On Time Management and Practice

practice practicing skill time time management Jan 02, 2024
On Time Management & Practice

By Rob Chilton

“Kids these days…”

We’ve all heard, “kids these days are different.” It's hard to say whether that's true or not, but they're absolutely growing up in a different time. Look at the amount of life-changing technology introduced in the last 20 years:

Addictive social media, mesmerizing games, and on-demand video compete for our kids’ attention. Algorithms optimize their feeds to increase interaction. "Likes" encourage repeat use. Is it any wonder our students are struggling with time management?

Practicing Was Easier Then

Life was different before the year 2000. For starters, the internet wasn’t public until 1993. Even then, it was primitive and inaccessible to most. Less than 1% of the world’s population used it. By 2003, that number had only increased to 10%. Now, as of 2023, 70% of the world’s population is on the world wide web.

In my opinion, pre-2000 was a simpler time. There was less to do, and because of this, I’m convinced it was easier to choose productivity. Honestly, I’m not sure how productive I would have been if I’d been born later and under the same temptations of today’s youth. Pretend for a moment you’re 12 again. Which would you choose?

We all know what you should choose–but would you? These are the kind of decisions our kids face each day. More than ever, it’s necessary and important that we regularly teach time management alongside and through our content.

Why They Don't Manage Their Time

As a young teacher, I struggled to respond when my students told me they were “too busy” or “didn’t have the time.” Those statements often left me feeling disappointed or defeated. One day, I had an epiphany. For a brief moment, my cranial light bulb lit up and I realized that most children have very little understanding of time and how to manage it–and it’s not entirely their fault.

The problem is there’s no consistent place or method for children to learn time management. For most, lessons on time are sprinkled in small doses across a variety of experiences.  Some get it from their parents, teachers, or coaches.  Others don’t get it at all.  Those that receive little to none often get to middle or high school and are blindsided by overwhelming stress and panic.

The good news is that time management is a skill.  It can be taught, learned, and practiced.  We can increase the success of our individuals and group when we routinely and thoughtfully teach time management.  Over the years, I formulated and relied upon the following introductory lessons to raise awareness of time management.  Let's start with the “168” talk.

Measuring Time with the "168" Talk

Before our students can “manage” their time, they must first learn to “measure” it.  168 is the total number of hours in a week. The purpose of the “168” talk is to raise awareness of each person’s own time budget.  We want them to quantify their time and discover where they’re allocating or “spending” it.

The example student shown above is what you might consider a “busy” child. They’re in music, school athletics, and outside-of-school activities. Still, they have 25 hours of free time after everything is done! Why then does this student have feelings of being “too busy” or “not having time?” Where are those 25 hours of free time going? That’s equivalent to 5 hours a day lost in space!

Most of us spend too much time on unimportant tasks. Children are no exception. In fact, they’re much worse! Often, it’s the culmination of a few minutes here and a few seconds there that add up to large losses over time.

The “168” lesson has been effective with my students because it creates a much needed awareness of time and time-spent. I recommend giving this talk at least once a year. It works best as “preventative medicine.” That is to say, present the material to your students before a crisis. Then, refer back as needed.

Teaching Practice with the "XP" Chart

It was the fall of 2014 and I was sitting at my desk frustrated after a difficult trumpet sectional.  My students weren’t practicing and my efforts to get them to seemed wasted.  I needed something new.  Then, I had an idea.

In almost all computer, console, and mobile games, the more you play, the more experience points (XP) you acquire. Those with the most XP are typically the most successful gamers.  So, I drafted the first version of the following chart:

Over the period of a week, take the number of days you practiced and subtract the number of days you didn’t practice.  The result is your XP for the week.  The more XP you have, the more skill you’ll have developed.  This system works well with children because it’s simple and concrete–something they earnestly need when confronted with the intangibles of delayed gratification and long-term skill development.

Delayed Gratification & Skill Development Made Simple

Using the XP chart, introduce your students to the concept of delayed gratification.  Using basic math, explain how someone who practices 6 days a week will earn 260 XP in a year! Someone who practices 4 days a week will earn only 52 XP in a year.

Ask your students, “which player do you think will be more skilled?” You can also help them connect skill development with achievement. Try asking them, “which player will be more likely to make all-state?” It’s not a perfect science, but it’s effective.

Skills–Use It or Lose It!

Finally, the XP chart helps your students understand there is a minimum amount of work necessary to progress and that the acquisition of skill is not permanent. I usually say – 

To help your students understand this concept, ask them to tell you about something they used to be able to do that they stopped doing.  Have them tell you what happened when they stopped.  They’ll often recall a sport or a game they once played. I’ve even had students recount losing the ability to speak a foreign language they once spoke fluently!

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Stay Tuned!

My hope is that the tools herein–the “168” and the “XP” methods–will serve you as you move into 2024! Stay tuned for deeper discussions on both topics!

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About the author:

Rob Chilton is the creator and owner of Readymade Music, LLC and its content. Previously, Chilton was a middle school band director from 2007-2021. His most recent teaching position was the Head Band Director at Killian Middle School in Lewisville, Texas from 2014-2021.

Under his direction, the Killian Honors Band was named the 2018 Texas Music Educators Association CC Honor Band and performed at the annual 2018 TMEA Clinic/Convention. In 2019, the Killian Honors Band was invited to and performed at The Midwest Clinic in Chicago. Additionally, the Killian Honors Band was named a National Winner in the Mark of Excellence National Wind Band Honors Project in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Chilton is a graduate of Southern Methodist University where he had the opportunity to study music education under the tutelage of Lynne Jackson and Brian Merrill. During his years as a middle school band director, Chilton continued his professional growth under the guidance of his primary clinicians, John Benzer and Brian Merrill.

Chilton’s mission for Readymade Music is to promote the overall well-being of music education and support school music teachers by providing solutions to help make teaching music more efficient and inspirational while increasing engagement for 21st century learners.

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