Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail.


I have three kids, all with final exams looming in May, and one that is taking his first PSAT and another that is taking the May SAT. Last year at this time, the house became a chaotic mess and I felt like I was working harder at getting them ready than they were. It caused me to fall behind at work and I spent June catching up. I want to help my children be successful, but I cannot go through that again; any advice for me?

Of course, like all parents, you want your kids to be successful. But that starts by giving them the tools and letting them do the work, not by being the handyman yourself (remember that old teach me to fish parable). So, the first thing you need to do is sit down with each, or as a group, and talk about all the changes in time management that are coming. Make sure they have a plan and then help them stay on top of it. Better that there is some trial and error now rather then later in life when the stakes are higher and the safety net has more holes. To that end, the following tips are for your kids; print them and hand them out.

Track all Your Necessary Changes. The best way to be successful during times of extra work and the resultant stress is to have a plan beforehand and then stick to it. This is one of the most important skills you can have and teaching it to your children will serve them for the rest of their life, whether in college, on the job, or planning for vacations/big events. It should be realistic: they cannot schedule soccer practice from 2-4 and then study time from 4-6. They need to leave travel time, getting a snack, and in this example time to shower and change. As soon as a poorly planned schedule starts putting them behind, their stress goes up and they lose focus on success.

Be Flexible, But Focused. We want to make this very clear: there will be problems with their plan. Things change all the time because life is not perfect and will not go according to your desires. Just when they are sitting down for two hours of uninterrupted study time, you might need them to take the car to a mechanic; or more likely, their best friend will be having a melt-down and need their support. Be ready to help them shift their plans and re-prioritize as they go, always remembering the 80-20 rule—only 20% percent of life is important and that is where their focus needs to be. Getting into the college of their choice is more important than the two hours they would like to spend on YouTube.

Bolster Confidence. One of the biggest problems students face is over-studying because they are they are afraid they will be unprepared. That only serves to cloud their minds with doubt and stress. Assure them that if they have attended the classes and studied the material well, all according to their plan, they have every reason to walk into the exams with full confidence that they will perform at their highest level. Being relaxed and confident will help them focus on the problems on the page whereas feeling stressed and nervous will distract them and result in poor performance.