Developing your child’s time management skills

Thrive Psychology Clinic > Blog > Developing your child’s time management skills

May 12, 2021 / By thadmin2

Time is money, and being able to manage and plan out our time is certainly an important skill to have. While it may seem like a skill that can be easily developed, having good time-management skills actually requires us to master a number of smaller subskills – this includes goal-setting, planning, allocating, delegating, organising, scheduling, and prioritising (Toney, 2015). As daunting as it may sound, these sub skills are actually not too difficult to learn, especially if these habits are cultivated at a young age. Good time management skills are applicable to many aspects of life, be it getting through a school semester, managing a team, or even doing household chores.

“When we teach children strategies for time management from an early age, they internalise them, which sets them up for lifelong success.” – Lynn Meltzer, Ph.D., President of Research Institute for Learning and Development.


Benefits of time management skills


Just like any other soft skill, the benefits of being able to manage our time spread far and wide. Not only does it help us increase our overall levels of efficiency and productivity (The University of Manchester, n.d.), it also helps to cultivate a sense of responsibility in our daily lives (IceHrm, 2020).

For students, self-discipline (which includes being able to manage one’s time diligently and independently) is a better predictor of academic performance compared to individuals’ Intelligence Quotient (IQ) (Duckworth & Seligman, 2005). Unsurprisingly, studies have also shown that there is a strong link between time management abilities and stress levels – the better our time management skills, the less stress we feel overall (American Psychological Association, 2018). 


Poor time management skills and procrastination


One disadvantage arising from poor time management skills is procrastination. The failure to organise and keep track of both short- and long-term priorities can lead to one gradually feeling overwhelmed by the amount of tasks they need to get done in the long run. Naturally, this increases the resistance towards actually getting started on work, which triggers a vicious cycle: our work starts to pile up, we start to feel even more overwhelmed, we end up putting off the things we need to do, and the list of to-do’s just keeps getting longer. 

Being able to properly manage our time efficiently allows us to obtain a clearer view of our priorities and gives us the power to take control of our tasks. Eventually, this increases our productivity, improves our confidence, and also allows us to establish a good balance between work and play.


Cultivating good time management skills in children


Like most other habits, it is important to cultivate good time management skills in our children while they’re still young. Here are 5 tips you can teach your child to help them better understand and practice good time management:


  1. Creating a sense of time


To create a workable and realistic schedule for your child, it is important for them to first get a sense of how long it takes to do certain activities (Duncan, 2020). This can be done by setting up a timer whenever they are trying to complete a task or engaging in any activities, or by pointing out the amount of time that has elapsed upon finishing the activity. By teaching your child to measure time, they will gradually learn to create a realistic and manageable schedule that will not cause them to feel overworked and overly fatigued at the end of the day.


  1. Setting priorities


It is important for children to learn how to categorise tasks into things they have to do, versus activities they want to do. One great activity that can teach the importance of setting priorities is the rock, pebble, and water analogy. The rocks symbolise the most important, ‘have-to’ tasks – such as completing one’s daily homework and getting enough sleep. The smaller pebbles represent extracurricular commitments such as after-school activities. Lastly, water represents ‘want-to’ tasks, such as playing video games or hanging out with friends.


Next, use a jar to metaphorically represent the amount of time we have in a day. We can explain to our children that if we fill the jar with water first, there will be no space for the rocks or pebbles. This means that if we were to prioritise our ‘want-to’ activities, we would often find ourselves not being able to finish the tasks that we actually need to do. On the other hand, if we were to fill the jar with rocks first, there will be enough space for pebbles, and even after the jar is filled with both rocks and pebbles, there will still be enough space for the water. Therefore, by prioritising the important tasks first and getting them out of the way, it allows us to carve out time for leisure activities, creating a more balanced schedule that includes both work and play.


  1. Breaking down bigger tasks into smaller ones


Big to-do’s, such as “revise for Math test”, often seem daunting, which may sometimes make it hard for your child to get started on the task. Splitting big tasks into smaller, specific subtasks can help facilitate the manageability and doability of the task (Ferris State University, n.d.). For example, instead of setting “revise for Math test” as a task, we can break it down by scheduling the different chapters tested to revise on different days, such as “revise chapter 1 Algebra” today and “revise chapter 2 Trigonometry” tomorrow. If this still feels daunting, we can break it down even further – instead of “revise chapter 1 Algebra”, we could split it into “revise chapter 1 Algebra tutorial 1”, “revise chapter 1 Algebra tutorial 2”, and so forth.


This step is exceptionally crucial as it could potentially help break your child out of the procrastination cycle – by showing them that they can tackle their big tasks in smaller segments, they would feel less overwhelmed or intimidated by their workload, therefore increasing overall productivity. More importantly, once your child has gotten into this habit, they will learn that even the biggest tasks can be made doable with the right attitude and methods!


  1. Creating a calendar


After teaching your child to prioritise and schedule their tasks efficiently, the next step would be to put these tasks into a calendar (Rampton, 2020). For added fun, you and your child can create a calendar together, using different colours to signify different tasks and designing the calendar by drawing their favourite characters on different weeks. The goal is to create a personalised and fun calendar that your child would want to come back to.


For the contents of the calendar, note down tasks that have to be done for each day. By following the rock, pebble and water analogy, encourage your child to first put down the most important tasks, such as exam dates, assignment deadlines et cetera. Do break down the tasks if needed as well. After filling the calendar with the ‘have-to’ tasks, we can then continue to fill them with the ‘want-to’ tasks. Remember to allow your child to include breaks so that they do not feel burnt out!


  1. Giving rewards


Giving your child rewards can be helpful in keeping them motivated to continue managing their time (Duncan, 2020). It is important to celebrate small wins for children, and this can come in the form of their favourite meals, or a nice day out with the family. It is up to you when you want to reward them – you can also establish a token economy and reward them when they successfully complete a set number of  tasks for the day, and perhaps give them a bigger reward when they successfully complete their tasks for the whole week.


Cultivating good time management skills in your children while they’re young is important as it would help them through school and their subsequent milestones in life. If you would like additional resources on time management skills, you can also check out our short video on the skill here


At Thrive Psychology Clinic, we are committed to helping children and adolescents thrive. If you would like to view other resources to help your child’s development, you can check out our range of online content, and subscribe to our mailing list to stay updated on our latest educational videos, meditation podcasts and e-books. You can also check out our Facebook page for more informative content. 



  • American Psychological Association. (2018). Time Management Activity: Teaching Resources for High School Psychology Teachers on Skills.
  • Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. (2005). Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939–944.
  • Ferris State University. (n.d.). Procrastination and Time Management. Https://Www.Ferris.Edu/RSS/Eccc/Tools/Time-Management.Htm. IceHrm. (2020, March 27). Advantages and disadvantages of time management. IceHrm.
  • Duncan, A. (2020, August 29). 11 Easy Tips to Teach Your Kids Time Management Skills. Verywell Family.
  • Toney, R. E. (2015). Marriage and family therapists’ thoughts and perceptions on time management in families: The possible effects on children (Order No. 10016174). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (1767406761). Retrieved from
  • Rampton, J. (2020, July 24). Don’t Procrastinate: Teach Your Kids Time Management Skills. Entrepreneur.
  • The University of Manchester. (n.d.). Effective Time Management and Avoiding Procrastination.,between%20studying%20and%20other%20activities.