The 3M's: Management of Self (The myth and curse of “Multitasking”)

If you have been following my blog, you know that at Revolution we have developed a skill set that we believe is crucial to instill in every child preparing for college and careers in the 21st century. We believe that in addition to a solid foundation in the Three R’s—reading, writing and arithmetic—students also need to develop what we call the Three M’s—mastery, management and mindset. In my last post I went into detail on what we mean by mastery. Today I will be taking a closer look at management.

With thousands of apps and friends and viral videos at our fingertips it seems like there are far more distractions for today’s students than ever before.

The real issue, though, is our perception of those distractions. As a society, we have turned on its head the idea of focus. We believe that multitasking and working with distractions is just how successful people—especially the kids who have grown up in the connected world—function best.

Look at your child’s workspace. Is it clutter free? Doubtful. I hear parents say that their child needs the TV on while they study or that they have all manner of “i”-devices and the computer on while they read for school. I hear from students, “This is just how they study”.

This is wrong.

A recent study out of CSU found that students who could avoid checking Facebook for even 15 minutes while they studied performed far better in school.

Not only that, distracted studying wastes your child’s time. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know that I recently wrote about this. I’ve found that 4 hours of distracted studying (or what most students simply call “studying”) is equivalent to 1 hour of focused study. I’m sure you’ve seen this, too.

How can you change this?

1. Designate a clutter-free workspace.

Step one, turn off the phone. Your child does not need their phone on while they are reading or doing homework. When using the computer for research or writing, your child can use tools to eliminate distractions: check out Strict Workflow or StayFocusd. Your student can add these to their web browser to help them restrict browsing. Time is valuable. As you’re taking things away from your child’s work space, give them at least one thing: an analog clock. A clock lets them visibly see the passage of time. Have your child own the tools and the space. Like anything involving habits, getting started is the hardest part.

2. Set bite-size, achievable goals every time your student sits down to complete school work.

If your child sits down to write a paper without breaking down their assignment into smaller achievable goals, they will likely feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to start. This is something that our tutors see so often that we’ve come to call it “Fear of the Blank Page”. Students will delay and look for a distraction just to take action somewhere. To combat this, it’s so important to break down the goal of writing something into smaller pieces.

3. Make a schedule.

Does your child have a designated homework time, maybe 4:30-6:00 pm every day? I strongly recommend scheduling the time each day, just like your child has soccer practice and guitar lessons scheduled. The amount of time dedicated to homework each night will vary by age of student, but in general, it should not be more than 1-2 hours a night. Make sure they start and end on time most nights. At first it may feel like they can’t get everything done in the allotted time. With practice they will learn with more focus, less distractions and clear goals they can get the work done in the allotted time and move on to TV or Internet time.

Consistency is the key to making these habits stick and it’s where a tutor can make a huge impact. Like working with a personal trainer at the gym, establishing a set tutoring schedule just makes homework time part of the routine rather than a daily fight. It allows your child to work with a pro to prioritize the work, set achievable goals and keep homework time really focused.

Please share with me the other tactics you have used to keep your student focused and reduce the number of homework hours.

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