Recently, a Homework Rx® subscriber asked for tips to help her daughter stay on-task with her homework. Just last night, a student in my Homework Action Group complained of the same problem. “I have a hard time staying focused on homework. It takes me forever to do it!”
I also remember, as a young student, sitting at my desk, wriggling and squirming until I decided
that I needed a drink, or snack, or pencil… After getting lost in the kitchen and sucked into a TV
show, it was at least an hour before I returned to my homework. I usually had several of these distractions before it became so late that I finally had no choice but to get my homework done. By that time, I was very irritable, annoyed, and impatient (don’t laugh, Mom!), which made homework even worse.
Why did I do this?
I did not like homework (obviously), I did not know how to do it efficiently, and I did not have the discipline to do it quickly. I have learned a lot since then.
While there is not much I can do to help anyone ‘like’ homework, I could teach strategies for completing it faster, but that would take 150 pages. So, this article will help you improve your self-discipline.
“Self-Discipline Does NOT Sound Fun!”
Yes, I know…self-discipline sounds dreadful, but it is time to change your perspective. Just past the point of resistance is an amazing feeling of accomplishment and a big pay-off. Self-discipline is what motivates athletes to win championships and wealthy people to earn their riches.
One of the world’s most successful marketing campaigns was created on the concept of self-discipline when NIKE inspired athletes to “Just Do It!” Apply that attitude to homework, and great things will happen.
** Action Plan **
“Just do it!” is a little easier said than done, especially when it comes to homework. However, the tips below will help you get started:
– The hours from 3-6 p.m. are typically the most wasted of students’ days. Make them your most productive by doing homework within one hour after school (when possible). You will be more alert at this time of day, so homework will actually be easier than if you did it later in the evening.
– Challenge yourself to find small sections of time for homework before you get home… on the bus, before basketball practice, or even during school. (There is a lot of down-time in classes, such as when teachers take attendance.) The less homework you have by the time you get home, the more motivated you will be finish the rest quickly.
– Reward yourself. Challenge yourself to do all of your homework before a specific time so you can watch your favorite TV show, play video games, talk on the phone, IM your friends, etc.
– Fill a basket with supplies you need for homework: pens, pencils, pencil sharpener, stapler, paper, scissors, markers, glue, ruler, etc. Keep the basket handy when you do homework so everything you need will be right at your fingertips. One trip across the house for a stapler can cost you hours when you get sidetracked by the TV, refrigerator, or computer. Each sibling should have their own basket and if you live in two homes, you should have one basket in each house.
– Eliminate distractions. It is tempting to watch TV, do email, or listen to music while doing homework. However, the human brain is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time. When you try to do two things at once, your attention constantly shifts back-and-forth. Sometimes that shift happens so rapidly, you don’t even notice it. You will, however, be doubling your Homework Market increasing errors, and completely destroying any learning that should happen while doing homework (that would otherwise save you study time for your next test).
– Parents: Do your ‘homework’ while your children do theirs. You have bills to pay and school papers to complete. Doing those chores during ‘homework time’ will keep it from being so lonely for your children.
– Use an electronic timer. Before you begin an assignment, determine how much time it should take to complete the assignment. Add five minutes and set the timer. Challenge yourself to finish it before the timer goes off. This is great way to develop homework motivation (a.k.a. self-discipline) because it becomes a game to play against yourself. For younger students, parents can offer small rewards for each assignment that is done before the timer goes off.