Do your teens and tweens struggle to manage their study time? Are you constantly met with excuses when assignments are supposed to be handed in? Are you pulling out your hair wondering what to do to get your students to learn how to manage study time?

We all know that teaching study skills is important. And yet, how often do we make time for it in our crowded curriculums? Not often. 

There’s always an assignment due, a last-minute guest speaker on assembly that runs over time, or a random eleventh-hour event scheduled. And they spell the end of any free time in your schedule as surely as a banshee’s wails spell disaster for your kin.


But we all know that teaching study skills is important because students who know how to manage study time perform better at school (see here for more info). Yet, most students aren’t explicitly shown how to manage study time, as parents often think students are shown at school and teachers often think that students are shown at home.

So today, let’s take a look at some easy tips to teach tweens and teens how to manage study time. So, steep some tea, get comfy, and read on. As always, use ideas your think will work for you and your classes.

1. Teach students to create a study schedule and make it routine

An easy way to help students to create a study schedule is to show this video by Crash Course about planning and organization. The video is quick, clocking in at under ten minutes, so it’s not going to consume your whole lesson.

The video covers information such as 

  • How and why students should use a calendar
  • How and why students should use to-do list
  • Why students should do a weekly planning session to plan their study time each week

By showing students how to organize their time and make a plan, you can show students  

  • How to manage time for homework
  • How to manage time to study for exams 
  • Ways to fit study time into their schedule
  • How to manage study with part time work
  • Ways to avoid wasting time while studying by having tasks planned out
  • Tips for getting tasks completed on time
  • How to use different tools such as calendars and to-do lists to reduce study- and assessment-related anxiety
  • How to work study time in while maintaining commitments to sporting teams, work, family, and community involvement


Once students have created a study schedule, they need to make it routine. Using personal rewards is a great way to encourage students to stay on track. You could show students a variety of ways to do this such as

  • Sticker charts
  • Coloring-in goal trackers
  • Digital habit trackers
  • Dot-journal trackers
  • Calendar trackers
  • Diary trackers

Once your students stay on track for a specified amount of time, you could provide rewards such as

  • Candy or chocolates (if your school allows them)
  • Vouchers
  • Positive postcards or phone calls home
  • Cool pens and pencils
  • Reward points (if your school has some kind of points system)
  • Stickers 

2. Teach students how to prioritize tasks

One skill that many students seem to lack is the ability to prioritize study tasks. Knowing how to manage study time effectively is an essential study skill. Without this skill, students might think about the list of things they have to do and get overwhelmed.

This is where a planning session each week plays its part. When students sit down and think about all of the tasks they have to do over the week, they can begin to decide which tasks are important and which tasks can be deferred until next week.

They also begin to work out which tasks happen daily, which happen weekly, which happen monthly, and which are less frequent. If you then suggest that some of the less-frequent tasks still have a big impact (such as the amount of time needed to complete them, or the percentage of grades), students begin to think of study tasks more strategically.

An easy way to show students how to do this is to print out a list of fifteen to twenty study tasks – some that occur daily, weekly, monthly, each term, or each semester. Then, hand out the tasks to students and get them to arrange themselves in order of importance.


Once students have lined up, see if you have any comments or questions about the order. Questions could include ideas such as

  • If you put that task last each week, will you ever get to it?
  • Why did you rate Social Sciences homework above writing your essay for English? When is the essay due?
  • Why are you writing the introduction of your essay before doing the research for it?
  • How often are you studying for your Biology final?
  • Why did you put the reading for English ahead of the homework for Math?
  • How far away is the test for Chemistry?
  • How long does that History paper have to be?
  • What percentage of your grade is the Geography final test?
  • Why did you do the outline of your English essay before you wrote the draft?
  • Why did you write the draft of your English essay before you wrote the final copy?

By discussing the answers to these questions, you are modeling to students how they can use their time more strategically when thinking about how to manage study time. You can demonstrate that students should prioritize tasks that are 

  • Due soon
  • Worth large parts of their grade
  • Have immediate penalties (for example, detentions for incomplete homework etc)
  • Will take a long amount of time to complete

By doing this in conjunction with teaching students how to create a study schedule, you are also showing students

  • How to prioritize tasks
  • How to break large study tasks into smaller tasks
  • Why tasks should be completed in advance of due dates
  • Why planning tasks out can help students to manage study time
  • Why planning study time can reduce anxiety
  • How to schedule in study sessions for longer-term goals such as end-of-semester tests
  • How to manage time for study daily, and show that even if it’s a short session it adds up to staying on-top of academic demands

3. Show students how to do different types of study tasks during study time

This comes down to prioritizing again, but students might like to allocate specific sessions to specific tasks. For example, students might like to review new work from Math the day after they have a Math lesson. Or they may prefer to write an English essay draft the night that the task is set.

Either way, showing students how to manage study time in this way is beneficial because it shows students that there is time to do all the things and still have enough time to work, play sports, and socialize with their friends.

To do this, you could create a hypothetical study schedule and a list of tasks. Then you could get students to arrange the study schedule and explain why they did it in this way.

An easy way to do this would be similar to showing students how to prioritize tasks. But this time, students must prioritize the tasks and place them on a schedule.

You could re-use the study tasks, and then project a schedule on the board and ask students to place the task where they think it should go.

Ensuing discussion questions could include ideas such as

  • Should the hardest tasks really be done on a Friday evening?
  • How many study sessions will you spend on researching for your History paper?
  • Should your weekly study planning session be Sunday afternoon?
  • Which afternoon will you need off for sports practice?
  • What happens if you get called into work an extra day? Should you do it?
  • How long before a test should you study?
  • Which day should you create study questions for Biology?
  • Why are you writing your hypothesis for science three days after the experiment instead of before the experiment?
  • Do you want to do your homework straight after the lesson?
  • Should your long-term study be done at the start or the end of the week?

The answers to these questions will obviously vary from student to student and class to class. The point is that students begin to think about their study time and study tasks more strategically.

Doing this builds students’ ability to prioritize tasks, manage stress, and manage their study time effectively. 

4. Use Pomodoro timers

Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Basically, one of the hardest parts of starting any task you’d like to avoid is just that, starting the task. And if you have several unpleasant tasks, pick the worst one first.

Other productivity experts have different opinions, with some recommending you complete the task that will have the most impact first (such as Lorrain Murphy in ‘Get remarkably organized). Others recommend completing the easiest task first because that will give you a psychological boost and encourage you to attempt other tasks afterward.

Either way, getting started is always the hardest part. An easy way to overcome this is to use a timer. Show students a Pomodoro timer (either the actual tomato-shaped alarm clock or a digital one such as this Tomato Timer).


Then explain to students that the trick is to tell themselves they’ll work for however long the timer says. And then once they’ve done that, if they still want to stop, they can. Even if they’ve only done the ten-, twenty-, or however-many- minutes they’ve set the clock for time.

Also, you can explain to students that after the timer, they get a short break and then they can either continue the task, stop, or start a different task.

This strategy is good for a couple of reasons, including it

  • Creates the habit of starting to work even if they don’t want to
  • Takes the pressure off of having to finish the whole task
  • Makes it easier to concentrate because concentration only has to be limited to the amount of time the clock is set for
  • Means that if students finish the time and are in the ‘flow of working, they can keep going beyond the timer
  • Shows students that all of those little chunks of time can add up to big results when trying to get stuff done
  • Shows that students make some progress on tasks by at least getting started
  • Prevents the guilt that often accompanies procrastination and avoidance
  • Means that if students genuinely aren’t feeling up to the task they have an easy out so they don’t feel guilty or anxious about not studying

5. Teach students about how motivation works

An easy way to do this is to watch the Crash Course video about procrastination. Again, this is a great video because it’s short and sweet at just over ten minutes.

The great thing about this video is that it explains motivation. Ideas discussed include

  • Theories about why we procrastinate
  • Ideas for how to avoid procrastination by increasing competency and expected reward
  • Ideas for how to avoid procrastination by decreasing impulsiveness and delay until the reward
  • that spending time on ‘low-density fun’ activities, such as scrolling on social media, is not as good for motivation as spending time on ‘high-density fun’ activities, such as meeting up with friends

The video then discusses how motivation can be increased, including ideas such as

  • Rewarding on-task study time
  • Using high-level rewards more than low-level rewards
  • Remembering that you are more likely to procrastinate if there is a long delay between completing the study task and the reward

6. Teach students to use study breaks and to move during them

An easy way to teach students to use study breaks and to move during study breaks is to incorporate movement breaks into your lessons. Easy ways to do this include

  • Using gallery walks for activities during a lesson
  • Plan rotation activities at stations during a lesson
  • Get students to play a true/false game, but to sit/stand for the true false
  • Ask students to write the answers on the board with a whiteboard pen

However, while you might use these strategies to build movement into your classroom, you may have to explicitly explain to your students why you do this. 

Now, you could lecture your students about how movement is shown to benefit memory as well as improve the academic ability of students with ADHD. But they’d likely fall asleep listening to a lecture on movement in an English lesson.

Another easy way to do this is to show students the Crash Course Study Skills video about exercise. At just over ten minutes again, this video explains

  • Why movement is important to memory
  • How movement helps your brain and body work better
  • How movement helps your brain build more brain cells/stronger brain pathways
  • Why exercise is important to help your brain make more pathways and memories
  • How movement helps your brain to focus and resist distraction
  • Why the timing of the movement is important for memory

7. Teach your students to avoid procrastination

Now, I’ve covered this in an entire blog post here, so I won’t go into too much detail, but another important topic for learning how to manage study time is to learn how to avoid procrastination. 

Easy ways to do this are some of the topics we’ve talked about in this blog post, such as

  • Showing students how to manage time in study by using calendars and to-do lists to prioritize tasks
  • Encouraging students to use timers to get started
  • Reminding students to use rewards for completing tasks
  • Encouraging students to just do something – it’s impossible for students to improve a paper that’s not written. But if it’s written, students can seek teacher feedback to improve.
  • Remind students to aim for quality time-on-task and high-density-fun rewards instead of low-quality time-on-task and low-density-fun rewards

Want more ideas on getting students to learn how to manage study time?

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