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Time Management for Gifted Kids

One of the most helpful talents for all-talented kids is organizing their time to do what they need -- and want -- to do.
By: the Council for Exceptional Children

Time Management for Gifted Kids

Learn to Tame Time

Gifted kids find it especially difficult to manage their time. When a child is so interested and stimulated by her world, school projects and after-school programs can easily become overwhelming. Highly motivated minds may tend towards perfectionism and idealism, leading many gifted kids to overcommitment and even burnout. You are your child's best resource, so become her time-management expert now and launch into a smooth back-to-school routine.

Know Your Child

More specifically, know your child's learning style. Is he an analyzer or a visualizer? Does he think step-by-step or more holistically?

Knowing how your child learns and thinks will help you choose the tool that's right for him to get organized. Will it be a grid or a picture? A to-do list or a flow-chart?

Many gifted kids don't want to structure their time, so prepare yourself to be flexible and creative. Organizing just one day might be a good way to show him the limitations of his time and the priority-setting he'll need to do.

Before you sit down with him, know your own plan for homework rules, regular routines, and free-time choices.

Know Your Plan

Before your child can master time, you'll need to set some ground rules.

  • What happens after school? You can take this time to talk about the school day in a relaxed way. Have a snack and get all the news. Plus, you can help your child decide if the rest of the day holds enough time for everything he wants and needs to accomplish.

  • Schedule homework first thing. This may be difficult, but your child needs this type of structure to learn priorities.

  • Find your child's homework space with his needs in mind. Some kids need a quiet environment with no distractions; others can work just as well at the kitchen table with music playing. If you haven't already, read the Know Your Child section.

  • Make sure reference books are within easy reach of her study spot.

  • Offer her this learning tip: Studying smaller amounts of information for several days is more effective than one marathon all-nighter.

  • Stay involved. Find the mid-point between paying no attention to your child and overbearing watchfulness. Younger children need more supervision than older children, who are developing self-discipline. When your child is in middle school, if you are still helping with daily homework, it's time to let go. Be a resource she can go to, not a constant crutch.

  • Too much work? There will be times when she'll have more work than she can accomplish, or when a project is going so well she doesn't want to put it aside. This is an ideal time to teach perfectionists to prioritize -- not everything deserves a maximum amount of time. Sometimes, it's okay to "skim the surface," especially when she's feeling overwhelmed or the project isn't high priority. Then you can establish consequences for not completing assignments that are important.

  • Plan ahead for relaxing activities like television, books, and play. Zoning out can be refreshing and can give him time to incubate ideas. Review your child's hobbies and interests. What helps him best recharge his batteries: time alone; time with friends; time with books, a favorite TV show, a pet, or a pet project? Help him set aside time every day for this. Choosing TV programs or video games in advance will balance his needs for other kinds of fun and self-care.

    Time Tools

    Setting up a way to manage your gifted child's time depends in large part on how your child thinks.

    Logical, analytical thinkers keep neat notebooks and like to organize. Their sock drawers are neat. Creative, holistic, or "feeling" thinkers have looser ways of keeping organized. They might keep their socks on the floor, over the door, and in the drawer -- but they know where they are!

    Keeping your gifted child's mind in mind, here's your jumping off point for finding the right time-management tool. Play and experiment with the following examples. You and your child will have time right where you want it.

    Charts and Pictures

    Planning by Picture
    One way to engage kids who are visual learners is to make a time chart that looks like a favorite topic.

    For example, start with a large multi-tiered hamburger. In a 24-hour day, how much lettuce, cheese, or ketchup will he need? Is cheese the homework? Is the sauce his free time? Let your child have fun deciding.

    Planning by Pie Chart
    Try planning by pie chart! Here's an example.

    Print out your own blank pizza chart to schedule on!

    Use anything that will serve the end goal: a system for time management that keeps your child involved in her own successful planning.

    Ready for more Resources? Try These:
    CEC Approved and Suggested Books

    Grids and Lists

    Here are some examples for setting up a schedule. The priorities for each activity will change daily. One day, for example, the long-term research paper might not be as important as practicing for an upcoming recital. And remember to "plan for planning." Balancing long- and short-term goals takes energy, thought, and time!

    Choose a few of the designs below, try them out with your gifted child, and decide together what's best for now. If you need to, you can reinvent your tool anytime. What's important is that you get started before school does.

    Planning by Activity

    Dressed & Ready1
    To & From School1
    Hobby (pet rabbits)1
    Play (friend over)1.5

    Planning by Time

    6 a.m.Get Ready
    7 a.m.Travel
    8 a.m.School
    9 a.m.-
    10 a.m.-
    11 a.m.-
    12 p.m.-
    1 p.m.-
    2 p.m.Travel
    3 p.m.Snack
    4 p.m.Homework
    5 p.m.-
    6 p.m.Dinner/Chores
    7 p.m.TV
    8 p.m.Favorite Project
    9 p.m.Reading
    10 p.m.Bed

    Planning by To-Do List

    5Research Paper
    2Soccer Practice
    4Reading for Fun
    6Clean up Room

    Brought to you by the
    Council for Exceptional Children
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