Is a Paper To Do List Effective?

Some people — and most teens — think they really love online To Do lists. Other folks — mostly adults — love purchasing the latest, hippest paper planner to try and track their To Do’s that way.

Recently I had a client, a 16-year-old young man, who decided that the online To Do? apps are just not working for him, and he’d like to go with a paper To Do? list instead. He asked me for suggestions for how to organize it.

In this video, I give you the same demo I gave my client. Check it out, and see if you think this might work for you!? 

How to Raise a Calendar Savvy Teenager

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.

College Prep Podcast #161: Advice Parents and Students Don’t Want to Hear

Advice Parents and Students Don't Want to Hear, Gretchen Wegner, Megan Dorsey, College Prep Podcast, ACT, SAT, Planner, Course Selection, Change, College Admissions, Note TakingSometimes educators have to dish out advice that families simply don’t want to hear.

In this episode, Megan and Gretchen detail their most unpopular advice for students and parents.

The advice folks don’t want to hear includes:

  • Course Selection: You need to take more courses than you’re planning on.
  • How Long Change Takes: I can’t make your student perfect right away. It takes time.
  • College Admissions: You’re clearly not going to be admitted. Adjust your college list.
  • Daily Note-Taking Habits: You’re going to need to spend some time honing your notes after every lecture.
  • Improving SAT/ACT Scores: Simply taking the SAT/ACT again and again won’t increase your score, and
  • Writing in Planner: Yes, you need to write things down on paper, even if your school keeps all your assignments online.

Although parents and students often don’t want to hear it, this is the best advice we have! Tune in to hear the details about what exactly the advice is and why it’s importance for parents and students to take heed.

Why the Word “Study” is the Worst Word to Write in Your Planner

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.

Gretchen Wegner, The Anti-Boring Approach To Powerful Studying, Academic Life Coach, Academic Coaching, Academic Coach, Why the Word "Study" is the Worst Word to Write in Your Planner, How to study, How to use a 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.

If you’d like more instructions and information about “verberizing,” including an extensive list of verbs you can use in your planner, you should check out my course!

How to Make Time Visible… and Feel Less Anxious Too

All too often, the teens with whom I meet tell me, “Oh, I don’t have much to do. I can remember it all in my head.”

Sometimes that’s true! But more often, we discover that they DON’T have their “to do list” as down as they think they do.

In this video, I share a story about a client who recently gave me this line, how I handled it, and what he discovered in the process!

Hey there, don’t have time for the full video? No worries, I’ve got your back. Here’s a summary:

With the start of the new semester, a client I’ve been working with a couple of years now was telling me how he was sure that this year he didn’t need to get any time management systems going again this year. So I shared some brain facts I have in my Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying and then I asked him, given the facts I shared and how the working memory needs things to be as clean and clear as possible if he’d be up for just practicing a planner to make time visible. So we devised a time tracking sheet that worked for him.

Gretchen Wegner | How to Make Time Visible | Reduce Anxiety | Time Management | Organization

After we created this blank chart, which we called the week sheet, he looked up everything he needed to do and what he needed to take care. After a little bit and it was all mapped out, some of which he needed to my help to be reminded of – mainly the major due dates for the future – I asked him, “How does it feel now that we’ve put all of this out there?”

Gretchen Wegner | How to Make Time Visible | Reduce Anxiety | Time Management | Organization

His response, I felt, was absolutely amazing. He said, “Before it felt fine, but now it feels better. I couldn’t actually tell how much anxiety I was feeling before, but now that we have it all mapped out in that chart, I don’t have to struggle to remember anything anymore and I didn’t realize that was causing me anxiety, but now that I feel better I realize it was.” I thought that was so smart of him, as a junior in high school, to be able to articulate that kind of understanding of his experience.

If you want more tips to reduce anxiety or time management, then I have tons of them in the Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying, which you can learn more about by clicking here.

Always Write These Two Things In Your Planner

Did you know that the WAY you write something in your planner can have a big effect on whether you actually follow through?

My client recently discovered that there are two things he needs to write in his planner for every major assignment — the WHAT and the HOW of what he needs to do.

Check out the video to find out more.

Hey there, don’t have time for the video? No worries, I’ve got your back, here’s a short summary.

I LOVE it when I get blown away by the concise way my clients articulate something they’ve learned in our sessions. I had a college student who was a freshman in college and in high school, he’d never used a planner. So we were working on making sure he planned out his assignments. In this instance, he came to the session and said he had an essay assignment, but not to worry he was great at writing essays. I asked him to take it out and just review it, and it turned out, while the essay was simple itself, the process for completing was a bit more complex than he had thought.

This led my client to realize that when he’s writing an assignment into his planner he needed to add 2 very important details. He needed to note, not just WHEN he would work on the assignment and when it was due, but also HOW he would complete it. For his essay, he needed to plan out a few different topics to discuss, as well as take the time to go to the library and research the topics chosen. So in his planner, he put down when he would figure out his topics, and when he would go to the library to research them, and when he would do the final writing.

It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t just want to plan around WHEN you will do something, you also need to plan out HOW you will complete what you’re working on when you plan to do it.

If you’d like more time management tips, click here to find out more about my online course.

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.

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

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!

Stop Making This Mistake When You Write in Your Planner

Planners: students love them or hate them. Which one are you?

I try to make sure that all clients who work with me have some method of what I call “making time visible,” even if you’re the type who hates planners.

However, there is a common mistake students make when they write their assignments down, and I rant about it this video:

Got any other ideas about alternative words to use in your planner in place of “study”? Or questions? I’d love to hear from you.

A Sneaky Trick for Getting Your Teens to Use Their Calendars

Every year when I meet with new coaching clients, parents complain that their kids don’t  manage time well. I often ask: how do you model time management to your teen?!

Parents can usually tell me what their personal  method of managing their calendar is like. They often have a family system for consolidating appointments in one place, like a calendar that hangs in the kitchen. However, usually the parent is the one managing everything, and the teen is a passive recipient.  Rarely can parents point to an established process for doing calendaring alongside their teen.


Family Meeting to the Rescue

Every year I suggest that families have a family calendering meeting once a week. Many families I work with tell me that it’s too difficult to get everyone together for this kind of a meeting. However, I contend that if you can’t prioritize time management for your whole family, how can you expect your child to do it for school? I honestly believe that, if families took me up on this suggestion, it will totally transform their ability to plan efficiently together…and simultaneously build a strong time management habit in their teen.

Here’s one way to conduct your meeting:

Every week at the same time, ask everyone to bring their planner (or blackberry, iphone or laptop) to the meeting. The sole purpose of the meeting is for everyone to share what is on their calendar during the upcoming week, to record any appointments that effect them directly, and to problem solve any calendering conflicts that emerge.

I highly recommend that this meeting is a collaborative effort. It is not a time for parents to be the authoritarian controlling the calendar. Rather  it is a time for everyone — parents, teens, and younger kids — to share what is going on in the week, and make sure that anything that effects them is noted in their planner.

Here’s an example:

Parent #1 might note that (s)he will work late on Tuesday, and so Parent #2 writes that down in his/her calendar. Pre-teen Sister notices that this means that she won’t get picked up  on time from basketball practice, and so asks Older Brother if he can pick her up instead.

Then Parent #2 reminds Older Brother that he has a dentist appointment on Wednesday at 10:30am; when he writes it down, he notices that he has a Spanish test that day. He makes a note to talk to his teacher about an alternate time to take the test. Pre-Teen sister reminds the family that she has a project due on Thursday, and will need a ride to the library on Monday night. Parent #1 offers to drive.

Everyone writes everything down in their own calendar.

Why is this a magic solution to family calendaring?!

The family meeting:

  • Models effective time management, as well as collaboration and peaceful conflict resolution when issues come up
  • Helps kids and teens build a personal habit in the context of a family habit. After all, if the family can’t be organized enough to refer to the planner once a week, why should the teen be that organized on on his or her own?
  • Gives a time for kids to think ahead about school projects (which many are not naturally inclined to do on their own)
  • Requires that kids (and parents!) actually have a planner, refer to it, and write in it (another habit that teens aren’t likely to do on their own).
  • Expects that family members come to the meeting already knowing what their week will look like. That means keeping up the calendar in between family meetings!
  • Models a great technique teens can use later in life, in roommate situations or community living.

Finally, a common complaint I hear from teens is that, “My parents didn’t tell me I had to go to Grandma’s house on Thursday night, so I couldn’t plan ahead!” or “My parents didn’t tell me I had that dentist appointment, so I couldn’t plan ahead with my teacher.” Of course, it’s highly possible that the parents in question DID tell the teen, but he or she didn’t HEAR them. However, it’s also possible that mom or dad totally forgot to tell the teen what’s coming up. The family makes both these possibilities a moot point by providing a time to get everyone on the same page.

Have you experimented with family meetings for calendering? Does your family have another method that works for you? Please comment below and tell us your story!

P.S. Was this useful? For more great ideas and helpful hints, sign up for free email updates by clicking this link:

Take Time Out To Slow Cook

20110826-100823.jpgEvery year I encourage my academic coaching clients to decorate their planners (otherwise, time management can be so uninspiring). Because I practice what I preach, I made a collage too. Can you tell what my intentions for the school year include? The poem (made of found words) sums it up:

True Vitality:

calm minds take time out
to slow cook.
break free!
the pleasure of not being perfect.
double your salary of possibilities
and live lighter
(yes, you can!)