Category Archives: Studying Skills

Time Travel pt 2: Navigating the Now & the Later

Procrastination is a disconnect between the NOW and the LATER. Overcoming the urge to procrastinate requires reconnecting with our own future. “Time Travel” can help bridge the NOW and the LATER.

In Time Travel part 1: Ben Franklin & Managing the Now old Ben gave us some great advice on the consequences of delay.  Ben was an incredibly productive man whose pursuits and accomplishments spanned science, literature, politics, and business.  Good for him.

But how can we mortals get a little piece of Ben in our lives?

Now & Later

When Franklin tells us to do now what we would put off for later, he’s speaking to our Future Selves, the “Later” in our lives who has to take care of what our Present Selves don’t want to do in the “Now.”

Ben, therefore, is telling us to let our Future Self speak for us NOW and not LATER.

Unfortunately for us procrastinators, that conversation tends, instead, to work like this:

Present Self:  “Oh, man, I gotta get to that essay that’s due next Tuesday.”
Future Self: “Yeah you do! Let’s get it going!”

Present Self:  “Huh, what’s that noise?” 
Future Self: “It’s me, I mean, it’s you. But it’s you next Monday night cramming in that stupid essay you blew off over the weekend.”

Present Self:  “I have no idea who you are. Go away.”
Future Self: “Don’t worry about me, just worry about that essay. Could you at least get it started, just a little? That way I don’t have to do it all — again.”

Present Self:  “Yeah, yeah, whatever, gotta get to that essay. Will do! Cool, settled that.  But first things first, gotta get in that power nap I need, and, oh yeah, there’s that crazy show tonight. Awesome…!”
Future Self: “Noooooooo!”

Why do we do this to ourselves?

What Franklin doesn’t share with us is why our NOW so easily turns into LATER . He just says we’re worthless and weak if we put things off.

I love Ben, but what’s missing here is that the judgement he passes on us is part of the reason we deserve it. So often I’ve heard parents call their children “lazy” — and children frequently say it, too, “Oh, I’m just lazy.” Or,  students will say, “Heh, I work best under pressure, anyway.”

These are just rationalizations for putting things off, and the more we repeat them the more likely we are to keep using the LATER to stand in for and excuse the poor decisions in the NOW.

We do eventually get to it, just LATER at the deadline when we no longer have any choice but to finally do it.

Wouldn’t it be great, then, if we could feel that same pressure of the deadline NOW rather than LATER when we no longer have any choice — and we’re running out of time?

Navigating between the Now and the Later: Time Travel

In working with students who have time management and prioritization struggles, I have found that narrowing the distance between the NOW and the LATER can be an effective tool for engaging workflow more regularly.

We call it “Time Travel,” by which we mean seeing oneself both in the present and future tense at the same time — and as the same person.

If, for example, I’m worried about a test tomorrow, yet I know I have an essay due in three days, without that innate organizational sense of rigidly fixing my efforts on both I might focus on the one at the expense of the other. After all, I still have a few more days for the essay…

Instead, I might better equalize my worry about both by seeing them equally imperative NOW.

Otherwise I’m likely to slip into the LATER mentality and just study for the test at the expense of work I could be getting done on the essay, as well. (Of course, I could have started studying for the test yesterday, but these situations do happen.)

What’s happening is that the EXAM has a hard deadline NOW, so I get to it. Meanwhile, the two-day gap between today and the essay deadline shields me from the pressure I could otherwise feel for the paper, thus greasing my path to deferral until the night before it’s due.

Without that rigid, internal clock of Ben Franklin’s that paces things evenly, whether NOW or LATER, we have to deliberately seek out that urgency of the deadline that usually only works for us in the LATER

Somehow, if I can treat NOW and LATER as the same thing, I’d be far better at prioritizing my tasks and meeting my goals in an orderly manner..

Time Travel

It’s easy to explain Time Travel but hard to act on it. So let’s break it back down to its simplest, that conversation between NOW and LATER:

Present Self: “I just don’t feel like doing this now! I mean, it’s not due until Tuesday.”
Future Self: “Heh, this is Monday night calling. It’s 2 a.m. and this thing is killing me. Hello!

Present Self:  “Oh, heh, Monday, how are you?”
Future Self: “A little freaked out. Do me a favor, you know that assignment that’s due Tuesday? Could you at least start on it, so I don’t have to do it all myself?”

Present Self“You got it, Dude, will get going now!”
Future Self: “You’re the best, thanks so much! When you become me on Monday, you’re gonna be so glad you got it going earlier.

The idea here is to create a dialogue between who we are NOW and who we are making demands upon LATER.

If we let the LATER speak to the NOW, we have a far greater chance of getting the NOW taken care of so we don’t have to deal with it — and in a panic — LATER.

If find that Keeping an ongoing conversation with my Future Self is an incredibly powerful tool to avoid putting things off, even those things I really don’t feel like doing now. I say to myself, “Look I know it’ll be just as tedious later, so why not get it out of the way NOW?”

Good luck building a bridge between your NOW and LATER!

– Michael

Time management is Time Travel, pt 1: Ben Franklin & Managing the Now

You may delay, but time will not.

– Ben Franklin

By “time management” we usually mean prioritizing, using time effectively, getting things done instead of putting them off.  Except that we all “manage” time — it’s a matter of how well. If done properly, the rewards are large — and costly if not.

Ben Franklin put it more succinctly:

Remember that time is money.

So let’s get a new, good start on this “time management” job of ours and break into its essential parts to see how well it can pay. Continue reading

Getting Gritty: can academic “grit” be taught or is it a personality type like John Wayne?

Do we all have an inner John Wayne, or is grit unique to the gritty few?

Is grit a product of circumstance that reveals it or do we need to bring grit to the scene? I’m thinking it’s a little of both, but it’s certain that some of us are “grittier” than others, and each of us in different ways.

Academics are newly concerned with “grit,” or “resilience,” as long term success requires the ability to get past challenges and set backs.  In fact, students who overcome failure and keep steady towards a long term goal are understood to be better prepared for higher level academics and life in general than students who never faced failure at all. Continue reading

3.14: A Pi day celebration from a math idiot

Is math just for math people? Are you just not wired for math? Well, you and your math-struggling student can celebrate Pi day, too!

I was awful at math in  high school. So bad, in fact, that I  didn’t qualify to take math in college.

Felt great at the time, but looking back on it, what a shame. The only math I could do as a kid was “breaking a twenty” as a cashier at my job at the drug store. I could make change like a champ! Now, cashiers don’t even have to know any math at all, since the machine does it all for them.

So do we really need math?

Sadly, some universities think we don’t:

Wayne State drops math as general ed requirement

What a shame — and I know why they’re doing it, although they’ve got an excuse for it: Continue reading

Understanding and Overcoming Procrastination: a presentation by Michael Bromley

From the Sycamore School Lecture Series: Parenting 21st Century Kids:

On March 1, 2017  at the Arlington, VA Central Library, Michael Bromley presented:

Understanding and Overcoming Procrastination

Michael Bromley discusses strategies to help ourselves and our children overcome the urge to delay. Michael is a high school teacher, historian, published author and founder and president of School4Schools.com LLC & the A+ Club

Please click on the below image to open the full slideshow.  This slideshow is not narrated: for audio explanation of these ideas, please go to the Student Success Podcast: Procrastination Primer part 1.

A presentation by Michael Bromley from School4Schools.com LLC & the A+ Club copyright 2017

NoteSlideshow Copyright 2017 by School4Schools.com LLC.  This slideshow is for personal use only ** not for distribution ** Please contact School4Schools.com for permissions and more information. Continue reading

How to know if your student is really learning: “If you can’t teach it you don’t know it”

We hear it all the time. Students say, “I get it when my teacher shows it to me, but I can’t do it on the test.” Then parents tell us that their child “doesn’t test well.”

When children say, “I get it when my teacher shows me,” what they’re really saying is that they didn’t learn it for themselves.

Turning New Knowledge into Prior Knowledge

The process of turning “New Knowledge” (NK) into “Prior Knowledge” (PK) is what I call “internalization.” When our brain receives new information, it looks to store it somewhere meaningful. If there is no related PK to connect it to, then the NK remains just that, unrelated, unconnected information that has no lasting memory.

However, when the NK finds a comfortable home, it is connected to meaningful PK and can now begin the process of internalization, that is going from NK to PK.

Kids get this. Continue reading

Five tips on how to “study better” for an exam: extending memorization for brain memory and recall

memoryWhen students say they don’t “test well” or that they “don’t know how to study,” parents and teachers often respond with suggestions — and criticism — to, well, just “study harder.” Great. But what does “study harder” actually mean?

We can see how “studying harder” might actually work if we divide learning into the two distinct parts of:

  • Factual Knowledge
  • Application of Knowledge

The first is straight memory, while the second requires its application, by which we mean extension through comparison, analysis, evaluation, and so on. Thereby “studying harder” requires development of first, factual knowledge, and, second, using it. Continue reading

Laptop, Tablet, or Desktop? Google Docs or Office 365? Which technology is best for high school and college?

What’s best for school, a laptop, tablet, or PC?

Heading back to school always feels like a fresh start. And like a new set of clothes, getting a new device just makes you feel good.

But for high school and college students, freshmen especially, the choice of technology can really impact academic performance. The wrong choice can make school difficult or, worse, become an excuse not to do well.

Into the start of the 2016-17 school year, I thought it’s time for an update from previous posts here on the topic. The technologies haven’t changed much, but there are more options — and most importantly, more affordable ones.


Here for previous posts on the best technology for school:
College bound: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac?
The Best Computers for College: desktop, laptop or tablet? PC or Mac pt 2


What has changed significantly, though, is the “cloud.” Continue reading

Procrastination, values, and connecting long term goals to short term choices

student goal setting, values and procrastinationParents and teachers think that if only students would connect their short term decisions to long term goals, such as college and jobs, they would quit procrastinating and do their homework.

That’s why we’re always telling them about how important their future is.

Experience tells us that it’s not a reasonable connection. Kids won’t suddenly start doing their homework because they decided one day to be an astronaut or a sports agent. They do their homework because they think the homework is important unto itself.  Or not.

Every Child Wants Success

Students of all levels have high-standards and long term goals for themselves. But just wanting to go to a good college doesn’t get the homework done.

Continue reading

How can I improve my essay grades? Students, writing is drafting

student writing an essayWith academic writing or other research projects, student improvement has a single source: drafting. Students will always score a better grade if they don’t hand in a “first draft” to the teacher.

Think of handing in an unrevised paper as “going in blind.” That means that no one else, including the author, has looked it over. A fully revised paper or project is one that has been looked over — and over again, hopefully also by a second pair of eyes – revised, sat upon, and revised again.

The great writer and critic, Evelyn Waugh, advised* : Continue reading