Exam time is around the corner for many students.  If you are a parent or someone who is close to or works with students, it’s a great time to interject a little "time management" training without them even knowing it!  If you are a student yourself, listen up and see how you can ease some of the stress and feel a bit more in control.

Start talking with students – the earlier the better.  Some great questions are:

  • What is the test schedule?  The school may publish a set calendar for exams or you can get information from individual teachers.  It often helps to plot these out on a calendar so you all have a good visual of where the tests will be happening.
  • Are there final assignments due prior to end-of-year?  Add those to the calendar and discuss the steps and actions needed to get them accomplished.  Some may involve group work that means coordinating after-school with others.  What supplies are needed?  
  • What other events are on the calendar that we need to consider?  In addition to all the tests, projects, and assignments, this time of year often includes concerts, class or group parties, banquets, etc.  Plus, if you have multiple children in school, the logistical problems can get even crazier.  Get a full picture of the final weeks of school so you can see where your available times will be to both focus on work and study as well as having some down time (yes, students will need that too!).

Now some of the most important conversation can happen. Simple dialog when you’re sitting down to dinner, driving in the car, or as they pull out that back-pack to start on homework can get them thinking about developing a plan.  Good time management habits happen when we understand what’s important and make purposeful choices about how we want to manage ours actions.  Some conversation starters are:

  • What is going to be your most challenging exam or project?    How could you pace your work or study so that you don’t have to do it all at the last minute? 
  • How are you feeling as you look at your schedule for next few weeks?  What do you think you could do to make it less stressful?  How can you be the best prepared physically as well as mentally (discuss sleep, eating, etc.) 
  • Are there any things you can be doing now so that you’re more prepared when you need to get started?  Any supplies you’ll need to pick up or research you could do in advance? 
  • What evenings / days are going to be the toughest for you?  What could I do that evening to help make it go a little smoother?  Where can you plan some down time so that you give your brain a rest? 
  • How can I/we help you stick to your plan?  Let the student identify their needs.  It gets them thinking about what support will be truly helpful – not what WE think may be helpful.  Agree to check in regularly to gauge if they are on target to make their deadline as well as to help them if they need to make changes to the plan. 
  • Are there some creative ways you can study or prep for a test?  You can have fun brain-storming different techniques for studying.  The novelty of a new approach to learning the info can aid retention and it interjects some fun to what can be an otherwise heavy and daunting chore.
  • What can you give or do for yourself as a "reward" if you stay focused and on-target with your plan?  We all like rewards and it doesn’t have to be big.  It’s really about an incentive to sticking with their intentions.  Letting them acknowledge it themselves also teaches that we don’t solely get rewards from others and teaches them to be their own motivation.

It’s never too early to teach the value of time and respecting ourselves enough to use ours wisely.  Let students take the wheel and begin thinking through what works for THEM.  We provide support – but we can’t manage their time for them.

Cindy B Sullivan is a Time Management & Productivity consultant, Certified Professional Organizer, Coach, and Speaker.  In business since 2004, Cindy works with individuals and businesses to improve efficiency, organization, and work/life balance.  Contact [email protected]  for more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation.