Get Creative With How You Track Habits

Do you have great intentions for following through on new habits, but then find yourself struggling to keep the momentum?

This happens to me all the time in the transition between summer and the new school year. So this year, I got creative! Check out my new habit tracker, and listen in to why simply TRACKING your habits can be so powerful (even if you don’t actually follow through).

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

So this particular school year, 2017, has been so hard for me personally to transition from the wide-open summer to the regimented school year, and I have had to do something I haven’t had to do in a long time. I’ve made myself a star chart, and I’m noticing that a trick like this is the best way for me to rev up my habits in a quick period of time. And the way I use this is I have some double-sided tape (or in my case tape rolled up so it’s sticky on both sides) and I have it placed on my mirror with some stars next to it. That way I’m guaranteed to see it every morning and night!

Get Creative With How You Track Your Habits, Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, Habit Tracking, How to track your habits

Now, let’s discuss how to make this and how it works. As you can see I have it divided into 4 sections, my morning routine, my evening routine, the exercises I want to do every day, and diet/water. Here’s the deal, I don’t expect myself to be perfect. I’m simply tracking, what am I good at vs what am I not good at. The beauty of this though is that let’s say I don’t feel like flossing, but I see the star chart it makes me want to do it just so I can put a star on it.

That said, I don’t recommend that parent’s make these for their students; however, I do recommend to students that you make something like this for yourself to get you revved up for the school year. Because until your about 21 you’re going to be going through the cycle of starting a new semester and trying to build habits, then slowly losing them, and rebuilding them, and slowly losing them.

If you want more tips and tricks for tracking, managing, and forming new habits, please consider checking out my course, The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying.

5+ Oddly Effective Tools That Build Great Habits with Thomas Frank

Back in July 2015, I presented a webinar, “5+ Oddly Effective Tools That Build Great Habits” with special guest Thomas Frank, from CollegeInfoGeek.com. This webinar was to help introduce high schoolers and college students to some unique and potent tools that they could use, and Thomas was excellent, showing us a wide variety of tools that were unique, creative, and very effective that everyone could add to their toolboxes.

So tune in to see what crazy ideas Thomas shared with us.

The tools demonstrated in this video are quite a few, and a summary wouldn’t do the video justice; however, I do want to give you all the links to the different applications and sites mentioned in the video.

Buffer, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, CollegeBuffer is a social media management suite. It allows you to schedule posts, set up a queue of repeatable posts, etc. for Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.

IFTTT is an application that allows you to connect two different websites/applications. In the video, IFTTT is used to connect Beeminder with Buffer, so that when a post from Buffer goes live, a data point gets added to Beeminder.

Beeminder, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, College

Beeminder is a website application that allows you to have a system of accountability for your goals. You can set up goals, and if you don’t complete the goals, then you have to pay Beeminder. So, for example, if you don’t send out one post on Facebook a week then you have to pay $5 for each one you miss per week.

Habitica, HabitRPG, Habit RPG, Tool, Tools, Habits, Habit, Thomas Frank, Gretchen Wegner, High School, College

Habitica/HabitRPG is a habit tracking website. Effectively this website is a game based on your habits. The more habits or routines you complete, the stronger you get and the better you do. You can do a wide variety of things here, so here’s an example of what you can do: Let’s say you want to make sure you do your HW every day. You can schedule out your HW that you have in your planner, and then every day you can check it off, and you’ll gain EXP, items, etc.

ToDoist is a great place to keep track of all your tasks that you need to take care of. You can add tasks here to keep track of everything that you need to take care of.

Google Calendar is basically a planner that’s online. You can use it to schedule out all your time in a visual schedule. This offers a wide variety of features, including multiple calendars that can be turned on/off easily, time slots that can be overlapped and color coded, and much more.

As you can see there were a variety of tools listed in the video, and the system surrounding these were even better, not to mention starting at around 39:00 minutes into the video, Gretchen and Thomas answer a wide variety of questions from high school and college students. For a little sample, there’s one discussion about part-time jobs, another question about meta-habits, and so much more!

If you found this useful, I highly suggest you check out Thomas’s site, CollegeInfoGeek.com. He has a regular blog, podcast, and more for college students with tips and advice. And you can get even more tools and tips in my course, The Anti-Boring Approach.

College Prep Podcast #165: How to Help Students Budget Their Money Before College

Megan Dorsey, Gretchen Wegner, College Prep Podcast, Budget, Budgeting, Money, Teens, students, college, financial, financesBudgeting is a skill that many adults don’t have! However, it’s a super important skill to teach your students before they go off to college.

On today’s episode, Megan and Gretchen discuss some tips for how to get started helping teens practice how to take care of their finances.

We discuss:

  • what specific skills do students need to master before leaving for college
  • how to talk to your teens about how to make financial choices
  • what financial problems to look out for in their first year of college,
  • and more!

Click here to tune into Megan and Gretchen’s discussion on finances, budgeting, and preparing your student for college.

College Prep Podcast #155: How to Grow a Thriving Academic Life Coaching Biz

Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, Debbie Lehr-Lee, Anti-Boring Approach, Coach Training, Academic Life Coach, Academic Life CoachingWhat’s it like to build a successful business as an academic life coach?

Guest Debbie Lehr-Lee shares the ups and downs about her path, including how Gretchen’s Anti-Boring Approach Coach training helped her go from 4 clients to a thriving a practice.

Together Gretchen and Debbie discuss:

  • What frustrations Debbie was experiencing when she first reached out to get trained by Gretchen
  • How her business has grown since then, including how Debbie created a unique niche for herself
  • How her work helps students feel less broken, and why that’s such a crucial first step
  • The importance of understanding the role that technology plays — good and bad! — in teens’ lives
  • How to decide what kind of academic life coach training program to participate in
  • What makes Gretchen’s Anti-Boring Approach Coach Training Program unique, and how listeners might discern whether this program is a good use of their time and resources
  • and more!

Here is the free resource that Debbie mentioned in the podcast — a workbook to accompany the documentary Screenagers.

Debbie Lehr-Lee is an academic life coach passionate about helping high school and college students develop key academic and life skills (that are often not taught in school) so that they can be successful in academics but also be prepared for college and the real world. She is a certified Life Coach (CPC) from the world-class Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC), a certified Academic Life Coach from John Andrew Williams Academic Life Coaching program, and has completed Gretchen Wegner’s Anti-Boring Approach Coach Training Program. Visit her website at www.unstoppablestudents.com

Listen in to Megan and Gretchen with guest speaker Debbie Lehr-Lee as they discuss how to grow a thriving Academic Life Coaching business.

How to Feel More Confident As a Student

Are you the kind of student who does OK at school? Parents and teachers sometimes nudge you, telling you that you’re not quite living up to your potential because your grades could be even higher than the B’s they are now?

I have a client like that who was tired of feeling that he could probably perform even better at school if he were only more motivated. We worked together for a quick eight sessions — and then he took his final exams. Voila! What he told me amazed me, and shows that just a few skills can make some major changes in a student’s self-esteem. Watch the video, where I tell you the full story of this client and what he discovered.

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? Don’t worry I’ve got your back, here’s a summary:

I’ve been trying a little experiment that I want to tell you all about. I have a few clients who may have a learning disability of some sort but are extremely high functioning. They average decent grades, typically B’s but A’s as well sometimes. The reason they come to me, especially the client I am focusing on in this video, is that he and his family felt that he wasn’t living up to his potential in school. He said that he didn’t feel motivated to put in a lot of effort and that he felt he could be more motivated, but he wasn’t sure how to get there. So what him, his family, and I decided to do was to run him through The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying in only eight sessions, just to get him setup with the time management, organization, and studying skills he needed to be able to really give school his all.

At the time I recorded this video I’d just heard back from him, and for reference, he’s a junior in high school, about his final exams. Now in the past, he’s always just coasted through school, as we talked about above, and that included his exams. However, exams have always caused him anxiety as he’s felt he should be doing more but wasn’t sure exactly what to be doing to prepare for them, and lacking the motivation to do anything. This year, on the contrary, he said he went in feeling like he was ready and that he knew what he was doing. His confidence was a LOT higher this year around, now that he had the skills he needed to really put forth his best effort. And while his grades have only had minor improvements from the short time we’ve worked together, he told me,

Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach To Powerful Studying, How to Feel More Confident As a Student, Studying, Time Management, Confidence, Self-Esteem, Tools,

And that’s the important thing here. His confidence and self-esteem as a student have skyrocketed. With just a few short sessions and a handful of tools and skills he’s gone from “doing okay but having low self-esteem” to “doing okay with high self-esteem.” That’s what we, as teachers and parents, want for the children we love, to see them feel good about the hard work they put in.

So if you want to access these tools and skills for yourself, click here, and see how they might be able to change your life.

College Prep Podcast #145: Start Now to Plan Meaningful College Experiences

Start Now to Plan Meaningful College Experiences | Gretchen Wegner | Megan Dorsey | Teens | Parents | Summer | Colleges | Universities | Volunteer | Experiences | TravelTeens and parents! What will you do this summer to have experiences that are both meaningful and impress colleges on your applications? Looking for free and low-cost solutions?

Now is the time to start planning. We know it seems super early, but the truth is that many of these opportunities have application deadlines mid-semester. We don’t want you to miss out just because you put off planning.

Here are the 5 types of experiences that Megan suggests students and parents consider; tune into the episode to hear details about how to find each of them:

  • Subject-specific camps at colleges and universities
  • Hands on work in the field of study that interests the student most
  • “Big” volunteer experiences that meet or exceed 80 hours a week
  • World travel through organizations like your local rotary club or the state department
  • Full-time jobs that actually clock 40 hours per week

Click here to head over to the College Prep Podcast to listen to this episode.

College Prep Podcast #138: Safe, Fun & Life Changing Adventure Travel Trips for Teens

Gretchen Wegner | Megan | Claire Perrone | Adventure Travel | Teen | Teens | Moondance Adventures | students |

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

Ever considered adventure travel as an interesting summer option for your teen?

There are many companies that take teens on cool trips around the world and build their life and leadership skills, to boot.

On today’s podcast, we interview an expert in the field of adventure travel. Claire Perrone, of Moondance Adventures, started off as a 12-year-old on her first Moondance adventure. Since then, she has transitioned from the role of student to a leader to Community Service Director; so she can speak about adventure travel for teens from a few different perspectives. Specifically, she, Megan and Gretchen discuss:

  • What is adventure travel?
  • What are the benefits to students of participating in these types of trips?
  • How can you tell if your child is ready for this type of experience?
  • What should parents look for when finding the right trip for their child?
  • How is a Moondance trip different from the hundreds of other travel opportunities?
  • What is the affordability of adventure travel trips?

Moondance is a teen adventure travel company based in Nashville, TN. They offer 25 awe-inspiring summer programs for high school aged students, domestically and abroad. Check them out on their website or their popular Instagram feed.

Click here to tune into the podcast and learn more about adventure travel.

Tips to Wrap Up the Summer without Stress

Tips to wrap up the summer without stressThe beginning of the school year is always crazy and stressful for families.

But if you follow these tips for wrapping up the summer, you’ll save yourself some stress later on.

It’s an investment of time that’s well worth it. 

Here’s the basic checklist:

  • Update your resume
  • Get basic school supplies before stores run out
  • Finish the summer assignments
  • Make appointments to talk to people from school
  • Put all the dates from the school’s calendar into YOUR calendar
  • send thank you’s to anyone who helped you
  • Ask for recommendation letters
  • Attend orientation
  • Write goals for the year

Now listen in so that you can hear Megan and Gretchen’s commentary about each one!

What Every Struggling Student Needs to Hear

Recently a young woman about to graduate from college called me desperate:
“I’m such a mess! I’ve almost failed out of school several times! I’m thankfully about to graduate, but now I’m scared that I’m too much of a disaster organizationally to live in the real world.”

I told her one sentence — the sentence that I tell all my new clients — and I could just hear the relief in her voice. EVERYONE needs to hear these words of reassurance, but especially students who struggle with learning differences.

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

I was thinking about a new client that’s about to come on who I was chatting on the phone with the other day, and she’s in her early 20’s and just now catching up to the idea that her executive functioning issues, ADD, disorganization, and time management issues are something she needs to get a handle on as she’s trying preparing to graduate from college and prepare for her future.

And I told her 2 little sentences that I could just hear the relief flow through her. I told her:

What Every Struggling Student Needs to Hear, Executive Functioning Issues, ADD, ADHD, Gretchen Wenger What Every Struggling Student Needs to Hear, Executive Functioning Issues, ADD, ADHD, Gretchen Wenger

So many young people, and probably older people as well, feel when they are struggling that they are the only ones and think things like: “If only I wasn’t so messed up, my life would be so much better!”, “Everybody probably thinks I’m weird or crazy cause I struggle with …” etc. And to you, I say, “You are not weird or messed up! You just need to learn to a few different habits and skills and practice them.”

Want more motivational to do better in school the anti-boring way? Check this out.

Go Ahead and Fake It!

Children doing tae kwon do.

I stopped short when I stumbled upon the following quote yesterday:

“To pretend, I actually do the thing: I have therefore only pretended to pretend.” ~Derrida

My friend and mentor Meri Walker had posted it on her blog. She proceeded to ruminate about how she and her partner John are both artists, and imagine the craziest things into being:

John imagines something and then commits to fabricating it, come hell or highwater. That’s how he put skylights in the top of the TransAmerica tower, for instance. The union asked him if he could do that, he looked inside his imagination to see if he could “see” that scene, said “Yes,” and then set about discovering how to make what he had seen show up in the 3-D world.

When you are imagining something, you’re pretending that thing already exists. John and Meri have proved in their own lives that once you fake it, you can make it! I highly recommend reading the rest of her post.

When I read Meri’s words, though, I couldn’t help but think about the InterPlay classes I teach. InterPlay is an active, creative approach to unlocking the wisdom of the body. Classes include improvisational storytelling, movement, and singing.

During the InterPlay warm up, I’ll invite people to try on different movements by faking them. “Try some fake karate!” I’ll suggest. “Now, how about fake tap dancing!?” And finally, “Get into those hips with a little fake hula, why don’t you!?”

New Interplayers always giggle when we start faking it. Perhaps out of nervousness. But mostly, I think, because it’s fun and freeing.

In fact, some recent personal “aha!”s have emerged from the fake forms.

See, I’m a perfectionist. Big time. Which doesn’t always allow me to relax and have fun because I’m often worried about doing things right. That’s why the fake forms are so good for me. They let me off the hook for being perfect.

Now that I’ve gotten good at doing fake karate, I’m finding other ways to trick my inner perfectionist into letting go. For example, when I started my blog, I gave myself permission to be a “fake blogger.” Somehow, that allowed me to just start DOING it.

And before I knew it, my posts weren’t fake anymore. Somewhere along the way they turned real.

Of course, Derrida would disagree with me slightly. He’d say that pretending to do something is, ummmmmm, actually doing it. So my blog posts never turned real. They were real all along.

Yay for faking it! Because once you fake it, you’ve already started imagining that new thing into being.

This all just begs the question: What are you going to fake today?

(If you’d like to be a fake InterPlayer, come on down to one of my classes in San Francisco or Oakland. I’d love to play with you!)

Easy Focus

Binoculars

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?! Subscribe by email to receive updates.

Easy focus. Eeeeeeeezy focus! Easy, now.  Easy!

I love things that are easy. So when I learned that the most fundamental InterPlay tool is called “easy focus,” I knew I was onto a good thing.

Easy focus is the process of widening our focus, relaxing our bodies, and using all of our senses to percieve the world around us.

A Personal Story

Just last week I was at a wine bar on a first date. Now, I don’t know anything about wine.  Nada. Zilch. So I got a little stressed when my date playfully suggested I do a blind taste test.  Always the good student, I prepared by studying a sip of each wine in our flight, willing myself to find words to describe their subtle differences.  I was concentrating so hard, my forehead wrinkled and my eyes squinted. Focusing too hard can be uncomfortable!

Luckily, I caught myself mid-squint and realized I was taking this taste test far too seriously. “Gretchen dear,” I told myself.  “How about just relaxing, and trusting that your taste buds know the difference?  You’ve tasted the wines once.  You’ll be fine!”

In other words — have an easy focus about the whole thing!

Immediately I relaxed. Smiled. Took a deep breath. Closed my eyes. Tasted…and voila! I passed the test with flying colors! Not a single wine misidentified.  Proud was I. Impressed was my date. Well played, Gretchen, well played.

Both a Physical Experience and a State of Mind.

Easy focus is a physical experience in that it involves relaxing the face muscles, loosening the eyes’ hold on any one object, and widening one’s peripheral vision.

Easy focus is also a state of mind in that it involves a loosening of our need to control situations.  It is an accepting state, a surrender of sorts.  Easy focus acknowledges that our bodies are capable of holding multiple feelings and ideas at one time.

Sheesh! The weekend after the wine bar date I had a bajillion feelings swirling inside of me — sorrow over a recent break up, thrill about this new connection, fear about all of life’s uncertainties, and more.  All these feelings, all at once! I’m grateful for the InterPlay practice of easy focus because it allows me to hold two or more seemingly conflicting realities at one time. As the facilitator’s handbook says so reassuringly,

We can go crazy trying to focus on one thing or another, or we can relax and have the fullness of all the elements that make up our lives.

How to Create Easy Focus

Tip 1: Take a deep breath and let it out with a loud sigh. Try it now (you’ll see; it’s really satisfying!): Deep breath. Loud side. We do that all the time during InterPlay.  In fact, there’s nothing sweeter than the sound of 10 people sighing together.

Tip 2: Roll the MuseCubes. They’re a set of dice that help people shake themselves into new mindstates.  Roll the dice, and then do what they say: Shake and howl! Twist and whoop! Most people report feeling more relaxed, more vibrant, and more open.

Tip 3. Take a walk outside. Recently, I blogged about the role that nature plays in calming our attention, which results in more brain power when we go back to trying to focus later.  This is exactly the effect Phil and Cynthia talk about when they say, “it can be quite wondrful to be in an easy focus state and then let the focus come out and do its wonderful work.

Tip 4.  What do you think? What creates a sense of easy focus for you? Please comment!