electronics are turned off throughout the house unless they are being used for work (i.e. the television is not blasting in the family room during this time). As parents, you can use it to catch-up on your work, pay bills, organize, or take a break and get some reading done. This modeling will help your student know that this is her time to finish-up her assignments and there isn’t anything going on in the house that may distract her from it.
- Become aware of your student’s distractors and what he does when he’s in the midst of procrastinating. Then help him limit his opportunity to access these distractions during the school week.
- For example, if your student is easily distracted by his phone, make it a point that he needs to give his phone to you during homework time.
- Identifying why your student is procrastinating can be helpful in taking action. Is the assignment difficult? Does your student need assistance and doesn’t know how to ask? Does your student lack the concept of time and think they will get it all done in 20 minutes when it will take 2 hours? Determining the reason for the procrastination is necessary in order to take the appropriate steps in supporting your student.
I hope this helps your child/teen develop healthy work habits!