If you assign homework, even if it’s just daily reading, you’ve probably encountered this excuse for incomplete work:
“I didn’t have time…”
Perhaps you’ve even had parents send notes or emails repeating the same thing — their child didn’t have time to complete homework.
Kids are busy — that’s true, but are they managing their time? We can teach our students (and children, and selves!) to manage our time effectively. And that doesn’t mean just packing every second of the day full of activities!
Why should your students (and you) audit your time?
“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” Jim Rohn
A time audit is a real eye-opener. Your students may believe they are working consistently on an assignment, but in reality, their work time may be interrupted.
If you participate in a time audit along with your students, you may discover the same thing about yourself. You may be distracted by texts, emails, or other digital notifications that take you away from a task you are trying to complete.
As adults, we understand the value of totally immersing ourselves in tasks. We know what it’s like to forget where we are when we’re reading a good book or concentrate deeply on an activity that we don’t realize the passage of time. We want our students to understand that they can have those same experiences — and by just looking at how they spend their time, they can see what happens to their concentration when they allow distractions.
What’s a time audit?
It is a simple way to record how you spend your time. Students may think they are spending hours a day on homework, but are they really? How often do they settle down to work only to be interrupted by their phone, the TV, a family member … or just plain old-fashioned boredom?
A time audit is a simple “diary” of your day. It gives you the opportunity to record and reflect on how you use your time — and how you can be more effective and deliberate in how you engage in the time you have.
Challenge: Complete a time audit with your students! You may be surprised (and maybe depressed) to discover how much time you spend grading papers and planning lessons. But you may also discover that, like your students, you occasionally fall down the digital rabbit hole…and lose time on FaceBook, Pinterest, or watching silly cat videos…
How to create a time audit
- Start with an honest discussion. A time audit isn’t a punishment or way to shame kids — it is an honest and authentic recording. As a teacher, you don’t even need to collect and/or review your students’ audits. But do offer the opportunity for students to reflect on their audits. If students simply record how they use their time, but don’t reflect on whether their time management habits are good or bad, they won’t be challenged to change or learn better skills.
- Have students set a timer for 30 minute increments and then record their activities on an audit sheet. For students, if makes sense for the time audit to be from Monday – Friday, but students can add in weekends if they like.
- Ask for honesty! Since this activity is designed to help students improve study and time management skills, encourage them to be honest.
- Use codes. Students can color code the time slots or use abbreviations. Yellow can mean homework and an E on top of that can mean English homework. Encourage students to make their own codes.
What to do with a completed audit?
You may want your students to audit their time use for just a few days or for a week. No matter what, once they’ve completed their audits, make sure you provide an opportunity for them to reflect on what they can learn.
Most likely, your students will discover that they spend a lot of time on their phones, playing video games, watching TV, or otherwise engaged in unproductive activity. Cal Newport blogs about what he calls “deep work” or uninterrupted work that we can (and should) focus on. Wouldn’t this be a great skill to teach our students?
Once our students can see and reflect on how they spend their time, challenge them to engage in tasks (like homework!) with their phone on silence, the TV off, and other distractions eliminated. They might be surprised that they can finish their work much more quickly and successfully when they are focused intently on completing that task!
Challenge your students (and yourself!) to set goals that require they turn off their phones when they are working.
Making time for … doing nothing
Another byproduct of a time audit is discovering just how truly busy we are…and determining how important that “busy-ness” is. Is there time in our schedules for just relaxing, thinking, day dreaming…doing…nothing? Sitting on the balcony or porch watching the clouds or sunset? Meditating? Praying?
We are so busy and distracted that we often forget to make time for letting our minds roam and imaginations soar.
How often should you audit?
Students can complete a time audit any time, but the start of the school year, semester, or quarter are especially good times to do this. You can build the time audit into a lesson on goal setting or expectations for class.
Additionally, you may want students to complete another audit in a month or so. They can compare and see how their time management has changed or if they’ve noticed any different habits.
Teaching time management skills (and strengthening our own) is important. Self-reflection on how we use our time can be a valuable life skill that our students may never even have considered.
Would your students benefit from this? Let us know in the comments below.