Career & Education

Good time management important for academic success

Dr Karla
Hylton

Sunday, September 10, 2017

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It has been my experience that students with days that are less full have better learning outcomes. They are also remarkably happier.

On the other hand, I have found that students with long days tend to have difficulty keeping up with assignments, projects and study. They also have difficulty focusing during classes.

Those with a less hectic schedule typically have structured and organised days, but unlike their peers with packed schedules, they leave enough time for sleep and relaxation. It's a delicate balance but it can be achieved with good time management.

Time, as a concept, is fixed and cannot be changed. But we can get more out of it by planning and controlling the quantity of time spent on specific activities. It is not a difficult concept, yet it can be hard to put into practice when there are so many things to do, even for students.

Students spend between six and eight hours at school doing academics. Additionally, there are clubs and/or sporting activities which may utilise a further one-three hours, making a total of seven-11 hours spent at school. This makes for quite a long day. Some students may also attend extra classes intended to enhance performance, making the day even longer. While this may be sustainable for one or two days of the week, it is burdensome if it's an everyday occurrence.

Trying to do too much in one day leads to undue stress and burnout. You do not want a situation where your child is compressing homework and study time, or sacrificing sleep or eliminating time to recharge himself, because he is overscheduled.

As parents, we need to recalibrate our children's days so that they can indeed practise good time management skills, because good time management plays an important role in your child's academic success.

Setting Priorities

Prioritisation can be challenging. It is an executive function performed by the brain. One has to decide what to do first, what's next, and what can wait until tomorrow or next week.

Effective time management skills involve learning to prioritise. These skills need to be mastered by both parent and child. Priorities determine the order of importance and will help your child decide where to focus his attention, time and effort. It all boils down to making good decisions.

Setting priorities may involve tabulating activities that are school-related or otherwise, and rating their importance. Make sure to carefully assess activities and pay close attention to high-priority activities. Estimate how much time is needed to accomplish a task.

Your child should be able to distinguish between a 'need' and a 'want'. That assignment due tomorrow 'needs' to be done today. It is a high-priority item. Watching that favourite TV show today is a 'want' and is a lower priority item.

When setting priorities, make sure to also think about the consequences: Ask your child to consider the repercussions if that assignment is not handed in on time. Marks could be deducted from his score; he may be punished; or you may ground him or withhold certain privileges.

Tips to Help Your Child Cope with Challenging Days

• Chunking

Sometimes it may be necessary to break down tasks for your child. This is referred to as chunking. For example, when faced with a daunting essay, you could encourage your child to get started on the introduction first. Take a break, and then write down main points for the body of the essay. Taking it in stages rather than having one go at it will get more out of the time.

• Letting go of Procrastination

Note that you should not save the hard things for last. These are best done first. This will decrease the likelihood of putting off what needs to be done today.

• To-Do List

Making a to-do list daily with the most important tasks at the top can be useful to older teens and tertiary level students. Encourage the scheduling of free time as well. Organisers, planners, sticky notes, etc, can also be beneficial.

• Routine

Most kids are better able to cope with busy days when they have a consistent schedule. When expectations and boundaries are in place, kids feel safe and secure and will rise to the occasion. This means having consistent bedtime, wake-up time, study and homework time and time for relaxation. Do not insist that homework be done immediately after school as some kids are exhausted at that time. Let your child determine their best time and then stick to that plan. Routines are a key factor in academic success.

• Be a good Example

As I have said on numerous occasions: children follow their parent's actions and not their words. Lead by example by managing your own time wisely. If you are always running late or missing deadlines on the job, your child will likely follow suit. Allow your child to see you tackle the hard things first and let them also see you unwind.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com .

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