Is Time Management an After-School Struggle?

Just a few weeks ago I caught up with nationally-recognized author and speaker, Dr. Ari Tuckman, for an interview.  Ari specializes in helping those with ADHD and I especially love that his advice is always practical, simple, and easy to remember.  It’s so good that his podcast series has over a million downloads!  Read on for ways to assess and manage the after-school schedule.

Ann:  Parenting a child with ADHD can be difficult, but when the parent has ADHD, it’s especially tricky.  What’s the number one piece of advice you give to parents in this situation?

Are you readyAri:  Parents want to think in terms of routines.  The nice thing about routines is that you don’t have to think much about it.  If you have a routine, you can auto pilot a little bit more and everyone knows what to expect.  For example, “This is what we do when we get ready for bed” or “This is what we always do when we get ready for school”.  Having the same expectation makes things easier.

Ann:  How can parents tackle issues with time management?

Ari:  Time is easier to manage when schedules aren’t jam packed after school.  When one activity runs into another, and another into another, that’s never good.

Ann:  Do you find that when schedules are pared back that time is easier to manage?

Ari:  Absolutely.  The ADHD piece of this is the parent thinking, “Oh!  That’s neat!  That activity looks really interesting.  Let’s do it!” without ever pausing to consider what the week is going to look like with all these things.  Individually, every single one of these lessons, sports, or activities is great and adds value, but when you have too many things, they actually end up taking away value because it’s all too stressful.

There’s also the question of “What’s your priority?”  For example, if school work is your priority and you have your kid on two travel teams; school work is not your priority.  It just isn’t.  Your priorities are what you do, not what you say.  So, if you say, “Homework is the most important thing” but your son is on a hockey travel team until 10 pm three nights per week, then homework is not your priority.

Ann:  How do you help parents determine their priority?

Ari:  The first step is to stop and look at the whole picture, not just one thing at a time.  Look at everything on the whole schedule and determine which activity or activities hold the most value.  The problem is that you often have competing interests.  One activity may have a special type of value and another may be meaningful in a different way.  You have to reconcile and choose among them.  You have to make hard decisions.

Here’s a personal example.  My son did karate and he loved it, but he was a wreck by the time he got home from school.  He didn’t have enough energy for it.  Sad to say, but we let it go because it wasn’t going to be a good thing for him.

More Attention Less DeficitAnn:  Just getting ready for an after-school activity can be stressful especially if the parent is a little disorganized.  Do you recommend checklists or other tools?

Ari:  Yes, definitely.  Checklists, whiteboards, and launching pads; they all help.  For instance, if you feel like your child is forgetting things daily, weekly, or even monthly when you go to hockey practice, make a checklist.  Don’t reinvent the wheel each time.  Just yesterday, I heard Barbara Luther use the term “resparkleize.”  That means that whenever something, such as a checklist posted on the door, has been there for too long, it becomes invisible.  Sometimes you just have to move it six inches, and now you can see it again.  Sometimes you have to rewrite it in a differed colored pen or on different paper.  Small changes makes these checklists “sparkle” once again!

Learn more on Dr. Ari Tuckman’s website,