Monday, February 26, 2018

Kicking the Procrastination Habit

Most people, at some point or another, find themselves deep in procrastination mode.  It’s so common that it even has its own week:  National Procrastination Week is March 4-10, 2018.  For some, we procrastinate with mindless escapes such as cat videos and online games.  Others engage in procrastination by taking on productive tasks such as cleaning the refrigerator, reorganizing the closet, or responding to emails. 

Sometimes we procrastinate to avoid an unpleasant task or conversation. Sometimes we don’t know how to get started or we are daunted by the feeling that the task is just too big.  For some people, the fear of failing or not being perfect causes them to push the task off until they feel more prepared.  Whatever the reason, and reasons are unique to each of us and each situation, here are a few things you can do to address procrastination in your life. 


One of the very first steps to putting an end to procrastination is to recognize that you are doing it.  It’s pretty easy to recognize that we are procrastinating when we have spent the last hour watching dance videos from the 80’s.  However, it can be hard to do – especially if you are someone who procrastinates by starting other productive projects instead of tackling that daunting task.

If you are a list-maker, be mindful of how you are picking and choosing the activities to start.  Has that one task been on your list for the past 3 days?  Are you, all of a sudden, getting a whole lot crossed off your list?  Could this be because you are avoiding one particular task?  

Bring attention to your emotional reaction to thoughts about the work you have to accomplish. Sometimes we “create priorities” that push the unpleasant task off until the next day.  Sometimes, you may notice a brief feeling of anxiety or guilt when you think about a project that you have not started yet. 


Once you recognize that you are pushing a task down the road, acknowledge it.  Do so without beating yourself up about it.  Don’t add more stress to the situation with negative self-talk.  Acknowledge it and move to the next step.


Attempt to identify what it is about the task that is challenging you.  In reality – that is the issue that you need to address, not the procrastination.  Procrastination is like a symptom of something deeper that you may need to resolve. 

Take an honest look at the reasons you are avoiding the task.  If you need support, talk with a trusted friend or mentor.  They can ask you reflective questions that might help you shed light on why you are avoiding the task. 

Create a realistic plan

Your plan needs to be specific to the reason that you identified for the procrastination.  Each situation may have a different reason, especially if you are an experienced procrastinator.

Here are a few general plans – but you will have to create a plan that works best for you:
  • If the job is too big – Break the job down into small segments and assign due dates for each segment.  If you find that you are still procrastinating, either do more reflection or break the segments down into even smaller pieces. 
  • If you are afraid of failing – evaluate your relationship with failure.  Failure is an important learning opportunity.  It can teach us many things, including how to adapt our actions in the future. Recognize that there is no such thing as perfection. 
  • If you resent having to complete the task – resentment arises when we don’t feel in control of the decision to complete the task.  This can occur when the task is a job responsibility or when we have agreed to do something that we don’t really want to do. 
o   Job responsibility – it may help to recognize how the task fits into the overall success of the program. Try to focus on the contribution you are making as you complete the task. 
o   You agreed to take on the task – you have made a commitment and should honor it.  You could ask that someone else be assigned the task, but consider your future relationship with the task organizer.  You may need to work through this one last task, but moving forward, carefully consider tasks before accepting them.  If you are not completely passionate about the task, say NO!
  • If you aren’t feeling inspired– when waiting for inspiration, you may find yourself in a chicken-or-egg situation.  Sometimes getting started, even in the smallest manner, produces inspiration.
  • If it’s not really important anymore – reevaluate your goals and the reasons that you have this task on your list in the first place.  Perhaps you want to take an exercise class, but seem to find other more important things to do instead.  Revisit why you had the original desire to take the class.  List the benefits would you feel from the class and your long term health goals. Find a friend who might go with you or help you maintain accountability.  You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others! 
How have you addressed your procrastination habit?  Tell us in the comments below.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Exploring Books: Valuable Language and Literacy Experiences

It is commonly said that “It’s about the process, not the product” when children explore art and construction materials. In other words, the learning that takes place as children explore the materials, work with the tools, and learn from their experience is more important than what the final product looks like. 

The same can be said for when exploring books with young children.  Reading a book, uninterrupted, from cover to cover is a wonderful experience for children, but there are many ways to add rich language and literacy experiences for children beyond listening to the words of the story.  When exploring books with young children, consider some of the following practices:

  • Multiple reads – Plan to explore a book multiple times within a week, month, or project.  This allows children to activate prior knowledge when interacting with the book.
  • Book Walks – Book walks are activities where children get to walk through the pages of the book, exploring the pictures, making observations and predictions, without reading the words on the pages.  Book walks can occur prior to reading a book, or after the book has been read a few times. 
  • Ask questions – Preview the book prior to reading it to children to create a list of questions that you will ask during the reading of the book.  You might ask questions about the characters actions or feelings, the conflict, or the end of the story.
  • Plan for discussions – Understand that when you ask questions, several children may have ideas to share.  This will add to the length of time that reading the books will take.  Keep in mind the attention span of the children in your care and be one the lookout for body language telling you that they have been seated for too long..  You may want to plan a stopping point where you can pause, place a book mark in the book, and move on to the next activity.  Pick up the book again later in the day and ask children to tell you the last thing they remember.
  • Alternate endings – Create an activity that encourages children to come up with their own ending to the story.  Children can draw pictures, use clay, or in some other way represent their new ending to the story.
  • Act it out – Add story related props to the dramatic play area and encourage children to act out the story with their friends.
  • Retellings – Create puppets or felt characters that children can use to retell the story.  You can create, or have children create, sequence cards containing important elements of the story.  Children can then use the cards to retell the story in order.
  • Compare stories – You might read several similar stories, or stories by the same author, and make comparisons of the books. 

What other engaging activities have you used to explore books with young children? Share on our Facebook page here.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Teaching Children about Goal Setting

As an early childhood educator, you have it in your power to create the next generation of goal setters.  Just as with most other skills of successful adults, the foundation skills can be traced back to early childhood.  While Infants and toddlers probably won’t be interested in goal setting, it is possible that some of the preschoolers in your care will be capable of and even excited by setting and achieving goals for themselves. 

The goal setting process for children may look a bit different, but many of the elements of adult goal setting apply.  Children’s goals will most likely need to be concrete, short-term, and related to the children’s immediate interests. 
You can introduce goal setting with children by incorporating language associated with goal setting into your everyday language:

  • When children choose a learning center, ask them if they have a plan for their play
  • When they are running on the playground, ask if they have a goal for how fast they want to run
  • When they are creating with playdough, ask if they have an end result in mind
  • When they are building with blocks, ask how many blocks they want to use in their tower
  • When they are at the writing center, ask then what they want to accomplish
If children appear interested in the conversation, continue by asking a few more questions:
  • Is there any way I can help you with your plan?
  • What do you need to do to reach your goal?
  • What tools will help you create your end result?
  • What steps can you make sure that you are successful?
  • Remind them that to achieve some goals takes time and practice
This type of critical thinking is a precursor to more formal goal setting that will take place later in life. 

Ask children to think about the skills they do really well.  See if they can identify how they learned those skills.  Encourage children to think of new skills that they want to learn. Ask the children to think about the steps they need to learn to reach the final skill.  Document all of this information.  Ask children to draw a picture of themselves reaching their goals. Hang the pictures on a classroom goal board.

Here are a few other ways to promote goal setting with children:
  • Record a child’s goal on paper, then take a picture once the goal has been achieved. Ask the child to list the steps they took to achieve the goal.
  • Share goals that you have created and update children as you meet those goals.
  • Create a group goal and plan a celebration once the goal is reached. During the celebration, review the steps the children took to meet the goal. 
  • Read books about characters (fictional and nonfictional) who have set and achieved goals.
  • For older children, ask “What’s Working?” and “What’s Not Working?”  Encourage children to make a plan to fix items on the “What’s Not Working” list.
We would love to hear about your experiences goal setting with children.  Visit us on Facebook to tell us all about it!