Executive function and its importance for students

Executive function are a bit like buzz words that these days you often hear being discussed or mentioned when it comes to students.   In the work I do with students I regularly get asked about executive function and in particular what does it actually mean?

Understanding executive function and its importance for studentsimage of the brain - executive function and importance for students

A simple way of explaining executive functioning is that it is the parts of thinking, feeling and reasoning that help us to:

  • analyse situations,
  • plan,
  • take action,
  • focus & maintain attention, and
  • manage by ourselves to get things done.

Executive functions are controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain.  In those people who do not have executive functioning issues, the brain performs these tasks quickly and they are often done so in one’s subconscious and therefore people are usually unaware of them happening. 

One important point to note is that executive functions are not fully developed until an individual is in their mid 20s or later.  Sometimes students can be thought of as being lazy, unmotivated or even defiant when in fact often they don’t have the skills yet to do what it is they are required to do.  It is really important to know that it not because they don’t want to do something it is because their brains are’t there yet developmentally.

Unfortunately children with ADHD or Autism can typically have a 30% or 3-5 year delay or more in some or all of their executive function development which makes it even harder for these students to manage their academic lives as they get older and are expected to be able to manage them by themselves.  

Having said this executive functioning isn’t just something we grow into they are skill sets and ways of thinking that need to be taught and modelled to students by parents, teachers and other key influences in their lives.  Ultimately you want to encourage and support your child so you can empower and champion them to become independent and undertake the necessary skills and steps to manage by themselves.

For all students, whether they have ADHD or Autism or not, it is important to have executive functioning skills as it assists with learning independently at school and in life.

Key challenges

Some of the key challenges for many students today and in particular for those students who have executive function issues are that:

  1. it can be hard to perform even a simple task or behaviour – they can struggle to know the steps needed in order to complete a task.

  2.  they have a lack of future thinking – students tend to only focus on the now and this day only and no more than a few days ahead.

  3. seeing time can be a struggle for students – you can’t expect students to manage time if they can’t actually see it.  Students these days are surrounded by digital clocks and therefore only tend to see the present time rather than time having a beginning, middle and an end.

  4. they can easily become overwhelmed – students can become overwhelmed and frustrated by the enormity of a task or project that they will shut down completely and refuse to accomplish anything at all.

  5. some students focus too much on perfection – by doing this, and with a lack of executive function skills for some, this can be a real challenge for students to actually complete work and hand it in on time.  They are always waiting for it to be perfect and unfortunately perfect never comes.

  6. they struggle to prioritise – many students are not able to know what what to do first or in other words not be able to give something a level of importance.
  7. they procrastinate – this is typical of many students, often the figure suggested for students is that 70% procrastinate however this can be even higher for those with executive function issues.

  8. they can struggle to get started or launch – this can be a struggle for many students and therefore they never start something or if they do it is at the 11th hour with a deadline hanging over their heads which naturally creates more stress and pressure for them.

  9. they have trouble with focus – this can be a challenge in that not only do some students struggle to focus or give attention to what they are doing but can find it difficult to move focus easily to another task or activity as well.

  10. they lack organisational, planning and time management skills – these are often the ones that we see students struggle with ie the messy locker, always being late, not able to plan out homework and therefore can really affect their day to day academic lives.

The good news is that for each of these challenges there are tips and strategies that students can learn to implement and allow them to succeed both academically and in life.

For further information or to find out how I can assist you or your child and your challenges please get in touch.

Decluttering – How do you know where to start?

When decluttering  – how do you know where to start?  From my experience in the work I do with my clients I know where to start in helping them to declutter and get organised.  The reason being is that I have been doing this for many years and with asking questions and looking around their houses or offices usually one or two places in particular stand out.  Naturally it is still the clients decision but usually they are happy to go with my recommendations on where to start.Image of return key with the words decluttering - how do you know where to start?

Recently though it got me thinking that it would be good to share this information so others know where they could start if decluttering or getting organised is something they have been trying to do.  Often it can be too overwhelming and difficult to know where to begin.  Do you feel like this?  Well here are questions to ask yourself which hopefully might give you greater clarity and assist you to  know where to start.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. what space annoys you the most? – by this I mean which space is not functioning the way you would like, is it a space you don’t really use as it makes you angry or it isn’t pleasant to be in or look at?  There may well be multiple spaces but usually one will bother you more.  One of my clients originally got me in to assist with paperwork however after discussion and a look around the house it was actually the kitchen that was really annoying her the most so that is where we started.
  2. what is it that you’d like to be able to do but can’t?  Is there something you would like to be able to do in a particular space but don’t have the room or space because of clutter?  For one of my clients this was using the spare room as a place to study however in order to do that we had to actually clear the space leading to the desk as well as the clutter on the desk itself before she could regain and use the space for her intended purposes.
  3. what is the space you look at in the morning that says to you I just need to find time to get you organised?  Usually there is a space that keeps coming up time and time again and it is its way of saying to you that it needs help.
  4. what is the space you look at last thing every night and it just sends you reminders that you need to get it organised?  Very similar to the point above though this happens to you at night when you are about to go to bed instead.  Maybe it is the same space that you think about morning and night or it could be different?
  5. what is that one area you regularly go to start but don’t as it just becomes too hard?  Is there a space in your home that you think right I am going to tackle this today but when it comes around to it you usually find excuses to do something else?  Is there a space in your home or office that you’d really like to tackle but just don’t know how?  Maybe this has been something you have been thinking about but hit a stumbling block each time.  My advice here is to start small with a shelf or drawer or small space and gradually build up to larger spaces or areas.
  6. Do you regularly find yourself saying you will do something later?  Peter Walsh, a well known organiser, regularly states that procrastination always leads to clutter.  So his one bit of advice would be to replace the word “later” with the word “now”. Whenever you’re tempted to just throw the dirty dishes in the sink or leave the clothes in the dryer unfolded, catch yourself.  Realise that it’s the small steps that need to be done to stay on top of the clutter.  Or as I regularly say maintenance is the key to being organised.

IMAGE OF A ROAD WITH A START AND AND ARROWContinuing on with this theme of getting started – ‘the best way to get something done is actually just to start‘.  You also don’t need to feel that you have to achieve it all in one go.   One thing you can do is to break what you want to declutter or get organised into small steps and don’t let it continue to overwhelm you any more.   My advice is to start with one small space ie a junk drawer, one shelf, one small space, and build from there.  Click here to find out how to organise a junk drawer in 5 easy steps and get started.

If you are still having trouble working out where to start then think about the highest traffic area in your home ie kitchen, living room, bathroom or laundry maybe and start there.

There really isn’t a right or wrong place to start, simply making an effort is a step in the right direction.  You’ll be surprised at how satisfied you feel the next time you look at this space clutter free.

If you give it a go and it just still isn’t working then get in touch – not only can I assist you to get it organised but offer you tips and strategies so that you can maintain the space/s too!  

15 common mistakes students make with exams

That time of year is fast approaching (in the Southern hemisphere anyway) when it will be time for exams.  Some students will be more prepared than others for what they are about to face.  It is however worth knowing what the 15 common mistakes students make with exams are so they can try to avoid making them.  I have split this BLOG up into those mistakes students make in the planning and preparation stage as well as those they make in exams themselves.

15 common mistakes students make with exams

In the planning and preparation stagestudent studying

  1. not starting early enough – many students think they have lots of time to prepare and study for exams. Unfortunately this can be a trap and students convince themselves that it will be okay to not start today only to find that they end up running out of time and cramming.  Studying for exams often takes more time than students anticipate, so make sure you get started early!
  2. reviewing information that you already know – students often spend time on studying or reviewing information that they already know.  The best use of their time is to identify what they don’t know and work on strategies to ensure they learn this information.
  3. studying passively and not actively – you ask what does this actually mean?  Studying passively is usually when students spend time just reading over their notes and textbooks until it is familiar.  Where as actively studying is when you actually incorporate the passive study as well as spend time testing and quizzing yourself to see what you actually do or don’t know.  Unfortunately most students actually spend more time studying passively than actively which really is not the best strategy.
  4. not actually studying or preparing in the way you are testedclick here to learn more about this in a recent blog that I wrote just on this point.

In examschairs in an exam room

  1. not writing your name on the exam or test paper – I have seen this time and time again when working with students and this should be the first thing they do when they can actually start writing!
  2. not reading and understanding the question – this is vital and students need to ensure they use their reading time wisely to ensure they understand what the questions is actually asking them to do.  When doing this students really need to take notice in particular of the key/command/prompt words in the question ie analyse, compare, describe….  Basically those words that tell you how you need to respond.
  3. starting to answer questions without any planning – It is important, particularly for any writing tasks, to plan the structure of your response/essay first. This will then assist you to know what you are going to say and in the right order and keeps you on track.
  4. running out of time – some students can find themselves running out of time and in many cases this links back to lack of preparation and planning when they should have spent time practising this with past exam papers.  Ideally you want to have a plan of attack and strategy as to how you are going to break up and use your time before you enter an exam.  Spending time on this prior to exams is a really useful strategy.
  5. Ignoring the clock – when in an exam another trap for students is not keeping an eye on the clock or following any such plan so they run out of time in general.
  6. leaving questions blank – where possible students should avoid this and always try to ensure they gain some marks rather than just giving up and leaving a response blank.
  7. not matching up questions and answers with multiple choice – this is a common mistake and really one that should be avoided.  Students need to take care when responding to multiple choice questions.
  8. answering a question twice – this is common when answering multiple choice – make sure you have only selected one answer per question.
  9. ignoring a question because you don’t like it – when this happens and it does, students ignore the real question and write or respond with something else that often is unrelated to what is actually being asked of them.
  10. having enough supplies with you – students need to make sure they have additional pens or pencils with them as the last thing they want to happen is for the ink to run out and not have anything to write with.  This seems so logical but not always on a students mind when going to an exam.
  11. leaving the exam room early – even if you think you are finished use the extra time to read through your answers and make sure that you’ve answered them to the best of your abilities. You may find during this time that you’d like to include additional information or points.  You might also check over your spelling and grammar as well.

image of students in an exam

 

For more information to assist with exams the following blogs might also be of use:

  • how to create an exam study plan click here or
  • why being organised is the key to exams click here

 

If you would like further information about how I can support students please do get in touch.

 

 

 

12 time management tips for busy mums

 

Many mums I know struggle with all they have to get done.  Whether that being managing a career, business, family and household often all at the same time.   It can regularly feel like you are a juggler with many balls in the air all at once.  Does this sound at all like you at times or all of the time?

It doesn’t even seem to matter whether you have small or older children, the time pressures always seem to be there just the same.  Even as an organising expert I often say I’d just love another hour or two some days just to get something done.  Unfortunately though time is finite and this is not possible – what is however possible though is to ensure you manage the time you do have as effectively as you can.

Here are my 12 time management tips for busy mums to assist you with managing your time:

  1. Using the right diary/calendar that works for you and your family – tcalendar imagehis could be either a hard copy diary or an electronic diary.  By using a diary that all the family is across it will make it much easier to know what is on and when. It is important that when using a diary that you note everything in it and those other family members can also access and use it.  There are pros and cons to using either a hard copy or electronic diary but the important thing to keep in mind is whatever you use is that it works for everyone it needs too!
  2. Use to do lists – often as mums we have many different things on the go at once and sometimes think we will remember everything. Unfortunately our minds can only take so much and it is much easier on us mentally if we don’t try and retain it all.  It is much better to declutter your mind by keeping to do lists.  Again you might like to keep physical to do lists or have these electronically in a device or an App (there are many great Apps available today so check out and find something that suits you).  Useful to do lists include having different ones and you might like to consider breaking it down into daily, weekly and longer term projects.
  3. Take the time to plan – this is really important as by doing this you are more likely to save yourself time in the long run. I usually suggest to my clients that a Sunday night is a good time to prepare for the week ahead and even have a family meeting (doesn’t need to be long) with partners and older children in particular to ensure all activities are covered for the week ahead. This way no one can complain they didn’t know either!
  4. Prioritise – knowing your priorities is a vital step when it comes to time management. In particular it is worth taking the time like, in step 3, to plan so you know what things actually need to be done and what ones can actually wait.  One technique I often suggest is have 3 items on your daily list and if you get through them then you can add others but it can be useful to work out what the 3 things are that you must get done today.
  5. Don’t seek perfection – as mums one trap we can at times find ourselves in is trying to lead the so-called ‘perfect life’ and be seen to be in control of all those juggling balls. Often in seeking perfection we end up not being able to get the things we want to get done as we strive too hard for everything to be perfect rather than sometimes just saying it is good enough and it will do.It is important to again take the time to determine what you can live with and what is essential in your eyes and that of your family to get done i.e. can you live with the floors not being mopped every week or having all the beds made daily.  Please note there are no right and wrongs here and you need to determine what your essentials and non-essential things are.
  6. Seek help/outsource and delegate – sometimes we again try to do it all when really it can be useful to ask for help from time to time, particularly during times of illness or busyness. Don’t be afraid to ask, as you will be surprised that others are more than happy to assist you.  No doubt you will have the opportunity to repay the favor at times to assist them too.  Why not look at sharing drop offs and pick-ups with other mums for school or for after school activities.In terms of outsourcing and delegating there are no doubt some things that you actually don’t have to necessarily do yourself if you don’t have the time that can be outsourced or delegated to others including cleaning, walking the dog, doing the shopping and doing the laundry.image of a sign that says plan b
  7. Have a ‘plan B’ – it can be useful to think about having ‘plan B’s’ for those times or things you are trying to do that don’t actually work out the way you had planned. Sometimes it is useful to think of these prior to doing something rather than putting pressure on yourself to come up with options or ideas when you are really busy and time poor.  For example it can be useful to have a list of people you can contact if you get really stuck when you can’t leave work to pick up the children from daycare or school or your babysitter can’t make it as planned.
  8. Learn to say NO – this is something many of us as mums can struggle with. I know that I was very heavily involved in kindergarten, school and sporting clubs at one stage and fortunately I realised that I had to learn to say NO to some things as I just didn’t have the time to do it all.  It can be easy to over commit and volunteer our time before we actually even realise we are doing it!  Being aware of your time in terms of what you do and don’t have time for can be useful in learning to say NO.
  9. Start your day a bit earlier – this can be a really effective way of just gaining a bit of time to make your day simpler. Even just 5-15 minutes more can make all the difference sometimes and take the pressure off.  Give it a go and set the alarm a few minutes earlier tomorrow and see if it helps.
  10. Put everything in its place – a lot of disorganisation, clutter and overwhelm many of my clients experience is as a result of items/belongings not having a home or if they do not taking the time to put them away. Often this is how clutter piles up and what would have been a very quick task in putting something away now becomes a larger task that you don’t really have time to tackle.  An example of this is the laundry – when it is clean and dry take the 5-10 minutes to fold and put the clean items away rather than letting them pile up where you then add the next lot of clean clothes on top and then the pile just becomes bigger and more overwhelming.  It will really help by putting items away where they belong, as it will save you more time in the long run!image of bowls with pasta sauce
  11. Cook extra meals – this is something you don’t actually have to do specifically but rather when you make a meal like pasta sauce or something else why not just increase the quantity. This way you will create a few extra meals you can add to the freezer for those times when you either run out of time to buy supplies or to cook a meal.
  12. Prepare the night before – preparing the night before, by either working out what you need to do the following day or by putting out clothes or making lunches, will take the pressure off the next morning and make it a bit easier.  Try and get the whole family on board for this, as it is a useful habit to develop for everyone, particularly children!

Finally I’d like to highlight whilst your might be trying to do it all, please do remember you also need to factor in some ‘ME‘ time as well for your own sanity as well as that of everyone around you.  If you fall in a heap then quite often so does everyone else!

I trust some of these tips will assist you with the many juggling balls you no doubt have in the air all at once!  Maybe even just pick out a couple and give them a go – what have you got to lose!

If you would like to discuss any of these or think you might still require some assistance please do get in touch.

Students need to practise the way they are tested

This is such a simple concept – ‘students need to practise the way they are tested’ yet in my experience it’s something that many students actually struggle with.

I regularly see and speak to students who don’t revise and study on a regular basis and often only do it prior to an upcoming test or exam.   The other issue I see is that when students do actually revise and study they are often not using the best methods.   Both of these are entwined and students need to practise the way they are to be tested.  It is vital that they learn how to do this in order to give tests and exams their best shot and in turn get the best marks they possibily can.

As I say to my students in my workshops or when working 1:1 with them that it is about ‘studying smarter not harder”!  You can often hear a bit of a sigh of relief when they think about what I am actually saying.quote learning to study smarter not harder

Regular Revision

Most students actually understand the importance of revision however seem to struggle to know how to know what steps to take and how often they should take them.  Research shows that students definitely benefit from revising on a more regular basis rather than only doing it only when preparing for upcoming tests or exams.  

Many students will also work hard at revising, however they don’t always work well at it.   As with any other aspect of their studies, they need to organise their time, plan their revision well in advance and know what strategies work best for them.

It is important that students do many regular reviews of their information and notes as this is more effective and likely to be retained in their memory over an extended period of time rather than doing just a few long cram sessions.   Ideally students should be reviewing their information and notes on the day they have written them to ensure they have understood the topic at the time and seek further assistance at that stage if they don’t.  It is much better for memory to do it at the time than weeks or months down the track.  From there they should then find a regular pattern of reviewing their notes and testing themselves.

Revision doesn’t have to be hard

Revision doesn’t have to be too hard and students need to put the effort into planning.  It is important to know the best way to revise for all their subjects and have a plan in place for each one.  If students are not sure about this they should seek assistance and guidance from their teachers who are more than willing to assist.  Sometimes this in itself can be hard step for students to do.

Unfortunately many students today are still of the belief that reading over notes or highlighting key text are good revision strategies.   However both of these are actually not the most effective as they don’t force students to think deeply or critically about the topics and they end up being done without much thought at all.  Reading and highlighting creates a sense of familiarity to students however in an exam situation they don’t get marks for things being familiar, they get marks for recalling relevant information and using it to answer the question.

Having said that students shouldn’t abandon these strategies completely as they still can have a role to play and be used alongside other effective revision methods and techniques.

Testing yourself and its importance

There is a lot of research on memory where they say that testing yourself is one of the most effective ways to improve your ability to recall information.  By testing themselves students also can easily identify any gaps in their knowledge.  Practise papers provide a good starting point, as well as quizzing themselves at the end of a revision session.  Another useful technique is to teach the material to someone else.  They could do this with a study partner and take turns and/or to someone who knows nothing about the topic.  This technique assists students to really think about the subject in a clear and structured way.   Another method could be for students to put all the information they know in a mind map or on paper before reviewing their notes to see where the gaps in their knowledge are.

image of a multiple choice exam paper

This then leads us to the next stage of revision where it is important for students to focus on the information that they don’t know rather than what they do know.  Naturally it is more satisfying to revise what they do know rather than focus on their weaknesses.  Revision isn’t about reassuring oneself on what they do know it needs to be all about identifying what they don’t.  Once they figure this out then they need to find the best revision strategies to learn that knowledge.

On top of this students need to really understand the format of the tests and exams so they can actually practise under test or exam like conditions.  By doing this they can work out the best strategies for them when it comes to reading time, working out which questions to tackle first and so on.  It is important that during the reading time they actually read and understand the questions before they begin and really know what is being asked of them.  For some students they like to focus on the hardest or most time consuming working down to the easiest where as for other students they like to get the easy marks out of the way first and do the harder ones later.  There is no right strategy and is very much up to individual students to find what suits their style the best.  Practise tests or exams are a great opportunity for students to really know what works best for them and to fine tune these prior to the important test or exam.

Most teachers are also more than happy to mark practise tests and exams which then also allows the students to work on the areas that they don’t know as well to keep learning and improving before the final exams arrive.

There is research that finds students who do practise tests after a period of revision do better on the final exam than those students who didn’t do the practise exams and had just spent the whole time revising.  At the end of the day its better for students who don’t do well in practise exams to have the time to do more work, change revision strategies and develop the right skills to perform well under pressure than it all falling apart and not working for them in the final exam!

If you’d like to know more or hear how I can assist you or your child further please get in touch.

 

 

 

10 tips on how to organise a party

image of bunting - 10 tips on how to organise a partyWe all love to go to a party and have fun right?  Going to a party and organising a party though are very different with the later requiring much more organisation and effort.  Having said that if you plan early and get organised then who says you can’t have fun too!

Here are 10 tips to consider when organising a party:

  1. Determine who the party is for and what type of party you are going to have – think about what you are celebrating. Will it be a:

    a. birthday party
    b. surprise party
    c. engagement party
    d. good luck party
    e. housewarming party
    f. and the list goes on ……….

  2. Will the party have a theme to it – work out if you plan to have a theme or is it just going to be a party. Themes are things like pirate party, fairy party, dress up party, 80’s costume party and so on. Themes can also be incorporated around colours or ideas as well.
  3. Work out what your budget will be – It is very important to do this first up so that you have a framework to work with and know what your upper limits are rather than just spending and realising you have spent way more than you planned. In your budget you need to consider things like food, drink, decorations, venue hire, music or other entertainment ie face painter or other entertainment for a child’s party.
  4. When will you have the party– the very next thing is to work out when you will have the party so determine the date, time and the location. Make sure you allow yourself enough lead time in order to send out invitations and for people to be able to be free to attend. Usually anywhere from 4-8 weeks is a great lead-time though depends upon the type of party you are having too and who you’d like to attend for sure (see next point).
  5. Who are you planning to invite – do you have a guest list in mind? Working out a guest list can be a littleimage of an invitation - 10 tips on how to organise a party tricky and many people want to make sure they don’t leave someone out. Therefore with your budget and venue in mind think about how many people you can and then plan to invite. Once you have this start working though and putting together a guest list. It can be a good idea to do a first draft and then sit with it for a few days or get someone else to take a look to ensure you haven’t forgotten anyone. If the party is for someone else make sure you involve them in this stage.
  6. Sent out invitations – before you can do this you need to work out what sort of invitations you will use – will they be paper, via phone, text or email or even something you can do using social media? Once you have the format you can put together the invitation (or purchase them to use if you haven’t already). Remember to include all the important details, as well as an RSVP date and who to, so you have an idea of final numbers for catering and other purposes.
  7. Confirm any necessary arrangements and make any payments – if you have made a booking to use another venue or another form of entertainment then it might be useful to confirm the booking details if you haven’t received formal notification. Likewise if you have organised any catering or entertainers then confirm the booking for them and where necessary pay any deposits you need to secure the bookings. Make a note in your diary to confirm any final details at least a week before too.
  8. If you are self-catering or hosting the party at home – determine what supplies you will need, make aimage of balloons for 10 tips on how to organise a party list and go shopping. Remember to ensure you have budgeted for all these items and if not update your budget before you go shopping. Naturally many things, other than food, can be purchased well prior to the date so get started early. You can leave any food items closer to the party date. This will take the pressure off, as the party gets closer. It might even be useful to put together a bit of a plan/timeline for prior and during the party at this stage too.
  9. Set up – at least a week prior to the party review all of the above to ensure you have done everything you need, including any confirmations, and are on track. Much better to do early so if you have forgotten something you have time to arrange or purchase rather than realising this on the day of the party. If you are hosting your own party then make sure you allow plenty of time to set up on the day. Enlist the help of others so you don’t have to do it all yourself.
  10. Clean up plans – most people don’t like this stage so it is useful to think about this prior to the event ratherimage of a rubbish bin - 10 tips on how to organise a party than just having to deal with it all at the end. Having a plan in place will make it so much easier too! It really is a good idea to clean up the party as soon as it’s over – I know it isn’t the most desirable thought if it is a party late at night, but it usually is better than the smell of stale food and alcohol – so even if you’re not going to do all of your cleaning after the party, do at least remove the food and drink and basic rubbish.

    Ask yourself questions like:

  • What can I do to make cleaning up easier? ie have rubbish and recycling bins around so people can assist with this at the time. Even consider using disposable cups and plates to save on washing up.Are there items that need to be returned and what time by?
  • What needs to be cleaned up and put away? Think about whether you will do this on the day or the next day. If you have hired a venue will they do all the cleaning up or is this something you need to factor in?
  • What are you likely to use again ie decorations and then find somewhere to store these items until next time.
  • Maybe you won’t use decorations again but one of your friend’s might be able to.
  • Or if the decorations are in good condition and you don’t plan to use them why not donate them as someone else might get use out of them.

Also one final point, though it doesn’t really relate to cleaning up, is to have a think about whether you would like to send thank you messages to anyone who helped you or gave presents after the party.

Enjoy the party and have fun!

If you need a hand or more advice please get in touch!

The power of YET for students

I believe the power of YET for students is one of the most important words for them to meet their potential as learners.  It is a word that educators and parents should also be using on a regular basis as well!

One’s mindset determines how they behave, their outlook on life and attitude towards everything they do.  Mindset is a simple idea discovered by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck following years of research on achievement and success.  Her research found that brains and talent don’t bring success and sometimes even stand in the way of it.  On top of this, praising ones brains and talent doesn’t foster self-esteem and accomplishment and can actually even jeopardize them.  Where as teaching students about mindset and this simple idea can actually increase marks as well as their productivity.

Fixed v Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck’s research has found the following:

  • Fixed mindset – having a fixed mindset about yourself and your abilities means you think you are the way you are and that you can’t change anything.  Sometimes students with a fixed mindset believe that their talent alone can create success without putting in any effort which unfortunately is not true.
  • Growth mindset – means you believe your skills are not static and that you have the ability to change and learn.  This type of mindset can really assist one to succeed as this allows them to believe by working hard they can improve. With a growth mindset a student can know that whilst they may not be good at something it could either mean they haven’t learnt or practiced it YET.

At the end of the day all the tips and strategies given to students to assist them to study and improve their marks won’t work if they don’t have the right mindset in the first place – a growth mindset.

For further information about fixed v growth mindset you can click here to read another blog I have written about the importance of a growth mindset for students.

Use the word YET

Image of the word YET - The power of YET for students

By using the word YET it can really alter and improve a students’ motivation.  It can create the idea of learning over time.

So when they say “I can’t do this“, “I don’t have the skills needed” or “I’m not smart enough” by adding the word YET it can really change their motivation levels. With guidance and regular reminding and using the word YET it changes their fixed mindset statement they have made into a growth mindset one.

And it means that with your guidance they will continue on their learning trajectory and get there eventually. It puts their fixed mindset statement into a growth mindset context of learning overtime.

To begin the process of fostering a growth mindset, we need to catch ourselves when we are thinking with a fixed mindset and then revise those thinking patterns toward that of a growth mindset.  When we find ourselves thinking “I’m just not wired that way”, we need to make a mental note of the thought and revise our thinking patterns toward something along the lines of “I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’ll keep trying to learn.”  Doing this will not only assist us in being more resilient, but it will also help to keep us more motivated.

So the next time you hear your child saying they CAN’T do something remember to add the word YET to the end of the sentence.  It is amazing how powerful this change in the way you acknowledge can make a difference to their beliefs about themselves and their abilities.  You might even like to give it a go yourself if you find yourself ever saying I CAN’T too.

For further assistance on mindset or other areas on how I can assist you and your child please do get in touch.

10 common decluttering excuses

Many people have different reasons why they don’t declutter.  In my experience, as an Organising Expert, keeping unnecessary items and clutter can in fact do more harm that good in most instances.  Do you find yourself making decluttering excuses?

Here are 10 common decluttering excuses people use to avoid starting or doing it:

  1. I might need it later – many people hold on to items just in case they might need it in the future.  In most instances you probably don’t!  I’m certainly not saying get rid of all these items but want you to give thought to them rather than holding onto many such items that usually are taking up valuable space.  Be prepared to release and let go of things no longer needed or useful. If you are struggling with letting something go then a suggested approach may be to make a future date in your diary and if you haven’t used the item in that time ie 6 or 12 months then it is time to move it on.
  2. It was expensive – you or someone you know might have spent quite a bit of money purchasing an item and dollar symbol - declutter excuse as it was expensiveyou don’t want to see it go to waste.  If the item is something you are not using, or are likely to in the future, then it is still being wasted and there is no point keeping it.  If you are really worried about the expense you can try and sell it and recoup some of the money.
  3. I don’t know where to start – this is very common and often one of the things all of my new clients discuss with me.  I usually recommend to start small rather than trying to do a whole room in one go – pick a shelf, drawer or cupboard and start there.  The last thing you want to do is to create more overwhelm for yourself by pulling everything out as then you really won’t know where to start!
  4. I don’t have time – We are all busy and I get that life can take over from time to time.  However this is usually more than not just an excuse as most people find time for the things that are important to them.  If it is something you want to do then you can clock with a cross - no time to declutter excusealways start small and do 5-15 mins at a time.  If you did this on a regular basis then you will still make progress!
  5. Someone gave it to me – This is another common reason as people are worried that because it was given to them feel like they are not being respectful to whoever gave it to them if they get rid of it.  Often people think they need to keep it just in case that person comes over and looks for it.  In reality this doesn’t happen very often or even if it does maybe hang on to it for a little while but then it is really yours to do what you want with.
  6. I don’t know how long to keep something – I understand this can be difficult for some items like paperwork, filing, receipts – the important thing here is to find out from someone who does know and then set a system in place to regularly review your materials and keep them in order.
  7. There are memories attached to it – the main point to highlight here is the memories will still be with you without keeping a particular item.  If an item is really important to you then it is more than likely something you would like to see regularly rather than having it stored, often incorrectly, in a box somewhere in your home.  The unfortunate thing is that when I work we clients we often discover these items and they are damaged more often than not as they have not been stored correctly,  You might like to read this blog in how to deal with sentimental clutter.
  8. I have plenty of space to keep everything –  so this might be true but just because you have space it doesn’t mean you need to fill it all up.  Ideally you should only be keeping things that really matter to you, what you use and need and not just keeping everything because you have the space.  It won’t matter if you actually have a spare shelf in your cupboard – don’t just fill it up for the sake of it.
  9. My children might want these some day – the reality is probably not!  Please don’t take this personally as they no doubt care for you but they really don’t want your stuff.  It is probably best to ask rather than assume and keep things for them.  If you are having a clean out and come across items, from their childhood or items that belong to them, I usually suggest putting them together and then inviting them over to go through and take what they would like to keep.  It can be hard but you will need to accept their decision if they don’t want many of the items.
  10. Thinking you can do it on your own – for some people this is true but for the majority having someone to assist can help and make you accountable at the same time. That person, whether it be a friend or a professional like me, is not emotionally attached to your things and therefore can help to be objective and allow you to make decisions. If you think you can do it on your own often for some reason you actually just never get around to it!

Now you have all the reasons in the world NOT to declutter.  And they are all great reasons (or so you think). Do you know that keeping unnecessary items around can cause more harm than good?  Let’s see if you have said any of these things to justify keeping clutter.  Just to let you know, if you have, you’re not alone.

Next step

If you find yourself using and of these excuses to declutter then why not just get in touch to have a brief chat and see how I might be able to assist you.  I promise I WON’T make you do anything you don’t want to do as if we work together you will make your own decisions.  In working with my client I just ask the questions and you actually come up with the answers all by yourself.  So what have you actually got to lose?

8 tips for parents to avoid homework battles

Whether you agree with homework or not it seems to be part of most school’s current programs.  So how do parents avoid homework battles?

Homework is generally set to give children the opportunity to:

teenage boy doing homework

  • practice and consolidate skills;
  • practice creative thinking or problem solving; and
  • carry out long term projects.

Completing homework should not be about acquiring new skills.

The one thing I hear from many parents is that homework battles are very common and that they can be very painful to deal with.

As I outlined in another recent BLOG – ‘Who’s responsibility is it to ensure homework is completed?” – it is the child’s.  It is also an arrangement they have with their teacher and school and this needs to be kept front of mind too.  Having said that I do agree that parents also still play a role in monitoring, supporting, guiding, teaching and ensuring that children complete their homework themselves.

8 tips to try and avoid homework battles include:

  1. Send clear messages about homework – including that it is an important part of school; you will give your child support if they need it and that you will not be doing their homework for them.
  2. Have a plan – this really is key for students of all ages in tackling their homework. Depending upon what it boy not enjoying doing homeworkis they need to do a plan can be detailed or just written down on a scrap piece of paper.  The plan should include a rough outline of what they need to do and a guide as to how much time they need to spend on each aspect.  Then it is useful to work out what subject to start with first – for some children it could be the easiest or for others they like to tackle the hardest.  Ask them what they would like to start with.  By having a plan they are more likely to make a start as well as to get their homework done.One important point for parents is not to assume they know how to do this and you may need to teach them how to put a basic plan together first then be their to support until they can do it by themselves.
  3. Breaking into chunks – sometimes it is the homework task itself that can be overwhelming so it is useful to assist your child to know how to break tasks down into chunks that can be dealt with during the same homework session or on different days.  It is common to assume they have been taught how to do this and therefore we often just expect them to be able to know how to do this when the reality is they don’t necessarily understand.  If this is the case it is useful to work with them and explain how.
  4. Develop set homework times/routines – work with your child to develop times when they can get their homework done around their other activities.  Having set times tends to work for younger children where as older children might like more flexibility around taking responsibility for when to complete theirs.  One thing to be aware of is to determine the best times around children’s energy levels.  Often the best time can be after they get home from school and have had something to eat – usually within 30 minutes to an hour at most.
  5. Find the best place for them – have a discussion with your child, particularly older children, as to where they feel they work best and then help them to create the right space and environment ie does it need to be quiet, do they want to have music playing or maybe they work best in amongst it all in the kitchen space?  Be aware that they might also like different spaces depending upon what homework it is they are doing at the time.  I recently found out, by asking, that one of my students hated the desk space she worked in as she found it really dark so she avoided using it.  After speaking to her parents and with a coat of paint and more lighting she actually was happy to start working in there again.
  6. Minimise distractions – I could write a whole BLOG on this alone however I would like to highlight that girl using iphone when she should be doing homeworkparents can help children become aware of distractions and work with them to come up with the best solution that will work ie help them to turn notifications from social media off on devices they are working on or remove phones to another room whilst they are working.  Where possible get them to come up with the decisions on what to do rather than dictate them as they are more likely to stick to them then too.
  7. Help them to get started – often this can be the hardest part.  As we know many children like to procrastinate and never seem to have any trouble finding other things to do.  One way to help get them started is to set a time for 20 minutes and then allow them a 5 minute break before setting again.  Sometimes this is enough to anchor them to their desk to complete homework.  For some children using incentives can also assist them to get their homework done ie give them something they look forward to doing as soon as they finish homework.
  8. Make sure they have all the supplies – often this can be an issue as children complain they don’t havewhat they need.  Therefore parents can assist to make sure they have a variety of supplies at hand and close by to where the children complete their homework so there really are no excuses.  It might even be worth checking in with them from time to time on upcoming homework they need to complete if you need to make any specific purchases like poster paper or other supplies.

Homework battles can be very draining on everyone involved so the more planning and educating you can do to assist your children the easier they should become. Why not give some of these tips a go to see if you can avoid homework battles in your home making it much better for everyone!

If you would like to discuss the regular challenges you have or to know more about how I can assist you and your family please get in touch.

Do you need Amanda Monday’s to get organised?

You might well be a bit puzzled by this heading – “Do you need Amanda Monday’s to get organised?”  Well the story behind this relates to an email I recently received from a client:

“Just thought I’d let you know I’ve made a recurring appointment in my diary from 1-4 on MondayImage of Amanda to go with Amanda Monday's to get organised called “Amanda Mondays”. You showed me how much could be achieved in 3 hours and how good it then felt for the rest of the week. It won’t always work out but the plan is for that time to be spent on getting things – house, paperwork, business plans etc – in a deeper sense of order not just doing the day to day responding to stuff.

I like the way you approach both the organising and me – it feels very much like you are helping me to get what I want done but find very hard to do myself. You don’t impose order, you work with me to discover it. That’s very cool.”

I was chuffed to be reminded of the impact I have on people’s lives.   I am privileged and honoured that my clients welcome me to work with them and take steps to make a difference to their lives.  Not only do we deal with the physical clutter but in turn often the mental side of clutter at the same time.  This  is really important and often an aspect that people don’t give too much thought to.

So what does Amanda Monday’s to get organised really mean?

You are still probably wondering why I am telling you all of this?  Just like my client the importance of having “Amanda Monday’s to get organised” is something we all actually need.

The first step in the process is naturally to get organised and feel back in control of your stuff whether it be a room, house, office, paperwork, filing and the list goes on.

The next step in the process is to then to stay and maintain being organised.   I often say this can be the hardest step in the process but needs to become a regular habit in people’s lives and not just something they do occasionally.

That is why the point of having “Amanda Monday’s” for this particular client resonated with me.  It is showing a demonstrated need to find the time to keep on top of the maintenance required to stay organised.  By no means does it need to be a full block of time, as this client has highlighted, but it does need to be regular blocks of time and needs to suit a person’s own needs and lifestyle.  It has to be able to work for them or it won’t happen!

Maintenance is the key image - organising and decluttering - and helps with Amanda Monday's to get organisedYou might like to find out more on the maintenance aspect of getting organised so here is a link to a recent blog “Maintenance is the key to being organised”

When I work with my clients I focus on not only the organisation side but providing them with tips and strategies as we are working so they can keep it organised an maintain it themselves going forward.  There is no one size fits all solution and each solution is tailored to my client’s individual needs and what is likely to work for them.

I realise that life can get in the way sometimes but the main thing is to be aware of this and then still find time around this so as not to let disorganisation become overwhelming again.

So what now?

I regularly check in with my clients to see how they are travelling and in particular to see if the strategies we have put in place need tweaking or altering.  I plan to keep in touch with this client who is having “Amanda Monday’s to get organised” to see how this might or might not be working for her going forward.  The good news is she recognises she needs to be disciplined to do this and if it works for her then great!

If you are struggling, feeling overwhelmed in your home or business, then please get in touch and discuss the difference getting organised and then maintaining that can make to your life too.