There are two major reasons that we don’t get things done even when we have every intention of doing them. The first is that we are not specific enough about exactly what needs to be accomplished. We need to consider what specific actions need to be taken to meet larger goals? It may help to have your child think about and name the larger goals they are trying to accomplish before sitting down to create a to do list. Working backwards from the goal, they can list what steps need to be taken for that goal to be accomplished. The steps should be specific actionable tasks. Knowing the steps that it will take to reach a goal should guide you in creating daily to-do list items.

Set Goals

We can all remember asking, “Why am I doing this?” as a child or teenager. Focusing on personal and academic goals will help to provide the necessary motivation to get difficult tasks done. For example, if your high school student wants to go to a particular college, then they know that they will need to take the SAT. The SAT contains challenging problems on Algebra II content. So, even though they are not currently receiving a grade in Algebra II for completed assignments, they have a reason to learn the material. In addition, math is cumulative so they will need to completely understand math from this year to succeed in their math class next year. Parents can assist students by helping them to see the connections between their big goals and their day-to-day tasks. I personally think that your to do list should contain steps or daily actions towards both personal and school-related goals. For example, if a student wants to make the track team, their to do list might contain a task related to that such as a certain time spent running or exercising. Many students benefit from having their larger goals within daily view or on the same sheet as their to-do list.

Create Routines

Routines are what helps us to actually complete the necessary day-to-day tasks that move us toward accomplishing our goals. Routines can look like if/then statements. For example, “If it is Monday at 1:00, then I will work on science.”  “If it is 7:00 a.m., then I will exercise for 20 minutes.” Next week when we talk about creating a schedule, routines will be what help us to stick to the plan we have in place.

Be Clear and Specific

If a student is working on a big project or doing extended reading or studying it is very important that they are specific in their to-do list about what will be accomplished today. Before creating a to-do list, projects should be broken down into steps, each with a deadline. Reading can be broken down so that several chapters or a certain amount of pages are read at one time. Studying can be categorized by what action the student will take to study that day. For example, today I will study for my chapter 2 test in World History by doing each of the crossword puzzles that my teacher provided on Blackboard. Make sure that the task that you are including on your list is clearly defined and manageable so that it will be possible to complete.

The second reason that we don’t always accomplish what we want to accomplish is distractions. Sit with your child and consider what usually prevents them from getting things done. Brainstorm how they can eliminate or avoid distractions while they are working. Do they need to put their phone on silent and out of view? Do they need to do schoolwork first thing in the morning when they are feeling alert and motivated? Do they need to set a timer so that they do not get so caught up in making an assignment perfect that they can’t get it completed?

Create Priorities

Often there are certain tasks that are nonnegotiables. Things that must be completed that day. These one or two tasks should be at the top of your list and completed first. When you are prioritizing tasks, complete first those tasks that are both urgent and important. It is also helpful to not have too many items on your to do list. Ideally, there should be no more than 5 school related tasks per day. In addition to this, students can have several personal tasks. Often personal tasks, like keeping in contact with relatives or exercising are enjoyable and can be used to break up more tedious school-related tasks.

Manage Time

Look at the items on your list and see if it will be possible to complete them in a day. If not, add any extra items to an ongoing to do list for the week. Consider estimating the time it should take to complete each task.Then stick to that time when you are completing the task so that one task will not take over your day. 

Different Lists for Different Ages

As you may have noticed, I think that kids should make their own to-do list. This is not something that parents should do for children. When kids make the list themselves and have a voice in choosing the items on the list they learn the process for thinking through goals and coming up with actionable steps. When they are making the choices, kids tend to be more motivated to follow through. For younger elementary, pre-kindergarten students, or students with special learning needs, parents will need to sit with the child to help create a visual list. Students who can write may be able to type their own brief list. Items on the list should focus on things that kids can do independently or with limited assistance. Kids who are unable to write or who have difficulty with writing can use voice typing on Google Drive (under tools) to speak their list items aloud. Then parents and kids can work together to find pictures to go with each item as a reminder of what needs to be done. Older children in upper elementary and beyond can often create a list on their own. If they are struggling, parents can help them to look at their assignments for the week, narrow down what they will do each day, and consider other personal tasks that they may want to complete. 

Once kids have practiced and mastered creating a to-do list, they can begin thinking about when they will complete each task within their day. Next week, we will talk about using your tasks to create a schedule. We will discuss selecting a specific task to complete and scheduling a time to complete that task. We will also go through strategies to stay focused while working. I hope that you will join us for our weekly live webinar on Wednesdays at 1:30.

~Nina

Click below to watch my weekly live update:

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

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Parrish Learning Zone helped my daughter with on-line SAT and college essay preparation. She not only scored in the top 90 percentile on the SAT after working with Lauren Cannavo, she especially benefited from the tutoring she received for her admission essays. My daughter was accepted at Notre Dame, UVA, William and Mary, and received scholarships to George Washington University and the University of Alabama. She was initially deferred at the University of Chicago and waitlisted at University of Michigan and Emory University. She eventually chose not to remain on the waitlists and committed to UVA.Lauren also advised our daughter regarding her submission of a 20 page essay on community service for DECA, a high school business club. Our daughter, along with her partner, won second place in her category at the DECA state competitions in 2019 and 2020, and received second place at the DECA international competition in 2019.Lauren was not only a top-notch professional, she really cared about our daughter and was so pleased about her accomplishments. We are so very grateful to her and Parrish Learning Zone.
Marijayne Kruus
Marijayne Kruus
2020-05-11T21:51:37+0000
love the owner. love the detailed feedback. love the attentiveness of the tutor. love Parrish!!!
Jessica Bartels
Jessica Bartels
2019-02-26T22:49:55+0000
My daughter has a math learning disability and hated math. We started working with Nina Parrish and stuck with it for several months. Her grades have improved, but more importantly, so has her self confidence. She now loves going to work on math and will even work on it at home by herself. We are grateful for Parrish Learning Zone!
Laura Ivey Ellis
Laura Ivey Ellis
2018-12-14T14:36:43+0000
Mr. Chaves is an extremely gifted chemistry teacher. It's such a difficult subject--my son was drowning by the time we found PLZ. This was truly a last ditch effort on our part. Mr. Chaves was able to turn that ship around after only 4 lessons and my son passed the SOL! He was able to distill difficult concepts in a way that made them comprehensible and he was patient and kind and gave my son the confidence to succeed. His actual eacher expressed surprise and made a point of telling him he didn't know how he did it but he was impressed. It takes a gifted teacher to get results like that.I only wish we'd found PLZ and Mr. Chaves in the beginning of the school year.
Wendy Zelazny
Wendy Zelazny
2018-06-08T02:05:15+0000
Highly Recommend
Anne Kater Reeves
Anne Kater Reeves
2018-06-07T22:46:05+0000
I highly recommend Parrish Learning Zone. My daughter was able to achieve the SAT score she was aiming for with the help of her Math (Mr. James Slane) and English (Mrs. Lauren Cannavo) tutors. Not only did they help her with practice tests but they also boosted her confidence in taking the SAT. The owners (Nina and Jay) were always prompt in answering my emails. They are very accommodating and worked around my daughter’s schedule (thank you Shiela for all your help in finding available dates for my daughter to meet with her tutors). Thank you Parrish Learning Zone for helping my daughter achieve her goal!
Beth Yankovich
Beth Yankovich
2018-03-23T20:29:18+0000
I can't say enough good things about Parrish Learning Zone. My son has historically suffered from low reading comprehension. I felt he needed a little extra help so I contacted Parrish Learning Zone. The owners at Parrish matched my son with the perfect tutor for him, they developed a rapport almost immediately. He is now in 8th grade and doing well in all his classes. My son is very active in school sports and the staff at Parrish are always very accommodating. They always reschedule with no problems. My son even likes to go early to chat with Sheila.
Beth Kent
Beth Kent
2017-11-08T18:59:11+0000
Awesome! Very structured and student focused - they identified the areas of weakness and turned those into areas of strength in a very short amount of time. I loved the communication from the tutor and the company. I received a specific report of my child's tutoring session including improvements and areas that needed continued work. I received reminders of upcoming tutor sessions - which I needed!! I felt the individual attention and service was worth every penny AND found the prices to be much more reasonable that other tutors in the area. I would HIGHLY recommend Parrish Learning Zone to any parent that needs to find highly competent tutoring help for their child. Parrish is simply the best!
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
2017-03-14T15:53:50+0000
An excellent place to take your kids for any tutoring needs! PLZ is a very personalized and hands on service! Both of my teenage boys have been through here for various reasons and I know we will continue to make use of them!
Tammy Elms Mosco
Tammy Elms Mosco
2016-06-02T12:20:59+0000
Masiel Dubois
Masiel Dubois
2015-06-23T22:16:01+0000
SAT Prep Course with Parish Learning is definitely a worthwhile invest !!...My son's scores improved over 200 plus points!!
Janice Boles
Janice Boles
2014-12-02T22:34:32+0000
I am extremely thankful to Parrish Learning Zone. I have a son that is a freshman in college majoring in mechanical engineering. I am so glad that we found out about the Parrish Learning Zone because they were very caring and really worked hard around my sons high school football schedule to ensure that he received all of the needed instruction in order to do well on the SAT testing. It was a great investment for his future. I believe this experience prepared my son for the transition to college life. He was able to attend a top engineering college and to play football there. My daughter is a senior in high school now and was admitted into two of the top ranked public schools in Virginia. She will be a freshman at one of these schools next year. She also was enrolled in the Parrish Learning Zone for preparation for the SAT. I am again thankful to the Parrish Learning Zone and feel that this was a great long term investment into their futures. I would strongly recommend the Parrish Learning Zone to anyone looking for an environment that offers a caring and knowledgeable approach to educating students. They are the best.
Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson
2014-05-15T00:39:39+0000
Andrew Powers
Andrew Powers
2014-02-09T12:32:29+0000

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