Six Ways Parents Can Help Children Master the Task of Prioritization

By Huntington Learning Center

As every parent knows, time management is an essential aptitude that students must have to be successful. At the core of good time management skills, however, is the ability to prioritize: to rank tasks from most to least important. Children who are capable of prioritizing their to-dos are at an advantage in several important ways:

  • They make the most of their time.
  • They have greater control over their schedules.
  • They tend to be less stressed.
  • They tend to have more free time (due to minimized procrastination).

Parents: if you want to help your children become better managers of their time, teach them how to prioritize their school work and incorporate this practice into their daily routine. Here are six ways to do just that:

  1. Start with the “big picture.” Your child should have a master to-do list with everything on it that he or she is responsible for. This should include immediate tasks as well as those that are on the horizon (a week or a month out).
  2. Divide things up. Armed with the master list, have your child divide homework assignments into three groups: things due tomorrow, things due this week, things due next week or beyond.
  3. Create the high-priority to-do list for the night. The first list—things due tomorrow—is where your child should focus his or her attention at homework time each night. Before getting started, children should rank everything they have to do for tomorrow from most to least important. Order of importance might be subjective, but it could be based on how early in the day the subject/class falls and whether there’s an opportunity to do any work in a study hall or free period before it.
  4. Rank items from hardest to easiest. The top priority items are all important, so for some children, it’s easiest to think about what homework requires the most effort and time. That refined nightly to-do list might look like this:
    Math - p. 10-11 Most important (1st period) Hard 40 minutes
    English - edit essay Equally important (2nd period) Easy 30 minutes
    Social Studies -read Important, could be done tomorrow Medium hard 30 minutes
  5. Consider study preferences. Does your child like to work on the hardest homework first, or would checking off some of the less difficult assignments give a sense of accomplishment? Only your child can decide what works best for his or her brain. It might take a little trial and error to figure out those study preferences, but don’t worry. The more your child does this, the easier (and faster) this decision-making process will become.
  6. Develop a plan for the bigger projects. While the above strategy works well for daily assignments, for more intensive projects, it’s a good idea to create a “workback” schedule to keep your child on track and focused on any deadlines. A project due February 1 might seem far away, but a detailed schedule might show your child that there are actually tasks he or she could start doing much sooner. Consider this example schedule for an English paper:
    Choose topic January 2
    Research compiled January 5
    Create outline  January 8
    Finish any additional research January 10
    First draft January 13
    Review and revise January 15
    Second draft January 17
    Have parent/peer review/edit January 18
    Revise, third draft January 20
    Get teacher feedback January 21
    Revise January 23
    Final edits January 25
    Fourth draft January 27
    Final review and proof January 28
    Submit January 29

Don’t we all want to make homework time less stressful and more efficient? The simple task of prioritization helps children establish effective working habits for any homework that comes their way. Rather than waste time fretting about how much is on the plate and procrastinating, a child who is adept at prioritizing will quickly assess what he or she has to do and dive right in.

If your child struggles with time management and your efforts to set him or her on a positive path aren’t working, call Huntington. We can help your child get into a good routine and boost his or her confidence. Call us at 1-800-CAN LEARN today.

About Huntington

Huntington is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams.  Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards.  Founded in 1977, Huntington’s mission is to give every student the best education possible.  Learn how Huntington can help at For franchise opportunities please visit



Article Topics