Posts Tagged ‘Executive Function Tutor’

Episode 78: Jackie Stachel, Helping Kids Overcome Executive Function Challenges

Alexis talks to Jackie Stachel a senior executive function coach of Beyond Booksmart, a quality academic coaching company that helps students learn valuable executive function skills.  Jackie earned her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Boston University.

On today’s episode Jackie shares some of the struggles students face with Executive Function issues and enlightens us with strategies for those wanting to overcome their executive function challenges.

Episode 78, Jackie Stachel, Helping Kids Overcome Executive Function Challenges

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What was your biggest takeaway from this article? Do you have any questions for Jackie Stachel and Alexis Avila?

Post your comments below:

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July 9th, 2015
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Executive Function Coaching: Improving Your Prospective Memory

Prospective Memory


Adam S. talks on Executive Function Coaching. Tutor of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts Adam S. teaches you valuable strategies on how to overcome your prospective memory issues.

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About Prepped & Polished:
Prepped & Polished, LLC is a premier educational services company founded by educators in 1999. Our mission is to provide you with the highest-quality customized learning experience available. We will help you achieve top grades, higher test scores, and meet your academic and professional-related goals. Whether you are looking for in-person or online Tutoring and Test Preparation, we are here to help you succeed. Our caring, dynamic educators graduated from some of the most elite schools in the nation, including University of Michigan, Harvard, Brown, and MIT. They are ready to provide you with the strategies, tools and guidance necessary to ensure academic and professional success. Prepped & Polished proudly serves Boston and its surrounding areas including: Weston, Wellesley, Wayland, Sudbury, Dover, Needham, Belmont, Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Newton, Brookline, Sherborn, Carlisle, Boston

February 13th, 2014
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The Night Before Your Exam: How NOT to Stress Out

Executive Function and Study Skills Tutor suggest about test prepBy Jordana F., Study Skills and Executive Function Tutor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

It’s Thursday night, you’ve just finished dinner and all you want to do is go upstairs and watch some T.V. But you can’t. You have a huge exam tomorrow! You know deep down that you know the material and that you’ve studied as much as humanly possible, but still have a pit in your stomach saying “I should study more!” What do you do in these situations? Is it better to over study? Or is watching your favorite show the way to go?

If you’ve given it your best shot, the answer is…Go watch your favorite show! Over studying can create anxiety and be counterproductive to your test preparation. Walking into an exam feeling jittery, nervous and anxious is never a good idea. These feelings can get in the way of your success on the exam. Another idea that will help you with those pre-test jitters is to avoid talking with your friends about the test. Facebook yes. Sharing instagram posts Ok. “What did you get for number 3?” No! From personal experience, it is a bad idea to get together with friends, the night before an exam; it fosters an environment filled with anxiety and fear.

It’s also very important to recognize when you’re feeling nervous or anxious. When you start getting that “pit” in your stomach, or your thoughts start racing, it’s important to take a breath and realize that you are feeling this way. Once you are able to recognize the feeling, you are better able to control it moving forward.

Don’t get me wrong, it is Ok to review the night before. However, you should set a time limit. One hour? Half hour? Whatever the limit is, stick to it! After you are done, close your book and place it in your bag so that it is out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Here are five tips that I have found most helpful when trying to stay calm the night before an exam. Good luck! (You don’t need it though ☺ )

5 Helpful Hints for Keeping Calm the Night before an Exam:

1. Deep breathing: Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.
2. Place your books in your bag so you are not tempted to reach for them.
3. Create a studying time limit- When you’re done, be done!
4. Watch your favorite mindless T.V. show, or read a fun magazine or book or put your headphones in and play some of your favorite songs on iTunes
5. Exercise reduces stress: Go for a walk with your dog, or go for a run

Jordana holds a B.A. in psychology from NYU, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2006. She went on to receive a master’s degree in school counseling from the University of Southern California in 2010 and continued on, receiving her second masters degree in mental health counseling from Yeshiva University’s Ferkauf School of Psychology in 2013. Jordana worked as a guidance counselor at Beverly Hills High School, helping students with their college essays. Jordana’s interests include study and organizational skills, time management, and executive functioning coaching.

Are you stressing out before your exam? Which of Jordana’s five tips do you need to practice the most?

Post your tips/comments below.

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January 9th, 2014
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Executive Function Building Blocks: How to Study for an Exam

Adam S. Executive Function Coach and Tutor of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you how to study for an exam.

General Tips:
1. go to class
2. take good notes

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3. do your homework
4. review those notes

Specific Tips:
1. Backwards plan. Figure out how much time you have from now until test date and divide your study material wisely so you don’t cram.
2. Study groups can be helpful to take turns teaching each other the material.
3. Ask for help. Give yourself time before the test to ask your teacher for clarification on difficult subject matter.
4. Take care of your body. Make sure you get a good night sleep the day before the test, don’t cram, and eat a good, healthy breakfast the day of the exam. Good Luck!

Are you preparing for your exams? Which of exam tips did you find most helpful?

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November 29th, 2013
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Executive Functioning Building Blocks: Effective Note-Taking

Adam S. Executive Functioning Coach and Tutor of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you how to take effective notes in class.

1. Show up to class on time and be prepared
2. Stay organized- use three-ring binder and other tools to organize notes


3. Use technology-computers could improve the quality of your note-taking
4. Review-repetition is the key to learning new material

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hey guys. Adam S., here with Prepped & Polished South Natick,
Massachusetts. Today, we’re going to talk about an essential academic
skill: Effective note-taking. The most important part of note-taking is the
simplest, easiest thing you can do to boost your economic performance, and
that is quite simply show up, be present in class. This is easy in high
school and middle school when your parents make you go and you don’t really
have a lot of choice. By the time you get to college, no one tells you what
to do and your teachers aren’t going to chase after you. The easiest and
probably the best thing you can do to boost your score is just to make sure
that you show up.Being present is more than just physically being there, it means making
sure that you’re there, prepared to learn. Make sure that you get up early
enough, that you’re awake and you’ve had something to eat. Make sure you
get to class 5 to 10 minutes early to make sure that you have time to get
setup, and that you’re not rushing in when the teacher’s already started
talking. Make sure that you sit near the front so that you’re away from the
distractions of your classmates and you’re able to hear everything the
teacher says and see anything the teacher might write on the board. Make
sure you do any homework or reading the night before the class. It’s a lot
easier to learn new material if you’re already familiar with it.

The first step to effective note-taking is making sure that you’re
organized. I think 3-ring binders work great. Just use a different binder
for each class. It’s a good way to help you organize all your notes, all
your handouts, and keep everything in one discrete place. Then when you
start taking notes, make sure you date your notes so you can organize them
when it comes time to study for the test. Label what the teacher’s going to
be talking about. If the teacher changes topics, change labels and come up
with subtopics to help you keep track of where you are in the class. As you
sit through class, listen to what the teacher’s saying. If your teacher
repeats something more than once or writes it up on the board, it’s
important. Chances are it’s going to be on the test; make sure you write it

Also really important: If you don’t understand something, ask questions.
The only dumb question is the question that you don’t ask. Teacher’s there
to help you understand the topics that you’re going over, and the only way
she or he knows that you don’t understand something is if you ask for help.
If a teacher isn’t able to answer your question during class, approach them
after class or show up early and approach them before class. Make sure you
get the help that you need.

If you’re having trouble keeping up in class, there’s a few different
technologies you can utilize to improve your note-taking. First, if you
can’t keep up with what your teacher’s saying and feel like you’re missing
out on some of what is being said and unable to write it down, try bringing
a recorder to class. You can sit there and record everything the teacher
says and then play it back later at your own pace. Additionally, computers
can be a useful asset. If writing is too much of a challenge and you can’t
keep up, you can bring a computer and try typing your notes. Just make sure
that you’re actually typing notes and not looking up Facebook when you
should be paying attention to what the teacher’s saying. Additionally if
you qualify for special accommodations, make sure you talk to your school’s
academic resource center to see what accommodations are available. It could
be that you could get a copy of the teacher’s notes, notes from an official
note-taker, or recordings of the teacher’s lectures. If you do qualify for
note-taking, don’t only rely on someone else’s notes because you might not
understand everything they write. Make sure you continue to take your own

If you have friends in the same class as you, compare notes with them. Make
sure you didn’t miss something the teacher might have mentioned. Then
really important, when you get home at night and sit down to do your
homework, review your notes. Repetition is the key to learning new

Those are the basics of effective note-taking. To recap what we talked
about: Number 1, show up, be present. Get to class on time and be prepared.
Number 2 is stay organized. Use 3-ring binders and other tools to help
organize your notes and use the tools that we talked about to identify
relevant topics and write them down. If you’re having trouble keeping up,
ask for help. If you can’t get help through asking, see if your school
offers accommodations and use technology; computers, recorders can all
really improve the quality of your note-taking. Finally, review. Repetition
is the key to learning new material.

That’s it for this time. Next time, we’ll talk about how to use these notes
and other materials to effectively study for a test. Talk to you then.

Are you struggling with your note-taking skills? Which of Adam’s tips did you find most useful?

Post your tips/comments below.

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October 25th, 2013
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Executive Functioning Building Blocks: How to Write an Essay

How to Write an Essay

Adam S. Executive Functioning Coach and Study Skills Tutor of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you how to write an essay. He also teaches you how to write an outline and lists steps to writing a good paper.

Five keys to a good paper:
1. Break the paper down into its component pieces, title, intro, body, conclusion, and works cited
2. In the intro, set the scene, give us a hook, state your argument, and forecast your main claims
3. Create your body by introducing your claims, explain how these claims support your argument, and create a smooth transition
4. Write your conclusion, remind us of your best points and restate your thesis. Then discuss what’s the next step in this discussion.
5. List all the sources that you used in the course of writing this paper.

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Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hey, guys. Adam S. here; Prepped and Polished, South Natick, Massachusetts.
Last time we talked about backwards planning, big picture; how to look at a
big project and think about how to break it down and plan it backwards over
time. Today we’re going to really dive into a pretty common assignment that
a lot of kids struggle with: How to write an essay. For a lot of us when we
first get assigned a paper, we just have these memories of sitting and
looking at a blank piece of paper and a lot of frustrated hours spent
sitting in front of a computer just staring at an empty page. It doesn’t
have to be that way. The trick is to realize that, in a way, every paper
you’re ever going to write is the same but different. Let’s head over to
the whiteboard and I’ll show you what I mean.

Here we are, a scene that’s pretty familiar for most of us, just staring at
a blank piece of paper; no idea what to do, where to begin. How do we even
get started? The lesson that we learned last time is that sometimes it
helps if you can start at the end. What does the finished product look
like? You know a finished paper is going to have a few elements that every
paper you write is going to have. Let’s talk about what those are. First,
you’re going to have a title; every paper has a title, then there’s an
intro, a body, we have a conclusion, and then some works cited or
bibliography. Let’s break these component pieces down a little bit and talk
about what each one of them means.

This basic skeleton is going to hold true for pretty much every academic
paper that you’re ever going to write. Of course, the content will change
based on the topic, but the structure is going to pretty . . . relatively
constant. Let’s talk about what these pieces mean. First is your title;
that could be a page, it could be a header at the top of your paper. It’s
pretty simple. It gives the title of your paper, your name, date, maybe the
class title, and other pertinent information like that. The next thing that
your paper’s going to lead into is your introduction. Your introduction,
regardless of the topic, is always going to serve a similar function. There
are a few main points you always need to hit. The first thing you want your
intro to do is to set the scene. Tell me what you’re going to talk about.
Tell me where I am. Give me some context. Then you’re going to give us a
hook. Why should we read this paper? Why do I care? What’s interesting
about your take on this situation? Then you’re going to state your
argument; this is your thesis. Give me your topic. Then you’re going to
finish your intro by forecasting your main claims.

Every paper that you write is going to have maybe anywhere between 3 and 5,
depending on the length of the paper, main claims to really back up your
argument. Forecast what those are going to be. Remember, you want this to
be pretty concise and to the point. Any good paper is going to start strong
and finish strong, because people remember the first thing and the last
thing that they see.

After your introduction, you’re going to transition into your body
paragraphs. The body of your paper is where you’re going to discuss your
main claims. Each claim is generally going to get at least a paragraph,
maybe a couple of paragraphs, even a couple of pages depending on how long
the paper’s going to be. Each body paragraph should have a few things in
common. They should all start with a topic sentence; that’s where you
introduce the claim that you’re going to talk about. Then you want to
explain why that claim is important to this paper. How does it relate to
your thesis? How does it strengthen your argument? Then you want to give
support; this is where you would include quotations from sources that you
had read. If you’re writing about a specific book, this would be quotes
from the book. If it’s a research paper, these could be journal articles,
even websites. Then at the end you want to transition; you want to set the
stage for moving into your next body paragraph, a smooth transition for
introducing your next claim.

At the end of your body comes your conclusion. This is your chance to wrap
it all up. What do you want to do? Remember, you want to start strong, you
want to finish strong, so you got to make sure you have a strong
conclusion. First, you want to remind us of your best points. Hopefully,
your paper was structured such that you started with your smallest points
and closed with your biggest. You want to go small too big, and then remind
us of the best ones. Then restate your refined thesis. You gave us an
argument at the beginning of the paper. Did your opinion change? Did you
learn anything over the course of this discussion? Then tell us the next
step. What would a future paper about this topic be about? Are there any
unanswered questions? That’s how you want to close out your paper.

Then after your conclusion, your paper’s going to finish with some kind of
works-cited page or bibliography. Your teacher might have different
preferences about what format they want you to use, so make sure you check
about the rules regarding citations. There’s also a lot of great web
resources that make citing works really easy.

Now I want to take a second to talk about the importance of outlining.
Outlining is really important; it’s actually a huge time saver. It might
sound like more work up front, but if you outline well, writing the paper’s
the easy part. All you have to do is connect the dots. Now you know that
this is the basic skeleton of, really, any paper you’re ever going to have
to write. They’re all going to be different, but they’re also all going to
be kind of the same.

For example, let’s say we had to write a paper about our best vacation
ever. We’d have an intro. What’s the scene? My vacation. Where’d you go? I
went to Hawaii. Set the scene; tell me what Hawaii’s like. What’s the hook?
What happened in Hawaii? What’s really exciting? What’s your argument? My
argument is that this was the best vacation ever because . . . then
forecast your main claims. It was the best vacation ever because I surfed,
I learned something, I made a new friend. Then you go and talk about your
claims. Claim 1: I surfed. Claim 2L learned something. Fill in what you’re
going to talk about with details about each point. Then you have your
conclusion. Main points: Great vacation for these reasons. Refined thesis:
I learned that although this was a great vacation, it wasn’t as great for
the reasons that I thought it was. I learned something. My opinion changed.
Then give me the next step, what’s the next discussion about this argument?
Maybe next time this is the vacation I’d like to take in the future. You
plunk those points into this skeleton, and now all you have to do is sit
down and connect the dots and you have a paper.

How do you plan for a paper? What are the basic steps? We talked about the
skeleton and what goes into a paper. How do you break that up over the
course of a week or 2, or 3? There’s some important steps to writing a
paper. The first thing you have to do is research, if necessary, if you
need to research your topic before you write about it. Then you want to
write your outline. Then you want to write your first draft. Don’t hand in
your first draft. It’s really important that you take the time to
proofread, revise, and make edits. You want to give yourself enough time
before the paper’s due to be able to do that. You’ll have a much better
paper in the end. After the first draft, you want to make edits and revise
it as necessary. Then you have your final draft, including your works

All of this is going to take time. That’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 items. If we had 2
weeks to get this paper done, we’d want to backwards plan. Start at the due
date and count backwards. Say you have 10 days between now and then; that
means you can assign 2 days to each of these points. You have 2 days to
research, another couple of days to outline it, a couple of days to work on
your first draft, a couple of days of editing and revising, and then your
final draft is done, no sweat.

Those are the basic steps of writing a paper, a road map of how to get
there. Hopefully, now you can see how every paper is the same but
different. You never have to write your first paper again. If you can
remember this road map, you’ll always know where to begin, where you’re
going, and how you’re going to get there. See you next time.

What is your current process for writing an essay? Which of our essay tips did you find most useful?

Post your tips/comments below.

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October 8th, 2013
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Executive Functioning Building Blocks: Backwards Planning

Adam S. Executive Functioning Coach and Study Skills Tutor of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you how to avoid procrastination and work methodically toward your goal by planning backwards.

1. Start at the end
2. Break down the final product into its component pieces.
3. Break up the work of each component over a two-week period.
4. Once you’ve plugged it all into your schedule, all you have to do is follow the steps that you’ve laid for yourself.

For more EF building blocks, check out our video about Creating a Weekly Schedule

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Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hi guys, Adam S. here, Prepped and Polished., South Natick, Massachusetts.
Today we’re going to talk about another important building block in
executive functioning backward planning.

So what is backwards planning? Well, for example, if I asked you to draw an
image of a dog it would be pretty easy. Working backwards from the image in
your head you would do your best to reproduce that image of a dog on a
piece of paper.

But what if I asked you to draw a picture of an ibis? Not so easy, right?
What the heck is an ibis? You wouldn’t even know where to begin. So when
you don’t have a finished product or a picture in mind, the task can seems
pretty overwhelming. An ibis is a kind of bird, by the way. It’s a cross
between a turkey and a vulture.

The same principles can apply to academic work. When you’re first assigned
a big paper or a project, sometimes you can’t see the finish line. And the
task can feel pretty overwhelming. In fact, it can feel so overwhelming
that we never even start it. We just keep putting it off and putting it off
and putting it off until finally it’s due tomorrow. And we scramble around
frantically the night before with usually a lot of help from mom and dad.

You go through all this anxiety and frustration that’s completely
avoidable. It’s not a great way to go through school, and what’s worse is
you’re building associative memories. So next time you are assigned a big
project or a big paper all you’re going to think about is all of that
anxiety and frustration and the frantic scramble you went through last

What if I told you there’s a better way? What if instead of starting at the
beginning we decided to start at the end. Let’s go over to the white board,
and I’ll show you what I’m talking about. Say you were given an assignment
where you have to give a presentation on a leader that you admire. There’s
a speech, a paper, maybe a PowerPoint. Sounds like a lot of work, right?
It’s a pretty big project.

So where do we begin? Well, let’s start at the end. What did the end look
like? So what do we have? We have a paper. We have maybe some index cards
for your speech. There’s a PowerPoint going on in the background and
[inaudible 2:01]. Not so overwhelming, right? The question is how do we get

So that’s still a pretty big project. So let’s break it down into some
component pieces, right? So we have a paper. There’s a speech, and there’s
a PowerPoint, right? Three things. So how do we break these three things

Well, the next part is going to involve some really simple math. First, you
have to figure out how much time between now and the due date? Say it’s six
weeks, right? Six weeks between now and when this presentation is due, and
how many things do we have? Three, right? One, two, three. Six divided by
three equals two.

That means we can assign about two weeks to each one of these tasks. So
let’s go back to the schedule we talked about the last time. Now what
you’re going to want to do is take each of these guys and plug them into
spots in your schedule.

Now I know this is still pretty complicated. Don’t worry; we’re going to
have another video. I thought I’d break these guys down a little more so
you know how to write a great paper. Something that I really like to do is
to put your daily task items on sticky notes.

Say what I am going to do is research on Monday, write a rough draft on
Tuesday. That way if you get home Monday night and you really don’t feel
like doing research, that’s okay. You’re going to have to move it to
Tuesday. Now there are two things to do on Tuesday. What if you don’t feel
like doing any work on Tuesday? Well, now you have to move it all back to
Wednesday, and you can see how the work really starts to pile up.

It’s a great visual to kind of show you the cost of procrastination which I
think is great. So once you’ve plugged these guys into your schedule all
you have to do is follow the day by day stats that you’ve laid out for
yourself. Watch out for the procrastination, and you’ll reach that finish
line, no problem. You will avoid all the anxiety, stress, frustration you
may have experienced in the past.

So those are the basics of backward planning. Start at the end. Which does
the finished product look like and once you see what it looks like, ask
yourself how many pieces does it have? Then figure out how much time do you
have between now and when the project is due. Divide that time by the
number of pieces. That’s how much time to assign to each piece.

Then all you have to do is follow the schedule that you lay out for
yourself. Remember procrastination has its price. If you do these things
and reach that finish line, no problem, and pretty soon big projects will
be no big deal.

All right, guys. See you next time.

How do you currently plan for projects and papers? Which of Adam’s tips did you find most useful?

Post your tips/comments below.

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October 2nd, 2013
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5 Tips for Students Who Struggle with Executive Functioning

Executive Functioning and Study Skills Tutor gives Executive Functioning Tips By Adam S., Executive Function & Study Skills coach, Prepped & Polished, LLC

What is executive functioning?

Executive functioning (EF) is a series of mental processes that utilize our past experiences to make informed decision about present and future actions. Students who have EF related learning disabilities can face difficulties with:

• General organization
• Planning and time management
• Multitasking and prioritizing
• Shifting focus
• Asking for help

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Ways to Cope with EF related learning disabilities
Fortunately, there are behavior-based strategies to work around these challenges. These strategies are like anything in life- successful execution is going to take lots of practice, and it’s important not to get discouraged if at you first you don’t succeed. It’s about progress, not perfection!

1. Use your Resources: Ask for Help, Early and Often
• Most schools have resources to help students overcome learning challenges, but students have to advocate for themselves. These resources usually include free counseling and tutoring, and reserved “quiet places” to do homework and take exams.
• Apply for extra time for exams- this will usually require an assessment by the school, and/or a doctor’s note, and can grant students the right to extra time on exams, the ability to use computers for written exams, and the ability to take exams in a quiet environment free from distraction.

2. Get to Know Your Professors
• Introduce yourself to your teachers at the beginning of the semester- be upfront about any concerns you may have about success in their course, and the fact that you face some learning challenges. Talk about flexibility in regards to deadlines- most professors will be willing to work with you. It’s better to discuss these issues up front, because if you wait until the day before your big project is due, the professor is going to be less inclined to work with you, and assume that the student is just lazy or making excuses.

3. Make Easy-to-Reference Checklists
• Utilize flashcards to make sure that you’re prepared each time you leave your dorm. Bullet out everything you need to take with you for class each day, or for club meetings, or sports, and tape those lists on your mirror, or by your door. Do a quick check before you head out the door each day.

4. Use Tools to Stay Organized
• Utilize large, easy to read visual planning tools, like wall calendars and daily planners, and check them several times a day. Write due dates on your calendar and planners, so that you’re always aware of approaching deadlines.
• Don’t forget to schedule time for transitions (walking to class, catching the bus, etc.)
• Use a watch with multiple alarms to set reminders for different activities and to keep track of time. For example, if you want to spend 30 minutes working on a particular assignment, set two timers, one to alert you at the half-way point, and another to go off when time is up.

5. Break Your Work up into Manageable Chunks
• Don’t try to tackle big projects all at once!
• Always ask for written instructions if possible.
• Break large projects into smaller pieces, and assign a timeframe to each piece. (It’s better to overestimate how much time you’ll need!)
• Work backwards from the due date; if the assignment has 4 pieces, and each piece will take about 2 hours, you need to allot 4 different homework periods to working on each of those elements, and then probably another 2 hours block to make edits and revisions. That means you need to start the project at least 6 days before it is due, and you should probably give yourself even more time, just to be safe.

Consistent application of these strategies over time will absolutely contribute to success in college level academics and beyond. Remember, although it may seem to take longer at first, taking the time to be prepared and organized will ultimately save you time and headaches in the long run.

Do you struggle with executive function? How do you better your executive function skills?

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Adam holds a B.A. in History from Boston University, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. Adam has been working as a private tutor since 2009, helping students with executive function and study skills coaching, standardized test prep, college application and essay writing, English language and writing development, study skills and executive functioning. He’s worked with students from diverse backgrounds, from high school to college graduate programs, both domestic and international. Adam honed his own time management skills in college, where he juggled a full time and a part time job while also attending to his own full time studies. Adam is an Eagle Scout, and a member of the Alpha Sigma Lambda national honor society. Adam plans on returning to school to pursue a Master’s in Education, and in his free time is an avid trail runner. em>

September 4th, 2013
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