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.

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.

Memorizing Definitions: A Client Success Story!

Memorizing definitions accurately can be a real challenge for students. Not to mention booooring!

Here’s an “anti-boring approach” success story from a client who used what I call my “formula technique” to learn and memorize some complex definitions in a higher level class.  When I checked in with him at the end of the school year, he credited this technique for transforming his ability to be prepared for tests.

Check it out and let me know if it would work for you, too!


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.


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!

How to Make Yourself Read a Boring Book

Have you ever opened to the first page of an assigned reading and thought, “Ugh. How am I possibly going to focus? It looks sooooooo boring!”

Well, here’s a tip that I recommend to my clients. Maybe it will work for you?

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, here’s a short summary:

Do you ever have to read a book for school… and you just can’t seem to get through the first paragraph, let alone the first few pages? Well, I recently had this experience, and I want to tell you about it because I think I found a way to make reading that I don’t necessarily want to do, a little more interesting. First though, a little backstory. I have a client who doesn’t have that much to do in our sessions, so we decided to have her read Animal Farm to help increase her reading level – as she’s prone to reading lower level books, specifically the Warriors series. To help incentivize her to read Animal Farm, I promised her I’d read Warriors while she was reading Animal Farm. The problem was, I just… couldn’t stand this book. The first few paragraphs I just couldn’t get into. There were too many names, like “Lionheart” and “Ravenclaw” and all these people I just couldn’t track – not to mention I just didn’t care about these characters. However, I promised this young woman I’d read the book, and I know that this is the same experience kids all over the country are having with their assigned reading, so I felt I owed it to you all to read it.

So the first thing I did was I found a summary online of the book. Then as I read the summary I made a drawing of the summary. I drew a thundercloud and lightning for the “Thunder Clan” and a river for the “River Clan”, and below these images, I outlined some of the characters and which side they were on. This drawing helped me understand the layout of the book and the characters better so I could read the book more efficiently and grasp what I was having a hard time with. So don’t be afraid to read summaries and use creativity to help you lay the groundwork for your reading.

Need more help learning how to handle massive amounts of reading in high school, college or grad school? Or perhaps you can read just fine, but have no clue how to actually remember what you read? Check out my course.

What To Do When You’re Stressing About Homework

Does doing homework stress you (or your teen) out?

I don’t know of *anyone* who loves homework: parents, teachers, or students. Yet we all have to deal with it!

Although I can’t totally take the stress out of homework for anyone, a client and I recently discussed a different way to *think* about homework. Check it out here:

If you got in the habit of thinking about homework in this way, how would it change your experience of your work?

I’d love to hear from you…. including any questions you have! We may just tackle your question on the College Prep Podcast. Comment Below

What Hot Dates and Homework Have In Common

Prior to today’s coaching session, I had no idea that hot dates and homework have ANYTHING to do with each other. Turns out that they do, quite a bit.

Meet Ulysses: a high school freshman who is charismatic, thoughtful, and funny. He’s been struggling with a constant stream of zeroes in his classes.

He’s often loopy during our Skype sessions, which occur when he’s exhausted after Lacrosse practice. As a result, we often veer off into crazy tangents, though lately I have grown to trust the wisdom in our seemingly random deviations.

Today there was another zero in the online grade book. Sigh. A Spanish assignment this time. According to Ulysses, he had done his homework, albeit incorrectly, and thankfully his teacher would allow him to resubmit it.

I suspected a deeper learning issue and inquired further. It became clear that Ulysses had completed this homework assignment in class while everyone else was watching a video. Aha!

Wanting to be diplomatic, I observed: “There was something good about you choosing to do the homework in class, and also something problematic. Can you guess what was what?”

“Yeah, I was being proactive about getting my homework done. That was the good part,” he said and I agreed.

“The problematic part was that I was not paying attention, and I didn’t read the instructions correctly.” True, yes, although I wanted him to think more deeply about how his learning was impacted by his choice to multi-task.

Suddenly, a strange analogy popped to mind. At first, I didn’t trust it, but Ulysses cajoled with a twinkle in his eye, “Just say it, Gretchen. Just say it!”

Encouraged, I asked, “What if this homework assignment was actually a cute girl you were taking out on a date?”

Ulysses took the analogy and ran with it. “I get it! I rushed the date, not paying any attention to her, trying to get it over with as fast as possible. Instead, I should have taken her to a nice dinner, bought her flowers, asked lots of questions, and really gotten to know her.”

“Yes! So, what does all this have to do with your Spanish homework?”

It took some back-and-forth, but Ulysses finally understood that he had not been respecting his own learning. He was doing his homework just to get it done, without any attention to using the assignment as a legitimate learning tool. As it turns out, he really struggles with Spanish. He’s not going to learn it well unless he slows down and commits to being in an active, intimate relationship with his own learning.

Practically speaking, what does it look like to be in active, intimate relationship with one’s own learning?

(And this is where I’m afraid I must leave the analogy of dating, lest I extend the metaphor way too far).

1. Read the instructions to fully understand what is being asked.

2. Take a moment to reflect: Does this assignment teach me something new? Or is it asking me to practice something to which I have already been introduced? How much do I already know? What needs more practice?

3. Complete the assignment. Notice what tasks come easily, and what don’t. Take extra time with the ones that don’t.

4. After completing the assignment, reflect: What do I know now that I didn’t know a moment ago? What have I not yet mastered?

5. If there is anything that needs more mastery, make a plan. Will you ask the teacher for help? Go to peer tutoring? Consult the textbook?

OK. So maybe doing your homework isn’t quite as exciting as a hot date.

However, the skills you can practice while doing your homework mindfully — noticing the details, being curious, asking good questions, paying close attention to what is (and is not) working, adjusting accordingly, and being clear about next steps — are pretty sexy. And might just earn you another date!

What is/was your relationship with homework or other work like? How can you treat your work more like a hot date? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Do you know students who could afford to treat their homework more like a hot date? Be sure to forward this article to them!

Photo Credit: Image by Kevin Dooley under Creative Commons license.

How to Establish a Homework Routine on Weekends

Homework. Blech. No one likes it. Especially on weekends.

So how should students manage their time during their precious weekend time? When is the best time to do homework, and when is the best time to relax?

In my experience, most students want to save their homework until Sunday night. While understandable (Homework is distasteful! Why not push it off until the last possible moment?), this habit often gets them in trouble, as they usually have more homework than can possibly be accomplished between 6-9pm on Sunday.

I know many parents who want their kids to get homework started on Saturday mornings. If a student is motivated to do it, this is a fine suggestion. However, I’m a big believer that kids need a break from school work, just like adults do. I’d HATE my life if I worked every day of the week; why should it be any different for kids?

Sunday ritual to the rescue!

Recently I stumbled upon this blog entry by Cal Newport about how to create a ritual that starts on Sunday morning and continues for the rest of the day. As Cal says, “Friday and Saturday are a time to be social. Sunday morning and afternoon is a time for you to regroup, get organized, and get prepared for the upcoming week.”

The ritual he proposes includes a big breakfast, a swing by the library to do some planning for the day, getting some exercise, and then some time later for thinking through the upcoming week.

Cal writes for college students, not high school students, and so the Sunday ritual he proposes is quite a bit more elaborate than I’d advocate for younger students. You’ll note that it doesn’t include time for homework, just for planning for the week (I’m guessing that Cal proposes trying to get most homework done during the school week itself).

However, I love the idea of creating a routine, and I especially love that the routine includes exercise. I recommend that students design their own rituals, and include time for:

  • planning for the week (in the morning)
  • exercise (in the late morning)
  • homework (after exercise…given that the brain is most ready for learning after at least 20 minutes of exericse)

Of course, family schedules are complex, and this routine may not work for everyone. So often my coaching clients will tell me, “I wanted to do my homework when we planned, but my mom made me help her around the house.” Perhaps this is true! Perhaps it is ALSO true that the teen didn’t tell her mother that she HAD a plan in the first place.

Regardless, having a Sunday ritual that works for the whole family will make these kinds of excuses a moot point, and lead to greater productivity AND a greater sense of control. Not to mention, the opportunity to relax and enjoy Sunday evening without having to finish last minute assignments.

If you are a parent having trouble getting buy-in from your teen about establishing Sunday rituals, a few sessions of academic coaching (to brainstorm ideas with a non-annoying adult) might be just the thing. Feel free to contact me for more information.

Do you have a weekend routine? Tell me about it in the comments!

P.S. Did you enjoy this post? Get more helpful and happening ideas by signing up for free email updates!

Why It’s OK That I Don’t Finish My Homework

As an academic coach, I end the school year by meeting with parents to reflect on the ways their children have grown  — and to identify goals for the next year.

Recently at the end of one of those meetings, a mom sighed and said, “My daughter is simply developing at her own pace. Not necessarily the pace that I want her to be developing. But her own pace nonetheless.” Mixed into this comment was lots of love, some resignation, a little frustration, and a bunch of pride.

Parenthood sure comes with a complex set of feelings. And so does solopreneurship.

My sweet little academic coaching business is sure developing at it’s own pace. Sometimes it bursts forward! Sometimes it crawls. Just like a parent can’t control every aspect of their child’s development, neither can I do the same for my own business.

I’m extra conscious of this slow pace right now, as I take the Right Brain Business Plan e-course with Jennifer Lee.  I’m so behind on all my homework!! Every week I do a little something…but certainly not everything.

For example, this week we’re supposed to be making a balance sheet for our business. Instead, I’ve been working on the marketing assignments from last week. And even then, I’ve only did HALF the assignments.

The pictures (above) are the collages of my perfect customers that Jenn asked us to make. As I cut and pasted images that seemed to represent my ideal client, I learned a lot! For example, it seems that that my target clients are women and girls. That doesn’t mean that I don’t work with guys. Actually, I’m quite successful with a number of  teenage boys. But my ideal clients — the ones with whom I feel like I’m “in the flow” when we’re working together — are usually women! So why not claim that!?

Speaking of flow: finishing up those “perfect customer” collages was inspiring, although perhaps not in the way that Jenn intended. Her next assignment was for us to create a marketing plan, (two weeks later and I haven’ done it yet). Instead, I feverishly created a flier for a girls-only time management workshop I’m offering in August. Click on the picture to see the flier and read more about this never-been-tried-before workshop!

After creating the flier, I couldn’t wait to send it out. Thus ensued emails, photocopies, conversations. In fact, because I’d pushed to make the flier, two parents have registered their daughters already! Yay!!

Turns out that I didn’t end up making the marketing plan, but I sure did a whole lot of marketing!! Which is a new experience for me. And now that I’ve had real world experience getting the word out about my workshops, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to make the actual marketing plan

At a different time in my life, I might have been more stressed about not doing all my homework for a course. However, my participation in InterPlay has helped me understand the importance of ease and incrementality. InterPlay is a community arts practice that unlocks the wisdom of the body.  There’s so much about life that’s not easy! So when I’m feeling some ease around a specific task that I know is important to me, I give myself full permission to go for it, one small step at a time. Even if it means not doing my homework.

Uh oh. My Devil’s Advocate voice just jumped in:

Gretchen, I’m impressed on the positive spin you’ve just given your irresponsibility. Did it ever occur to you that you are just procrastinating?!  Is it possible that your push to send out the flier was actually a sneaky move to justify ignoring the balance sheet that is this week’s homework?

Maybe. However, check this out: last night when I was driving home from the coaching office, I started daydreaming about the balance sheet. “How cool is it that I just got two checks?” I thought to myself. “I wonder how much the workshop is actually gonna cost me? I guess it’s time to start that balance sheet!”

Aha! Never before in my life have I day dreamed about balance sheets! Maybe this means I’m ready for that next, small step! Whereas before working with numbers seemed like a chore, now I’m entering the task propelled by curiosity, ready to take on a challenge that before now felt big and annoying.

Luckily, Jenn is not grading us on our homework. If she did, I’d totally fail the class. At the pace I’m going right now, my Right Brain Business Plan won’t be done when the course ends.

But every week I make some good progress. I won’t be done when the course ends in a few weeks. But I will have all the information I need in order to finish. Which is one reason I’m blogging about my Right Brain Business Plan process:

I’d love you — my big bold blogging community — to hold me accountable. My goal is to be completely done with the entire plan by the end of July. If you don’t see any blog entries about it between now and then, will you bug me? I’d sure appreciate it.

Now, I’m off on vacation for a week, which means yet another week of not completing my homework. But when I get back on June 21st, I’ll get RIGHT ON that balance sheet!

Bon Voyage!