Leslie Josel and I met last year when a guest writer referenced Leslie’s company, Order Out of Chaos, and her academic planner in a back-to-school organizing post. I bought the planners for my kids and contacted Leslie to see what other ideas she might have to help a busy mom manage disorganization at home. It was my happy discovery to find out that not only is she an amazing coach and a terrific human being, she’s a huge fan of SB — all the way up in NYC! I can vouch for the genius tips and strategies she’s sharing today — they really work!
It happens to the best of us. Actually it happens to all of us! Procrastination is a challenge for everyone—students and adults alike. How many times have you said (or heard your child say) “I’ll get to it … when I get the chance”? And of course, that chance never arrives. We’re all wired to put things off, BUT we also have the capacity to override that tendency. Here are 10 tips to help kick procrastination to the curb!
Use a planner.
Research shows that if we WRITE it down we COMMIT to doing it. It holds us accountable. So get writing! For your student, we recommend Order Out of Chaos’ Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management as its unique grid system allows you to see the week (both school and after school time) at a glance. Have your student record all assignments, after school activities, work commitments, even plans with friends. This will allow your student to know what s/he needs to do AND when s/he has time to get things done.
Want to get the whole family involved? Check out Time Of Day Calendar’s Day-Ja-View Family Calendar. It is the ultimate family communication tool, as its reusable plastic overlay allows families to effectively plan their schedules together.
And for the record, an app on a smartphone or tablet works fine, too, if you prefer electronics to paper.
Break larger goals into small, achievable tasks.
I can’t stress this point enough. We know that breaking things down into manageable parts makes working toward them less overwhelming. BUT, it also provides multiple opportunities for smaller successes. And with success comes the acknowledgement that we can do it! So instead of putting on the to-do list, “Renovate kitchen,” try writing, “Call contractors,” “Pick out paint colors,” “Research refrigerators,” etc. Much easier to wrap our brains around accomplishing smaller tasks.
Assign due dates and schedule appointments for each task.
Decide when each goal is due, keeping in mind that it is always harder to assign a due date when you are in charge. Work backwards to figure out how much time you have to accomplish each task. Assign deadlines to complete each one and schedule regular appointments to work on them. Make these appointments non-negotiable. You wouldn’t cancel the meeting with your child’s teacher or your boss, so treat appointments with yourself with the same urgency. This is a skill you can help your student work on as well.
Use a timer.
This is one of the simplest but most powerful tools to keep on track. I am a huge timer girl! Setting aside a predetermined amount of time to work can help anyone stay on task during that time period. You can use it for anything around the house, like when you want to clean out closets or organize files. Your student should use one when working on homework or a term paper. If someone only has an hour to do what normally takes two, they are more likely to get in gear and stay there. (The TimeTimer is our favorite, as it actually shows time “moving,” providing a visual cue to help manage time.)
How low can you go?
Get started with something easy. One math problem, one bill to pay, one phone call to make. You get the idea. Merely starting reduces anxiety and gives us a small sense of accomplishment and confidence to keep on going.
Become the master of your computer domain.
Can’t resist the call of social media or Internet surfing when it’s time to get down to business? Does your child suffer from FOMO (the fear of missing out)? Try one of the computer programs such as Cold Turkey for Windows or Self-Control for Mac. Each can help block distracting websites for any set amount of time. Limiting computer time will not only help you or your student remain focused but it also provides something to look forward to when the work is done.
Set it to music!
Music is rhythm and rhythm is structure. And we all know that we need structure (especially students) to get things done. Music can help anyone plan, anticipate and initiate, as well as sooth and regulate the brain. Create a 30 minute playlist of music you love. The key is to play the same playlist every time you sit down to work. This works wonders for students, as well.
Create your “happy place.”
I believe everyone needs to create positive energy around their tasks to get motivated and, to that point, their environment is key. Paint your office walls orange, pour your favorite cup of tea, purchase new pens. Create an environment that will provide you with enthusiasm to motivate you — kind of like a natural caffeine boost. Let your student do the same.
Frozen yogurt. People Magazine. Piperlime. Ok, that’s my list. But whatever yours or your student’s is, build in the rewards. When a goal is completed, its time to celebrate. You’ve earned it.
Yes, you heard me. We get super angry with ourselves when we procrastinate over and over again. Research shows that all that negativity is making the problem worse! So instead of beating yourself up, forgive yourself. You’ll be better for it — and so will your kids.
Leslie Josel is the Principal of Order Out of Chaos, an organizing consulting firm specializing in student organizing and chronic disorganization. She has her ADHD Coaching certification for students from JST coach training and is a long time member of NAPO and ICD. Leslie is known as a respected resource on ADHD and Executive Functioning in students and has been featured in national broadcast and print media on these subjects. She also speaks nationally to parent and educator groups on a variety of issues and topics facing students today. Leslie is the creator of the award winning Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management (a student planner that helps teach middle and high schoolers time management). Connect with Leslie at www.orderoochaos.com.