Why students should use a planner/diary/App

At this time every year many parents ask me what sort of planner, diary or App should their child use at school. It is great that parents are keen to assist their children with organisation and time management at the start of the school year.  I encourage you to keep reading to find out why students should use a planner/diary/App.

Some children will be keen to use something to manage themselves however many more these days actually don’t see the need or point. This unfortunately for many can lead to poor organisation, time management and in turn lower academic results. Time and time again I see students become anxious and overwhelmed as the year progresses and their workload increases and see that they are trying to manage without using any form of planner or online tool to assist.

With the increase in technology many school now provide tasks and deadlines on school portals. This is great for students to know what they have and when it is due. However this does not help them to actually manage their time and that is why planners, diaries or Apps still have a very important role to play. Many of the schools I work with and talk to, are continually grappling with how to solve this issue and go from having compulsory diaries to not having them for a year or so only to often reintroduce them again the following year.

In the workshops I conduct for Year 6 students I speak about the importance of using a diary and teach them the basics of howGoogle Calendar image for Why students should use a planner/diary/App to use it. From this stage on it is important they get used to using something to manage their time so that by the time they enter the senior years this becomes a daily habit. Recently I had one child explain to me how he uses a simple notebook to manage his time and he was asking if this was okay. Naturally I said yes if it is working for him and it doesn’t matter what students actually usually it’s just important they find the right tool or solution that suits their needs. This can be a simple notebook, a diary, a planner, a wall calendar, an electronic diary like google calendar, or one of the many Apps available such as My Homework. 

Usually I recommend that students use a paper dairy initially to get used to using it and often the act of writing also assists to commit tasks to the brain. Once they get the hang of it then I usually say just find the right tool that works for them.

To manage ones time, students actually need to ‘see time’ or in other words make time visual. Usually for a planner or diary it is important to have a week to a page so students can see ahead of time. There is nothing worse than using a day to a page diary and flipping the page only to see something is due the next day that they haven’t even started. As many parents would know students often live in the ‘now’ and not the ‘not now’ so the more they can see ahead of time the better.

Another useful tool can be to print off a monthly calendar on A3 paper and stick this on the wall.  I usually suggest to students who are keen to do this that they print the months for the term or semester at a time.  Here is one link to free printables though there are plenty of others available online.

If you have any further questions about what your child should use or how to get them to use it then please get in touch.

Do you want to live with less clutter?

Do you often find yourself thinking you would like to live with less clutter in your life?  Or maybe at the start of each new year you keep saying that is something you would like to do this year?  Have you often thought about what it would be like to live with less clutter?

If this sounds like you then let me help you to take the first steps in making this a reality.  Unfortunately I can’t just wave a magic wand and make this happen and it will require you to take some action yourself.

image that says start 2018 and live with less clutterA simple way to start this process is to undertake a quick declutter challenge.  Do you think you are ready to do this?  If so lets go!

The first step is to grab a box or a bag and start walking through your house – usually a good place to start is in your main living areas but this is not essential.  If you have a particular space that is particularly bothering you then you might like to start there first ie an office, bedroom or spare room even.

Start by putting things in your box/bag that you no longer need, love or want in your life.

If you are like me, another thing that can assist with the process, is to identify a number of items that you plan to collect ie 10 or 20 and make a start to collect that number of items.  Naturally, you can add more or even have less, and remember that the number of items you end up collecting will be different for everyone.  There is no hard and fast rule – it really is up to you!

Here are some ideas on the sort of items you might like to look for to get you started.

Info graphic on things to consider getting rid of around your home

Now that you have walked around your house and put items in your box/bag, the next step is to work out what you are going to do with the items ie donate, throw out, return to their owner etc.  Once you have worked this out it is time to take action and schedule time to do it!

The final step in the basic declutter challenge is to enjoy living with a bit less.  If you feel so inclined feel free to continue and collect more today or another day as well.  If you are content with what you have done then that too is okay!

For those of you who might like to take this challenge a bit further here is a link to another BLOG Decluttering – how do you know where to start?

As noted in the graphic above if you are keen for a bigger challenge then here is the link to cleaning out your junk drawer – Junk Drawer organisation in 5 easy steps

Good luck and if you have any questions along the way please don’t hesitate to
get in touch.

If you have time I would also love to hear how you go and how it is to live with less clutter in your life!

Preparing for time away – 12 tips to help you get away with your family!

It is now over 3 years ago since my family – husband and 2 boys, who were both in primary school at the time, embarked on an overseas holiday for nearly 2 months.  Naturally we had to be super organised before we left but it meant we were able to have one of those holidays of a life time that we all still talk about today.  We have so many wonderful memories and don’t recall anything we could have done better in terms of our preparation prior to going away.

travel map - planning a holidayPreparation is the key to travel at the best of times let alone when travelling with children whatever their ages.  The more planning and effort you put in before you travel the easier it will be.  Naturally unexpected things happen like my son having his appendix out 3 days before they were due to meet me in the US but we just had to deal with that at the time and have to deal with things as they arise sometimes.  I put a lot of that down to the fact we had put the time and effort into planning before we left.

When the time comes for you to think about your next holiday I hope that this article will help make the process and planning easier for you.

Here are my top 12 tips or things to consider:

  1. Before you travel – it is a good idea to consider your destination and ask yourself the following types of questions:
    • What visa requirements do you need and how far in advance do you need to apply for them?
    • Are all your passports up to date and have enough travel time on them as well?
    • Will you require any vaccinations before you travel?
    • What are the basic costs of living where you are going and will that fit within your travel budget?
    • Do you need foreign currency, extra cash or credit cards?
    • Do you require travel or health insurance?
  2. Bill payment – it’s a good idea to pay off your bills before you leave or set up automatic payment so you don’t have to worry about being charged for any late fees.
  3. Mail work out what suits you best with this – either redirect it to the post office or get a neighbour to collect and hold it for you.  It’s a good idea to ensure junk mail is collected as well as otherwise it is a sure sign you are away!
  4. Pets – we have a dog so it was important for us to plan her care whilst we are away and not forget her regular monthly worming either. Either arrange someone to look after the pets at your home or arrange for alternative caring arrangements.
  5. Documents – if you are travelling overseas it is useful to make sure you have copies of any important documents ie passport, credit cards in case they are stolen or lost.  You can take paper copies (but keep separate from the originals) or better still just email them to yourself which is what we did.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry but it did create peace of mind.  My other tip here is to ensure you leave contact numbers for you with neighbours or family should something happen back at home and they need to get in touch.
  6. Packing – it’s a good idea to put together a list at least a few weeks before you leave to ensure you have time to purchase any items you don’t have but need.    
This list doesn’t have to be right down to the number of undies you’ll need, but in general, think about the climate you’ll be traveling to and the types of activities you’ll be doing. Make sure you include things like prescriptions, chargers, emergency phone numbers.  With all your chargers, cords and cables also keep these, in one spot as it is much easier to always know where they are than searching for them.You also need to think about what bags to take and how to pack.  We were on the move quite a bit and I was so glad we had decided to use packing cells for all our items.  This made it much easier to pack up and move each time without having to refold and put items into our suitcases or bags.  A great time saver and made looking for things much easier too.Another tip when it comes to packing is to put all of it together in one place and then cull some of it.  You need to really ask yourself – do you really need all that?  Often at this stage it is things like that extra pair of jeans, the fifth dress, the 7th t-shirt or that extra pair of shoes.   As we usually do when we go on holidays we end up wearing the same favourite outfits over and over again so you really probably don’t need that extra stuff which you only end up carrying around.
  7. Traveling with younger children – it is a good idea to think about what you might need for the plane or other trips to care for them as well as entertain them. Do you still need to be carrying nappies & wipes, spare changes of clothes or undies, or food/snack items? Think about the age of your children and what you might need to pack to entertain them – games, new toy, colouring books & pencils, activities or download age appropriate movies.
  8. At home – it’s always a good idea to ensure you have emptied the rubbish and arranged for the bins to be put out (neighbours are usually happy to assist with this).  Other tips are to empty your fridge of perishable food items and to give it a quick clean too.  It’s much easier when it is nearly empty.  The other tip I like is to change your sheets as there is nothing nicer than arriving home to a clean bed.
  9. Calendar – make sure you review your diary and schedule any events or appointments you might miss whilst away.
  1. Estate plans/wills – I know this is something we usually don’t want to think about but is an essential part of life.  Naturally we all hope nothing happens but it’s life and you need to be prepared for all possible situations.
  2. Work – we often run ourselves into the ground before we go on holidays to ensure everything gets done or is handed over to others to action whilst we are away. Rather than focus on getting everything done on the last day why not also use some time to get things organised for your return to work.  Consider how you will handle the following:
  • How much time will you need to process email and other communications? Put that time in your diary now.
  • Who do you need to meet with when you return to get a handle on your work or projects you are involved in? Schedule these meetings before you leave.By spending an hour or two preparing for when you get back you can truly go and enjoy your holiday without having to start thinking about all of this in your last few days before you return.
  1. Unpack – I know when you arrive home often the last thing you feel like is unpacking but my advice is to do it straight away then it’s done and not hanging over you. You will thank me as to the sake of a short amount of time you have dealt with rather than having it drag on and the longer you leave it the less likely you want to do it too!

By putting in the planning and organisation either upfront or ahead of time, it will assist you to take care of everything, so you can go and enjoy your holiday and time away!

For further assistance in getting organised please get in touch.

 

Why making time visible for students is so important

Making time visible for students is so important for their success at school and into the future.  For most students having time visible can make them feel less anxious, take away the worry about making sure they remember to complete everything and ensure they hand their work in on time.

Students often think that they don’t have much to do and that they can remember it all in their heads.  Yes this can be true for some but invariably they don’t have all their tasks as clearly in their head as they think they do.

Most students also live in the “now” and homework/assignments are seen as a future thing (“the not now“) that needs to be Image of a brain done.  The areas of the brain that are responsible for time management are not often developed fully in students until their mid 20’s.  Unfortunately this means that many students don’t often utilise their time very well and it is not until the last minute, sometimes a few days before or the day before, when they realise they actually have work to do and hand in.  When this happens it is often rushed and not necessarily their best work either.

I have come across this issue nearly everyday in the past few years when working with students and from discussions with parents.  Believe me it can take some convincing to get students to use planners, diaries, Apps, a notebook or even a simple weekly study chart but for those that do the difference is amazing.

It really doesn’t matter what a student chooses to use in order to make time visible – it is the fact that they make time visible that is important.  When a student actually uses a planner to plan out homework, an assignment or study/revision then they actually make the time visible to them.  This is much better to assist them than their heads and gives a clear indication of how much time is or isn’t available to complete a required task.

A student should map everything out – activities, homework due, finding the time to complete the work, time for study/revision (but more detailed than just using these words), their chores they need to complete.  When a student does this they usually feel much better, less overwhelmed and it reduces the chance of anxiety or stress taking over.  The struggle to remember anymore is also removed and if they see what they need to do the chances are they are more likely to do it as well.

Seeing and tracking time really help students and for many it is an important skill that will assist them to succeed at both school and in life.

Why not speak to them and see if they will give it a go – what have you got to lose!

If you are a student or you have a child that struggles with this please do get in touch to find out more about how I can support you or them.

For more information on the importance of time management and what it is click here.

8 tips to Meal Planning

Meal planning is something I have done for as long as I can remember.  Personally I find it an easy process to undertake but for some I can understand the thought of having to come up with solutions for dinner every night as well as then finding the time to cook it can be a daunting task.

Benefits of meal planningthe words plan

Meal planning requires an investment of a little time but can ultimately help in the following ways:

  • Save time – it can stop many unnecessary trips to the shops and also ends those times where you get home from work and then wonder what you will do for dinner.
  • Save money – with meal planning you tend not to impulse buy or waste as much food.  I am sure we have all had times where we have been to the store and purchased something only to return home and find the same item already in our pantry!  You only buy what you need for the week ahead if you are following a weekly meal plan.  You might also like to plan your meals around weekly supermarket specials and that too will save you dollars.
  • Save ones sanity – knowing that you have already determined what you are going to cook can make it easier after a long day.
  • Improve nutrition – a good meal plan can help to create a structure that encourages healthy eating.  It means cooking when you have time so that even on those busy days, you have a healthy and homemade meal to serve.

8 tips to assist you to meal plan

Please don’t think this needs to be complicated, as it doesn’t!  I personally use a scrap piece of paper for mine every week but there are many templates online these days or you can even use Apps to help!

  1. Commit a time to meal plan every week – You don’t need to set aside hours to do this.  For instance I usually do mine on a Thursday evening and grab about 10-15 minutes when I can.  In my house I plan the meals from Friday to Thursday as I do my grocery shopping early every Friday morning.  You need to work out when it will suit you to not only plan but also when you will do your grocery shopping.Once you have an idea then you need to get into the habit of sticking to that, as it will make it easier in the long run.  If you find it still a bit hard to do this yourself then get your family involved and seek their input for the food they’d like to see on the weekly menu.image of days of the week and sausages
  2. Assess what is on for the week ahead– You need a bit of a plan of attack First consult your diary and ask yourself the following questions:
    • What nights call for a quick and easy dinner?
    • What nights require meals to be served at different times due to activities finishing?
    • What nights is everyone home together for a meal?
    • Which days can you do the kind of cooking that you’d most like to do?You need to work out what works best in line with your families schedule and then you can make a meal plan for the week ahead.
  3. What sort of meals?When starting out it is a good idea not to let yourself get overwhelmed by trying to plan too many meals at once—instead start with 5 or 6 meals giving yourself one or two nights for leftovers or even takeaway.  Work around everyone’s schedules and think of the type of meals that will work with the time you have available.
    Sometimes it helps to make a list of the meals your family likes and which ones are for different nights i.e. our quick and easy meals for nights when we have activities are usually pasta, tacos, chilli con-carne or leftovers from the freezer.  On the weekends when I have more spare time I usually cook meals that require more focus, time and energy.Every now and again when I lack inspiration I pull out the cook books and get a few different ideas for the following week just so that you don’t find all you do are the same meals week after week.Make a list of say 10 favourite meals for your family and rotate them in the first few weeks. When you’re ready, begin adding new recipes or tweak your menu to keep things fresh.
  4. Set nights for designated meals – Pick one night a week to have a particular meal, such as Friday night have homemade pizza (that’s what we do in our house).  You could also have a night of the week that you go out or buy takeaway.  Having this can simplify both your menu and grocery list.
  5. Meal planning/what to buy – Once you settle on the meals you want to serve for the week make a list of them.  I know some families like to put this meal plan on their fridge for all the family to see.  Sometimes this can help if you are running late then other family members might be able to make a start for you.

    Next it is time to go shopping at home.  By this I mean shop in your pantry, fridge and freezer to see what ingredients you already have on hand.  Add the remaining items you need for those meals to your grocery list.

    It is a good idea to keep your grocery list in an easy-to-find location – on the fridge or in your phone.  This way when you run out of something during the week too you can add it to the list so that you are not trying to have to work out everything you need just before you go to the supermarket.

    Some people like to have a list of all the staple items they usually buy every week and then add remaining items to that.  Others like to arrange their items in sections and according to the layout of the super market to make it easier when they shop.  I must admit I usually put all dairy items in one place on my list and then say toiletries in another rather than have items mixed up.

    As I mentioned earlier there are many free shopping list or grocery list templates available on the internet if you need them as well as Apps such as MealBoard, Pepperplate and Plan to Eat to name a few that can assist with your meal planning.  Do a quick search to see if any might help you.

  6. Cook in bulk and make extra meals – sometimes when you are are cooking particular meals i.e. pasta sauce it can be useful to make an extra batch that you can put in the freezer for a ready made meal on another night.  Keep this in mind when you are making these types of meals that are easily freezable as it too can help you out!Some families I know find it easy to even do a bit of extra cooking on the weekend to make it easier during the week by cooking up several meals in preparation for the week ahead.
  7. Don’t be afraid to alter the plan– Remember it is a plan so if you have set out to have certain meals on particular nights it won’t matter if you alter them around because you already have the ingredients for the week so there is no issue.  This also helps when any last minute plans that sometimes pop up.Just because you have a menu planned for the week does not mean that it is set in stone. I recommend that you are flexible enough to make changes as the week goes on.
  8. Keeping the momentum going– Like any changes we make we often we start off raring to go only to soon no longer continue with our efforts.

Make a commitment to meal planning now and it will be worth it!

I am always interested to hear how you go with my tips or any other suggestions you have on this topic – please get in touch – amanda@organisingyou.com.au

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.