It’s STILL final exams season! Last week I gave four tips on how to deal with overwhelm.
This time around, I want to share a different kind of tip that’s more related to self-care.
Recently I found myself really dreading a difficult meeting with my coach, which is not unlike the dread students feel when needing to sit down and study. Both are potentially uncomfortable and hard tasks.
To help myself get into the mood, I did the following which I actually show you a picture of in the video:
For those of you in a hurry, here’s my whiteboard summary of the tip:
Are you struggling to take action on anything in particular right now? If so, feel free to “reply” and rant about it to me for a moment. Maybe I can help.
Did you know that we make hundreds and hundreds of micro-decisions every day? These decisions can make or break a student!
Recently I was talking to a 16 year old client about the tiny decisions he makes on a daily basis that result in lots of procrastination … and zillions of overdue assignments.
This client brilliantly came up with the phrase “set back decisions” to describe the choices he makes that result in procrastination, and we discussed how he can plan better around his “set back decisions.
Tune in to hear me describe our interaction, and why he decided to move his cell phone to a different bedroom, as a result of the discussion. 🙂
For those of you in a hurry who simply want to check out my whiteboard summary of the tips, here they are:
Did you know that there are some GOOD ways to procrastinate?
Recently I checked in on a client (a sophomore in college) about how well she’s following through on a project plan, and she told me that she was doing terribly. However, it was a “productive” kind of terrible, because she was getting something else important done as well.
This made me curious about how many ways there are to procrastinate productively, so I made a little video musing on this issue. Check it out!! Make sure you watch until the end so that you hear the warning about how not to overuse this sneaky way of procrastinating.
And if you don’t feel like waiting here’s the whiteboard:
?Do you often intend to get school work done when you travel during breaks, but then can’t quite bring yourself to do it?
More and more of my clients these days have at least one, if not more, plane rides during the course of their school year.
These same clients are also the kind of students who often have late work they need to catch up on!
In this video, I talk about how one of my clients came up with a “Plane Plan” in advance of his trip, so that he could make better use of his time on the airplane. This plan was very successful in helping him follow through with his goals. Check out the video to find out how.?
Make sure you come up with your plan in advance so you have a solid idea and can stick to it!
Do you sometimes shock yourself with the amount of time that you scroll mindlessly through your Facebook feed?
For the longest time, I’ve been trying to control my own Facebook use. I’m a total addict, you see, and it doesn’t become me.
I’ve tried time limits and special timers to enforce those limits (like Stay Focusd); only Facebooking on Fridays; taking Facebook off of my phone and all my other browsers. All of that works, but takes a lot of energy. And the truth is — I still need Facebook because of all the great groups (business and personal growth) in which I participate.
So just a few days ago, I was (again!) mindlessly browsing me feed when I came across something called “News Feed Eradicator“. Check out the video, where I show you how this works, and why I’m hopeful it’ll be a great antidote for curbing my addiction in 2018.
If you are a teacher, tutor, or academic coach, or perhaps even a parent, interesting in learning more about not only tiny habits but about how to help your students become independent learners and test-taking powerhouses, please consider checking out my course, The Art of Inspiring Students to Study Strategically.
Do you ever notice that you are more likely to be more productive at certain times of the day and less productive at other times?
I was just blown away by the self-awareness of one of my clients. Sixteen-year-olds, and especially boys, aren’t always known for their keen self-awareness. But this young man pointed out five things that he’s learned about himself that help him be “way more productive” when he comes home from school. So productive, in fact, that he might be willing to postpone playing video games to get work done.
Check out this video (made five minutes after this young man’s session, so the content is fresh!) where I summarize the brilliance that he shared with me.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
Every once in a while I’m just stunned by the self-awareness that the teenagers I work with have. Today, in particular, I was talking to a 16-year-old boy and he brought up, on his own accord that when he first gets home he keeps trying to remind himself to just sit down and start on his homework because he’s way more productive. Specifically, he listed the following reasons why he finds this to be true:
See, he noticed that when he first gets home he has more energy for doing his homework than later on in the evening. On top of that, he still has his ADHD meds in his system when he gets home, and they help him to remain focused. These are two great insights into his own productivity, but he has a few more. He also noticed that when he first gets home and has the house to himself the peace and quiet of being alone helps him to focus, a very astute observation. Furthermore, when he first gets home he says he can better assess how long his homework assignments will take. He’s fresher and has the energy to actually do his homework at the rate he thinks he can, but if he waits until later he’ll have less energy and be less focused so he underestimates how long homework will take him. The final thing he noticed is that when he first gets home he can better remember what he needs to do for homework; however, I really wish he’d write it down instead, but we’re still working on that.
I hope you found these observations to be as interesting as I did, and if you feel like you could use some more tips and tricks on how to be more productive, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying™.
Do you ever have the strong, stubborn feeling that you just DON’T wanna do your homework?
In a client session recently, a junior in high school reported in that she just couldn’t motivate herself to get her work done over the past weekend.
When I questioned her about what was in the way of taking action (I have a checklist I use to help students identify what’s going on when motivation flags), she pinpointed her “mindset” as the problem. So, I helped her investigate how she might shift her mindset to take quicker action in the future.
Check out this video, where I summarize our subsequent conversation:
Hey, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
In the last week of September, I was talking with one of my clients, she’s a junior in a very rigorous high school, and she said that this was the first weekend she just didn’t want to do her homework. So we did a little investigating about what was going on in her brain that was making it so hard for her to take action on her homework. First, we investigated the idea of “I don’t wanna”, but I put “because” after that in order to see the beliefs behind the strong stubborn feeling of “I don’t wanna”. As a result, we came up with a list of beliefs that she had that were holding her back.
So the first was that there was too much homework, the second that it was too hard, and the third was that she didn’t know what to do. Once we had this list, we asked, a couple of questions of each belief. First, we asked, “is it true?” and as we were discussing it, my client said, “You know, there really wasn’t too much once I looked at it, but I hadn’t looked at it when I had this belief, so I just was convinced in my mind that there’s too much.” So in this case, asking “Is it true?” and then checking to make sure that’s actually the case, can help you overcome this belief. Similarly, the belief “it’s too hard” she couldn’t know if it was true as she hadn’t started yet, so once she started she realized it wasn’t, and if she first checked she’d have seen that it wasn’t too hard. Had the homework actually been too much, or too hard, she could have then asked herself, “What’s the next small action I can take?”.
Now, the reason these questions can help you shift your mindset and allow you to take action is that the statements, the beliefs, on the left of the image are what’s known as fixed mindset thinking. These are items that come from a place in the brain where we think that it’s always this way, this is the truth, the truth doesn’t change, and everything is locked in place. On the other side though, we have growth mindset thinking, which is based on the fact that our brains can be changed over time through practice.
Do you ever find that you run out of time to complete your assignments?
I have a client in college who ended up having to rush to try and complete an assignment because he hadn’t planned it out. Calendars are super important for helping you to plan out your homework assignments, especially the big projects. Don’t believe me, check out this weeks video to see why calendars can save you from disaster.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back, here’s a short summary:
So, I have a client that’s in college, and we’ve been working together for a few weeks. He was assigned a research paper at the start of the semester, which is due October 16th – and I’m recording this October 3rd. Every week I prodded him saying, “you need to start looking for sources. Why don’t you go to the library and come to the next session with some sources?” and every week he hasn’t done it. So this week, I asked him about it again and he said, “I still have time, the draft isn’t due until the 16th.” So I had him pull up his google calendar (a great online calendar tool). Then I asked him to mark the due date on his calendar. That gives him less than 2 weeks to complete this research project. Next, I asked him, if you’re going to have this turned in the 16th, when do you need to have all your research and outline done? He said, the 12th and marked it. Finally, I asked him if you’re going to have all your research and outline done by the 12th, when do you need to have all your sources? He said, the 6th. Once we had marked this all out, he said, “Oh my god, this is all sooner than I thought.”
It wasn’t until we made time visible by putting these items all out on the calendar, that he was able to really grasp how little time he had left to complete this project. So I STRONGLY recommend that you have a method of visibly seeing time and keeping track of when things are due compared to your current date.
Do you ever struggle to follow through on an assignment because it feels pointless?
A client of mine was recently complaining about the pointlessness of his English class assignments, and you’d better believe this isn’t the first time a student has struggled to find his teacher’s assignments meaningful or relevant to his life.
I helped him explore whether it is true that his class is pointless, and at the end of the investigation, we came up with a fascinating way to make it pointFULL instead. Tune in to find out what we came up with.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:
My client a couple of days ago was complaining that the assignments in his English class felt pointless. He has been finding that the class feels like it’s moving slowly, and the “do now” assignments seemed meaningless. He said that he didn’t feel like he could respect the class, it just felt so meaningless and he noticed he was doing less and less of the work. Then we talked through it a bit and went through some strategies I have for investigating the things that we tell our selves and seeing if they are true or not, and one the things I had him really think about was ” is it really pointless?” Now we went through far too many layers for me to go over, but what we came to at the end of it all was a key question. I asked him, “what would give it a point for him?”
He said, “Oh, maybe with every question the teacher asks I could give a class analysis for it.” Class analysis, not like “school classes” but societal classes. Anyways, I said sure, why not? Maybe not in writing each time, but in his head, he could definitely be thinking about the questions from that point of view, that way it would feel to him more meaningful. So he’s going to be trying that this next week, and I’m super excited to see how it goes for him.
In the meantime, I want to walk you all through these 3 steps that he and I went through.
You are the one responsible for the sense of meaning in your life. Not your teachers or parents. Sure it’s nice if they contribute to the meaning of your life, but you are the one who’s responsible for the meaning.
Be clear on what ideas or activities will give you a sense of meaning. For my client, thinking about class and governments is interesting and thus thinking about questions or assignments in a sense of the effect of the subject matter in different classes gave it meaning. For me, I enjoy making artful creative notes. So as long as I can take fun notes, I can make any subject matter meaningful. It’s all about finding the ideas or activities that will give it meaning for you.
And finally, talk about it with others. My client talked with me, and I love showing others my notes. By sharing it with others we can help keep our interest high.
Planner! Planners! Planners! They are the bane of my existence with many of my clients. For students with extreme executive dysfunction, it can be difficult to find the right planning device for them. Year after year, we experiment with different devices and processes made for students, many of which don’t stick.
This year I have several students who are seniors, and I realized with a shock that many of these students don’t use a CALENDAR. We’ve been so focused on tracking their academic To Do lists that they don’t know how to use a regular old calendar.
I’ve told them all that I will consider my work with them a failure this year if they graduate without being calendar savvy.
Watch the video for a more thorough explanation of what I hope their families will do to help them be calendar savvy.
Never Write the Word “Study” in Your Planner. Here’s Why.
It doesn’t take long for a teenager who’s just started working with me to learn this — I hate the word “study.”
Well, obviously that’s not completely true. My passion is teaching students to study strategically, and I couldn’t do this work if the word “study” weren’t involved. However, I do believe strongly that the word study does NOT belong in a student’s planner or To Do list. Neither does the word “review.” Check out the video for a full description of why.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:
I was working with a client recently on the skill “verberizing,” which is about finding really strong specific words for the tasks that you need to do when you are doing homework or studying to make it an easy instruction for you and your brain to know exactly what you need to do next. Now before we continue, I want you to look at the following four options and think about which of these would be the best way to verberize “study french” in her planner.
My client had written, “Study French,” to which I cringed and said, “Eeeh, I don’t like that.” Of course, she responded, “Oh my god Gretchen you always make me change these,” and I thought it was rather funny, but said, “I know, so let’s do it.” Next, she erased “Study French” and wrote “Review Subjunctive.” I still said it wasn’t clear enough. Then she wrote, “Go over Subjunctives.” This was getting there, but “go over” still doesn’t tell me what she needs to be doing. It’s very broad, and I can’t picture in my mind what the steps would be for “go over subjunctives.” So I had her change it one more time. This time she wrote, “Finish subjunctive worksheets.” This was MUCH better. You see she realized she had unfinished worksheets for subjunctives, and what better way is there to study subjunctives than to finish the worksheets – a readily available tool. Not to mention this tells her exactly what she needs to be doing next.
Now you might be wondering, why is writing super specific instructions in your planner so important. Well, the answer is that “verberizing,” or making sure your planner has crystal clear instructions, is important because it helps ensure that your brain has no excuses about following through on your plan/to-do as the instructions are so simple and crystal clear.
Are you a perfectionist? Many of my clients are! They often don’t seem like they are perfectionists because they often procrastinate and don’t turn work in on time. But they are!
Check out this video, where I tell the story of a high school freshman, and how he and I are working to figure out how to identify the signs of stuckness, so he can get help sooner rather than later. This might seem like a straightforward task, but to a student with ADD who struggles with executive functions and awareness about his own actions, it can be really hard to identify you’re stuck in the first place!
List in to find out more about what we discovered together during our last session.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:
I’m curious if this is applicable to you. Do you spend to much time working on things? Do you procrastinate because you want to make sure things are done perfectly? And then when you do get started you obsess and dwell on sentences and paragraphs and you find you can’t move forward, and suddenly the evening is over without you being able to finish your homework, and now you’ll have to turn it in late. This perfectly describes one of my clients, a freshman in high school. In our most recent session, we had an interesting chat. He was working on a research project, which we had already talked through in the previous session, and he had found himself once again spiraling down into perfectionism. Instead of following the plan we had hammered out in the previous session, he was caught up in a variety of different topics that he thought connected and he wanted to include in the essay. He was stuck like this for about an hour. Then he realized he was completely off-topic and had wasted a huge chunk of time. So this last session we were talking about the signs of when he is stuck, and what to do about it.
For him, he knows he is stuck if one of the above 3 things are happening. If he finds he’s deleting things over and over, staying in one place for too long, or if he finds himself “in the flow” – which is what happened to him this last week. Once he identifies that he’s stuck, he should go and get help, whether that’s talking to his parents, texting me, talking with a friend, or just talking it out with someone. The beauty of this, as he realized this last week, is that when you talk to someone and talk out what you are stuck on, you often will find yourself realizing the answer to your problem. That’s why I always encourage my clients, “When in doubt, reach out.”
If this tip was helpful to you and you’d like others, make sure to check out my course, which has a variety of tips for people with all kinds of problems, whether you are a perfectionist, or just find yourself sidetracked a lot. Click here to learn more.
Do you ever get a good idea about something you want to do in the future? But you don’t act on it right away, and soon enough you forget the idea… and nothing ever happens?
Recently, I was working with a client who had a very good idea about how to make sure he studies well for his next test! Check out the video to find out how he almost sabotaged his good idea… until I made sure he did one little thing that prompted him to follow through.
Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry; I’ve got your back, here’s a summary:
Recently I was working with my client, preparing his study plans for his final exams. He had the idea to study with his friend, which I thought was a wonderful idea. So I asked him, “when are you going to study with her?”, to which he replied, “Oh I don’t know, but I’ll study with her.” He was procrastinating, so I suggest he send her an invitation to study right now. He laughed and agreed, saying, “you got me if I do it now I’m more likely to follow through.” This is a perfect example of how the “team” part of my “Tools, Team, Routine” triangle I teach in the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.
The “team” part of “Tools, Team, & Routine” is not just him studying with his classmate, but also utilizing me as a source to make sure he doesn’t procrastinate contacting his classmate and setting up the time to study. It’s usually other people’s presence that helps us take action on difficult tasks. I know this is true for me, as I always save my hardest tasks for when I’m working with co-workers. It’s a great help to have someone there to help us not procrastinate.
Do you ever experience huge roadblocks that make it impossible for you to finish a big project you started?
Recently, I had a client who was working on his first major research project ever. As often happens with students who struggle with executive functioning, there was a supposedly simple task in the research process that seemed insurmountable to him.
In this video, I walk you through how I helped this teen move through his roadblock.
Don’t have time for the whole video? I have your back, here’s a short summary:
It’s so common when working on a large project to hit a roadblock, some task in the project that simply seems insurmountable. So we tend to procrastinate, which is exactly what my client was doing, procrastinating.
The client I was talking to recently, a 9th grader, was working on his first massive research project and what might seem like a very simple task, had become a roadblock for him. He was stuck on the task of transferring his notes into his main rough draft. He knew how to do it, but in his mind, it just seemed like too much, he was suffering from cognitive overwhelm. Not only was he stressing about the task, he was also procrastinating which was just making things worse.
The solution for this is actually pretty simple. With my client I just sat with him while he copied and pasted, over and over, from his notes to his rough draft, acting as a force to help him do what he knew had to be done, but couldn’t seem to force himself to do. Whenever you run into a roadblock, it’s often best to simply ask someone you know, reach out, and have them help you push through the roadblock.
Do you ever have trouble staying motivated to do hard tasks? Whether you’re 7 or 70, I think we all have trouble with this!
Several weeks ago, my 7-year-old nephew was visiting me from Pennsylvania. We had lots of fun trips planned, but he ALSO had some summer homework to do (ugh). He TOTALLY didn’t want to do it.
Luckily, I have the tool that’s in this video laying around my apartment. I’ve seen it work on 17-year-olds, but apparently, it works for younger folks as well. He got his homework done, and when we were skyping after he returned home, he asked, “Auntie Gretchen, can you show Ayla that ‘easy’ button?”
Check out the tool that kept him motivated in the video above!
Don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a summary:
I’m curious, do you tend to notice the good things you do as often as you do the things you think you are doing wrong? I’ve noticed, in my work as an Academic Life Coach, that most students tend to just pay attention to the things they have or are doing wrong.
So as an academic life coach, I try to instill in my clients the idea that they should be paying attention to the things they do right as well, and I have a funny story to share about one of my clients. Whenever he’s done something well, in this week’s case it was finishing up his college applications, we hit the “Easy” Button. It’s a silly little congratulatory tool that we use, and have a lot of fun with. I’ve found it’s a nice little motivational bonus for getting through hard tasks.
What silly tools keep YOU motivated? I’d love to hear.