Time Management

Time management isn’t just for businessmen and women. Teach children to manage their time to complete tasks and they will be equipped for life.

Your child will need to get dressed ‘in time’ for school, or prioritise answers to questions in an exam. These are just a couple of examples which involve children managing their time well. This guide will help you to instil time management in your child.

Why manage time?

Time is valuable – and often limited. Whether your child is four or twenty-four, they will need to fit tasks into a certain amount of time.

Time management can help you and your child to:

  • Plan things
  • Be organised
  • Avoid rushing
  • Prevent stress and last-minute panic
  • Keep control of a situation
  • Prioritise tasks
  • Be methodical
  • Complete things in a logical order
  • Use your time well
  • Free up more spare time
  • Achieve

Teaching time

Young children have no concept of time, but they will soon need to know how it works. The National Curriculum expects schools to teach children how to tell the time, but it’s a good idea work on it at home, too.

Telling the time is obviously necessary for time-keeping. Fortunately, there are lots of games to make it fun, and interactive ways of teaching it.

You can use either digital watches (just numbers) or analogue watches and clocks (with fingers or hands) to teach the basics.

Show them the basics as soon as you feel they are ready. An article in The Guardian suggests some teaching resources, with tips to help you.

Teaching children how to tell the time also involves maths – specifically, multiplication. Help them to learn their 5 times table, which will make the process easier.

Keep time

Help your child to keep track of time by allocating set times for certain activities. Children need to have routine in their lives to feel secure, so keep things simple and predictable. Have a set time for things they do regularly and make sure that you stick to it. It will help children to be disciplined. For example, it’s good if they know it’s time to wake up at 7.30am, or that they need to be ready to leave for school by 8.10am.

Beware of children getting lost in time, too. They can spend hours watching TV, playing on video games or sitting at the computer. Make sure you have set times for this kind of activity, and limit the time they might ‘waste’ or use unproductively.

Teach them how to schedule things. For example – half an hour of TV after dinner; then an hour of homework.

Make tasks fun!

If children are reluctant to do basic tasks, make them fun. Routine ‘boring’ tasks could be daily chores like making their bed, tidying up their room, or brushing their teeth. How do you make them fun?

Find a way to motivate them and keep within a specific time. For young children, try singing a song or playing a CD track, or make it into a timer-game. By the time the song is over (or the egg-timer or alarm has gone off), the task should be finished.

One method is to set up competitions between siblings – such as bed-making races – or award gold stars for completing all their chores (properly) by a certain time. If they have no siblings, encourage them to time themselves and see if they can break their own records.

Use planners

Children love visual things. Make a colourful chart together, reminding them of the things they regularly need to do, in the order they need to do them. Then display it. Once the planner has got your child into the habit, they will soon do things automatically – without the reminders.

It's also a good idea to schedule revision or homework using planners, timetables and lists.


Research suggests that girls are generally better organised than boys. Whatever their gender, show your children how to:

  • Get organised for school and prepare schoolwork
  • Make plans
  • Fill in their homework diaries
  • Make charts and timetables with stickers and colours to remind them about homework tasks, or revision
  • Make ‘To Do’ lists
  • Prioritise tasks. Which task is most urgent? Which task is most important?

Children will enjoy ticking off tasks they have completed. It will give them a sense of accomplishment.


Children might feel apprehensive about doing something new. Give them the opportunity to practice. A run-through allows children to familiarise themselves with what needs to happen within a certain time.

For example, days before a new term starts, help them to practise packing their school bag and changing into their uniform.

Or if they face a test or an exam, give them practice papers. As well as helping them to manage their time, it will help them to get in the right headset.

Rehearsals will improve their confidence in new situations.

Set Goals

Help them to set goals to give focus and set priorities. Goals should be specific. Pin them down to times, dates and detail.


  • Short-term goals – ‘By 6pm I will have finished my History homework’
  • Longer-term goals: ‘By the time I am 19, I will be at Oxford University, studying Medicine’.

Ensure that they understand what steps they need to take to achieve their goal. For example, if your child wants a grade A*, help them break it down.

  • What do they need to do in each area of the subject?
  • How will they need to act in the classroom?
  • What must they do for homework?
  • What coursework will they need to do?
  • How can they best prepare for the exams?

Make goals realistic and achievable, but do not ‘pooh-pooh’ your child’s greatest dreams. If they really want to fly around the moon – who says that is impossible? It could happen, with work, effort and creativity. Discuss what it would take.

And finally…

You don’t need to be obsessive with charts and schedules, but planning and organisation can help a child to develop good habits.

Teach the importance of not leaving things until the last minute – it alleviates stress and helps them to feel confident and prepared.

Tips for you, too, can be found on the NHS website.

  1. It's good to start teaching children about time management as soon as you can. At what age should you start?
    Our sense of time develops over time. Babies live completely in the moment but toddlers begin to understand the passage of time. You can start to teach them about the order in which things are done - wash hands before eating, clean teeth before bed etc. By the time they begin school children have a clearer understanding of past, present, and future and junior school children should be able to easily use clocks and calendars to plan their time
  2. Being able to tell the time is an essential part of time management. Government guidelines say that children in Year 1 (5 to 6-year-olds) should be able to tell the time to the nearest quarter hour on an analogue clock. How many of them can actually do this?
    A study was done by BMRB International for the watch-makers industry. It found that, due to the popularity of digital clocks, the ability to use analogue clocks is dying out. A third of 4 to 8-year-olds were unable to tell the time on an analogue clock at all. It's a growing problem. Many children also mistakenly believe that an hour contains 100 minutes and a minute contains 100 hours!
  3. Setting a routine for activities has many benefits. Which of the following will it help?
    As well as helping your child to complete tasks on time, regular routines help to alleviate any power struggle. If children know when they are to do something (go to bed, do their homework etc.) they are much more likely to get on with it than they would be if no schedule were set. A routine will also get them into the habit of doing what is necessary without having to be told, and help parents to maintain the expected standards (allow later evenings or to skip teeth-brushing etc.). Routine really is a great tool when raising children
  4. For younger children, making tasks into a game can help to motivate them - but this rarely works for teenagers! What strategy do experts suggest to make older children do their chores?
    Parenting expert, Denise D. Witmer, believes that, for older children, chores (cleaning bedroom, doing homework, mowing lawn etc.) can be a learning opportunity. If we link them to privileges it teaches our child that hard work leads to rewards. Half-hearted attempts, or complete lack of effort, mean that privileges should be removed - but, hopefully, it won't come to that!
  5. Prioritising activities is an important part of time management. Which of the following would come top of a list of urgency?
    It's a good idea to group activities into four categories - Urgent (do now), Important (do next), Necessary (do at some point) and Possible (not necessary). On the list of options, answering the 'phone would be 'urgent', having dinner would be 'important', homework would be 'necessary' and playing a video game would be 'possible'. You don't have to put all of these on a planner or chart if you can prioritise them in your head, but some children may benefit from such a list
  6. Changes in routine can affect our schedules. If, for example, you have to give your child a lift to school rather than them catching the bus, how could you best prepare for this?
    Knowing how long it takes to get to the school on a Sunday afternoon isn't much help during the morning rush - the journey might take three times as long. It's best to rehearse the drive on a school-day morning. That way, if there are any unexpected problems (roadworks, traffic jams) you can add sufficient time for your journey and leave earlier. In addition, your child will see how you make sure you have sufficient time and (hopefully!) learn by example
  7. Setting goals helps children with time management in the short term but it also has many long term benefits. Which of the following will it NOT do?
    Having a goal or target to aim for can help to motivate children, and reaching that aim is a reward in itself. In setting out and trying to reach a long term goal children are planning their futures and taking responsibility for them. On the negative side, in extreme cases children can become so intent on reaching their goal that little else matters - so make sure that they maintain their interest in all aspects of life
  8. Goals can be either immediate, short term, medium term or long term. Which of the following would be a medium term goal for a 15-year-old?
    All of the options require motivation and planning but, as you can see, the timescale of each is different. Longer term plans will need more effort and discipline than shorter term ones
  9. Being able to manage our time effectively has many benefits. Which of the following positive outcomes will it bring?
    If you (or your children) are organised, then last minute rushes and missed deadlines become a thing of the past - which relieves us of a great amount of stress! Good time management also means we spend less time unproductively and so get more done. In addition, we can devote the time saved to things that we enjoy, so it's not all discipline and hard work
  10. Many things take up our time. Which one of the following statements is false?
    We actually spend 3 month on the toilet. You can see how precious our time is - even the little things add up! All the more important then to make sure we make use of the time we have


Author: Linda Innes

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