Where Does The Time Actually Go? Track It!


Editor’s Note: Time-management is a crucial back-to-school skill, but it’s not always easy to teach. That’s why we love this activity from Choices subscriber Jeff Tranell, a 6th grade math and science teacher at Park Forest Middle School in State College, Pennsylvania. Use it in connection with our Life Skills Made Easy lesson from September 2016.



It all started with a discussion about time management and priorities with my advisory students. The lesson we were supposed to do asked students to map out a “typical” evening by blocking off 15-minute chunks of time and recording what would be happening during those periods. For example, students were asked to plan out time for recreation, homework, snacks, dinner, screen time, exercise, and chores.  However, I soon found that some students were struggling with actually knowing what they did with their time on a typical night!  Others said that no night is “typical” and there were lots of variables—sport practices or music lessons on particular days of the week, a big test coming up, etc. 


Thus, what we decided to do instead was track what we did for a given school night. I asked the kids to carefully log exactly how they used their time, from dismissal to bed.  The results were surprising and eye-opening to many, especially when we made circle graphs and shared our results!  Some kids couldn’t believe how much time they spent playing video games or watching TV.  Others were shocked that they had so much homework or got so little sleep. 


How can this help? 

This activity gives students a starting point to help them budget their time, especially because—at the middle school level—they are really beginning to make more time management decisions on their own. Once they recognize the impact of those choices, they can better plan and prioritize in the future. 


What you’ll need:

  • The Time Log Worksheet (table-like) 
  • Calculator and Circle Graph Worksheet or spreadsheet software (here is a sample circle graph in Google Sheets) capable of making a circle graph
  • How Can I…Get it All Done?” (p. 24) from the September issue of Choices
  • Optional: document camera or computer projector to share graphs with whole class


Key skills: Time management; goal-setting; data collection and measurement; understanding fractions, percentages, and decimals; making/reading circle graphs   


Time:  Two class periods with one evening in-between




Class Period 1



  1. Think-Pair-Share. Ask the class to think about what they do with their time each evening. To narrow down the focus, you may want to ask: What did you do last evening? After students have a minute to think about it, have them pair up with a partner and share their three or four biggest time-suckers on a typical night.
  2. Discuss. Ask the students if they have any strategies to share for managing their time on school nights. Discuss different strategies as a group.
  3. Introduce the Assignment. Students will carefully track exactly where their time goes for one night. Be sure to tell them to carry on as they were intending for that night—to not do anything “special” just because they’re keeping track. Pass out the Time Log Worksheet and stress to students that it is important that they keep track throughout the evening, so that the log is as accurate as possible.

Time Log


Class Period 2 


1. Think-Pair-Share. Today’s opening prompt should ask students: Did anything surprise them in how they actually used their time?

2. Set Time Use Categories. Decide upon categories for time usage based upon trends in the class. Here is a sample list of categories:

  • Exercise
  • Inside play
  • Outside Play
  • Video Games
  • TV
  • Online
  • Homework
  • Eating
  • Reading
  • Napping
  • Chores
  • Travel (from school / to events)
  • Organized Activities (Scout meetings, lessons, sports practices, etc.) 
  • Instrument practice

3. Calculate. Have students figure out the total number of 15-minute chunks of time between dismissal and bed time. Then have them figure out how many of those they spent in each category.

4. Make a Circle Graph. That way, students can visually see where their time went. 

  • You can use spreadsheet software — here is a Sample Circle Graph in Google Sheets.
  • Students can also make their graph by hand using the instructions and template on the Circle Graph Worksheet.



5. Share Your Circle Graphs. Then discuss trends in time use as a group.

6. Read. Pass out printouts of “How Can I... Get it All Done?” and ask students to read the story.

7. Think About Priorities. After reading about the Eisenhower Method of time management in the article, have students go back and reflect on what was urgent, what was important, and what was both urgent and important, and what was neither urgent and important.

8. Reflect and Discuss. Have students reflect on how this will now help them plan out a more ideal schedule for tonight, or a typical school night. Discussion prompts:

For which activities will you try to make more time?

What things were sucking your time that you didn’t realize? 

What types of things will you try to spend less time on? 

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