Parent Tip Sheet
Time is something that happens. We all get the same sixty seconds each minute and sixty minutes each hour. No matter how much time we save, it’s never there when we want to make a withdrawal. The goal, therefore, is to understand how to structure our activities to make the best use of our time.
Time management is a skill, or more accurately, a constellation of skills. It takes practice!
Time based vs. Event based
We are used to structuring our schedules based on time:
8:00am -Home room
8:15 – Math
9:30 – Social Studies
Time based structuring makes sense when we have to coordinate the activities a large number of people (e.g. school children) or when we need to fit into certain external constructs (e.g. when the museum is open, when the doctor can see us, etc).
Much of schoolwork and other activities (music practice, long-term projects, etc) are done outside of that structured setting. Many activities are also hard to schedule precisely: will the math assignment take 30 minutes or 90?
Event based schedules largely ignore the specific durations or start/stop times and focus on sequencing events. Math then snack then essay then dinner then… You can’t totally ignore time, as kids do need to sleep and you don’t want to work 15 hours one day and 2 hours the next. The trick is to structure events so that they sequence within the time available. This requires structured goal setting.
SMART goals are a popular tool, but poorly understood. For more depth than the summary presented here, please see chapter 2 of my book, “The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development.”
View goals as a destination: how will you know where you are going? How will you know when you get there? How will you identify feedback along the way?
Be specific. Statements like, “I want to get in shape,” or “I want to lose weight” are vague. You can’t tell if you’re making progress or when you’ve succeeded. You may not even know what progress looks like!
Focus on process, not outcome. The outcome is the result of the process, so take the time to design processes that make sense.
Break outcomes down into smaller outcomes, process/strategy, and learning objectives. Break goals down until you have pieces small enough to work with.
Track your progress and check off goals as you accomplish them.
Form intentions to work on the pieces of your goals at specific times and triggered by specific events.
Avoid “do your best.” It’s totally idiosyncratic.
Celebrate your successes along the way. Periodically look and see how much you’ve done and enjoy it.
Either using paper or your favorite electronic tool, create a visual representation of your schedule. For suggestions on the best tools, visit https://davincilearning.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/the-portable-brain-planners-and-task-management/.
Create both the schedule you think you have and then, over a couple of weeks, record the schedule you really have.
Make sure you’ve included planning time in the schedule and time to review progress.
Remember to schedule both due dates and points to check/review progress. Plan when you’ll do things that have a long duration.
Compare the real schedule and the believed schedule. Do they match? See where your time is really going.
Adjust as necessary to fit with your style: do you transition easily or slowly? Plan accordingly.
Do you lose time because you’re tired after school/work and aren’t taking a break? Many people try to work when tired and waste far more than the half hour they might spend taking a nap or otherwise relaxing.
Are you trying to fit 50 pounds of stuff into a 10 pound sack? If so, cut back.
Build short routines to make transitions easier and also to make it easier to accomplish regular tasks without having to think about it: don’t waste time dithering about what should happen next when it doesn’t really matter.
If a routine becomes oppressive, change it.
Build routines that leave you feeling upbeat and energized.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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