Supporting Time Management Skills
Temporal skills are a fundamental set of skills that extend far beyond the clock. For many of our clients, the ability to organize and allocate time effectively can significantly impact their success and autonomy. We hear from many parents and clients how valued temporal skills are and, conversely, how confusing it can be when it comes to teaching them! This month, we’re discussing a few strategies we use during our client sessions, many of which can easily be carried over at home.
To begin, temporal skills refer to an individual's ability to understand and manage aspects of time. These skills involve perceiving the passage of time, organizing activities in a sequential manner, and effectively allocating time for different tasks. Temporal skills are crucial in various aspects of daily life, including academics, work, and personal responsibilities. They are closely aligned with executive functioning as a whole. Here are four examples of temporal skills and how we target them during sessions:
Time Perception: The ability to accurately perceive the passage of time is a fundamental temporal skill. People with strong time perception skills can estimate how much time has passed without relying on external cues, such as clocks. It’s sort of your internal “sense” of time.
We find that supporting time perception is best done through the use of self-reflection. Specifically, we use a therapeutic strategy known as “reflective questioning” to promote each client’s ability to feel the passage of time. A common reflective question we use relies on relational vocabulary, or benchmarks, that help time feel more tied to tangible concepts like big/small or more/less. For example, we often say, “That activity took us 15 minutes. Did that feel like more or less time than you expected?”
Task Sequencing: Temporal skills also include the capacity to organize and sequence tasks in a logical order. This skill is crucial for planning and executing activities in a step-by-step manner, and ensuring that each task is completed in the correct sequence.
You’ve likely heard us emphasize the importance of visual schedules during therapy sessions because they play a crucial role in supporting planning and task sequencing. We often include clients in the process by inviting them to plan what activities they’d like to complete each session, and guide them to write selected tasks on small whiteboard strips that fit into a linear schedule. For clients who are able, we also encourage them to estimate the length of time each task might take, which ties into the above skill, time perception, and the next skill we’ll discuss: time management!
Time Management: Effective time management involves the ability to allocate time appropriately for different activities. Individuals with strong time management skills can prioritize tasks, set goals, and create schedules to make the most of their available time. Time management is closely linked with time perception, in that time perception is a prerequisite skill for time management.
Once a client has a good handle on time perception, we like to target time management by…. You guessed it…. Self-reflection! However, the target questions in this kind of self-reflection are a bit more autonomy-promoting. We use frequent check-ins about the time passed during each activity to allow for “trial and error” learning. For example, a client budgeted 10 minutes to complete a journal entry. Halfway through the timer, we check in by saying, “It’s been 5 minutes, which is half the time we planned for.” When the timer goes off, we might say something like, “Did that feel like enough time? Do we need to edit our schedule to add additional time? Next time we do this activity, will we need to budget more or less time to complete it?” These questions are really simple to add to your daily routines at home as well!
We could write an entirely different blog post on how temporal skills are related to communication as a whole. Briefly, temporal skills are intertwined with various aspects of communication, influencing the timing of speech, turn-taking in conversations, narrative structure and sequencing skills for storytelling, social interactions, and the overall effectiveness of verbal and nonverbal communication.
Developing and honing temporal skills can significantly enhance one's ability to navigate the complexities of interpersonal communication and strengthen autonomy, leading to progress towards both therapeutic and personal goals, such as job acquisition or maintaining friendships. Refining temporal skills is essential for success in various areas of life, as it contributes to efficient planning, organization, and execution of tasks and responsibilities.