The 21st Century Isolator

By: Emily Bottegal

the isolator.jpg

I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and came across this picture of a man wearing the “Isolator” to help him concentrate and avoid distractions.  I giggled a little to myself wondering how uncomfortable and heavy that would be to wear, yet how productive that would be for so many of our students. I have heard the gamut of how students study best- “on my bed with the TV on”, “sitting on the floor using a stuffed animal as a chair”, and “in my living room with my roommates playing video games.  The sound helps me concentrate.” If those are such successful ways to study and get work done, why did Hugo Gernsback invent this sensory isolation tool in 1925?  

The thing is, we don’t need to wear heavy helmets like the Isolator to improve our concentration or help us focus.  Students should have an organized place to study in their homes that is designated just for homework and studying. Below are some great tips to create that effective study space in your house.


Pick A Room

Like house hunting, your study room is all about location, location, location.  Find a space in your house that is distraction free. For example, don’t set up a space next to the kitchen if that is the busiest room in the house.  If your basement is always chilly and the water heater is always making weird sounds, don’t force yourself to use that spare room. Find a place that you like and will enjoy going to, even if you don’t love to do schoolwork.  Study spaces can come in all sizes. I had a student once create a study room in a nook under the staircase. She lined the space with shelves, a whiteboard, table lamp, and a productive desk to hold school supplies. It was her quiet space, and it worked.  She went there to get her homework done and study for tests. It was a phone-free zone, rid of distractions and outside temptation.

If you are a person who gets distracted easily, the kitchen or dining room may be a good study spot if it’s quiet.  Mom or dad can keep their eyes on you and help redirect you and keep you accountable for getting your work done. Remember, you are not glued to your chair!  A larger space like a kitchen or dining room also allows you the space to physically get up and move around, especially when you are working on a longer project or assignment.  Sometimes you may need a change in scenery to keep your brain fresh, so take a break and move to another great study spot in the house.


Be Prepared to Sit Down

I remember in college I had the ultimate avoidance tactic.  I could not sit down at my desk until the whole house was clean.  Sounds fine, except I had 4 other roommates that were not the neatest.  So what could have taken only a few minutes to pick things up around the house, took hours of hard scrubbing and vacuuming.  The trick to studying is to get into the mindset and have a clear game plan. If you approach your homework with a negative “ugh this stinks” attitude, your work outcome is going to be affected.  Allow yourself to be mentally prepared. Make a list of your assignments and estimate how much time each task will take you. Don’t rush your work- if you think your Geometry homework is going to take you 45minutes, don’t try to squeeze it into a 20minute block.  Game plan what work you can get done in that 20minute block before dinner; maybe reading a chapter of your book, completing your Biology worksheet, or even using that time to create a game plan and put your assignments in order, chunking together similar work, or rotating between really difficult assignments with easier assignments.  Also, make sure you think about what materials you are going to need (textbook, computer) and/or study supplies (colored pens, notecards, highlighters, scissors, etc) so you don’t need to get up and find them later. Make sure everything is in your study space before you sit down and open a book.


Rid Distractions

The Isolator had great features.  It helped the person block out sound and vision to focus on the task at hand.  Our distractions nowadays are everywhere- video games, cell phones, Netflix, tablets, social media, dogs, even cleaning our rooms.  Remove those distractions from your study space so you can keep yourself focus on your work. I have never heard a student tell me they successfully watched just one episode on Netflix and then refocused on their studying.  It rarely happens. Don’t test yourself by bringing those distractions into your study space. Leave your phone in another room on airplane mode. Turn off social media notifications on your computer and sign out of phone notifications.  There are great apps to help you stay focused when on your computer.

  • Forest

  • Freedom

  • StayFocused

Spend your time and effort on your work and not trying to avoid your distractions.  If you focus and get your work done efficiently, you can use that free time to play your video games, play on your cell phone, or watch Netflix.   Plus, having a simple study space with a clean desk and little clutter (i/e cell phones or old papers) actually helps you focus better.


Have Everything “Charged”

I once had a student walk into a math exam, open his calculator, and soon realize the batteries were dead.  Another student lost a letter grade on an English essay because his printer was out of toner and he had to turn it in late.  Moral of the story, set yourself up for success. 

Your study room should have all the necessities you need to be productive: pencils, sharpeners, pens, highlighters, notecards, working outlets (chargers and extension cord if needed), a comfortable chair, textbooks, calculator, extra paper, printer ink, 3-hole puncher, and a whiteboard or corkboard.  Have everything organized on your desk and in your room before sitting down and opening your homework or computer. Give everything a designated space- even unsharpened pencils can be a distraction! Know right where to go to access your tools. When I worked in a school, I labeled each container so students knew where to go to get an extra pencil or find scratch paper.



Water is a great resource to keep close to get homework and studying done.  Bring your glass or water bottle into your study space with you to keep you hydrated and allow you to stay focused.  Plus, water is healthy!  

Snacks are a different story.  I once ate an entire tub of hummus during a 2-hour take home exam, and couldn’t look at hummus for five years after that night.  If you know you are going to get hungry, choose a healthy snack and control the portion. If you find yourself still hungry, or getting hangry, refill your snack bowl during a break.  Setting limits will help ensure you don’t eat a container of dip and find yourself falling asleep. A water refill or snack search is also be a good reason to physically get up from your table or study space and get some movement in your body and brain.  Just make sure it’s a quick, timed, and controlled break!


History in Pictures [@historyphotographed]. (2019, September 5). {Photograph of The Isolator}. Retrieved from

Back to School Tools

By: Emily Bottegal


I’m a sensory shopper.  I like to touch, hold, smell, wear, and even try out new items before I purchase them.  When I was younger, I would go into multiple stores to try on different backpacks, zipping and unzipping each pocket just to find the one that fit “just right”.  This ordeal could take a few hours, or a few days, depending on my selection. This strategy was not limited to just backpacks; I could spend hours clicking and unclicking binders, testing out different mechanical pencils, and even smelling the Mr. Sketch Scented Markers.  

My mom dreaded taking me back to school supply shopping (as did my older siblings).  One year she went to the supply store without us and purchased everything on our lists to save time.  Obviously, this did not work for me. How could it? How would she know what would work best for me? How would she know if I wanted folders or binders for my classes this year?  How would she know if I want a large binder or individual small binders for each class? Would I want paperclips or binder clips? What about an agenda book from the store versus my school’s agenda book?  Needless to say, we returned many of the pre-selected supplies and she let me pick out new ones.

Classroom supply lists are helpful but I have learned, these lists are not a one-size-fits-all tool for back to school shopping.  What may work for one child might not be the best system for another child. Below we share some of our must-have supplies selected by our coaches at Lauren Eckert Coaching.  


Expandable Reinforced Pocket File

There are a number of different variations of this file folder- canvas, plastic, zip close, number of subjects, etc.  Expanding file folders are great for students to keep themselves organized in each class. Students can easily slide handouts or notes into the designated class slot without having to worry about hole punching or cramming into a 2-pocket folder.  The papers stay in the file folder securely to eliminate lost handouts or that “I don’t know where it is” worry, and even removes the “ahh where is my Algebra folder… did I leave it in my locker?” Students can also create a “homework” tab as a designated place to put all completed homework so they remember to turn it in the next day. We recommend the fabric exterior ones with the reinforced slots and colorful tabs.

Find Me At Amazon!


Open Top File Boxes

Filing boxes are a great solution to keep your child organized at home.  No more loose papers around the house or crumpled on the bottom of the backpack.  Students can use hanging folders, organized by tabs, to store work they don’t need but want to keep.  This is a great tool to keep work organized from earlier in the semester so your child can easily reference it when studying for semester and final exams.  Conversely, students who sometimes can get overwhelmed or distracted with a lot of papers can file older papers away and tuck the box somewhere out of site. The storage box also works great for students who like to keep work over the years, or for college students to use to create a portfolio.  Filing is a great skill for young people to master- as adults we need it for many of our jobs, to keep our bills organized, and even for special events!

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Smead Cascading Wall Organizer

This wall organizer is another great choice to keep your child and your family organized at home.  Students can file work from each class in different color folders to help eliminate notebook clutter and store work from earlier in the school year.  Another perk to a hanging organizer is it does not add clutter to your desk or counter tops. 

You can also use this organizer to keep your whole family organized.  Use a different color for each student, or a folder for each after-school activity.  Hang it in a high-volume spot in your house, or near your children’s landing zone, so they are constantly seeing the visual reminders and cues.

We Love This One!

Staples Accel Spine Guard 1 Subject Notebook

Some teachers may require your child to have a notebook specific to their class.  This bound notebook is a great option as it includes some extra perks to help your student with note-taking and organization.  This specific notebook includes page flags for your student to use to flag important words, theories, or diagrams, as well as a perpetual calendar in the front for your student to update monthly.  The 1-subject notebooks are a great choice for your student, but encourage your student to practice skills like only taking the notebook out when they need it, or having a checklist of what they need to pack for school each night, so they do not forget to bring it to/from school.

Find Me Here!

Mini Dry Erase Board or Double Sided Stand-Up Dry Erase Board + Dry Erase Markers, Assorted Colors

Do you ever have a thought and know if you don’t write it down you won’t remember it in 10 minutes?  Dry-erase boards are a great solution! You can prop it on your desk or table or hang it on the wall- just make sure it is somewhere that you can see it clearly.  Encourage your student to use it to write down reminders, assignments (and what materials they need), to-do lists, or even morning and nighttime routines. Students can even check off each task once they complete it which helps them feel more accomplished.  Feel free to also leave reminders for your child in the morning on the board.

We recommend purchasing different color markers to use for the dry erase board.  The different colors help provide visual cues and stimulate the brain differently.  This is especially true for students who need visual reminders. It is also a great tool to make diagrams or concept maps of school materials.

Single Side! & Double Sided!

90/120 day Dry Erase Calendar

I used a 120-day calendar when I worked in the schools to plan out my semesters and note days off or special events that I would have to work around.  It started as just an organization tool for myself that I kept behind my desk, but noticed my students were constantly referencing it to remind them of the school schedule and even when our units were starting/ending (this was in elementary and middle school).  I realized that so much of the time in the schools, and especially in college, we give our students a “this is what we are doing this semester” and don’t really follow it up with any dates or even a “great, we finished unit 4”. Yes, our students should remember to frequently look at their syllabus or the portal calendar, but this long-term calendar allows your child to write down dates at the beginning of the semester so they know when assignments are due.  

I recommend this tool to all my college students since they get their class syllabi in August and rarely do dates change.  While 30-day calendars are great, unless you are frequently looking ahead, an early month assignment may creep up on a student and not allow him/her to plan successfully in advance.  This 4-month (or 3-month) calendar lays out your entire semester’s deadlines, finals, exams, papers, presentations, activities, projects, holiday breaks, etc.

Check Out This Calendar!


Weekly Planner Dry-Erase Board

The weekly planner is a great tool for students to organize their after-school activities, appointments, and even remind them what larger project/test is due that day.  Students can also breakdown larger assignments and plan those smaller tasks across the whole week. As with the other mentioned dry-erase boards, put this planner in a high volume and clearly visible space that your child can see and access easily.  Colored dry erase markers are a great addition to this tool to help with the visual prompting. Students may use a green marker to write down they have soccer Monday-Thursday from 3:30-6:00, a red marker for times they have to babysit, a black marker for an assignment they have broken down over the week, and a purple marker to remind them it’s mom’s birthday on Saturday!

You can also add one of these weekly planners to your kitchen or family’s landing pad to keep all your students (and maybe even spouse) organized.  Use a different color for each child (or adult) so each person knows what to expect for the week and what they need to pack or bring with them each day so they are prepared. Another idea is to get two of these calendars so your student can practice planning ahead and identifying important things that are coming up the following week as well.

This One Is Great!

Academic Planner- Lilly Pulitzer or Blue Sky (Weekly and Monthly)

Academic Planners are a must for middle and high school students.  I have noticed recently a number of schools have been providing their own planners to each of their students which is great, especially for schools with block or rotating schedules.  Getting a child to buy-in to using a planner can be extremely challenging, so encourage your child to find the planner that works best for him/her (the Lilly Pulitzer & Blue Sky planners are beautiful and very affordable!).  There are also great apps for your student to use to jot down their homework each day- although this can be an issue because it encourages the young person to unlock and potentially get distracted by all the notifications/alerts that are constantly going off!  

We recommend a weekly and monthly calendar so students can write down longer term assignments but still track shorter term and daily homework.  Even though many schools use their school portal to post homework assignments, many teachers tend to use various methods to let students know what and when things are due: writing in on the board, telling students at the end of class, Google Classroom, class email, school portal, etc.  Different teachers use different methods, so an academic planner is a great central place for students to write it all down and cross it off as they complete each assignment.  

Look At This Style!

Colored Highlighters + Ink Pens, Assorted Colors

We love colored highlighters and colored ink pens.  This helps make notes, annotations, and mind mapping more engaging and better organized.  Using different colors stimulates the creative side of the brain and can help the material come alive.  With the help of colored pens or highlighters, information seems more interesting and stays in your brain longer.  Color also allows you to better find the material at a later date when looking through your notebook.

Assorted Pens and Highlighters! 

Index Cards

This was the first tool I used in middle school that I found helpful.  I created index cards for everything, not just vocabulary words. Index cards are a great strategy for students to use on an ongoing basis.  Encourage your student to use them for each unit so when midterm and exam time comes, they already have the flash cards created.  

If your child has 150 biology note cards, encourage them to review the cards and set aside words or topics they already know.  With the remaining group, break up the number of cards each night so they are not overwhelmed with a large number of topics/vocabulary words to study in one night.  

Writing flash cards is a study skill in itself.  It forces the student to look up the material, write it down, and even say the term out loud.  

An AmazonBasic!

Mechanical Pencils + Erasers

I personally prefer mechanical pencils- they last longer, you don’t need to keep a pencil sharpener close by, and when the tip breaks, you just click twice and there is new lead right there.  How many times have you had to search for a sharpener in your pencil box or around the classroom? Mechanical pencils eliminate that distraction and break in the work and help keep you focused on what you are working on.  

Make sure you also purchase enough erasers- keep your notes organized and clean without crossing out words/pictures.  Throw some in your backpack as well!

Great Bulk Purchase!


Adjusting the Sails of Summer

By: Claire Duarte


One of my favorite things about summer (other than eating ice cream and being with family) is going to the beach! The beach, pool, or any body of water are pretty much my “happy-places.” Growing up, I got to go on my uncle’s sailboat. He would try and teach me the ropes, literally. Though, I was a little incorrigible because all I was focused on was dangling my feet over the edge, or constantly asking “can I jump in?” Looking back, I wonder if my uncle thought my sheer interest in his boat was the same interest that he had. Well for me, clearly I had my own agenda, which was all about “when can I get in the water!”

That’s one clear difference between being an adult and a kid (or teen for that matter!). As adults, we’ve practiced and managed our maturity so that we can focus on the task at hand. For my uncle, because I did not know how to sail, it was up to him to take over that responsibility. As much as he may have wanted to teach me and extend that knowledge - I wasn’t exactly in that place of wanting to learn at the moment.

As parents and teachers, sometimes we get frustrated when our kids or students “lose sight” of the certain skills and things they need to know. Like over the summer: “you still need to make your bed,” or “take your medicine”, “walk the dog”, “do your laundry”... the list can be endless, right? And it certainly can be hard when there’s a lack of follow-through. 

I was talking with a mom the other day and she said to me, “I’m a very organized person, but my daughter is not. It’s really frustrating because “I” am not like that.” We hear this a lot from parents who come to us for executive function support. As I mentioned earlier, as adults - our brains are more developed and our hormones are a bit more settled which makes our ability to organize, execute tasks, remember things we need to do, etc., much “easier” for us than our own students and children. I say easier mainly because we’ve likely had more practice and time to work on these skills. Does not mean it’s any less difficult at times, but we’re allowed to play the “older and wiser” card, right? 

So how can you still practice executive function (EF) skills and maintain status quo while your kids are at home over the summer?


There’s no magic trick that works overnight, but here are a few tips:


This is very important. Much like having rules or chores, our kids need to know the expectations of themselves for the day/week/month (sometimes even hourly depending on your household!). This could be done by:

  • Sitting down with the family to discuss everyone’s roles, needs, and to-do’s for the day/week.

  • Having a family chalkboard or dry erase board to make lists of things that need to be done that day

  • Creating chore charts - like this one to make those to-do’s visible

  • Re-visit this conversation each week. Pick a day to sit down as a unit. Which day is best? (Sunday/Monday/Saturday ?) Whichever day you choose, try to make it consistent as possible to again create that expectation that you want the family to meet all together to discuss what everyone needs to get done


Finding what motivates our kids can be really useful in outlining rules, expectations, and implementing possible rewards. Not all circumstances necessary deem punishments or rewards, but sitting down and talking with your kids to find out what motivates & excites them may help improve the outcome. The reward doesn’t have to always be money either! To make it more fun and family-oriented, it could be a shopping spree, ice cream night out, etc. Consequences: losing screen time privileges, nights out with friends, etc. 



It’s okay to be flexible over the summer by having a few late nights here or there, but the more consistency you can help to create in your household will lead to happier campers. Having more established bedtimes (for everyone in the house) can help to create more regular sleep intervals. The important thing here is to have a routine in place: rigid routine, flexible implementation. That way, if there is a fun event one evening, you can allow for a later bedtime as needed, knowing that you will bounce back to your regular routine the next day. 


Stay busy! Sign the kids up for camp, sports,or take an art class or exercise class, etc. As great as free-time is, having some structure and routine built into the day is really important for kids and teens to be able to keep practicing their EF skills (like waking up, making breakfast, getting dressed and ready for the day, packing lunch, chores, etc.). When you have activities built into your day, it encourages you to use your “down-time” differently because you essentially have less of it. 



Build in time outside. This time can be spent alone on a walk, or playing a game with family or friends but the important aspect is to just get out of the house.Screen time can consume our days and teens especially struggle to regulate their time on their devices, so finding ways to get out of the house and take in some scenery is a great way to change not only your environment, but your mindset too!

6) READ:

I always find summer the most relaxing season to read, perhaps because we’re not as bombarded by the busy school year, but this is also a time where our kids have required reading for school. Try to make reading a part of their daily routine so that they get the work done! Want to make it a family activity? Spend some quiet time each day reading for 15-20 minutes to get it done. 


7) HELP:

Seeking the support of an executive function coach can help alleviate relational tensions as well as to reinforce skills that are often needed at home. Sometimes, just being able to hear instructions from someone else who isn’t mom or dad can help make all the difference too! This not only allows parents to perhaps get some necessary breaks, but this can also help alleviate tensions in those relationships too. 


Whether you have vacations planned or not, you do not have to do anything epic to make memories as a family. A way to make this fun and to practice more of those EF skills is to encourage your kids to take lots of photos and videos. Then have them compile either an online album or actual photobook/collage. Or even create a home video using Youtube, GoPro, or iMovie. 


Avoiding the Summer Backslide

By: Emily Bottegal


Last week I watched my niece board the bus to take her to sleepaway camp.  She took one step on the bus, waved goodbye to us, and that was it. While the rest of us worried about this eight-year-old, hoping she would make friends quickly, wouldn’t get homesick, and would remember to brush her teeth twice a day, she was facing forward excited to take on the next two weeks of her life in a new place with new people.  I couldn’t help but think back to my summer camp days: sleeping on a bunk bed, participating in Ga-Ga Ball tournaments, sliding down a gigantic inflatable slide into a filthy lake, even trying the trapeze for the first time. I remember the tears I had knowing camp was over, but the excitement I had when my disposable camera’s film was developed and I could relive the moments with my mom explaining to her exactly who and what was happening in each picture, even the blurry ones.  

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized just how connected I am to those pictures- each one of them is in a special photo album with a label reminding me what camp and year they were from.  I guess I enjoyed organizing even as a young kid. That was my summer though, checking out of school mode, going to sleepaway camp for eight weeks, and coming home knowing I was going to get to develop, sort, and create these special memories before I headed back into school mode.  

As a pre-teen I thought I was just doing what all other campers did, but as an adult I realize just how many executive function (EF)  skills I was utilizing and how important it is to practice those skills over the summer. Photo albums and scrapbooking was my fun project, but definitely not the only way to be creative and avoid that “summer backslide” with EF and other academic skills.  Whether your child is going on a memorable family trip, heading to summer camp, learning a new talent, or even staying home and relaxing, there are many ways to encourage them to build their EF skills over the summer. Make this a fun experience, and encourage your child to be creative and brainstorm an interesting and engaging summer project they can work on and complete over the next few weeks. 

Our coaches work with students over the summer to help them identify their interests, find the perfect project, and breakdown the multi-step process into manageable and achievable small goals.  We assist those students in listing the steps, creating deadlines, and following up mid-week to make sure they are on track and feeling comfortable and confident with the task. 

Below are some great project ideas for your child to work on over the summer to help them build and develop their executive function skills.

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If your child is into technology, or even just likes to talk or perform, creating a podcast is the perfect project for him/her.  Podcasts are fairly easy to create and record, especially if you have a Mac computer. Remember, your child doesn’t have to actually upload their recordings to a website for them to be successful- just the act of planning, researching what they’ll need, finding/purchasing the materials, picking a podcast topic, organizing his/her thoughts, writing a script, and then recording the material is an accomplishment.

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Opening a Lemonade Stand or Small Business

This sounds like a cliché “right-of-passage” for any pre-teen, but opening and running a lemonade (or iced-tea) stand is a great way to get your child to use their executive function skills over the summer.  It’s not as simple as standing outside and pouring lemonade into a cup. Have your child think about all the different steps that are involved in not just making lemonade, but running a stand. What will they need for the stand?  A table, a chair, a change bank? What about advertising? Who will be picking up the lemonade materials? Will they be using powder mix or make freshly squeezed lemonade? How long does that take to make, and what are you using to hold/pour the lemonade?  Did you forget cups? What about the business side- how much is each cup? Will you be paying mom/dad back for the materials? Where are you setting the stand up and what time will your stand be open? Where can I set up my stand (check to make sure this is allowed in your neighborhood/area). Just a few questions to get you thinking about the process.

For older students, encourage your child to be an entrepreneur.  Think about small businesses they can start and how they can advertise.  Ideas include starting a lawn mowing company, a babysitting business, or even becoming a dog walker in the neighborhood.  Your child can start by making flyers or even posting their new business on social media.  

Write a Comic Book, Novel, or Blog

Is writing your child’s passion?  If so, encourage your student to think about writing their own blog or novel, maybe about a special place they went to this summer or a memorable moment they had.  If they also like to draw, a comic book is a great project to work on over the summer. There are lots of cool apps and programs for this if your child would rather do this electronically.  Just like with essays or other writing assignments, your child should choose a topic, develop a thesis statement, and utilize some sort of graphic organizer to help sort through their thoughts before diving in.  I created one for this blog post! Encourage your child to do the writing before adding pictures or graphics. If you notice he/she is having trouble putting thoughts onto paper, try sitting together and having them talk things out, maybe even taking notes for your child that they can refer back to.  Still having trouble with the thesis statement or intro? Skip it and come back to it! No need to spin your wheels. There are also great websites out there that will help your child publish their book so you can order (and even sell!) the finished project (Blurb or Student Treasures).

Powerpoint or Prezi

Is your family planning an amazing family trip somewhere beautiful?  Having a family reunion? Going to camp? A Powerpoint or Prezi presentation is a great way to capture those pictures and memories in a fun way.  My brother-in-law did something similar after his trip with friends to Croatia. We all sat in front of the TV and he went through a photo slideshow of his recent vacation.  Students can even add a fun song or sound effects to the project as an extra step.

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iMovie or GoPro Film

Let’s face it, our children love their phones and technology.  Instead of battling your child over the summer about putting their phone down, come up with a great compromise and have your child make their own movie or documentary.  Encourage your child to think about topics they are interested in and would like to record. Maybe a baseball tournament, summer camp, or even “A Day in the Life of…” are great ideas.  Is there something your child is passionate about, such as a cause in the community or something they want to change? Perhaps even a family vacation? Have your child think about what they would want to film (either with their phone or even a GoPro) and edit the clips together to create their own movie.  There are many ways to do this, and a great way to get your child to practice EF skills relating to breaking down larger projects, chunking, and even meeting deadlines. Use a planner (we have a wonderful Project Planner- contact us for this tool!) to help your child set small goals to get their movie finished on time.

Redecorate Your Room

It may be called “New Year’s resolutions” or “spring cleaning”, but summer is a great time to get yourself into a fresh mindset for the August or September back-to-school mode.  Letting your child redecorate their room is a creative way for them to practice skills like task initiation, focus, flexibility, and organization. Before your child starts moving things around, have them design a blueprint of what they want their end room to look like.  Talk to your child about what they want to change and why; identify problem areas in the space and brainstorm solutions. For example, if your child always has a big pile on their desk or paper clips and pencils on the floor, get a container for the miscellaneous items. If they are moving furniture, make sure they measure (and ask permission) before they start.  

Vacation Project/Scavenger Hunt

Are you going out of town this summer?  Even if you are going somewhere you have been before, create a scavenger hunt or bingo sheet for your child.  Research interesting sites or different places in the area that your child would want to see or would be fun to look for, even something as small as a sand crab or a boardwalk roller coaster.  Have your child take a picture of the item as their “proof” and they can cross it off their list or put a sticker on it. This is a great activity especially for younger children.

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College Visits

College visits do not have to take place during the school year and most college campuses have students on campus year-round.  If you are going to see grandma and grandpa in Ohio, or visiting a fun new city, think about spending a few hours to look at nearby colleges.  Traveling can be a great time to go see a college campus. Even for younger students, this is a wonderful way to get them used to the idea of college and how different campuses are.  You can even make a fun checklist of things they want to see on the campus. We have a great campus journal your child can use to write notes to help them remember their college visit- contact us for more information!

Give these fun projects a try and help your child make the most of their summer!

Creating a Summer Routine


Creating a Summer Routine!

Cue the “School’s Out for Summer!” lyrics, as kids everywhere rejoice in the school year coming to an end. ‘Tis the season we say goodbye to homework, tests, and (somewhat) crazy schedules - and hello to summer heat, long days, and lots of “free time”! 

One of the biggest challenges when you are trying to maintain any kind of “routine”,  especially over the summer, is making use of these big gaps of “free time”. It always seems like there is so much time to get all the things done that you need to, but somehow time is always running away from you!


Whether you are a student, working full-time, a stay-at-home parent, or just trying to check things off your to-do list, we can all fall into this trap! 

While yes, this is the season that we all want to kick-back and relax a bit more (understandably so), how can we find some balance and enjoy summer while still getting things done? 

Here are some of our tips for building a schedule that you can use for yourself, or your family, to help create some routine in the midst of summer: 


#1) GET A CALENDAR - First, we suggest picking how you want to track your schedule and routine. You could try a  dry erase calendar, daily, weekly, or monthly planner. Perhaps, post a big calendar on the refrigerator. Me personally? Well, admittedly, I am a Google calendar fan (you can share your Google calendar with the whole family to coordinate schedules), but I think a dry erase or paper wall calendar is a great option as well! I recommend the calendars that are hourly/weekly - the more writing space, the better! The monthly ones are helpful for writing out dates and events but not exactly useful for writing out daily/weekly to-do’s. So if you are someone that has a lot on your plate, deciding between having a daily vs. weekly calendar (if you are choosing to not use an e-calendar) is an important part of this process. 

Here are a few examples of calendars that we’ve found useful for clients in the past: 

Weekly Dry Erase Calendar

Hourly Weekly Dry Erase Calendar

#2 WRITE OUT ALL OBLIGATIONS: Once you have chosen your calendar or planner, map out everything that is already on the schedule. This includes vacation, sports practices, camp, work, exercise, doctor’s appointments, family dinners and so on. If you have several recurring events, or your daily schedule changes often, this is where you can decide whether a daily or weekly calendar may be a better fit for you. 

#3 SET WAKE-UP & BED-TIMES: This is an important one! It’s tempting for you and the kids to want to stay up late in the summer but this can get everyone into a bad rhythm that’s hard to break for the school year. Setting a  “goal” bedtime for yourself (and the kids) can be very effective in helping you to get a better night’s sleep. Being well rested will help you start the next day with renewed energy and allow you to take advantage of those early morning hours.


#4 FILL IN ALL MEAL TIMES: Family’s tend to eat out a lot more in the summer! This can add up financially, so we recommend mapping out your meals at the beginning of the week. Having a clear (flexible) idea of what you plan to make throughout the week and when you plan to go out for food will help you save money and be prepared ahead of time for each meal. This will also allow you to better plan your day (ie, we have an early morning, so I better make my breakfast and lunch the night before, but we will be having family dinner together so I should pick up chicken on the way home). Additionally, the more prepared you are with meals, the more free time you can have to spend with your family!

 #5 CHORES: During the summer, kids do not have the demands and pressure of homework so it is a wonderful time to start implementing some new systems and routines for the family. Creating a weekly chore list is a great way to start this process. We recommend a weekly family meeting to kick off the week where you can discuss what’s coming up and assign (or let the kids choose) what they are going to help with that week! This can be a fun way to bring the family together and get the kids involved around the house. During this time, we recommend letting the kids share some things they would really enjoy doing that week (seeing a friend, time at the pool, visiting a museum), and incorporate those fun things into the calendar as well! These activities serve as great motivation for them to get their chores and household work done as well!

#6 SUMMER WORK: The dreaded summer work that often gets done two days before the school year starts back up...sound familiar? If your kids have summer work to complete, summer reading, math packet, college applications, or other projects, then chances are this could become a summer-long battle of reminding them while they avoid getting started! We recommend using summer work as an opportunity to practice breaking down an assignment into smaller steps. Add this work to the weekly schedule. Maybe you even have some personal summer work or projects that you would like to accomplish; you can model breaking down a large task into small steps so your kids see how it can easily be done. Try setting a timer for 20 minutes and select a smaller goal, so instead of “finish the math packet” or “organize the whole kitchen” set a goal of 5 math problems and looking through my shoes, to see what you can get done towards that goal. 


#7 ADD IN ANY MISC/PERSONAL/SOCIAL: Now that your calendar is filling up, make sure to add in your hang out time with friends and family, errands, or any other general to-do’s! 

#8 LOOK AT YOUR REMAINING BLOCKS OF TIME: Look at your calendar: do you have a lot of other FREE TIME blocks left? Try computing this - did you factor in showering/getting ready each day? Traveling to/from events, etc. There’s nothing wrong with free chunks of time, but by writing everything out, it helps to create a picture of time. The more we can visualize our day, the better we can have an understanding of what time looks and FEELS like. Since we all too often think we have either so much of time, or too little of it! 

#9 STRICT ROUTINE - FLEXIBLE APPLICATION: This is the most important aspect of having a successful and productive (but FUN!) summer. However you choose to implement these tips, whether it’s for yourself or your household, it’s important to maintain consistency. Of course, things come up and may need to shift, change, or be adjusted, but maintaining the daily consistency is what is key because it creates expectations. When we have the expectation that something needs to get done or happen, it makes the follow through easier.


If you’re super techy, you can always transfer this process into your favorite e-calendar, whether it’s on your phone (iPhone, google, etc.), personal planner, or share your calendar with friends/family members. Having the accountability of others is always helpful! 

Having a daily/weekly routine is so important. In theory, it seems very straightforward, but the simple task of planning your day and week makes accomplishing things and checking off those to-do’s much easier at the end of the day! Life is the most fun when we can be spontaneous, and we always tell our clients that if you have a well planned week and you are organized, that gives you the best opportunity to be truly spontaneous (and enjoy the fun things that come up!)

If you would like some help getting your summer routine started, we would love to assist you in making the most of your summer! ! We offer coaching support for students, adults, parents, and families. The summer is a great time to start working on building family systems and we would love to help you! We also offer organization support for the home so if there are some spaces that need to be decluttered and re-thought, let us know. 

When it comes to making changes in your life, we understand how hard, and sometimes overwhelming it can be. Want to talk further? Fill out the contact form to set up a free consultation call!


Making Free Time your Friend

Learning to become friends with the clock instead of enemies, constantly racing against time or running out of it!

Relaxation. Ever heard of it? Maybe it is just the area that I live in, but I don’t really know many people who truly relax on a regular basis. If you’re like me, staying busy and keeping structure in my day is the only way to ensure that I am effective. When I do have “free time”, I usually feel a sense of guilt or stress if I am not doing something; chipping away at my long-term to-do items that I could not possibly ever get done during a normal week. As a result, I do not rest and I certainly do not relax.

Busy is my jam. I love being busy; I get antsy when I am not busy. However, when I have a lot of unstructured free time, I find myself extremely inefficient and unproductive instead of the opposite. This is something that I have really been working on in the past few years and have found a few ways to make my “free time” productive AND relaxing. Yes, you can accomplish both.


Productive Free Time
Free time. Do you have any? I found that I either had large chunks of free time (difficult for me to get motivated in these longer stretches) or little bursts of 20 minute pockets where I felt nothing could be accomplished. However, when I took a step back and started evaluating my schedule more closely, I realized how much time I was wasting per day just being unproductive or worrying about my mound of responsibilities.


I broke up my responsibilities into weekly and long-term. The weekly tasks such as work for my business, cleaning the house, getting to the gym, staying in touch with friends etc…was best accomplished by setting small goals. If I knew that I had a 20 minute window, I would identify what I could reasonably accomplish in those 20 minutes. While, I might not be able to clean my house from top to bottom in 20 minutes, I could fold a load of laundry and straighten up the living room.

Working in smaller chunks of time and accomplishing things bit by bit is not only more effective but it also increases motivation. When you are just flailing around doing a hundred things at once, starting many tasks but never completing one, it is hard to feel very accomplished or successful. The negative feelings feed the cycle of being unmotivated and unproductive. Instead, completing small tasks bit by bit, accomplishing goals and checking things off your list, is a wonderful way to keep on top of the many things piling up on your plate (short and long-term). **writing notes to friends; sample calendar***


Relaxing Free Time
Now, this is a concept. One thing that I have found is that the more I accomplish during my productive free time, the more realistic it is for me to have relaxing free time. It is also important to note that if you are not building regular relaxation and self-care into your routine, then in the long run you will not be able to sustain the pace you are keeping and you will begin to start dropping balls here and there or eventually crash altogether. For some this might happen quickly, others will find that the stress takes a longer slower toll ultimately getting them to a place filled with low energy, health issues, and an inability to keep up.


A Challenge for You:
I will share a full blog post in the coming months to talk in more detail about scheduling tools and tracking your time. At the end of the day, my belief is that everyone needs to find what works for them. When I am meeting with clients, I never try to push one type of organization or planning structure on them because ultimately it will not be successful if it doesn’t fit their individual needs. For me, I use Google Calendar (on my computer and on my iPhone) to track my appointments and I use an app called 30/30 to track and prioritize my daily to-do list. I also bring a physical planner with me that has printouts of my weekly schedule and allows me to take notes on the go. For some, this set-up would be too much or more than is needed, others might find it very helpful like I do. Whatever place you’re in right now, whether you have a great system or no system at all, I challenge you to evaluate your current set-up and seeing where you might do better to track and manage your time.

In the same way that someone trying to stick to a healthy eating plan preps their meals and schedules gym time at the beginning of the week, a successful manager of their time plans ahead. Take some time at the beginning of the week to think through what you need to accomplish and what is on your calendar. The most of a game plan you are, ironically, the more spontaneous you can be. If you have a good handle on your responsibilities and how you are using your time, you will free up some space to be flexible when those inevitable curve balls (flat tire, distressed friend) come at you midweek. Also, you can have more freedom to go accept an unexpected invitation to do something fun (what a concept) during the week. Even with that game plan before the week, you might still have things added on your plate as the week goes on. To manage this, I recommend spending 15 minutes each morning to assess your day. This is one of my favorite parts of my day, I sit with my tea, relax, take a deep breath, and come up with my must-do list and things I would like to do. I determine what is realistic and prioritize how much time I might need for certain tasks. This simple, and short, activity will set you up for a much more efficient day of accomplishing the thing before you.


My Starbucks-Free, Exercise- Filled Month

                                   Green Juice makes my heart, my skin, and my whole body very happy :) 

                                   Green Juice makes my heart, my skin, and my whole body very happy :) 


Well it took me a few weeks to get this blog written and posted, but for good reason! I have been on vacation and continuing to focus on my health and wellness before gearing up for a very busy fall filled with new clients and managing my business full-time.

The challenge! It was a success for me and many others. I was so excited to see how many people joined with me and all of the creative habits they chose to make and break.

Make a Habit: There were so many good habits being made by the 20+ people who joined me in this challenge. Some, like me, chose exercise and more consistent activity, others chose to add healthier foods into their diets. Other habits made were getting up earlier (not hitting the snooze button), spending quiet time in prayer each morning, having hot water with lemon each morning, and many others!

Break a Habit: Many habits were broken during this challenge. For me, it was my need to constantly have a Starbucks in my hand! Others gave up junk food, staying up too late, not sitting down to eat meals, and saying "yes" to every request made of them to name a few.

For me, this challenge was a great learning experience in many ways. My goal was not to just make a habit and break a habit for 28 days and then go back to normal. I wanted to create true change. Post challenge, I am continuing with my daily exercise (more on that below) and really trying to keep the Starbucks intake to a minimum. In fact, I am planning to cut it out again for a few weeks as I felt so good when I wasn't having my drink every day and I think I need to either cut it out completely or not at all (there is apparently no in between for me). I hope to get to a point one day where I can enjoy it  in moderation, but for now, I might need to completely avoid.

In order to find success in this challenge, I had to get creative. For the exercise, I found all sorts of new ways to get my body moving each day. I tried new classes, worked out with friends, and really pushed myself in a lot of ways. By the last week, I was doing way more than 45 minutes a day (some days even 2 hours because I was having so much fun!) This is something I know I will continue for a few reasons. First of all, I feel amazing! I have so much energy, I am excited to exercise and I have loved all of these new experiences. Second, I truly created a habit. My body expects some form of movement every day or else I really notice a different in my energy and overall feeling of my body. Finally, it's been VERY fun. 

I also got creative with my beverages. I missed my morning drink so I tried to mix it up with healthier (mostly) options. Green juice, smoothies, lemon water, all were in the mix (and at least on one occasion, a milkshake...)

Thanks for reading!


I loved trying out the Barre Classes at my Gym

I loved trying out the Barre Classes at my Gym

This S'mores Milkshake was INSANE. Enjoyed it with my husband on our 4th Anniversary! 

This S'mores Milkshake was INSANE. Enjoyed it with my husband on our 4th Anniversary! 

Cycling is one of my new favorite classes at the gym! 

Cycling is one of my new favorite classes at the gym! 

Homemade Chai Tea Latte's eased the pain a bit. I only did this a few times but it was a much healthier, organic option. 

Homemade Chai Tea Latte's eased the pain a bit. I only did this a few times but it was a much healthier, organic option. 

Swimming at the beach pool was another favorite way to get those calories burned! 

Swimming at the beach pool was another favorite way to get those calories burned! 

Make a Habit, Break a Habit

28 Day Habit Challenge

They say it takes 21 days to create a habit. Well, I think an extra week to make sure it sticks is a good idea. So, 28 days it is!

July 5th through August 1st. 

Making a Habit. Adding something positive into your life. This could be related to health and fitness, your personal relationships, your faith, your need to relax and unwind, or anything else you feel might enhance your day to day experiences. For me...It is exercise. 

My New Habit: Exercising in some form, every day, for 28 days. I plan to do something active for 45 minutes every day for the next four weeks. While I do get in a good amount of exercise every week, I am often inconsistent. By creating more routine in my exercise habits, I hope for this to continue past these 28 days. I know that exercise makes me feel so much better in all aspects so I am certain that it will be an easy habit to maintain. As soon as I remember how good it feels to sweat it out, I am sure this will be a breeze. Another way I hope to push through these 28 days is to mix it up. Different exercises and classes, workout partners, and changes of scenery will be helpful so I do not get bored and fall off the wagon.

Breaking a Habit. This is harder for me. It is not always easy to step back and evaluate choices we make. Why is it so hard to create good habits but the bad ones come naturally and are seemingly impossible to break? Well, I decided to focus on something that I really did not think I could do without for 28 days. I do not want to have anything in my life that I feel has that much control over me or that I can't say no to for just four weeks. Enter...Starbucks.

My Old Habit: Bye, Starbucks (for now!) Let's be clear, I am not banishing Starbucks from my life forever. It pains me to even type that. However, I want to break the habit of going their daily (sometimes twice daily...eek). It's expensive, it's not healthy, and I want to be able to enjoy it on occasion without needing it every day. I know I will struggle with this and I hope to find a healthier alternative to get my caffeine in the morning, but I am excited to challenge myself and do this! 


YOU: Are you up for the challenge? I would love for you to join me. Make a habit, break a habit, do both, whatever you choose, I would love to have you along for the ride. This is not about being strict and rigid, it is about making changes and continuing to grow as a person. If you are interested in joining, please e-mail (or comment below) what you are making, breaking and a picture  that represents this for you!


Let's go!

xoxo, Lauren