Becoming A Self-Directed Learner – Part 3: Time Management.

by Patrick Liew on January 26, 2014

The third key to becoming a self-directed leader is to help your children learn how to manage time  effectively and efficiency.

Effectiveness refers to doing the right thing. Efficiency refers to doing the right things in the right way.

In reality, we can never manage and control time, we can only manage and control our life.

We can only manage what we do with the limited time that is given to each and every one of us.

In short, time management is life management. Success in the use of time will lead to success in life.

In fact, how matured we are depends on the level of our responsibility, autonomy, and competence in using time to achieve worthwhile goals.

When your children learn how to manage their time well, it will enhance their self-image and self efficacy.

It will also determine their learning performance and results they get from it.

Managing their time well will also decrease their sense of helplessness and increase the sense of control and competence.

To manage time, first, it is important to develop effective time-consciousness.

They need to be mindful about how they use their time and be conscious of its consequences.

A good idea is to encourage them to keep a journal of how they use their time. With a record of the list of activities, they can then categorise them in order of importance and urgency.

They will realize how they have often been caught up doing the urgent and non-essential things and not the important things. They become more aware of how they have used or wasted their time and their level of efficiency in managing it.

Secondly, help your children decide on the outcomes of time management. Plan what they want to achieve with their time and how they want to use it.

It’s good to constantly reinforce the need to set goals and sub-goals, including academic and other learning goals.

Help them enjoy the joy of planning for their activities and allocating time to making every activity work.

Please do not just focus on using time for academic results and school work.

Motivate them to use their time wisely so that they can have more time to pursue other interests and ways of enjoying their life and having fun.

When you do this exercise with them, you are teaching your children an important skill in life. They need to learn how to exercise choices and manage trade-offs in life.

For example, they need to develop the discipline of delayed gratification.

They need to cultivate self control to say no to the less important areas of their life and delay satisfying their need for personal pleasures.

This discipline will strengthen their foundation to achieve success in the future.

Thirdly, they need to determine the “Time Robbers” in their life and develop strategies to overcome them.

Time Robbers can be broadly divided into negative belief, behaviour and environment.

Many children do not have the right attitude for time management.

In many instances, it is because as parents, we unwittingly turn time management into a meaningless chore and sometimes, into a painful ritual.

We need to be mindful to make time management purposeful and fulfilling

When your children say things like “I don’t enjoy the activity,” help them to find out how they can enjoy the activity and find significance in doing it.

Share with them the need to do their best and not be overly concerned about getting good grades. Then, work gradually with them on how to improve their performance and results.

In terms of behaviour, one of the challenges is procrastination.

Please find out from your children the “why” of procrastination so that you can help them to find out the “how.”

Finding a good purpose will help them to improve their performance and pursuit.

Sometimes, your children procrastinate because they are unsure about what to do. They may be struggling with their school work.

In this case, you need to shower them with lots of love, care and concern. Walk through the anxiety with them so that they can develop confidence and mastery over it.

They can also procrastinate as a way to protect themselves. They need to attribute less than desired results to lack of time rather than because they are not “good enough” to do it.

It’s good to start with their attitude and then work on the aptitude for procrastination.

As the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar would say, “It is your attitude and not your aptitude that determines your altitude.”

An example would be to tell your children that  it is never too late to start on anything.

It is just as important if not more important to finish a task than to try and perfect the process. It is more important to ensure learning than for getting good grades.

The Chinese has a saying, The journey of a thousand miles begin with the first step.

This is a good way to handle procrastination – take one step at a time.

Turn the activity into mini “bite-sizes.” Then, work on it action by action, minute by minute, and chunk by chunk.

Eventually, they will start an inertia and will be able to increase the momentum to complete the task.

For the rest of this series, we will be looking at how to manage the environment. More specifically, how to manage the social and physical environments to improve learning performance and results.

Fourthly, to manage time wisely, help your children to develop the A-B-C strategy for time management.

What they need to do is to list the activities they need to accomplish to achieve their sub-goals and goals.

Then, they need to prioritise them in order of importance. The A list comprises of the most important activities follow by the B and C lists.

They need to calculate the time needed to complete each activity. It will help them to plan their schedule and allocate their time wisely.

The list of A, B and C activities will be recorded on the time table so that they will know what they need to do for the day, week or month. In this way, they can channel their effort and other resources in the right direction.

Last but not least, help your children to evaluate the use of time. They need to review their activities and determine how well they have performed them and their outcomes.

They should learn to become responsible, accountable and transparent in managing their time. At the same time, they can also learn how to reflect and draw lessons from the past.

Work with them to change their plan and strategies regularly. Help them resolves challenges and improve their performance and results.

When your children are conscious of their use of time, have set their goals, can overcome time robbers, know how to prioritise use of time, and be accountable for use of time, they have developed powerful tools to become self-directed learners.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Visit my Inspiration blog at

For my opinions on social affairs, please visit my Transformation blog at

Please visit my website,

Please read my reflections and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


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