How to Help your High School Student Be More Organized

time management high schoolIs your high school student going back to school this month? Or maybe you’re a high school teacher struggling to help your disorganized student? Starting the year off organized is a great way to ensure your students will have good time management skills for the rest of the semester. It’s not easy but it can be done! Try these three tips to help get the year started right.

 1. Let them choose a calendar

If your high school student’s backpack looks like a tornado just went through it, you’re not alone. But, you also probably know that telling them to “get organized” will go in one ear and out the other. Students need two things to be organized: 1. Some kind of list (for daily to-dos) and 2. Some kind of calendar (for weekly and long-term deadlines.) Let them pick what that list and calendar looks like. Remember, it might be different than what you use! If you’re glued to your iCal, your student might prefer a paper calendar. It doesn’t matter how they organize their deadlines, as long as it works for them!

2. Procrastination Prediction

Chances are, your high school student probably procrastinates from time to time (and I bet you do occasionally also!) Ask your students to guess which types of assignments and tasks they are most likely to put off during the year. Then ask why. Maybe your student is feeling some anxiety about a certain class, and it’s easier to address that anxiety in the beginning of the school year than right before a big test.

3. Identify Time Killers…together!

Time Killers are those little things that waste our time without our permission. You may feel like you’re constantly telling your teen to get off the cell phone so they can focus on their work. Social media apps are a common Time Killer,  and they don’t just affect high school students! Start by identifying your Time Killers and explaining to your student how you plan to remove these distractions while you’re working. Then ask them to identify their worst Time Killer and how they can stop it from affecting their work.

4. Resources

Need more help? Enroll your student in this 1-hour online time management class for some practical tips. 5 star reviews, written by a college professor.

Time Management for College Survival…or just get the book on Amazon today! Time Management for College Student Survival

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

My 3 College Time Management Regrets

Time management for college studentsOver the next few weeks, thousands of young adults will embark on one of the most difficult time management challenges of their lives thus far…college. When adults look back on their college experiences, we tend to remember all of the fun, crazy times instead of how insanely difficult it was to adjust to being completely in control of our own schedule for the first time in our lives. It’s difficult. Looking back, I wish I’d realized three things sooner. Please do your favorite college student a favor and share this advice!

1. Remember you’re there to learn, not to get a grade

I didn’t figure this out until my third year of undergrad. My first year, I was focused on figuring out the least possible work I could do to get the best possible grade. I thought I was being efficient with my time…but I wasn’t retaining much information. When I stopped working for a grade and instead focused on learning, my studying time actually decreased. I found myself paying closer attention in class, so reviewing for tests was much easier and faster.

2. Give up on group studying

Study groups weren’t a good use of my time…but I continued to spend hours studying this way because that’s what everyone else was doing. If studying in a group works for you, great! Do that! But if it doesn’t, don’t feel that you need to say “Yes” to every study invitation just to be polite. Protect your time, study in a way that works for you, and then use the non-study time for socializing.

3. Try something different

If I regret one thing in college, it’s the fact that I didn’t sign up for the Ultimate Frisbee team. That might sound like a silly thing to regret, but it’s the only time I even remotely considered being involved in some sort of athletic team. Back then, I thought I “didn’t have time,” but now, I really don’t have time and I wish I had taken the opportunity to try something different when I had the chance. There are hundreds of ways to be involved in college, and nobody has time to try everything, but picking one thing to try that’s outside of your comfort zone is worthy of your time investment.

The perfect back-to-school gift! Order your copy of The Time Diet: Time Management for College Survival on Amazon today and see why it gets 5 stars

Time Management Book for Students

Time Management Book for Students

Or, enroll in this 1-hour online crash course of practical time management skills
Time Management for College Survival

Fear of a Blank Page: Conquering Writer’s Block

Scorpions, heights, blank Microsoft Word screens. Those three things terrify me about equally as much.

We’ve all suffered from writer’s block at some point or another. Whether it is a paper for a class, a report for a boss, or an awkward email, we’ve all suffered the frustration of wasting time while struggling to find the right words. Writer’s block happens to the best of us, but it doesn’t have to stretch on indefinitely. The following strategies can help lessen the time spent staring at that blinking cursor.

1. Speak It

If you can’t find the perfect way to write something, say it out loud. Don’t think about it in advance, just start talking. Then, write down what you said, even if it was rambling and included a lot of “sortas” and “likes.” Once you see the basic structure of the point you’re trying to make, it’s easier to adjust your words to be more coherent.

2. Start in the Middle

Sometimes the first sentence is the most difficult to write. Don’t let crafting your introductory words hold up your whole composition. Just write them last. There is no rule that states you must write your words in the order they will appear. Come back to the beginning later. Often, the beginning is easier to write once you’ve finished your thoughts anyway.

3. Do Something Else

If your ideas just aren’t flowing, sometimes it’s best to step away from the project for a while and complete another task. Our best ideas often come to us while our minds are busy doing something else. Just don’t put off the task too long. You can spend a lifetime waiting for the “perfect” set of words to come to you.

Formulating complex ideas into clear, concise sentences isn’t always easy, but the more you practice, the less of a drain writer’s block will be on your time management.

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Mind The Gap

When we take a look at our workday, it may seem as though our schedules are packed full. However, if we look closely, there are hidden pockets of untapped time that we let go to waste every day.

These unused moments are hiding in the gaps between our scheduled events. For example, if you have a conference call that ends at 11:30 and a lunch meeting that starts at noon. Or a 20-30 minute break between two classes. Our natural inclination is to look at that gap of time and think to ourselves, “That is too short to get anything major accomplished.”

Instead, we fritter away the time trying to tie up a few loose ends here and there. We may check our email, browse the internet, or make a phone call. We may be busy, but we are really just filling the time before our next big obligation begins and not being terribly productive.

How to Make Use of The Gap

1. Start a Big Task

The longer we put off big Meat tasks in our Time Diet, the more we build these tasks up in our head to take a long time. Pretty soon, we find ourselves saying, “I can’t possibly start that now. I’m going to need the whole afternoon!” Don’t think that you have to complete the whole task in one sitting. The next time you have a small chunk of available time, start a piece of a big Meat task! Even if you only have 20 minutes to devote to the cause, getting a jump start makes the task easier to come back to later.

2. Consult Your List

Keeping a written list of your goals for the day makes filling the gaps in your schedule much easier. If you find yourself with some unexpected down time, immediately consult the list. Transition times from one task to the next are when Time Killers are most likely to steal our attention. Don’t give yourself the opportunity to become distracted and get lost scrolling through Facebook or your inbox for 30 minutes without realizing it. Move swiftly to the next task on your list before your Time Killers have the opportunity to distract you.

3. Take a Break

Filling the gaps in your day doesn’t mean you have to work for every spare minute. If you find yourself with an extra 15-30 minutes between tasks, rather than trying to fill that time with busy work, take a purposeful break! Step outside and get some fresh air. Call a friend or family member to brighten your day. Our lives are so hectic and busy, that it’s easy to say we don’t have time for these Desserts in our Time Diet. Making use of the gaps in your day can help you find time you didn’t realize you had.

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3 Tips to Work Productively From Home

Working from home initially sounds like a great plan. It provides for a flexible schedule, you save on gas money, and have more space to spread out. However, working from home can quickly turn into a time management disaster without strict discipline and planning. I’ve found  three tips that have saved my productivity from a rapid downward spiral.

This summer, I’m working from home. I have multiple book projects to put together, papers to write, and workshops to design. The prospect of having all summer to do this sounded great, until I remembered how incredibly distracting and difficult it can be to work at home. Everyone from college students to business professionals can surely relate. Here are three tips to keep your time management under control.

1) Don’t forget to have a weekend

When you work from home, there is no physical separation from your workspace and your “play” space. If you don’t give yourself defined work hours, you’ll end up melding your work time into your personal life and become frustrated and burned out. Don’t forget to give yourself a “Saturday” (even if you decide to take it mid-week.)

 2) Ignore your phone sometimes

Just because your cell phone rings, that doesn’t mean you have to answer it if you’re in the middle of something. When you’re at home, and have no boss looking over your shoulder, it’s easy to let little things distract you. While working at home, you must guard against Time Killers more than ever. If you catch yourself allowing something to distract you without your permission, stop. Ask yourself, “Would I be doing this right now if I were in an office?” Just because you have the ability to chat on your cell phone, surf the web, text a friend, or even wash the dishes in the sink, doesn’t mean you should. Save those things for non-work time.

 3) Leave the house

Ultimately, we go stir crazy if we try to spend all day in the house. We can’t take for granted that time spent with our colleagues provides much-needed enjoyment and social interaction. When we work from home, we have to replicate that by getting out of the house once in a while. Go work in a library, coffee shop, park, etc…Anywhere to be around other people and get out of your home office. Seek out others in your profession to brainstorm and collaborate. It will make you more productive and save your sanity.

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The 26-Hour Workday

When we are faced with a mountain of work, we frequently long for more hours in the day. “If I only had more time!” we cry in despair. We assume that if we simply had more time available to us, it would be far easier to accomplish all of our necessary tasks. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.

For the last few weeks of the school year, I was counting down the hours until summer. I had so many projects I wanted to start and was thrilled I would soon have 6-8 hours a day to devote to the cause. However, summer is now here, and while I have crossed many things off my to-do list, I can’t say as I’ve been the productivity machine I thought I’d be. I have more time available now, and yet I seem to be accomplishing roughly the same amount each day that I did during the last month of the school year. Why?

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” When presented with more time, it is easier to allow our current work to expand than to actually utilize our extra hours to get more done. Having more time in your schedule only actually helps if you’re able to focus and use that time effectively.

After analyzing my schedule, here are three things I’m going to do to better utilize my summer time:

1) Get up earlier

During the school year, I get up at 5:00am. In the summer, since I have a more flexible schedule, I’ve been getting up at 8:00am. Not only that, but I take twice as long to get ready in the morning since I’m not strictly watching the clock. This all adds up to losing about 4 hours of my precious, energetic morning time that I could spend doing something meaningful; like getting in the workout I swear I “never have time for.”

2) Shrink my to-do list

In anticipation of my summer schedule, I added many more items to my to-do list that I never found time for during the year. However, I didn’t stop to think if those extra items were necessary. I found myself trying to move in ten different directions at once, and then wondering why I was losing my focus. Instead of adding tasks to my to-do list, I should have been looking for ways to add more time to the items already on it!

3) Focus

One of the benefits of my hectic schedule during the school year is that I didn’t have much time for distractions. Now, with a little more time, I find myself out of practice with fending off Time Killers. I have to retrain myself to stop checking my email constantly and picking up the phone every time it rings, even if I’m in the middle of something.

More time doesn’t always mean more accomplishments. Make sure you have a clear focus and aren’t wasting your time with unessential or unimportant tasks before trying to add more hours to your workday.

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Photo Credit: Graur Codrin

Time Management is Like a Rubber Band

This week, it occurred to me that time management is similar to a rubber band. No, not because it makes a cool sound when you pluck it, or because it is fun to flick at other people. Check out what this lowly office supply can teach us about effective time management.

Three Ways Time Management is Like a Rubber Band

1) It holds everything together

Just like you can wrap a giant rubber band around a pile of papers to keep them all in place, time management is the thing that holds all of the different pieces of your life together. There is more to time management than just deciding what to do when. It’s about staying motivated to take care of your priorities in an efficient and organized fashion. This is why your productivity plan can’t stop after writing a date down in a calendar.

2) It must be flexible

A rubber band can stretch to fit even the most oddly shaped object, just like your time management plan must adapt to the hiccups that come up in your day. This is why scripting your day down to the second is unreasonable. Things are bound to go wrong and if you plan for that in advance, it’s much easier to bounce back and change your approach. Start tasks earlier than you think you need to so they have less of a chance of catching you off guard.

3) It can hold up to stress, but not too much

A rubber band can hold up to a lot of pulling and tugging, but if you pull it too hard it will eventually break. The same is true for your stress level. As you’re managing your time, you will inevitably feel stressed at some point, but you can’t let that feeling build too much. Structure small breaks and “Desserts” into your day as well as exercise and sleep to help keep stress at bay.

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The ABC’s of Time Management

I frequently hear time management advice that tells us to prioritize our days based on the “ABC” system. A’s are things we have to do, B’s are things we’d like to do and C’s are things it’d be nice to do if we had time left over. I’m sure this system works for some people. Here is why The Time Diet works better for me.

Most of my things end up being A’s! I try not to waste my time doing unessential things, so everything ends up being a “have to do.”

I could easily spend my entire day doing “have to dos” and never have time for anything else. This leaves me stressed out because all of a sudden “everything” has become a priority. It also seems like anything fun or enjoyable in your day will become a “C.” It isn’t fair to ourselves to always place our own enjoyment as a last priority. That’s how we get burned out.

I prefer to think of my day in The Time Diet food groups of Meats, Vegetables and Desserts.

Meats: Thinking-intensive things that are difficult to accomplish

Vegetables:  Less thinking-intensive things that are easier to accomplish

Desserts: Enjoyable things

When planning your day, it’s important to plan a balanced diet of tasks so you balance out your difficult work with easier and more enjoyable things.

In The Time Diet, everything you have to do is “important” otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it! By balancing your work according to difficulty, you’re less likely to become overwhelmed and more likely to finish more work than if you’d simply tried to tackle all of your deadlines at once.

Is prioritizing important? Of course it is! However, trying to prioritize without taking difficulty into account is not being fair to ourselves.

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Finishing Unwanted Tasks

This week, I had a presentation to prepare for my PhD program that definitely tested my time management. Completing this presentation was both the most important and least appealing thing on my “Choose-To List.” As you know, that is a common and dangerous situation. What do you do when the task you least want to do is the task you most need to do?

Stop Substituting

When faced with a task we don’t want to do, our first inclination is to just do something else instead. I caught myself doing that yesterday. I didn’t want to work on my presentation, so instead I did some grading, cleaned my house, worked on some different homework, and went grocery shopping. All of those things also needed to be completed, however, none were as important as my presentation. I substituted tasks I should be doing with tasks I’d rather be doing. That’s why at the end of the day, I didn’t feel as productive as I could have.

Make it Enjoyable

Sometimes we need to go out of our way to make a dreaded task more enjoyable. You all know about my love of Starbucks. I went out and bought myself a Salted Caramel Mocha Frappuccino to sip while I’m working on my presentation. Nothing seems quite as terrible when you have a delicious cup of happiness next to you!


The single best way I know to motivate myself to do something it to visualize it being completed. In this case, I visualized myself crawling into bed at night and thinking, “Wow, I don’t have to worry about the presentation anymore! It’s all finished.” It’s not going to become any more appealing to work on, so I might as well just finish it now and be done with it. Half the stress of finishing work comes from worrying about finishing it. I was going to worry about my presentation until it was done. The sooner I finish it, the sooner I can stop worrying about it and my stress level decreases.

This week, take charge of your unwanted tasks.  Visualize them being finished, do everything you can to make them more enjoyable and stop substituting them with other, less important things. Your productivity will thank you.

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Photo Credit: Naypong


Time Management Lessons from College Football

In the fall, the desire to watch college football all day long on Saturday really challenges my time management. Sitting in front of the TV, sporting my jersey and eating hot wings sounds so much more appealing than grading projects for class. However, yesterday I realized that we can actually learn a lot about time management by watching college football.

4 Time Management Lessons on the Football Field

1. Don’t Risk a “Delay of Game”
It may be tempting to wait until the last second to run a play, but if you wait too long, you’ll be charged a 5-yard “delay of game” penalty. With our work, we may have our reasons to procrastinate, but is it worth the risks if our deadline’s “play clock” runs out?

2. Play All Four Quarters
How many games have you watched where the team looks great in either the first or fourth quarter, but ends up losing because they played poorly the rest of the game? The same is true for our work. We need to spread out our energy. Push too hard in the beginning and you’ll burn out. Save it all for the end and it’ll be too little too late. Pace yourself, find your rhythm and ride that momentum in for the win.

3. You Can’t Always Wait for Perfection
If the quarterback doesn’t immediately see an open receiver, he has to quickly make the decision to either run the ball or throw it away, lest he get sacked behind the line of scrimmage waiting for the perfect pass to open up. When we are working, there comes a point when trying for perfection becomes a waste of time. If you consistently miss deadlines for your boss because you were striving for an unattainable level of perfection, you may find yourself being “sacked” as well!

4. Make Time for Motivation
Do you think football coaches spend every single second they have with their team running plays? Of course not. Coaches recognize that their players need inspiration and make team building and motivation part of the locker room experience on game day. Make time for your own motivation. Take time to connect with your “team.” It will make your work time infinitely more enjoyable and productive.

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Picture Credit: Ron Almog