- Create a list of all the tasks you want/need to remember. Often our brain will wake us up in the middle of the night because it doesn’t want us to forget something. Often, we think we will remember in the morning, but we don’t. List everything you can think of. Yes, I know it can be overwhelming, but your brain is trying to hold onto all of it anyway so, why not help it. This is commonly called a “brain dump.” Don’t let the undone to do’s keep you up.
- Put everything on it, even that project you “hope” to get to someday but make sure that it is in the form of the smallest action you can take. Redo the dining room is too big of a project, so you should write down the steps that are involved. (Helpful apps: color note, Evernote, Trello, todoist, etc.)
- Write down any deadlines or due dates and be sure to highlight those things that need to be done in the current month.
- Estimate how long those things will take – be realistic.
- Pick the three top things you want or must do tomorrow
- Now either add them into your calendar or set aside a “block” of time (preferably each day) that you will tackle those tasks.
- Create a planning habit where you look ahead at your week, add in any appointments and then pick 3 tasks off of this master list. Don’t cross them off your master to do list unless you ACTUALLY complete them. Don’t add more than 3. When you do complete them you can go for more but 3 is a successful day.
- Celebrate your successes. Remember you will always have a list – just make sure it has what is important to you. Life will get in the way….so start each day fresh and don’t carry things over from the previous day unless you really have to.
- Pick the important things to do and not the “easy” things if you want to really work your plan and not just engage in “Procrastivity”.
Summer’s here and the learning never stops! Sure no one wants to even think about school during July and August. I understand that. But if your son or daughter struggles in school with organization, planning or focusing long enough to get through homework, then you might want to build some of their executive function skills this summer while having some fun. Below are three executive function skills with some activities you can do to strengthen them. Once you start to see your child/teen improving you’ll want to be sure they “transfer” their learning to school and their life by asking questions such as: “How might a stronger memory help in school?” or “What a fun day. Your plan was organized and we had everything we needed. Can you think of any other ways that great planning might be helpful?” Don’t forget to mention whenever you use planning, or working memory strategies so that your son or daughter sees that those skills are used every day.
According to Bloom’s new hierarchy of skills the first step is the ability to remember. Working memory has been defined as being able to hold onto information long enough to use and/or manipulate it. For example, understanding the rules of a new game and being able to play it while keeping track of other players’ moves uses the working memory.
Here are some ideas to increase working memory skills during the summer:
- Write it down! Use a planner, smartphone app (Google Calendar, Color note, Evernote, Remember the Milk, Hiveminder, etc.), or notepad to keep track of events, vacation, etc. so you don’t overburden your working memory.
- Practice setting reminders in your phone for fun things because the summer is less structured.
- Play the “I went to Grandma’s house and I brought my….” game that uses all the letters of the alphabet. Each person must repeat what was said before. I went to Grandma’s house and I brought my apple, blanket, cow, daffodil, etc.
- Memorize license plates and repeat them backwards
- Hold a family competition to name the 50 states, presidents or capitals.
- Play card games or Memory type game
- Bake cookies and keep two ingredients in your memory before looking again at the recipe.
Planning skills include the ability to organize your thoughts in a logical manner to accomplish a goal. It requires sequencing and figuring out the individual steps needed to get to completion. Students that struggle with story or essay writing, long term projects or even getting all their homework done may have a weak “planning” skill.
Here are some ideas to build “planning” during the summer:
- As mentioned above, have your child/teen plan out their summer reading and math packet time on a calendar.
- Plan a day trip and include all necessary details. Walk through it to check that everything important is included. Don’t forget museums, historic places, and parks.
- Cook like they do on TV. Get out the ingredients and measure them all out first before beginning. Pick a new recipe and plan the shopping list and determine the cost before going.
- Geocaching – pick where you want to go, what you need to bring with you, etc.
- Pack for a day at the beach or camp – check before leaving that everything is included. Start with the end in mind.
- Puzzles and brain teasers are fun. For the young ones “find the differences” activities involve creating a plan of where to look in an organized manner that you’ll need to show them. How will they put together a puzzle that doesn’t have any straight edges?
- Discuss their video game strategies with them. Have them explain their approach. Better yet, play with them and discuss as you go.
- Plan a scavenger hunt
- Build a bird house or race car (Lowe’s sells kits for kids)
Time management starts by developing time awareness. Here are a few suggestions for activities that will get the family going and develop an understanding of time:
- Time activities like emptying the dishwasher, setting the table, feeding the dog, reading 10 pages, etc. after your child/teen has estimated how long it will take.
- Create an obstacle course and post the times to beat (give younger kids a few minute cushion).
- Hold the family “Olympic games” and have everyone compete against themselves over the course of a few weeks.
- How many baskets/goals can they get in one minute? Jump rope for one minute.
- Start a monopoly game or “Life” and play for an hour each night until someone wins.
There once was a Mama Bear who felt like she was part “day planner.” Every day she would go through the calendar and the to do list. She would gently remind the little bears what activities they had or what they needed to “get done” and also prompt the papa bear of what he needed to remember too. Often the Mama Bear would mention a task or problem that needed fixing, and unless it was urgent, or papa bear had free time at that moment….it often went undone. This continued for years until the Mama Bear realized she was doing all the remembering and everyone was depending on her to think for them and still things were not getting done.
So, Mama Bear, being the “organized” one decided to teach the big bear and the little bears how to keep track of things with a master to do list. Here’s what I learned from her:
- Create a list of all the tasks you want to remember. Often our brain will wake us up in the middle of the night because it does not want us to forget something. This is commonly called a “brain dump.” Don’t let your to do’s keep you up.
- Put everything on it, even that project you “hope” to get to someday but make sure that it is in the form of the smallest action you can take. Redo the dining room is too big of a project, so you should write down the steps that are involved. (Helpful apps: color note, Evernote, Hiveminder, etc.)
- Don’t get alarmed! All this stuff was floating around in your head anyway and probably draining your energy. You should feel relieved that nothing has “fallen through the cracks.”
- Decide what needs to be done and/or what you would like to get done this week or this month.
- Estimate how long those things will take – be realistic.
- Pick the three top things you want or must do (given the amount of time you have in your day)
- Now either add them into specific dates on your calendar or set aside a “block” of time (preferably each week) that you will tackle tasks on this list.
- Each week as you are planning pick the tasks off of the master list to add to your week or your time slot. Don’t cross them off your master to do list unless you ACTUALLY complete them.
- Celebrate your successes. Remember you will always have a list – just make sure it has what is important to you. Life will get in the way….so start each day fresh and don’t carry things over from the previous day unless you really want to.
Papa Bear now has his own master list, and he and Mama Bear discuss the upcoming week (and the to dos) each Sunday over breakfast. And that makes Mama Bear happy!
As we say goodbye to another year (I know I can’t believe it either) and welcome 2014, it is time to think about the past for just a few minutes. If you’re like me you might be wondering where 2013 went. I seem to be missing a few weeks somewhere, how about you?
Well, take a few moments and look through the year’s planner pages or calendar (whatever you are using) to recall how you chose to spend it. I call this my “good, bad and ugly” memory trip through the year. Make three columns (or lists)on a sheet of paper and as you go through the months write down the things you want to remember under each of those categories.
- Husband loves new job
- Son got married
- Vacation postponed
- Gained 7 pounds
- Broke promises to myself
- Three unfinished projects calling – no screaming at me
You get the idea. Take a few minutes now and make your list. Now you can focus on reducing the “bad” and the “ugly” and increasing the “good” in 2014. What will that take? Let me know in the comments below please.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014!