3 Essential Time Management Skills

Is the best planner paper or electronic? Should I get a daily planner or one that displays the whole month? What color planner is most effective? ’Tis the time to get your planner ready for a new year — is it time to buy a new one?

Some people have a tried-and-true planner they buy year in and year out (I’m looking at you, hard cover Moleskin weekly planner). Most students, however, switch from one planning tool to another as they slowly develop their time management abilities. One week they are using a small notebook to write down their to-do list; another week they’re using Google Keep and Google Calendar on their phone. Or they start out using the academic planner provided by the school, then they are simply using nothing, relying on memory and occasional check-ins of the school’s homework portal.

Students who ricochet from one option to the next have not yet found a strategy that works for them, so which planner is best? The answer is, I’m afraid, that depends. Students need to be in charge of the strategies they use to organize their time. So, if one student prefers to use her phone and another likes to use a paper planner, it’s all good! Any time management tool can be effective as long as it accomplishes three things:

Make time visible

There is a difference between the reality of time passing and how time feels. Plans that include words like “soon” or “in a little while” are dangerous because they are not concrete. A planner needs to help students envision time in a concrete way, by breaking down tasks in terms of specific, measured amounts of time (e.g., hours, days, weeks, and months).


One of the hardest parts about being an adult is juggling the many tasks that make up our day, and the same is true for students! As they get older and advance through the grades, students are responsible for an ever growing number of things both in school and out. Prioritizing is the secret to being an effective time manager, so a good planner will help students create a personalized plan to getting all of their work done.

Plan ahead

Planners help us expand our window of time. Students may think they have completed everything, but they might have a major paper or test only a few days away. A good planner will help students see what is coming up, so they can start large assignments before things get overwhelming.

Whatever planning tool your students like to use, ask them to identify strategies to accomplish each of these three time management skills, and they’ll be well on their way to creating time management strategies that will serve them through school and their professional lives.

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director