Make Your Plans MEANINGFUL

Make Your Plans MEANINGFUL

Don’t JUST plan…make your plans MEANINGFUL.

Looking ahead into the new year allows us to create plans for a fresh start.

What will be different this time? How will we make those plans work? What if we need to create plans for someone else (ie. our children)?

The bottom line is these plans must have MEANING.  The tough part is making the connection between where we are at and where we want to be.

So many students, all quite capable, share that they truly believe they can get an A in a class, or improve scores in writing, or perform better across the board.  When it’s time to take action and steps towards these goals, it isn’t enough to simply break down and lay out the plan (of course, this is a key component – the more specific and realistic, the better).  Hoping for the best isn’t going to work either.  What needs to happen is that they make a true projection and connection with what it would be like should the outcome be achieved (or perhaps not be achieved).

Over the years, I have observed that those who find the most success in executing their plans are those who 1) think ahead and anticipate what the outcomes might be and HOW they will get there (what it will take), and 2) consider the cost-benefit of their choices so they can connect with what the outcome would really mean for them.

A few points to consider as you lay out your own plans:

State the desired outcome, then ask WHAT WILL IT TAKE to do this?  Then ask again, AND WHAT WILL THAT TAKE?  Be as specific and realistic as possible. Next, lay out the costs and benefits of both taking and not taking necessary steps.  Then, make notes about what you want to remember as you move along. See our examples below to help get you started!

Example ONE: 

I want to keep up on the laundry.  It will take starting a load every morning.  That will take setting a reminder or two in my phone so I do not forget to get it started, swap it out and make this a habit.  This will take less than a minute!  It will also take my asking for help from the kids to put their own clothes away, and THAT will take consistency on my part to be sure they know WHAT is expected and that they do not earn free time until certain tasks are done.  THIS will take patience on my part and attention to my tone and how I approach assigning tasks and making my “demands” of them.  The costs of NOT doing this are a LOT of added stress, not being able to find clean clothes, we are more likely to be late, and I will probably yell at the kids (and myself) because we are losing time looking for clothes.  The BENEFITS of keeping up are that I will be less stressed – having laundry set and ready makes me feel accomplished.  I will feel more relaxed and ready to start each day on a good note.  It allows me to stay calm as we go through the morning rush, and I have more time to attend to other details (lunches, teeth brushing, backpack checks, etc.).  I need to remember that music or chatting on the phone helps the laundry go by more quickly. I also need to remember that even though the pile looks overwhelming, if I start chipping away, I am usually surprised at how little time and effort it takes to fold or put away a load of clothes.  If I find ways to go through the motions more enjoyably, it’s easier to keep up, and the benefit is a tremendous amount of stress relief.

Example TWO: 
I want to get an A in math this semester.  This will take doing ALL of the homework.  THAT will take writing down the assignments in my planner DURING class and CHECKING it when I get home.  It will also take asking questions AS SOON AS I do not fully understand. This will take marking them in my notebook and making time to go in early if needed.  THIS will take setting extra alarms and making a note in my assignment notebook so I do not forget.  It will also take better study habits for quizzes and tests.  This will take time (set aside time by writing it in assignment notebook) and making a study guide for formulas, rules, examples and steps.  This will take time as well. I need to use my assignment notebook (set alarms to remind me to check it) and lay out the time to prepare.  The costs of NOT focusing on the planning and time management or taking extra time to improve study habits are that I will NOT be able to earn an A and most likely will end up with a C again.  This will make me feel stressed, badly about myself, like I want to quit, and generally crabby.  The BENEFIT of doing these few things consistently is that my grade will quickly come up or stay at an A which will make me incredibly happy and proud. It will motivate me to keep up with these habits and decrease my stress levels considerably.  It will also make me more likely to increase my GPA so I can get into more colleges of my choice.  It will feel AWESOME, and I need to remember that I know the math, but am sabotaging my efforts when I don’t take a little extra time here and there.  I also need to remember that it never takes as long as I think it will to do these steps.

As always, we have some fabulous visual tools to help support and guide you in your efforts.  Check out those products at the link above, and let us know if you have any thoughts or questions.

Happy planning!

Communication as a Cornerstone

Communication as a Cornerstone

Communication in education is one of the most important factors in a student’s progress and development. Specifically the following relationships are key: Student-teacher, student-parent AND parent-teacher. Be sure to define what the communication will look like, identify goals and decide who is responsible for initiating.  Much depends on the student’s grade level and specific needs, of course. Regardless, you may find it helpful to incorporate some of the following suggestions to increase ease of communication and boost chances for student success.

    • Keep communication clear and concrete. What is the focus? What is the goal/purpose? What specific questions do you have or direction would you like?
    • Write out a plan (before, during and after any conversations)
    • If-then’s are a great way to establish a clear process (ex: IF there is a question about a grade, THEN parents will _______, student will ______ and teacher will _________)
    • Don’t hesitate to set up appointments at times other than the allocated parent-teacher conference days, and encourage students to regularly meet with teachers as well (not just for help, but for ideas, direction and feedback)
    • Students often hesitate to approach teachers because they don’t want to bother them, aren’t sure what to say or are nervous; writing out plans and preparing can help a great deal (encourage them to bring a sticky note with or use a basic form to make notes of questions and responses during the meeting)
    • Allow students to initiate the discussion about their progress (this takes guidance and direction, but often works well and allows students a chance to identify for themselves what areas they want to focus on and generate ideas for doing so)

When students are included in the communication process, they often feel more engaged, valued and even accountable. Students thrive in environments where the expectations are made clear, they have the opportunity to question, clarify, adjust and plan, and when parents support and facilitate as the students learn to communicate important information about their work, progress and needs.  Learning strategies for communicating and developing self advocacy skills at a young age are essential, as they will need these skills on an ongoing basis both in and out of school throughout life.  As a general rule, clear communication serves as a cornerstone and is fundamental to student success.
*Be sure to follow us on social media for great FREE tools and tips (such as our Grade Analysis self check-in form and our Teacher Tips and Feedback Form)

Don’t Wait

Don’t Wait


Our Monday Motivator/Mantra this week happens to start with a negative, but is intended to elicit positive actions.

  • Don’t wait for grades to come out to find out how you are doing.
  • Don’t wait for the teacher to reach out to you (students OR parents).
  • Don’t wait until six months into the year before you take action and adjust your processes to each new teacher and class expectation.
  • Don’t wait to ask for help if you feel you need it.
  • Don’t wait for parent-teacher conferences to find out how your student is doing or to ask important questions or voice key concerns.
  • Don’t just hope for the best. Find out what it will take, and work on ways to make it happen.

The new year is well underway, and as I review the list above, I realize this could go on and on.  Also, I intended to spin each of these into a “DO”; HOWEVER, I do not believe that would allow each of us to think about what we are “waiting on” and then generate ideas and solutions so that we can TAKE ACTION, move forward and accelerate progress and results.

This week’s advice is simple.  Make the most of your time and resources during this important time of year. As you head into (or have just wrapped up) parent-teacher conferences, and as you review grades and feedback from the first quarter of the year, check out the fantastic resources we are posting all week long.   Be sure to check our Facebook and social media posts Tuesday for our FREE DOWNLOAD (a printable tool you can actually use)!

When Bad Grades Happen to Good People

When Bad Grades Happen to Good People

Bad grades. Bad grades. Whatchya gonna do? Whatchya gonna do when they come for you?… you get the drift.

Apologies for planting that theme song in your heads for the day. In all seriousness. I use the term “bad” to kick off our post today; however, what I REALLY mean is when grades received are NOT AS EXPECTED or DO NOT MATCH THE GOAL SET BY THE STUDENT.

This is the time of year when progress reports come out, enough grades are posted to give us an idea of how the year is progressing, conferences are around the corner AND the end of some 1st quarters are near.

My initial piece of advice is DO NOT CHECK GRADES. I repeat: DO NOT CHECK GRADES.

“What?” You might ask. “But you are the queen insisting on of self awareness, assessment and regulation, Lisa!”
Yes. Yes. I am. HOWEVER, that said, one of the major pitfalls I see when working with individuals is that even when (and if) they DO check their grades, that is ALL they do.

This is where things go wrong. Typically, when students skim through their grades and see either great grades or the opposite, they are led to believe either that they are doing fantastically or are not smart enough or good at that class.  Often, things are not always as they appear.

What actually needs to happen is an ANALYSIS of grades. A grade may appear superb, when really there is only one 5 point quiz or a few HW assignments posted or entered. This gives no indication as to how the student is truly performing on all assessed tasks and areas in the course. On the contrary, if a student sees a D or and F, they often assume they have failed everything. In reality, this grade could be present for a multitude of reasons… perhaps an assignment hasn’t been entered, but the placeholder grade is a “0” until the teacher enters it. Perhaps there is make up work to be turned in. It is possible that the student did fabulously on all of the work, but failed a quiz… or the reverse?

“So, what CAN we DO?”

This is where I come in. Throughout the past 13 years of working with hundreds of students and families, I have observed that students find the most success when they look at the underlying tasks and assignments (the specific composition of the grade).  THEN, as they look for patterns, trends, explanations, etc., they can use this information to brainstorm solutions and make note of items to follow up or seek teacher guidance with. Once they have found new and successful strategies, these can used to create specific class and study plans for each and every class (more on this process in a future blog).

*** Download our GRADE ANALYSIS tool here – be sure to check out the STUDENT SAMPLE for direction and guidance.

What it REALLY takes to become successful

What it REALLY takes to become successful

In over 13 years of working with students one on one, many common themes have become apparent.

The purpose of today’s blog is to share some observations about the TOP REASONS students do not meet expectations and, in turn, WHAT IT TAKES (that seems to really work) to become successful.  I have made it my mission to help students develop necessary skills in exactly these areas.  Let’s face it, the skills that are necessary for students to successfully manage and meet or exceed expectations are the ones we are talking about here.  It typically has nothing to do with intelligence or grades (although grades provide a wealth of information and can serve as a gauge – more on this another day).

Top Reasons Students Struggle or Do Not Meet Expectations:

    • Not managing time well; lack of structure
    • No plans for breaking down large amounts of work and information
    • Poor study skills/not understanding HOW to study or “work”
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Lack of prioritization; poor choices/decision making skills
    • Anxiety or social-emotional distractions or concerns
    • Not relying on resources or tools (or not following through with these)
    • Not taking responsibility/ownership; blaming others; not holding self accountable
    • Quality of work not up to par; doing work to “get it done”; doing the bare minimum

What it REALLY TAKES to become a successful student:

    • Learn to manage time – including academic and non-academic commitments
    • Have plans, structures and protocols…and follow through/use these
    • Break everything into manageable pieces
    • Learn to identify the expectation and create a plan for meeting or exceeding
    • Develop problem solving skills and the ability to make good choices
    • Explore and develop study skills, how to better process and apply information, and test taking skills
    • Anticipate and predict possible outcomes and prepare yourself
    • Become self aware; check in and assess frequently, set goals, self-advocate and adjust plans as you progress
    • Be sure plans and strategies are SPECIFIC, practical and efficient
    • Rely on outside resources (people, support tools and strategies, etc.)

For additional information about products and service offerings to help guide you in developing these important skills, visit some of our fantastic resources below.

Join me as I begin the next phase of sharing ideas, strategies and solutions via multiple avenues of social media.

      Click the links in our header or footer to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
      We will be posting A TON of effective strategies and FREE tools and ideas on a regular basis.

We don’t want you or your student to miss out.

      Our NEW and exciting post schedule is as follows:


            Mondays =

Monday Mantras and Motivators

            Tuesdays =

Free Tool Tuesday!

            Wednesdays =

Wildcard Wednesday

            Thursdays =

Food for Thought Thursday

            Fridays =

Fun Fact Friday

            Saturdays =

Study Skill Saturday





It might not sound shocking at first, but here goes… one of the MOST DANGEROUS terms in the English language is…drumroll please…


Think about it for a moment.

I should sign up for that class.
I should work out more.
You should do your homework.
We shouldn’t have spent so much.
You shouldn’t play as many video games.
should be here to help Johnny with his homework.
You should spend more time practicing.

Alas.  What to do? What to do?

To start, we can stop beating ourselves up.
Try to notice it.
Remember there is only so much we can control.
Then, replace it perhaps…

I will sign up for that class.
I work out enough. I will walk more.
Can I help you figure out a plan for your homework?
We spent a lot. It sure was fun. Next time, we will take a free day trip.
Before anyone gets video game controllers, I need to see your rooms clean and one hour of outdoor time.
My work schedule is hectic.  I will rearrange it or find a neighbor to help Johnny when I can not be home.
In order to keep taking lessons, I need to see 10 minutes of practice each day.

It’s worth a shot.  Not all of these examples may be relevant, but hoping they provide some helpful awareness and a positive spin.

Apple Watch for Executive Functioning?

Apple Watch for Executive Functioning?

We think YES!

So, I did it… I jumped on the bandwagon.  As much as I DID want to run out and purchase my very own Apple Watch the moment they were announced, I refrained (they are not inexpensive).   However, shortly after their release, and much to my delight, I received Apple Watch as a Mother’s Day gift, and what a gift it was!

Just a mere 10 days ago, my precious package arrived.

In the short time I have spent with my trusty new sidekick, I have come to realize the features which fabulously aide in managing executive function deficits and will share those with you here.  While I do not suggest you run out and drop nearly $400 (minimum) to grab one of these, it may be worth keeping on your radar.

FIVE simple ways to use Apple Watch to support Executive Functioning:

Stay on task and focused – Use Siri to create (or manually set) timers which VIBRATE on your wrist to alert you to either wrap up what you are doing, get started on the next task, check to see that you are on task and focused (or that you are zoning out and need to refocus), and more!

Time Management – Receive your calendar alerts and events right on your wrist! The watch will vibrate and alert you of scheduled events at your preset times. How often do you leave your phone on a table, in another room or buried in a coat pocket or purse?  The calendar alert feature on the phone is fantastic, but if the phone isn’t with you or is on silent, it does no good.  With the watch, you can mute the tone but still receive haptic (Apple, Inc. terminology) vibrating alerts.

Pay from your wrist – While this may seem unnecessary for some, and requires the store to be enabled to accept this form of payment, it is a fantastic option for those who forget their wallets or often find it difficult to dig them out of a pocket, backpack or purse.  Simply double tap the side button and your Apple Pay card comes up. Wave it at the register and, like magic, your purchase is made.  This is particularly helpful if you are out running or walking (a great way to improve attention and focus) and do not want to carry a phone or wallet!

Truly SEE your time – With multiple home screen options, the watch allows you  to customize the information you want to see each time you raise your wrist. I find the modular format to be of great help. The setting allowing you to see your next calendar event next to the current time helps keep you manage your time and not miss out on or arrive late to important events. You can also view (and click to access) your activity level, battery power, current weather and more straight from your home screen!

Don’t miss notifications Conveniently and (somewhat discretely) receive texts, emails and phone calls.  Your watch alerts you of these, and when you raise your wrist, it automatically opens the message or allows you to answer the call (and respond to messages). Directly from your wrist. Again, fantastic for those who tend to not want to be attached to their phones at home or at the office or find it buried from time to time.

** CAUTION The watch certainly has its drawbacks (short battery life and potential to be a constant distraction).  If used with this in mind, it has the potential to be of great support to its users.

Looking for summer support in EF as a student or parent? Be sure to check out our summer course guide released today!
Summer 2015

3 Life Changing Words

3 Life Changing Words

3 words. One phrase.
I GET​ to.  
Generally speaking, none of us want to be told what to do or how to do it (unless, of course, we ask).
I sat next to a woman during a presentation this week, and as she shared how she felt overwhelmed in life and burdened with too many have-to’s, I listened in awe and had one of the greatest “aha!” moments of my life.
Very quickly, the phrase/thought “I HAVE to” can lead to anger, frustration, resistance, anxiety, resentment (oooooh- that’s a big one), defeat, and so much more.

These are the factors which get in our way.  They affect how we focus, how we function, our relationships, our motivation and our entire way of life.

This is not to say the approach suggested here will be a fix-all – let’s be realistic; however, just making efforts to shift your thinking in specific ways can make all the difference.

Simply reminding ourselves of how fortunate we are, and that we should be grateful, and how many others have it far worse than we, is not enough to bring this principle into our reality. We know this, but it doesn’t change our day to day reactions or experiences.
Try this approach: it’s a simple challenge, really.  Each time you find yourself saying “I HAVE to,” simply swap out “HAVE” for “GET”.  Then, if you’d like, follow it up with a reason (but not mandatory). Several simple examples are listed below.

The reasons/explanations will vary from person to person AND from day to day even for you. I suggest making them as specific as possible (ie. “I am lucky I GET to have a house to clean” vs.  “I GET to clean the house which means I feel calm and peaceful when I walk into each room and can find what I need = less stress and more happiness”).

**CAUTION:  Proceed with care if you consider suggesting this approach to your child/children.  They may resist and see it as another have-to or directive.  Perhaps model by talking aloud as you try this for yourself instead?
If you are a student reading this, try it out. Tell your parents or don’t.  I know the urge to NOT give them the satisfaction of seeing you make changes or do something they would like can be tempting. 🙂  Remember, this is about you.
In most cases, we have a choice. If you find yourself not able to get past one of your “have-to” items, step back and assess.  Do YOU really have to? Can you turn this over to someone else? Is there an alternate solution? Is there an upside?
Stuck on this? Enlist help. Call a friend. Do a web search for ideas.
Happy swapping, and let us know how it works!  [email protected] OR post in comments.

I HAVE to do my homework. Nope. I GET to use this homework to help practice, know what to clarify and perform better on quizzes/tests.

I HAVE to work out.  Nope. I GET to work out. It’s my choice.  I feel better when I do. Glad I am not currently injured. I can find fun ways to change it up.

I HAVE to get up early for work or school. Nope. I GET to get up. I can walk. I feel well. I can start over today. I can be ready early and have a few minutes to relax.

I HAVE to fire someone today. Nope. I GET to help them start a new chapter.
I HAVE to make the kids’ lunches. Nope. I GET to make the kids’ lunches. Some parents work odd hours. I get to find fun snacks to surprise them. I get to make them smile. They won’t be this young for long.
I HAVE to go to work today. Nope. I GET to go to work. Some others are out of work. There are things I do enjoy about work that I can focus on.
I HAVE to lose weight.  Nope. I GET to try to lose weight. I can choose not to. I will feel better and going up the stairs, or working out will be easier once I have lost weight.
I HAVE to do the laundry. Nope. I GET to do the laundry. I can help make my family members’ lives easier by neatly folding and organizing so they can have a more efficient day. I can be sure my clothes are organized so that I get that sense of relief when things are where I need them and I am not wasting time.
I HAVE to wait in this long line to check out. Nope. I GET to stand in line and perhaps practice patience.  In this fast paced world, we can all use a little work on patience, right?

I HAVE to study. Nope. I GET to study. I have a chance to improve my grade. I can choose not to.  I’d like to do better, so I GET to study.

I HAVE to proofread things a hundred times before putting them out there. Nope. I GET to proofread as often as I’d like. I GET to send things out and work on acceptance of the fact that things won’t always be perfect.  I can let go of the fact that there will always be room for improvement and if someone judges the paper or work for a simple mistake, then I can choose to not worry about it.

I HAVE to give a presentation. Nope. I GET to give a presentation and have a chance to show what I know or help others understand or learn. I can use this for practice in my speaking skills.

I HAVE to take out the dog.  Nope. I GET to take out the dog.  This dog is so helpful and calming for our family. It’s worth the time and bundling in the cold so he gets what he needs.
I HAVE to go to the dentist.  Nope. I GET to go to the dentist, and putting up with this one hour every six months will help me get back on track.
I HAVE to “talk” with my friend, spouse, family member about an issue.  Nope. I GET to talk with them if I’d like. I can choose not to.  I can change my actions and reactions instead of letting the issue consume me.

I HAVE to prove myself and self-worth.  Nope. I GET to focus on the value I have and the value in what I bring to the table.  If others do not see this or want to engage, then I can remember that is their choice.

I HAVE to deal with that annoying behavior.  Nope. I GET to.  With the good comes the bad.  I can find creative ways to address it or choose to leave the situation. I can focus on the positive. I can find ways to manage myself so that it doesn’t affect me as much. This is a learning opportunity.

{Hopefully some of these have been helpful in getting you headed in the right direction.}

Get Our Free Student Planner

Help your student be more organized, get more done in less time, and get better grades!

Check Your Inbox Now