Time Management


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Time management is an important skill for students to develop while studying because it is one of the cognitive skills that is used throughout life – whether as a student, as an adult, in one's social life, in a workplace or as a parent. Time management affects everything one does and is a critical cognitive skill to develop during the teenage years.

By establishing, remembering, and internalizing processes for thinking and rules for behaviour, the brain's Executive Function is responsible for cognitive focus, impulse control, working memory, sequence, planning, organizing, managing time and linking ideas – all critical in controlling attention, behaviour, and the completion of academic tasks. Time management is particularly important for completing homework, assignments, and exams. Time management is considered an Executive Function and as such, is like an air traffic controller at an airport, sitting above others, managing the coming and going of aircraft … or in this case, carrying out important (but often competing) decisions.

The brain's Executive Function also has many similarities with the function of an organisational executive.  When functioning well, they each manage people, processes, and activities to achieve successful outcomes. An executive in a company delegates. An executive's main functions are to overview and manage people and activities; delegate tasks; establish internal processes and ensure these are conducted smoothly; anticipate difficulties; focus attention upon the relevant issues to solve problems; change direction when necessary; maintain appropriate timelines and create structure within the organisation.

Neurologists regard the Executive Function as the most important part of the brain and primarily responsible for academic achievement. The pre-frontal cortex is the part of the brain where an individual's Executive Functions are located.  This area of the brain is the last to develop from the neural 'pruning' that occurs during adolescence but if certain skills (such as the Executive Function of time management) are not modelled, learnt, and developed during this time, there could be difficulties as the individual develops into adulthood.  If one has difficulty with preparing for, or starting a task, planning, and completing a task within a reasonable or designated timeframe, this could be indicative of delayed development of Executive Function and the presence of a learning disability should be explored.

Metacognition is essentially thinking about one's thinking so any improvement with managing time depends upon the ability to be metacognitive and to solve the problem.

Getting started may depend upon managing the anxiety that is part of procrastination. As a task is approached, anxiety about the task may be the impetus for stepping away from the task.  Each time a task is then approached, anxiety is heightened but is quickly reduced when one steps away, setting up a spiral which negatively impacts on managing the time that it takes to complete a task.

By preparing adequately and then performing physical activity to manage the anxiety, time management is implemented. An initial 'guestimate' of the time required can be gradually refined until a more realistic estimate of the time required is implemented.

​© Michele Juratowitch

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Last reviewed 25 August 2023
Last updated 25 August 2023