Are Your Homework Plans Realistic?

Do you should on yourself when making plans?

During most of my coaching sessions with teens, we spend at least some of our time making plans for the next week. We break big projects down into smaller parts; we decide what study tasks will be done on which days before the test.

However, invariably my clients will make plans that they can’t keep! They tell me what they think they SHOULD say, rather than what they can realistically accomplish.

Here’s one way I handle that during our sessions:

Hey, don’t have time for the full video? I’ve got your back, here is a quick summary:

As you can imagine I do a LOT of planning with teenagers. Close to, if not more, than half of my sessions are planning out the next week or month based on what homework they’ve been assigned. Typically we look at what assignments they have upcoming and then planning backward to figure out what they should be doing each day/week/month as necessary.

During these planning sessions, quite often we’ll make a plan and my clients will say, “Sure I’ll do that”, or my personal favorite, “Sure I’ll do that Friday afternoon.” The vast majority of my clients and students I know, don’t want to do ANYTHING after school on Friday, even as a teacher I don’t. They are saying what they think they “should” say, instead of being realistic and making a plan they will actually follow through on.

Gretchen Wegner | The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying | Homework | Plans | Planning | Clients | Assignments |

The way I handle this is by asking them, usually a few times, “Are you “shoulding” on yourself? Are these plans actually realistic?” I try to make sure they understand they don’t have to “should” on themselves. It won’t benefit them to make a plan they know they won’t follow through on, or that they will just end up procrastinating for later. So we revise the plan using my triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, to make a more realistic homework plan.

If you want to know more about the triangle, “tools, team, and routine”, you can find it in the “Overcome Procrastination” section of the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

College Prep Podcast #131: When Grades Are Low, Should Student Be Allowed to Continue Extracurricular Activities?

Megan | Gretchen Wegner | College Prep Podcast | Grades | Students | Activities | Grades

This week on the College Prep Podcast with Gretchen Wegner and her co-host Megan Dorsey:

Should parents take away student’s activities if their academic grades are not up to snuff?

Megan and Gretchen weigh in on this important question from a listener, about how to work with her middle school age daughter who loves to participate in a dance troupe, and who has made great strides in her difficulties with math but still continues to struggle.

Here’s the specific question from mom Alissa:

My husband and I are at odds about how to encourage our daughter to keep up the good work.  She’s a dancer and we told her last year that she could not audition for the dance company unless her math grade was a B and she had turned in all her work.  I was fine with that, but now since seeing her most recent test scores, he wants to make her continued participation contingent on her math grade.  I do not like that solution because it punishes not only her, but the other dancers.  I think she’s struggling with math and can use this year to figure out how to balance her life in the low risk environment of middle school. I also don’t want to set her up for such an epic punishment if she brings home a C or even a D.

Click here to listen to this free episode of the College Prep Podcast!

A Handy Tool for College Students to Start the Semester

I’m excited to share with you a handy tool for college students.

This was taught to me by a real live student (shout out to Harrison!). He is a sophomore in college and interned with me over the summer.
I LOVE this tool that he makes for himself, and I wanted to share it with you all — including a tweak or two that I’d make to it.

Check out the video, and then PLEASE forward it to any college students you know could benefit from this handy little one-page organizational tool.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

How to Read a 400 Page Book in Two Hours, Part 2/4

Reading is hard for students!!

Especially reading books that you don’t necessarily choose for yourself…and at an assigned pace that isn’t natural for you. So it’s important to have some tricks up your sleeve for how to read large quantities, ESPECIALLY if you are a college or grad student.

This week I discuss creating a roadmap for finding important information and main ideas in books. Once you understand the structure of how an Author writes, it is easier to dive in and start reading efficiently.

Watch to find out how!

Just to recap so far:

Tip 1. Pay attention to the table of contents
Tip 2. Pay attention to “where” the Author puts their main ideas.

Stay tuned for Part 3 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

How to Read a 400 Page Book in under Two Hours, Part 1/4

What if I told you it was possible to read a 400-page book in under two hours?

You wouldn’t believe me, right?

This summer I had a stack of books I wanted to catch up on, but I only had limited time. So I challenged myself to skim each of the books as quickly as possible.

In this week’s video, I walk you through the first step in how to read efficiently and effectively. You don’t have to read every word in order to walk away with the main idea, after all! Enjoy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

Why Teens Should Stop Being Afraid of Librarians

Why are so many students hesitant to talk to Librarians?

Have you (or a teen you know) ever had a burning research question but been afraid to talk to a librarian? So many of my clients would prefer to spend hours alone googling for resources than spend 20 minutes with a knowledgeable librarian.

However, librarians are there to help and they love to answer questions. Research is definitely in their wheelhouse!  In this video, I share a few fun and creative ideas for helping students overcome their reluctance to ask for help. Getting past this minor roadblock will definitely benefit students in the future when more complicated research is needed for lengthy high school and college essays.

Would you like to learn more great tips like this? My online course The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying is filled with 30+ tools for rocking school…and is perfect for teens, parents, or educators.

Why Your Disadvantages May Be Your Biggest Asset

Why Disadvantages might be a big asset in college admissions

Would you rather be the smartest person in an average school or the middle student at the smartest school?

Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath has a wealth of wisdom about how to approach college admissions sanely.

Megan shares key insights from reading this book and turns them into an interesting list of tips for families about how to choose the right college for you. Specifically, she and Gretchen talk about:

  • the need for legitimacy and why that’s a good thing
  • research that shows why dyslexic students may be better of in some regards than neuro-typical students
  • how to support kids who encounter challenges without breaking their spirits
  • why, in the college admissions process, it isn’t always better to choose “more”

If You Want to Be A Better Writer, Improve This First!

Does your poor typing slow you down when writing essays?

During client sessions, I often have an opportunity to watch my clients type. They often make so many mistakes that they are constantly deleting what they typed…and rarely can their bumbling fingers keep up with their brilliant minds.

Poor typing skills are not only frustrating but it is also stifling to creativity and the natural thought process. In this video, I discuss the possible reasons you or a student you know may be having difficulty as a writer. There are many resources out there to help sharpen your typing abilities, speed, and accuracy. I love to hear success stories. Leave them in the comments section above!

With the school year suddenly looming, now is the perfect time to get yourself some more tools to rock your grades this year. Click here to check out my favorites! 

Four Awesome Apps to Learn To Use This Summer

Do you have trouble keeping track of all of your To Do Lists and School Projects?

There are so many awesome apps out there to help you manage your time. Since it is summer, this is a perfect opportunity to discover and play with new time management applications.

In this video, I discuss a flashcard tool “Anki”, newly improved “Habitica”,  alert app “Way of Life” and organizational tool, “ToDoist”.

Would you like more creative solutions to time management and study woes? Check out my online course the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying. It’s great for grown-ups and teens alike.

3 Surprising Ways to Turn Your Math Grade Around

I know that summer is here for most students math is the last thing you might want to think of. However, I couldn’t wait to share this trick!

The other day, I was talking with a client of mine who has been struggling in her math class. Trying to decide if she needed a tutor or not, we came up with some ways that might help her turn her grade around, and they worked!! Check out what we came up with:

What experiences do you have with coming up with creative solutions for turning your grades around? I’d love to hear. Also, check out this cool link that’ll give you more surprisingly awesome ways to be a great student!

A Simple Way to Inspire Yourself in 2014

Best Coach EverEvery New Year I do a goal-setting process called the Best Year Yet.

One of the things they ask us to do is create an “empowering paradigm” for the year. This year mine is (drum roll, please!)…

… overflow with me!

I feel really jazzed by this statement in at least two ways:

First, I give myself permission to be fully myself this year! To overflow with my me-ness. There are times when I have an impulse that I squelch, thinking, “That’s too crazy or wierd for the world.”

For example, I have a timer that goes off every 15 minutes – Ding! – to remind me to stand up and sit down again (so that I don’t hurt my body with too much sitting).

I used to turn this timer off during my sessions with clients, but one day I accidentally left it on. When the timer went off, – Ding! – I was embarrassed, but told my client what it was for. “What a good idea!” this 16 year old said. “Don’t turn it off. Instead, let’s stand up and sit down together!”

I was floored that he didn’t think I was too weird, and he was willing to practice with me.


Today during a session with a parent, I decided to leave it on. I warned this father that I’d be standing/sitting every 15 minutes. The first time I did it alone; the next time he stood/sat along with me. And then HE commented what a good practice this is! How fun to be joined…

I’m really looking forward to a 2014 filled with me giving myself permission to be my full, quirky, creative self…no holds barred!

And turns out…


When I’m fully myself, I have fun…and others have fun too!!! Both the father AND my client actually JOINED ME in standing & sitting every 15 minutes. They were happy to “overflow WITH me.”

Which brings me to the second way my empowering paradigm inspires me: it’s an invitation to the world to overflow with me.

For example, I’m beginning to produce engaging courses that share important — and fun!! —  academic life skills with a vaster audience.


It’s only been 9 days in 2014, but already I experience my empowering paradigm working for me.

So, what’s YOUR empowering paradigm for 2014?

Take a moment to notice how you limited yourself last year? What beliefs held you back?

Make a list of the ways you limited yourself, and then turn it around! What’s the OPPOSITE of that belief? THAT is your empowering paradigm for the year.

I’d love to hear your empowering paradigm, or even help you draft it for yourself. Please comment below if you’d like help!


Appreciative Inquiry and Academic Coaching

Strong Hands Climbing a Rope

Lately, I’ve been asking the same old series of questions to the teenagers with whom I work.

Do you have any late assignments that haven’t been turned in yet? (Shrug. Pause. English and Math.)

Let’s tackle English first. What got in the way of doing it? (I dunno).

Think about it a sec. There must be something that kept you from doing it? (Shrug. Pause. Finally: lost my textbook).

Ahhhhhh. The Case of the Lost Textbook. Anything else getting in the way? (Shrug. Pause. Pause. Pause. I don’t understand what to do).

Ohhhhhh. That’s tough. The Unclear Assignment Conundrum. Two problems; we’ll need to find two solutions.

Even though it works (sort of), I’m getting tired of this line of questioning. No one wants to talk about what they’re not doing well.

I’m an academic coach. Kids come to me when they’re falling behind because of their time management, organization, or inefficient study strategies. It’s so easy to fall into problem solving mode with them. In fact, I find it satisfying to sleuth through the shoulder shrugs and inarticulate grunts, until I unearth the suddenly obvious obstruction that’s been stalling their success.

In the above scenario I uncovered two key skills that my client needed help building: (1) how to complete an assignment when he’d lost the tools he needed and (2) how to clarify an assignment when he doesn’t understand what to do.

These might seem like obvious skills to you and I, but kids who suffer from executive functioning deficits just get overwhelmed when they encounter a roadblock. The executive centers of the brain help people organize, prioritize, time manage, and more. People who have deficits in these neuropathways have to work extra hard to manage themselves and their things in order to achieve a goal.

Problem Solving Doesn’t Always Work.

Some kids resist the problem solving approach. They don’t want to talk about their deficits; who wants to rehash all the bad grades, disorganized backpacks, and dropped assignments?

Take Griffin, for example. Griffin resisted my help last year. He just did NOT want to be a problem that needed solving. He wanted to just chill. Cruise through. Do anything but work.

No, that’s not exactly true. I think he *wanted* to work hard (thought he’d never say it). But his brain was overwhelmed by the constant barrage of expectations from eight teachers.

The biggest problem: Griffin often did the work but then lost it before he turned it in. I remember one in particular that he redid three times before it finally made it to the teacher. This kid was working hard; he just couldn’t follow through.

From “What Went Wrong?” to “What’s Going Right?”

This year, I’ve decided to take a whole new approach with Griffin. I no longer walk him through questioning that starts with “What went wrong?” and ends with “What could you do differently next time?”

Instead, I’m noticing that he’s doing a few things really well. Like, over the last week he only had two late assignments.  This is a miracle for Griffin.

“Wow! What are you doing that’s working out so well?” I asked him.

He was thrown off. Confused. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, you’re obviously doing something right.  Your work is getting turned in. You seem pretty happy. What choices are you making that are causing these great results?”

I’ve asked this question two weeks in a row now.  Griffin is totally stumped by it. He has no idea what choices he’s making, much less what’s working for him. As far as he’s concerned, “I’m in the flow this year, that’s all.”

I perseverated. “You must be doing something right. Because you’re the one responsible for creating the flow. You did it by making choices. What are those choices? Let’s find out.”

It took all session, but we finally discovered a helpful list:

  • He takes a decent break before he starts his homework.
  • He’s pretty good at not letting Facebook distract him once he gets started.
  • He plays a sport and is getting exercise.
  • He checks his teachers’ web pages daily for the assignments.
  • He’s using Google Docs for all his papers.
  • He’s consistent with his self-designed organization system.

Phew! Now that we know what he’s doing well, Griffin can focus on making these choices consistently. In other words, do more of what is already working. Or at the very least, keep up the good work!

Appreciative Inquiry Shifts the Conversation

Although I’m not trained in appreciative inquiry, I’m pretty sure that my new process is resonates with the AI folks. (No, not artificial intelligence. I’m talking about the authentic intelligence that comes when we focus on the good).

From what little I’ve read, AI (the appreciative inquiry kind) is the art and practice of asking questions that help strengthen people’s capacity to identify and heighten their positive potential (this definition compiled from this website). It is about searching for the best in people right now, and helping them use that information to build a plan for an even better future.

I’m inspired by this approach.  I want to dedicate this school year to helping kids notice what is already good in their process and approach, and how they can create more of what’s working.

There are two reasons why I anticipate that the AI approach will initially be challenging: (1) Most educators (myself included) habitually look for what’s wrong in our students, so we can “correct” it,  and (2) Students are so used to this approach that they clam up when asked to think differently.

We’ll all need to build new inquiry habits.

Discover. Dream. Design. Destiny.

Here’s a summary of the AI process that I hope to experiment with this school year:

1. Discover the “best of what is” –  inquire about what is working well
2. Dream “what might be”  –  discuss the possibilities for improvement
3. Design “what could be”   –  design the changes to be implemented
4. Create a Destiny based on “what will be” and let students participate in creating this for themselves.  (Kinni, 2003, quoted in Exploring Appreciative Inquiry)

Progress reports just came out yesterday at the school where I coach. Instead of focusing on the “bad” grades, I’m looking forward to getting the kids to discover what’s working well in their classes; dream about what could be improved by the next progress report; and design changes for how they can practically make this happen.

More reflections to come! Thanks for reading to the end of this longer-than-usual entry. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts about focusing on the good, Appreciative Inquiry, or academic successes/conundrums with the teens you know!



The following post is part of a project to share reflections about all 28 of the core elements of InterPlay.  For background information about InterPlay or this project, read What the Heck is InterPlay?!.

Last week I spied a teeny inch worm gracefully maneuvering across the top of my laptop screen.  Its miniscule body curved up and then flattened itself, advancing a millimeter each time.

Curve up. Flatten down. Curve up.  Flatten down.

I was entranced by it’s slow, steady — even artful — progress.

The idea for my MuseCubes business came to me last August.  Since then I‘ve received a lot of advice from well meaning friends:

It’s cheaper to manufacture them in China.  Sell the idea to a game company. Distribute them to Barnes and Noble.

These suggestions used to stress me out.  I heard them, and felt pressured to grow my business Bigger! Faster! Richer! Now!

Lately, however, I’ve decided to learn from the inch worm. One graceful little step at a time. I don’t want to grow this business faster than I’m able to nurture it…and myself.

I’ve also been learning from InterPlay’s philosophy of incrementality.

Incrementality is the process of breaking a task down into small, manageable steps.

We have learned many of the important things we know incrementally — how to walk, talk, read, use a computer, play an instrument, learn a language.  We accept that these skills are learned in many small steps, over a long period of time.” (Phil Porter and Cynthia Winton-Henry, Self Study Handbook)

The philosophy of incrementality gives me permission to apply this same wisdom to the big things I want to do — like start a product manufacturing business.

In a culture that pushes me to work harder, faster, and better than the competition, InterPlay recommends the opposite. It’s perfectly acceptable — even downright healthy! — to build my business at the speed of my own body.

Now I ask myself, “What’s the next easiest step I can take?” And I take it.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t set big goals. Or push myself. But I do so with balance. I give myself permission to pursue the lofty goals one little, slow, easy, fun step at a time.

Interestingly  — (Huh! I’m just putting this together right now! I love how much I learn when I write) –the MuseCubes are a practical tool to help people remember incrementality.

So often when we feel stuck, the real problem is that we’re trying to do too much.

For example: (1) Why can’t I just finish writing this paper!? (2) Arrrrgggggh! Reconciling this whole spreadsheet is driving me crazy!

The MuseCubes remind us to — quite literally — shake ourselves free from the tyranny of Too Much.  Once we’ve moved our bodies and voices around a bit, we’re better able to see the whole picture. We can then recognize the next, easiest action to take in service to that larger goal.

For example: (1) How about I write for 5 minutes without a single edit, and just see what I produce? (2) Maybe I’ll plug in 10 more numbers into the spreadsheet and then see where I stand.

So  now I’m curious.  What about you? What’s the next easiest step you can take to get you where you want to go?!