4 Steps to Make School Projects Less Stressful

By Megan Sumrell
Stressful School Projects: Teenage boy having problems in finishing homework

Say goodbye to “school project panic“ with this fun planning technique

We’ve all been there. Your child comes home from school in a panic because a project is due the next day and they haven’t even started. And this is the first time you are hearing about it. Situations like these do not bring out the best in me or my child. Thankfully, there are some fun and simple planning tools you and your child can use together to help avoid procrastination.

First, it is important to understand why so many of us procrastinate when it comes to large projects. It isn’t necessarily because we don’t want to work on it or don’t like the assignment, it is simply because we don’t know where to start. In my family, any time we have a large project to think about, we grab a pack of sticky notes and walk through this four step process. 

Step 1:  Brainstorm all the necessary tasks

I mentioned above that we can have fun with this, right? That is why before I begin this step, I grab a stack of my child’s favorite color sticky notes and favorite pens and find a blank wall in the house. Then, we brainstorm all the “tasks” that need to be done to complete the project and write 1 task on each sticky note.  

As you write, put each sticky note on the wall. The key to this step is NOT worrying about what order you need to work in.  We will often set a 10 minute timer and go as fast as we can to avoid over-thinking.

Step 2:  Put tasks in a working order

Once your brainstorm is complete, now you can start thinking about what order to work in. Start moving the sticky notes around to put the tasks in an order that makes sense.

This is a great tool to help your child think through dependencies and efficiencies that is very visual and feels like a puzzle to solve.

Step 3:  Plan in “wiggle room”

Now, you are ready to start thinking about when each sticky note needs to be done. I always suggest starting with the due date and setting your personal due date two days before the project is actually due.  This gives you necessary extra time in case something takes longer than originally planned or something unexpected happens.

Step 4:  Assign key dates to track project progress

Now, you are ready to work through the rest of your sticky notes and discuss how long each one will take and assign due dates for each step of the project. I like to do this with a pencil because we often need to make changes as we work through this.  

The most important part of this step is to look at your child’s actual schedule to avoid over committing work. For example, if they have a big event one weekend, you will want to avoid due dates on that weekend.

As work on the project progresses, your child gets to remove each sticky note from the wall and easily track their progress (along with seeing reminders of what to do next).

Homework teaches life lessons

Obviously, you can only teach your child these tools and techniques if your child lets you know about an upcoming assignment. If this is something you want to work together on with your child, I suggest letting their teachers know so they can keep you in the loop the next time a longer term project is assigned.  

It may be tempting to brainstorm on a piece of paper or computer but I strongly encourage this sticky note technique. It is far more fun and easier for your child to visualize the project this way and track their progress!

Megan Sumrell is a former corporate executive turned entrepreneur. As a Time Management Expert for women seeking Work+Life Harmony, Megan teaches specific strategies to help women get on top of their time, calendar and goals while getting rid of stress, overwhelm and exhaustion.

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