Team of 3 students smiling in the classroom

The Hidden Power in Time Management – What Every Teacher Needs to Know

When you think about developing skills, you probably think about soccer, piano, or dance practice. Like anything in life, practice is key to developing our skills. But, how often do we teach kids in school how to develop time management skills? Many children struggle with managing their time, so they rely on their parents and teachers to help them. However, as they get older, they struggle because of this lack of self-reliance. They never got to practice managing their own time – it was always decided for them instead of with them. Time management is a skill, and like all skills, it’s important to practice. Not only that, time management is key in combating time wasters like avoidance, overwhelm, and procrastination.

Time management requires practice.

Time management is a skill that must be taught in school. Due to COVID-19, many students participated in remote learning. This severely impacted their time management skills. With most students returning to schools, it’s even more important to teach this life skill. Educators can do this with their students in a fun and engaging way by playing time management games and modeling how you manage your time. Here’s how to do it.

Show students how different one’s estimated time for a task is from the actual time it takes. Start by playing “
How Long is One Minute?

In this game, the only thing you need is a timer! You’ll ask your students to stand up and close their eyes. Ask students to sit down (quietly, so other kids can’t hear them) when they think that a minute has passed.

Of course, your students will all sit down at different times, opening the door for a conversation about how time depends on perception. This visual game will help students understand how everyone’s perception of time is completely different. Afterwards, have a discussion about what makes time pass quickly or more slowly. To start, discuss the following quote: “Passion, time, and productivity are connected.”1 Then, extend the discussion with these time management questions:

• Why is your perception of one minute different from your classmates?
• How long does it take you to complete work for your favorite subject?
• How long does it take to complete your least favorite subject?
• How do you get yourself started on tasks you don’t want to do?
• What makes time pass quickly for you?  What makes time pass slowly?
• What are some ways we can create success for ourselves when it comes to managing our time?

Make time management visible. Embed it within your instruction.

The only way students will start to see time management is if you make it visible. Use Oplan’s  lesson templates and have students brainstorm the time needed for specific tasks. Once the timer goes off, discuss each student’s level of productivity. Determine if their needs were met, what distractions occurred, and how they responded to the time constraints.

Another approach in time management development is to set up stations around the classroom.  As students complete each station, randomly ask students how long they think it’s been since they arrived at the station. Instead of you telling students to switch, encourage students to move on to the next task as they see fit. Once the lesson is over, determine
• how many students were able to complete all the activities
• the overall quality of the work for each station

The discussion is the most important part, so make sure to leave plenty of time for this! Your discussions will help students see time in a new construct while developing their metacognitive skills.

Develop students’ independence.

As educators, we are always considering time and its effect on our students’ task completion. Help build greater self-sufficiency in your students by allowing them to use timers for classroom tasks. Provide positive reinforcement for students who actively analyze their time management. Make the consequences of poor time management meaningful to your students. Instead of a negative consequence, encourage students to show their growth with a different task. Make time management a graded assignment.

Make learning time management meaningful. Address students who get distracted easily by playing “My Time is Precious” game. In this game, you’ll need envelopes with 1 index card inside each envelope. Label a distraction on the outside of the envelope (social media, television, cell phones, high traffic areas of a house, etc.). Break students into groups of 3-5. Then, students will create ways to tackle each distraction and write them on the index card.

Have your students share out their findings and reward students for the work they DID accomplish!

Another favorite time management game is the “Look What I Did!” game. This game is all about empowering students to see how much they actually do accomplish in any given day. Many feel ashamed by their lack of productivity, but it’s usually a simple mindset shift to foster a more positive approach.

On a piece of paper, ask students to write down five accomplishments they achieved yesterday — big or small. This can include household tasks like…
• loading/unloading the dishwasher
• walking the dog
• reading for 20 minutes
• sports’ practices

Then, instruct students to write down one unproductive thing they did yesterday that didn’t contribute to their goals. Students share with their neighbors their accomplishments and also their unproductivity and compare. The goal of this discussion is two-fold:
1. Students learn they’re more productive than they thought.
2. Students learn they have similar distractions, which will open a dialogue on how to combat them.

Here’s another student-centered activity for teaching time management. Have students create a list of tasks they need to complete either at school or at home. Then, have them list the order in which they’d approach their tasks and then share with a partner. Finally, report out as a whole-class to determine how students’ prioritize their tasks.

This activity shows students how chunking tasks and prioritizing them works. It’s important to teach your students how to do this. Here’s how to extend this activity:
1. Start by guiding your students in this process – for example, if there’s a month-long project, require that pieces be done week-by-week.
2. Help students define their tasks.
3. Help students discover what makes a task more important than another.

The benefits of time management

When you help develop time management skills in your students, you’re helping them develop crucial life skills. The benefits are incredible, and since we are using time management in our own instruction, why not make it concrete and visible for our students? By embedding time management into your classroom, you:
Create an environment that reduces stress and anxiety for your students
Give students a feeling of accomplishment
Empower students to have more time to pursue the activities that are important to them

Oplan helps students and teachers.

Many people think time management is just using a timer to get things done, but Oplan is not just a timer! A timer only informs the user about the time that passed or that is left. This either scares students into working faster (and producing lower quality work) or stresses them out to the point that they avoid the task at all costs.

Oplan keeps the user’s attention on the current task. By focusing on the here and now, users let go of stress related to future tasks. This informs students and their teacher on how their time is used. As a result, the user can learn from previous experiences and improve their time use. Performance indicators inform the user if they are late, on time, or ahead of schedule, and teachers and students can reflect on progress from there.

Oplan’s planning tools address teachers’ daily frustrations.
1. Pacing concerns? Using Oplan to guide your instructional time shows teachers how much time they have left for instruction, making it easy to adjust timing along the way.
2. Repeating instructions incessantly? Oplan gives students access to the instructions for each task and their time requirements, increasing their autonomy. 
3. Overwhelmed by differentiation and how to support all your students?Oplan allows educators to create individualized timing plans quickly and easily so that students have all the tools that they need to complete their tasks and teachers can focus on assisting students and providing timely feedback.

Time management doesn’t have to be boring or invisible for your students. Making it more concrete will save you time and feelings of frustration, and it will leave your students feeling successful, independent, and empowered.