Learning and thinking differences that cause trouble with time management

ByPeg Rosen

Learning and thinking differences that cause trouble with time management. A girl looks at tablet on couch upside down with her dog.

At a glance

  • Some kids have a hard time developing time management skills.

  • Kids who learn and think differently may need extra help learning to manage time.

  • There are lots of ways to help kids get better with time management skills.

Kids don’t all develop time management skills at the same rate. Some kids take longer to develop skills like planning ahead and staying on top of things. Some kids may catch up with their classmates on their own. Others, like kids who learn and think differently, need more support to thrive. But with the right support — and lots of practice — kids can get better at managing time.

How trouble with executive function affects time management

What it is: Executive functions are a set of mental skills. These skills help the brain organize and act on information. Kids use these skills to get organized, plan, get started, and stay on task. Flexible thinking is part of executive function. A skill called working memory is part of it, too. Working memory is the ability to hold on to new information so we can use it in some way.

The time management connection: Kids who struggle with these skills often get sidetracked. Trouble with working memory, for example, makes it hard to keep information in mind long enough to plan and complete tasks.

Kids who have trouble with flexible thinking might assume all tasks take the same amount of time. They can have trouble planning for new or complex tasks.

Strategies you can try:

For more ideas, check out a collection of strategies to help kids boost executive function.

How ADHD affects time management

What it is: ADHD is a common condition that impacts focus and self-control. It’s closely linked to executive function.

The time management connection: Kids with ADHD have trouble with executive function — and the time management skills that come with them. Other ADHD symptoms can make it hard to manage time, too. Things like trouble sitting still and paying attention.

Strategies you can try:

How dyscalculia affects time management

What it is: Dyscalculia is a learning difference that makes it hard to understand numbers and math concepts.

The time management connection: Kids with dyscalculia may have trouble reading a clock. They may also struggle to estimate how much time it takes to do things.

For example, when a teacher tells the class they have 20 minutes to complete a quiz, most kids have a “feel” for how much time that is. Kids with dyscalculia may not know how much time they have, which makes it hard for them to pace themselves.

Strategies you can try:

Other learning differences can cause trouble with time management, too. For instance, it might take a child with three times as long to read a novel as other kids. Kids who have trouble writing have a hard time taking notes quickly.

Kids who are struggling in school may also feel frustrated about tasks that are challenging for them. As a result, they may procrastinate or put off doing things. This can impact time management as well.

No matter what’s causing your child’s trouble with time management, there are many ways to help your child develop this skill. Look for patterns in the things your child has a hard time with. And reach out to the teacher to find out if similar things are happening at school. Working together can help you find the best ways to help your child get better with managing time.

Key takeaways

  • Kids who have trouble with executive function often struggle with managing time.

  • Difficulty measuring and making sense of numbers can affect how kids manage their time.

  • Talk with your child’s teacher about what you’re seeing, and how to help.

    Tell us what interests you


    About the author

    About the author

    Peg Rosen writes for digital and print, including

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.