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Improving Time Management and Organizational Skills

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The Way I See It

Improving Time Management and Organizational Skills

by Temple Grandin, PhD

Autism Asperger’s Digest | January/February 2012


When I was in college, I did not have the time management problems that are common for some individuals on the spectrum. Since I was motivated to succeed in college, I always got to class promptly and turned in homework on time. In this column I will discuss the ways I was able to succeed in school and life by having good time management and organizational skills.

Being on Time

In my life being on time was emphasized from an early age. When I was a child, meals were served on a set schedule, and I was expected to be back from a friend’s house in time for dinner. Every Sunday my family went to church and I had to be dressed in my Sunday best on time. By the time I got to college, being on time for class and getting up in the morning was easy.

A teenager should start learning how to be on time and getting up early before he or she goes to college. This skill could be taught by having the teenager do a job such as walking the next-door neighbor’s dog at 8:00 in the morning.  This would teach the discipline of being up on time for an 8:00 a.m. class.  Taking classes at a local community college will be much easier if being on time is learned before enrollment.

Turning in Assignments on Time

I never waited until close to the deadline to study for an exam or turn in a term paper.  Each day I set aside time to study and kept up. My term papers were always done way before the deadline. I finished my papers early to ensure a quality job. Doing them early also avoided missing deadlines because of last-minute problems such as getting sick.

Scheduling Time to Work and Study

For me the best types of calendars show one month on a single sheet of paper.  I like this type of calendar because I can see the entire month. Monthly calendars are also available in an electronic format.  For some individuals a Blackberry or a smartphone has been useful for keeping organized.

On a monthly calendar I recorded times for exams and due dates for term papers.  I set aside large blocks of time for collecting research material I would need for a term paper.  For writing papers I scheduled time in blocks of 2–4 hours so that I could really concentrate on the assignment. I could get my work done more efficiently and quickly by scheduling fewer big blocks of time compared to scheduling many little blocks. I always scheduled time to study for exams, and I often tutored weak students as a method of studying. I never crammed for exams all night.

Organizational Skills

In the 1960s when I went to college, most students had a large loose-leaf binder for keeping all their class notes.  This type of binder solved many organizational problems. I had one of these binders, and I never lost class notes. To keep track of my class notes, I had to have them all in one place.  This prevented me from losing them on my messy desk.

At the beginning of each semester, I bought a new binder for my classes.  After my four years in college, I had eight binders with the notes for all my courses.  Referring back to previous courses was useful and easy to do. It may be old-fashioned, but using a binder is the best way to keep handwritten class notes organized. It is helpful to use a colored tab divider for each class. You can keep a class schedule in the front of the binder.

Today fewer students use this type of loose-leaf binder.  If notes are taken on a laptop, I recommend having an icon on the desktop for class notes, and then a separate file folder for each class.


One of the best ways to help a student be successful in college is to work on time management and organizational skills while he or she is still in high school. It is never too early to start teaching these important life skills.  If an individual has not been taught these skills, it is never too late to start.  People on the spectrum can always keep learning.


Temple Grandin is an internationally respected specialist in designing livestock handling systems, and is the most noted high-functioning person with autism in the world today. She is the author of numerous books on autism and is a worldwide speaker on autism topics. Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, coauthored with Sean Barron and Veronica Zysk, captured a prestigious Silver Award in the 2006 ForeWord magazine Book of the Year competition. Her previous book, Animals in Translation (2005) was on the New York Times Bestseller list. For more information visit www.templegrandin.com


Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. 2012. All Rights Reserved. Distribution via print means prohibited without written permission of publisher.

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