When coming up with a plan, it’s imperative for students to confront the question of time: How long will this activity or this task take? Teenagers generally struggle with this, partly because they’ve had very little explicit experience estimating time, and partly because the teenage brain is generally not wired for this type of self-reflection.
Sometimes students – the underestimators – will provide very low guesses for how long something will take. For example, students who believe they can take notes on a chapter in Grade 11 History in twenty minutes are going to be disappointed. Obviously, these students are at risk of underachievement and of being unprepared. They also figure to start assignments and tasks later than they should on the belief that the task won’t take long.
Sometimes, however, students have the opposite problem. Instead of underestimating how long a task will take, they make unrealistically high guesses. Five hours to take notes on the chapter?! Students who overestimate can feel highly stressed and overwhelmed. They might also feel defeated because they cannot manage their workload. Procrastination can also result – who wants to start something that’s so daunting?
Students, therefore, should aim toward getting a realistic handle on how long typical academic tasks take. To help promote more realistic time estimates, students can actually track time and compare it to their guesses. For example, students could use their agenda and record how long they think it will take to complete the various academic tasks they have (e.g., studying for Bio, finish reading 20 pages in To Kill a Mockingbird, completing the rough draft for the History paper). When completed, they could write down how long it actually took in brackets. Over time, this will allow students to see their tendency to over or underestimate, which they can then use to improve their time estimation skills.Back