What Teachers Can Do To Help With Time Management

by Sandra Rief

Adapted from Sandra’s books, published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley:  Rief, S. (2008) The ADD/ADHD Checklist: A Practical Reference for Parents & Teachers, 2nd edition, Rief, S. (2005) How to Reach & Teach Children with ADD/ADHD, 2nd edition,  and Rief, S. (2003) The ADHD Book of Lists


Students with ADHD often have significant difficulty with time awareness and time management.   Under-estimating how much time they have to complete a task or to arrive somewhere on time, and lateness in meeting important deadlines and due dates are common problems that affect school success.  It is important for teachers to know that these problems are stemming from their disorder and related to executive function and attention weaknesses.

Time Awareness

Any opportunity to practice time estimation is very helpful towards increasing time awareness:

  • Challenge your students to estimate how long it takes to walk to the office and back (without running), or any other task, and then time it.
  • Make a game out of predicting, timing, and checking the students’ time estimates for various activities.
  • Encourage self-monitoring during independent seatwork time by recording the start time on the paper.  When the work period is over, record the stop time. This is helpful for the student to gain time awareness and also in tracking how much work is accomplished during a measured time frame. 

Assignment Sheets, Calendars, Student Planners/Agendas

  • Communicate and maintain the clear expectation that all assignments are to be recorded on students’ assignment calendars, and monitor that this is occurring.
  • Model the writing of assignments on the calendar by writing down and projecting a copy of the filled-in planner (e.g., using a document camera). Allow sufficient time at the beginning or end of class to do so.
  • Provide assistance to students who have difficulty recording assignments in their calendar/planner/assignment sheet. Monitor that assignments are recorded accurately.
  • Routinely ask table partners or groups seated together to check each other’s planner/calendar that everything is accurately recorded.
  • Keep a master monthly calendar posted in the classroom, recording special activities and events that are scheduled and assignments due.
  • If using a daily planner or assignment sheet, also provide students with a single- or double-page monthly calendar. for important dates they can see at a glance.   Help them record due dates of projects, tests, class trips, and other important activities and events for the month onto the monthly calendar.  Or…provide one already filled out for students with those important dates.


  • Establish a daily routine and schedule for the classroom.
  • Post all schedules and refer to them throughout the day.
  • Walk through the schedule each day and point out any changes in the daily/weekly schedule or routine that will be taking place.
  • With younger students, use a pictorial schedule depicting the daily routine.
  • For students receiving special education/related services, write down their weekly schedule and tape it to their desks.  Keep accessible each of your students’ special schedules so that you know at all times the days and times they are pulled out of class, or when service providers are coming to the classroom to work with the student.
  • Encourage students and parents to carefully plan a weekly schedule, including an established homework/study schedule.  Ask parents to first help their son or daughter become aware of how much time he or she spends in a typical day on all activities from school dismissal until bedtime.

Long-Term Projects

  • Structure any long-term assignments (e.g., book reports, research projects, science fair projects) by breaking them into smaller, manageable increments.
  • Make sure students have access to needed materials.
  • Assign incremental due dates to help structure the timeline towards project completion.  For example, assign separate due dates for stages of the project (getting a topic approved, outline submitted, research notes/resources listed, turning in first draft, etc.).
  • Call close attention to due dates.  Post those due dates and frequently refer to them as reminders.
  • Provide extra communication to parents of students with ADHD.  Perhaps call or email them to make sure they are aware of the projects, and have at least one copy of the handout explaining project guidelines, with its timeline and scoring rubric to keep posted at home.
  • Suggest to parents that they closely monitor timelines and help with pacing (e.g., get started promptly on selecting a topic and beginning their research).
  • Monitor progress by asking to see what the student has accomplished so far, and provide a lot of feedback along the way.
  • Consider providing some of your ADHD students and their parents advanced notice about upcoming projects and reports, enabling them to have a “head start” (especially with planning and research).


Other Ways Teachers Can Help

  • Provide students with a course outline or syllabus.
  • Assist with prioritization of activities and workload.
  • Teach young students (and check older ones to make sure they know) how to tell time and read a non-digital (analog) clock.
  • Teach students how to read calendars & schedules.
  • Make sure that ALL assignments, page numbers, due dates, etc. are presented to students both verbally and visually.
  • Post all assignments  written clearly and easy to read in a consistent place in the room (e.g., corner of the board).
  • Utilize “things to do” lists, modeling for the class and teaching how to write down and cross off accomplished tasks.
  • Provide enough time during transitions to put material away and get organized for the next activity.
  • Teach students how to self monitor on-task behavior so that they are using class time effectively for getting work done.  For example, recording how many pages they read during silent reading time.
  • Include “seated by beginning bell time,” “completed class assignments” or other target behavior indicating student’s punctuality or effective use of class time on the daily report card or daily/weekly monitoring form.
  • If tardiness is an issue with the student, try an individual contract to motivate the student to improve behavior.
  • Provide extended time as needed, and consider more flexibility with regard to accepting late work.
  • Use frequent praise and positive reinforcement.  Reward for meeting deadlines and finishing in-school assignments on time.
  • Allow students with ADHD to use electronic tools (set to vibrate) as reminders to keep track of time.

©2012, Sandra Rief