Student success in writing classes often depends on students’ time managment skills. When students fail to turn work in, teachers often feel helpless and frustrated because they are unable to explain or justify this self-destructive behavior.  I think it’s important to recognize that when students turn in late assignments, they do not do so from a character defect. We often contributed their behavior to procrastination, laziness, or disorganization and fail to understand the underlying causes, often imposter syndrome, a learning disability or mental illness, overcommitment, or a failure of self-care.    We also need to recognize that strong time management skills, like a strong growth mindset, can be developed in their class experience.

Reviewing student reflections submitted to the The Persistent Writer allows me to collect qualitative data, and no data is clear than student thoughts on their own time management.  At the beginning of the semester, most declare that they are in charge of their own time management, but this is belied by the number of students who drop, fail to turn in assignments, or turn in hasty work.   At the end of the semester, other than the few who started with strong time management skills, they report improvement or they describe the stress that their poor time management skills created.

Time management, which is of course connected to executive function, is obviously essential to success in college. According to educational psychologists Christopher Wolters, and Anna C. Bradytime, management is an important aspect of educational psychologist Barry Zimmerman’s idea of “self-regulatory learning”:

  • Effective time management is reflected in a person’s capability, even under shifting situational demands, to use their time efficiently and in a way that both advance their pursuit of valued goals and also avoid distractions, procrastination, or other misappropriations of time. Particular strategic behaviors thought to reflect good time management include using a planner, following a daily schedule, making to-do lists, keeping a time-use diary, writing reminder notes, setting personal deadlines, reducing wasted time, and organizing one’s workspace in a way that reduces distractions (6).

The Persistent Writer devotes an entire unit to improving students’ time management practices, making it an excellent choice for first year experience classes as well as first year composition and support classes.   Students are asked to examine their time management skills in the context of their education by examining how workload is calculated in Carnegie units and how Carnegie units make their class transferable so they understand the reasons behind their workload.  Students are also encouraged to set their priorities and find time for self-care.

One way I help students gain time managment skills is to give them more control over their assignments. In my classes, I use “target dates” as opposed to hard “due dates” so students can have some control over their workload.  This allows them to develop stronger time management skills because they can make choices about their time.  Many students report that the more flexible target dates lessen their stress as they try to balance, work, life, and school.

Works cited

Barry J. Zimmerman “Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Achievement: An Overview,” Educational Psychologist, 25:1, 317, (1990)  DOI: 10.1207/s15326985ep2501_2

Wolters, Christopher A., Brady, Anna C. “College students’ time management: A self-regulated learning perspective.”  Educational Psychology Review, 1040726X, 20211201, Vol. 33, Issue 4.

Sample Time Management Course Policies

Our eighteen-week session runs from January 10 to May 20, 2022. No work will be accepted after the last day of the semester.

This course calendar is designed to spread out your work over the length of the session.  Colleges require about 12 hours of work for a 4-unit class to meet transfer and accreditation requirements.   To meet this requirement, you will complete 311 separate assignments during the semester, or about 17 a week, some longer, and others relatively short. Some short reading assignments only take a few minutes.  You will probably need about an hour to complete the appropriate amount of work for most days, a few days more and many less.   I encourage you to work ahead whenever you can so that if something unexpected comes up, you will have a time cushion. If you fall behind, catch up as soon as you can. The syllabus is designed to break up large assignments into smaller chunks so that the workload isn’t overwhelming.

·        Learn to control your own work pace rather than relying on external deadlines for motivation.   Develop intrinsic motivation to help you reach your own goals.

·        This course calendar is designed for an early finish, just before the end of the semester, leaving you two weeks for revision and reflection. It assumes you will work on your class every day because working on your reading and writing daily is the best way to create effective college work habits.  If you do not, you will likely finish the work closer to the end of the semester. It’s important to find a pace where you can most effectively create a life/work balance.

·        There are no penalties for late work.  Improving your own time management skills is an important student learning outcome in this class. All dates on the syllabus are target dates.It is not imperative that you turn all work in on the exact date specified here, so if you find yourself a little behind, please get caught up as soon as you can. But if you do not keep up with your assignments in a timely manner you will find yourself feeling very stressed and possibly unable to finish the class with a passing grade.