Tag Archives: productivity

Teacher Blogger chat at MAV Conference 2015

At MAV Con the other day I sent out a tweet to catch up with other teacher bloggers:

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It was a small meeting (only 2 of us), but I was happy to have the opportunity to meet with fellow teacher blogger Michaela Epstein. Aside from a great chat that touched on our backgrounds, motivations for teaching, and even spaced repetition software,  Michaela and I turned to a few questions that I’d drafted up to get into the why, how, and what of our blogging approaches. Enjoy : )

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 8.26.43 amMichaela Epstein


    • twitter handle: @mic_epstein
    • blog address?: https://michaelaepstein.wordpress.com/ 
    • Where are you based (as much detail as you’d like to give)?: Melbourne

Juicy Q’s

  • Why do you blog?: Initially was to give non-teachers an insight into what actually happens in schools and give an understanding of the social side and social justice side of the school context. Since starting teaching it’s taken on a maths/social justice focus.
    • What part/s of your blog/blogging are going well?: Get good feedback from people who read it. A useful way to express some complex ideas that I think about then communicate that with others. Good way to start interesting conversations.
    • Which blogging/social media apps or programs do you find core to the way you do what you do in the blogosphere?: Twitter is being used more and more, easy, quick, can share stuff, low barriers to entry and great way to connect with others.
    • What is a challenge that you’re contending with at the moment w.r.t your blogging/use of social media?: Not doing it /not doing it regularly.
    • What’s your favourite Ed blog?: www.mathwithbaddrawing.com   it’s a U.S dude now in the UK (also social commentary on maths education). His blogs are usually just cartoons with annotations on those cartoons.
    • Why?: This website gets to the crux of the philosophical issues that we deal with as maths teachers.

Ollie Lovell


    • Twitter handle: @ollie_lovell
    • Blog address?: www.ollielovell.com
    • Where are you based (as much detail as you’d like to give)?: Melbourne, gonna be doing research with a Northern Metropolitan Region school in 2016.

Juicy Q’s

    • Why do you blog?: To sort through my own ideas, share what I do in my classroom, and as a way to force me to reflect on books, conference, etc.
    • How would you describe the focus of your blog?: It’s really about my learning journey. I’ve taken the title ollielovell.com so that I can be really flexible just to be me and explore and blog about what’s relevant for me. Main foci are wot-I-got from various conferences/books, what I’m trying out in my own class, and my learning journey more broadly
    • What part/s of your blog/blogging are going well?: I’ve enjoyed particularly sharing some of my classroom approaches recently.
    • Which blogging/social media apps or programs do you find core to the way you do what you do in the blogosphere?: The Google Docs Add-on Docs to WordPress. Allows me to write posts in google docs then export to WordPress. Saves a bunch of time in uploading photos and makes it easier to collaborate on posts.
    • What is a challenge that you’re contending with at the moment w.r.t your blogging/use of social media?:
      • Keeping up with twitter and sorting the wheat from the chaff!
      • Ordering/sorting the content on my website to make it easier for punters to use
    • What’s your favourite Ed blog?: Dan Meyer’s blog and the less well known BetterExplained.
      • Why?: Dan’s creativity and the way that he does things in his class blows my mind. Kalid’s work on BetterExplained has helped me to understand maths better.


Acquire: The second of the 5 steps of efficient learning

This is the second of the five steps of efficient learning that are outlined here

After you’ve completed the first of the 5 steps of efficient learning, Survey, it’s time to acquire.

Here we’re talking about acquiring the best information that will enable you to get to a point of understanding as quickly as possible. Two main ways this is going to happen.

  1. If you’re in a live learning situation, such as at school or university or a conference, your acquisition is delivered straight to you (though you may need to supplement it with further info later on).
  2. If you’re undertaking a personal learning project, acquisition following the survey step should be quite straight forward. From downloading relevant technology to buying the materials or visiting the websites that you’ve pinpointed to be most relevant.
Which of the four live learning scenarios is this one?

Which of the four live learning scenarios is this one?

In personal learning projects the acquisition quite naturally follows the survey, so I don’t feel we need to spend much time discussing that, but for a live learning environment the distinction between the survey and the acquire steps can be a bit grey, so let’s explore that in more detail.

The first thing to note here is that which of the steps a lecture covers really depends on both the quality of the lecturer and the difficulty of the subject. Quickly identifying which of these following situations you’re in can greatly help you to learn efficiently. Consider the following Four Live Learning Scenarios.

  • Good lecturer, Easy subject-Awesome, the lecturer has already completed the survey step for you and distilled the key lessons that they’re going to try to impart. Acquisition is also taken care of, they’re delivering the key lessons in a format that’s ideal. If the subject is easy enough (or your background knowledge is good enough) you may even be able to make it all the way through the understanding and even link steps in a single lecture if the conditions are optimum. Here you may even want to skip the lecture and watch it later fast forwarded in VLC media player to save you time.
  • Good lecturer, Hard subject-Ok, so the lecturer has distilled the lessons and is imparting them in a practical way but alas, you’re struggling to take in any of the information. In this kind of situation you’re best to use the lecture as just the survey step. Pay great attention to all of the topic headings and the way that the lecturer has ordered the information and linked different things together. Take comprehensive notes to give you the best opportunity to review the info later on and learn from what this great teacher had to say after the lesson. Another approach is to not actually attend the lesson but instead to use lesson recordings (if available). This will allow you to
  • Bad lecturer, Easy subject-This is pretty common. A lecturer takes some material that isn’t too difficult and manages to confuse the whole class. In this situation don’t try to use their classes for either the survey or the acquisition step. Just skip them. Do however stay in touch with someone from the class to try to get an idea of the kind of stuff that is going to be on the exam. You can also survey past exams to achieve the same ends. Do your own independent survey for relevant info (ask someone who’s already completed that unit and try to get their notes) and try to find some good online tutorials.
  • Bad lecturer, Hard subject-this is very much similar to the ‘bad lecturer, easy subject situation’. The only difference is that it’s now more important to try to identify what you’re going to be tested on. Another key point is that it may be to your benefit to find a (good) tutor in this scenario. Tutors can help you to both survey and acquire. But if you do your survey first you’ll be in a much better position to get the most out of your tutoring session. You’re wasting your time and money if you rock up to your tutoring session with no idea of what you want to learn.

 Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 9.58.48 AMDespite the suggestions above of what you should/could do in each of the four live learning scenarios there will be times when it’s just not possible for you to run away, despite the warning signs. This could be for a number of reasons such as

  • Attendance is compulsory
  • Learning materials aren’t available elsewhere
  • You don’t trust yourself to study independently so think you had better attend!**

In this kind of situation we need to bite the bullet and do the best we can with what we’ve got. And that requires one key skill. Note taking. See this article on my method of note taking before moving on to step 3, understand.

*this was the case with me for the first couple of years of university but eventually I came to the realisation that I’d be better off leaving if the lecturer was bad. After I did it once and worked out how much easier it was to teach myself the stuff there was no turning back!

**If this sounds like you then I suggest you try to nip this one in the bud quickly and sort it out. Check out this post on motivation to try to get better control in such situations.

Survey: The first of the 5 steps of efficient learning

This is the first in the five steps of efficient learning that are outlined here

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 9.08.03 AMSurvey is about working out what you need to learn. This can be thought of in the ‘ask around’ sense of the word, or in the ‘survey the scene’  sense. If you’re preparing for a test, surveying is about finding out what is most likely to come up in the test, if you’re trying to learn a language, Survey is about finding the high frequency words, and learning them first. In this step we are sketching the outline of our learning and trying to recognise patterns in the information that we can take advantage of.

The best way for me to explain this is through examples.

Example 1: Maths exam

2011, Semester 2, 5 days out from my Differential Equations and Linear Algebra exam. I’d really left things to the last minute. I’d just returned from a conference that I attended in the middle of study week and I now had less than a week to learn a 13 week unit that I really hadn’t been paying attention to*. The first step? Survey! The goal of the survey was to identify exactly what I needed to learn to get the maximum outcome with the minimum effort.

This was me doing my best to employ the 80/20 rule. Asking: ‘Which 20% of work will give me 80% of the results?’ Did I try to work through all of the lectures from the unit? No, not enough time. I began with the end in mind. I started by looking at past exams.**

My Survey of past exams spanned the 2002 exams to the 2010 exams (I chose these ones because these were the ones for which the lecturer had been the same, and he was my lecturer that year, so I assumed they would be a good indication of relevant info). I tried to identify similar questions in each exam and I grouped them into PDFs so I could see each ‘category’ of question in one place. Here’s what they looked like in my folder

Screen shot 2014-09-12 at 7.59.52 AM

And here’s an example of what one of the PDFs looked like.

Now, whether you have or haven’t studied Differential Equations and Linear Algebra before, it’s clear that doing this did one thing of great value. It allowed me to identify patterns in the past exams, patterns that I could use to target my study. I now could see exactly what I had to learn to prepare. I spent the next three days looking at one question every morning, and one question every afternoon, here’s a re-make of what my study timetable looked like

Exam study timetable

I teamed up with buddies to work through questions that each of us struggled with, and I and I got the  80/20 rule spot on, I got 80% for the unit.

*Since this time I’ve learnt a lot about learning and knowledge acquisition and have come to realise the massive weakness of this ‘leave it to the last moment’ approach. If you don’t space your revision you’re really doing yourself a disservice and you’re likely to have the info just fall out of your brain post-exam. Furthermore, I recently found out about the importance of actually memorising things long term for life learning and better comprehension/critical thinking. This completely changed my view of how I studied in my undergraduate degree. I include this example here to express the value of the survey stop, not to glorify cramming!

**Whether this exact technique will work depends on the nature of the unit and the lecturer. In the above, for dramatic purposes, I leave out the fact that I’d chatted to a number of previous students of this class and they’d all told me that the exam was pretty predictable each year. This pre-survey survey gave me confidence that I’d be able to use the survey technique to reduce my study time and learn the content in 5 days.

Example 2: Learning Mandarin

Tiàowàng: To scan from afar, to survey the scene from an elevated position

Tiàowàng: To scan from afar, to survey the scene from an elevated position

My primary learning project at present is learning Mandarin. I started in November 2013 (10 months ago now) .But how did I start? With a Survey of course. But this survey was different to the maths exam. I wasn’t learning for a test, I was learning for living. So I saw it in a different light. For this survey I employed the most important survey principle that I know: ‘Ask someone who knows.

This is a principle that I apply to absolutely everything I start, from calling my grandma to ask her how to cook a christmas pudding to reading books about how the stock market works. In the case of Mandarin, I knew of 1 person who I knew had learned languages quickly before, Tim Ferriss. So I read up on what he had to say about language learning.

This introduced me to Spaced Repetition Software  and the idea of Frequency Lists. I then spoke to someone else at a conference and they told me about ChinesePod. Finally, I tracked down a friend of a friend who had taught himself Mandarin and was fluent. We met up at the local library and I we had a great chat. He taught me two vital lessons in that conversation: Firstly, that communication is mostly nonverbal, so when communicating in the language that you’re learning, don’t stress too much about the words, think about the meaning (sounded strange at first but became more clear as I began to communicate more, and allowed me to accelerate my communication). Secondly, it’s ok if sometimes you don’t feel motivated. Just because you stop for a week doesn’t mean that you have to stop for ever. Just pick it up again and keep going.


By taking a step back at the start of a learning experience and asking ‘what exactly do I have to/want to learn and what’s the best way to do this?’ you can help yourself to first see the patterns of your learning task before you move into the detail. Ask someone who knows and sketch out the outline and the main points of the task before you begin. This is the difference between completing a puzzle when you know what the end picture is supposed to look like vs. when you don’t. Scope out the scenery. Do a survey.

I’ll note that both Tim Ferris and Josh Kaufman call this step ‘deconstruction’.

Taking Care of Business – Identifying Your Motivational Weak Points and How to Address them

It’s time to get better at Taking Care of Business!

For many people, managing motivation in order to Take Care of Business (TCB) is an ongoing challenge throughout life. The goal of this post is to help you understand and name the factors that are influencing your motivation. Once you learn to identify your own motivational weak points, you’ll be empowered to address them in a targeted way.

This article is based on findings from a psychological paper entitled:

The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Steel, Piers. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 133(1), Jan 2007, 65-94. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.65

The paper can be found in full here and a good summary of it is available in this LessWrong article. In short, Steel came up with what he calls ‘the procrastination equation’.*

Motivation Equation (my terminology)

Steel’s research identified there are four main things that effect how motivated you are to do any given task. I remember them as the three things you need to address in order to Take Care of Business (TCB). These factors are:

Let’s address each of them in turn. For each, I’ll briefly comment on how I address each of them and will provide links to a whole host of methods that people find useful.

*Please note: I have changed the terminology used in the original paper in order to make it more easy to remember. In the following I wrap Time Sensitivity and Deadline up into one because they’re only relevant when viewed as a pair.

Time Sensitivity and Deadline

Are you the kind of person who appears to have a remarkable ability to not do things until the last minute? Maybe you don’t manage to start assignments till 4am the night before it’s due, maybe you don’t even think about christmas shopping till Christmas eve. If this sounds like you perhaps your motivation weak point is your time sensitivity. People with low time sensitivity don’t feel much of a sense of urgency about things. Time Sensitivity combines with how far away the Deadline is to influence motivation. If your time sensitivity is low, and the deadline is far away, your motivation is likely to be pretty low.

Top Tip for managing your Time Sensitivity and Deadlines
. There’s one key thing that, if you learn to properly take advantage of it, will help you overcome your Time Sensitivity.

sitivity weakness: The Power of Habit!  In the Ted Talk below Charles Duhigg introduces us to one of the most powerful psychological drivers that we can learn to harness, the Cue-Reward loop. Check out the 15 minute talk to unlock your power of habit.

(if you’re viewing this in email the video can be seen here)

More info:
Here’s how the website LessWrong suggests you deal with a low Time Sensitivity (they call it impusliveness)
Here’s some more good tips from AlexVermeer on Impulsiveness.

Care Factor

Motivation-Care Factor

Care factor relates to 2 types of caring. 1: Care about, 2: Care for. 1 relates to whether you ‘Care About’ the outcome. It’s likely that your care factor is very high for some outcomes (eg: staying alive) and maybe not as high for others (cleaning?). 2 relates to how much you ‘Care For’ the actions required to get to the outcome. Here are the possible combinations of these two Care factors and the possible/likely outcomes.

  • Low Care About, Low Care For: Maybe this is the case in your job or school. You don’t like it and you don’t think that what you’re doing has any value. See below these dot points for methods to address both your care about and your care for factors.
  • High Care About, Low Care For: Your motivation is probably pretty high, but you may start to feel weary as time goes on and you may burn out. This is the case for many teachers who care a lot about their students but are working in bad conditions. It’s also what leads to burnout for many activists how have a long time between successes
  • Low Care About, High Care For: Great, you enjoy doing the task itself! for example, you’ve just started to learn the piano and you’re enjoying your practice. Only problem with this combo is once you hit a bit of a challenge (as is inevitable on any learning journey) and maybe you’re not enjoying it so much anymore, you don’t care about the outcome enough to push through
  • High Care About, High Care For. Awesome, you’re well on your way to success : )

Top Tip for managing your Care About. Ultimately this is about linking what you’re trying to get motivated about to your life and what you want to achieve in it. This goal setting exercise can help you do this.

Top Tip for managing your Care For. Some times in life we come up against situations where we just have to do something that we don’t want to. But it’s important to remember that no matter what you’re doing, there is always the possibility to see the action in a more negative or in a more positive light. This video by Brendon Burchard addresses how you can train yourself to see situations more positively, and to recognise when you’re in a place of negative thoughts. See the bottom of this post for how I’ve applied this to get over some of my study obstacles.

More Info:
-Here’s how the website LessWrong suggests you deal with a low care factor (they call it ‘Value’)
Here’s some more good tips from Alex Vermeer on Value


Belief, like care factor, is also split into 2 main sub-categories. 1: ‘Belief that success is possible’ and 2: ‘Belief that that you taking action will lead to that success’. These two points are related and you need both of them satisfied in order to feel motivated to take action.

Believing that Success is Possible: ‘Belief that success is possible’ is in a large part dependent upon believing that you yourself are capable of achieving. There are three main pathways to self belief as outlined by Richard Shell in his book.(See kindle location 3166 of the book Springboard). These three pathways are:

  1. Someone you respect believes that ‘You Can Do It!-This is where amazing teachers come in and change lives for many students! An experiment that clearly proves this is Pygmalion in the Classroom.
  2. A Rite of Passage-ie: you overcome some obstacle and realise you’re actually capable of achieving greatness.
  3. You have Faith-Maybe you have a religion or positive thinking technique or you recite mantras or having a ‘lucky charm’ or something like that.

Top Tip for fostering belief that you can achieve. All three pathways to self-belief are open to you. I find that watching the 5 minute clip that I mentioned above, Pygmalion in the Classroom, to be incredibly inspiring. It helps to remind me that simply by changing expectations you change your chances of success. Ultimately, belief that you can get smarter and achieve is a question of mindset, if you’d like some more reinforcement after watching Pygmalianin the Classroom, check out this presentation that I put together on Mindset.

Believing that you taking action can lead to success: This is the crunch. And it’s a legitimate question “If I do this, will it actually make me any better”. In some scenarios it’s obvious that taking the action will lead to improvements but it others it isn’t that clear. At this point it’s super important to stress the importance of being strategic in how you spend your time practicing/taking action. This point opens this blog post up to the world of productivity/learning literature, but for now I’ll just keep it to a top tip.

Top Tip for believing that you taking action will lead to success. Be Strategic! The best way that I now of doing this is through the 5 step learning method of S.A.(U).L.T. This is the method that I use to learn efficiently and it enabled me to do well in my Economics and Physics degrees at University. I don’t think that I’m a genius by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think that I work hard and I work smart. I hope that the S.A.(U).L.T Learning process can help you to learn quickly and efficiently too.

More Info:
Here’s how the website LessWrong suggests you deal with a low level of belief (they call it expectancy)
Here’s some more god tips from Alex Vermeer on Expectancy
Josh Kaufman’s 4 step method of learning anything in 20 hours
Tim Ferriss’ fast learning approach as outlined in the book ‘The Four Hour Chef‘.

Ollie’s Methods

How do I address my own time sensitivity? I have one trick that I often use when I have low motivation because I feel like a test is a long way away. I look at past exams. This makes me aware of my knowledge gap (chances are I’ll see many of the questions and think ‘holy moly, I have no idea how to do this!) and motivates me to study straight away. For situations in life when I don’t have that “look at a test” option I’ll often self-impose a deadline. One recent example was when I wanted to learn about mindset, so I put my hand up to run a workshop on mindset at the University of Tasmania. Nothing like a deadline to get you motivated!

 How do I address my Care Factor? At times whilst doing my undergrad in physics my care factor was pretty low. Eg: “How does knowing anything about a quark ever going to affect my life???”. At times like these I’d sit down at my desk and lay my books out in front of me. I’d then close my eyes and force myself to smile and repeat over and over to myself “I love physics, I love learning, I can’t wait to work on these problems and learn all about quarks.”. This technique takes advantage of the fact that your body language shapes who you are and I found it incredibly helpful.
Another approach here is to address the ‘Care For’ element. If we develop mastery based goals rather than performance based goals  we’re in a better position to stay motivated over the long run. There are two clear examples of this in my life:
-When I started this blog the initial impetus was that I came to a realisation that being a successful and well respected academic/teacher/person these days  needs an online presence, so I set about to do that. I was spending a heap of time on twitter trying (relatively unsuccessfully) to get more followers and was trying to post every week on this site to keep things moving. Eventually I came to the realisation that I would enjoy things more if I didn’t pressure myself to post but instead posted when I felt like it and to use posts as a way to order and consolidate my own thinking. Since changing my outlook on posting, maintaining this blog has been much more enjoyable for me.
-The second example is running. I find that running to ‘look healthy and fit’ isn’t incredibly motivating for me. I used to try to get personal records but I found that the pressure of having to beat my previous PR was actually working as a de-motivator for me. I have started to run without a watch, I just head out of the house with my sneakers on and get moving and take in the view. If I feel like it I’ll really push myself, if I don’t I just coast. Either way, by focusing on making the task itself enjoyable I’ve made both my blogging and jogging more sustainable.

One last thing… For those in a position to decide how you spend the time, the other thing to do here is to really look in detail at what you’re doing and whether you’re truly following your passion. Maybe your care factor is low for a reason… maybe you really should be doing something else! Books like The 4-Hour Workweek and Springboard have really helped me to stay focused and on track.

How do I address Belief? I have a pretty strong sense of self belief, primarily through pathway 1 (parents believing in me). As such I’ve been motivated to explore the space of efficient learning and to really try to work out how that works for me. If I was to bullet point my approach to learning new things it would be as follows:

  • Work out what I want to do/learn
  • Try to find someone who’s done it before and ask how they did it
  • Next best thing to asking someone directly is to read about a successful person’s approach (If you find a book that looks like it’s going to cover the topic nicely, google the author with google’s video filter and you can often find a really concise summary that will work as a good primer for your brain before you read it, or instead if you’re really pressed for time)
  • Surround myself with other people with similar goals (eg: Every monday I hold a hot pot at my house for people learning mandarin and people learning english and we have a great time and keep each other motivated)
  • Once I’ve learnt something that’s important for me to retain to get to my ultimate goal (if it’s a learning project), I try to work out some method of remembering it. Probably a mnemonic or a rhyme or something. (see my series on cognition for more detail). And finally…
  • Practice! If the task is something academic then I’ll use Spaced Repetition Software to memorise it.


Motivation is a big one, and it’s something that for me seems to wax and wane throughout life. Hopefully by dissecting motivation and understanding it better, as this article has attempted to do, we’re all in a better position to keep our motivation high. Trying different techniques for motivation is something that I’m constantly reviewing and updating. It’s an exciting journey.

Here’s Alex Vermeer’s diagram encapsulating many of the pathways to get from low care factor, low belief or low time sensitivity to motivation!

 Alex Vermeer's guide to defeating procrastination


Goal Setting: How a 2 hour goal setting exercise can facilitate long term success (with downloadable worksheet)

Out of my recent summary of Richard Shell’s  Springboard, Launching Your Personal Search for Success  came several things that I want to explore further. One of them was about goal setting.

Here’s the tantalising intro to goal setting that Richard gave us in his book. (Kindle location 3819)

“In a notable study of academic achievement, researchers randomly selected college students who were struggling with their grades and conducted a simple intervention. Half the students were given a two-hour, web-based, goal-setting tutorial.

Screen shot 2014-09-10 at 10.15.52 AM The program led students through a five-step process to conceive, frame, and write out specific personal goals related to their future, followed by a three-step tutorial to help them lay out detailed strategies for how they would achieve the goals they had set. (control group did a personality/aptitude test). At the end of the following semester, the researchers reviewed the academic performance…. Four months later, however, the grades of the group that had received the goal tutorial had risen, on average, from 2.2 to 2.9, while the other group’s grades rose only from 2.2 to 2.3. In addition, the members of the goal-tutorial group carried heavier course loads and felt better about themselves and their academic performance. This simple intervention, in short, had materially improved the chances for these students to graduate on time and with a new, more positive attitude.”

Well, that sounds like a pretty good use of 2 hours! I had to look into it in more detail.

Dominique Morisano, Jacob B. Hirsch, and Jordan B. Peterson, “Setting, Elaborating, and Reflecting on Personal Goals Improves Academic Performance,” Journal of Applied Psychology 95 no. 2 (2010): 255-64.  (See the appendix of the paper for more detail on the 8 step process that I outline below. Please see the bottom of this page for a downloadable worksheet on goal setting.)

So, what were these 8 steps?

1. Vision Get students to free-write about a) their ideal future, b) qualities they admire in others, c) things they could do better, d) their school and career futures, e) things they would like to learn more about, f) habits they would like to improve.
2. Label Label the main ideas and concepts that came out of the visioning process. Take a few of these (7 to 8 in the study) and write about what a successful outcome would actually look like if realised.  Ensure that each labelled goal is clear and specific.
3. Prioritise Prioritise goals from step 2. Detail specific reasons for the pursuit of each goal and consider the attainability of each goal within a self-specified timeframe. (Attainability considered as success-expectation has a large influence on motivation)
4. Impact Ask students to write about the impact that attaining each of the goals would have on their life. This exercise provides further motivation for students. (As an interesting aside on Impact, check out what Dan Gilbert has to say about Impact Bias)
5. Chunk “Many things which cannot be overcome when they stand together yield themselves up when taken little by little.”-Quintus Sertorius. This step is about getting students to break their goals up into bite sized pieces/subgoals and constructing concrete strategies for achieving ach of them.
6. Obstacles Encourage students to identify likely obstacles to each subgoal and think of strategies to over come these.
7. Cap Students cap each subgoal, ie: define what it will look like for each sub-goal to be achieved. This is about benchmarking goal attainment to help keep students focused through aiding them in monitoring their own progress.
8. Committed Students evaluate the degree to which they are committed to achieving each goal. This is about the student forming a personal contract with themselves to strive for the goals that they have defined. At the end of the exercise all documents were emailed to students for their reference*.

Screen shot 2014-09-10 at 10.18.42 AM

*A possible improvement on this would be to get students to schedule emails to themselves (could use boomerang or set as events with reminders in google calendar) so that they are reminded on a weekly (or so) basis of their goals and their goal accomplishment timeline.

Good luck using the below worksheet in your classroom or life to help your students or yourself live and learn better  :)

Downloadable goal setting worksheet.



For those who would like to be able to remember this 8 step process without referring to this article again, please consider the following mnemonic:

note: When i say “a friend’ or ‘a brand’ make sure you envision a specific friend and an specific brand, etc.

You’re looking into the eyes of a good friend  (Vision), the camera shot zooms out and you notice that they’re wearing a new pair of glasses with a new brand (Label), You ask them how they chose this new label and they admit that it was hard to prioritise (Prioritise). Suddenly, the glasses fall of your partners nose and impact the ground (Impact). They’ve fallen into two big chunks (Chunk). You decide to walk to the hardware store to try and fix them, but your friend, who is missing their glasses, has trouble avoiding the telephone poles on the way (Obstacles). You decide that it’s best to get them a hard hat to keep them safe on the journey (Cap). The hard hat salesperson ask you out, but you have to tell them that you’re already committed (Committed). 


Log your time with 5 time tracking apps to improve efficiency

Good routine is the enforcer of balance, and balance is the mainstay of sanity. Check out these time logging apps to help maintain balance in your life. All work on Apple and Android and are free unless specified.

Toggle: Toggle on and off tasks to tally how much time you spend on each.

Rescue Time: Auto-log how long you spend on different apps/pages. In premium you can block/suspend distracting pages.

My Minutes: Set goals to schedule and plan how long you want to spend on tasks and get reminders.

Timesheet: Track and bill work hours as well as free time. Control with voice commands. App therefore mobile based. (Android only)

Fanurio: Similar to Timesheet but desktop based (Mac, Linux, Windows). (Not free)

This is a selection from a list of 10 apps originally outlined in this article by Fast Company.





Book Review: Springboard, Launching Your Personal Search for Success-Richard Shell

WOW! If I had to sum this book up in one word, that would be it.

Now, for many people the word ‘success’ reeks of sex, money, and power, but this book really frames the word ‘success’ in a new light, and approaches it in a fresh way.

Author Richard Shell, who runs a success course at Wharton college in the U.S, breaks his book into two parts. The first half asks “What is Success”” and helps the reader to define what success is for them. This is done in a number of ways, one of which is the ‘Six Lives Exercise’ whereby the reader hears of the lives of 6 people who are all successful in different ways. This is an excellent lead-in to thoughts and conversations (if used in a class environment) about values and reflections upon what we ourselves find successful.

Springboard-Richard Shell

The second half of the book, “How will I Achieve It?” is all about just that! It’s broken into chapters focused on subjects such as finding your calling, motivation, self confidence and persuasion.

I have read quite a bit in this space over the years, from psychology to self help to motivational literature. In this book Richard Shell mentions (and distills) almost every key point I have come across in these fields to date. Furthermore, the referencing system was second to none, every fact, figure and claim in the book was hyperlinked to the “notes” in the back which were themselves logically ordered for quick reference. Easy access, delicious!

Hands down, this is the best book I have ever read in this area. Would make an excellent 18th, 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th, (etc) birthday present for anyone willing to take the time to dig in.

Read on for a selection of Wot-I-Got out of the book (I made over 250 notes whilst reading this book, that must be a pb!) and see the PDF at the bottom of the page for my notes in full.

Numbers refer to kindle locations, and remember, all points have excellent references within the book!


Introduction, Two Big Questions

88: Quote: “It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deceotion or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized”

116: The “Odyssey Years”, between 20 and 35. A new period of life as defined by modern sociologists

346: Quote: on being true to oneself: “The challenge in social interaction is figuring out how to maintain your sense of personal authenticity at the same time that you make the adjustments needed to work with a variety of other people and personalities.

Part One, The First Question: “What is Success?”

Chapter 1: The First Answer: Choose Life

374: Quote: “There is no one who, if he listens to himself, does not discover in himself a pattern all of his own, a ruling pattern.”-Michel De Montaigne, French Philosopher

454: Finding Success-Four Key Themes: 1. Defining success for yourself often involves trial and error, 2. Seek awareness of the success values and culture of your family so that you can independently consider your own success goals, 3. Success is a multidimensional concept, 4. Success is not a destination

Chapter 2: An Easy Answer: Be Happy

690: The word happiness is used to describe three distinct things. Ice Cream (momentary) happiness, Lifestyle Happiness, Life Purpose Happiness. (note: not Shell’s terminology)

764: French and U.S women spend roughly same time eating, but french pay 2 x as much attention →  more ice cream happiness

915: The Harvard Study of Adult Development/The Grant Study tracked the happiness and health of 268 men for 72 years. George Vaillant, study head, concluded with “the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships with other people”.

Chapter 3: Society’s Answer: Seek Status, Fame, and Fortune

1153: Hungry Ghosts-the name given by budhhists to people who can’t get enough status, wealth, or power

1323:The  Amish enforce’ Rumspringa, they force college-age community members to leave their farms from 1 to 2 years to explore

Chapter 4: An Inspired Answer: Find Meaningful Work

1685: Book: What Should I Do with My Life?-Po Bronson, 53 stories of people’s search for meaning in their work (from >900 interviews

1688: Term: ‘Phi Beta Slackers’-Po Bronson, describes smart people content to follow the conventional career path of least resistance

1750: The ‘Golden Handcuff Problem’-Those with high pay get addicted to a high flying lifestyle, thus become handcuffed to their careers

Part 2: The Second Question: “How Will I Achieve It?”

Chapter 5: Discover What You Can Do Better Than Most: Capabilities

2366: Book: Human Nature and Social Order-Charles Cooley, Introduces the term “Looking-Glass Self” to explain the insights that can come from seeing oneself reflected in the looking glass of other people’s perceptions

2507: Essay: The Hedgehog and the Fox-Philosopher Isiah Berlin, Hedgehog is a specialist, Fox is a generalist

Chapter 6: Set Yourself on Fire: Motivation

2680: Andrew Wiles on solving Fermat’s Last Theorem. It is like exploring a mysterious, unlit mansion with many rooms: “One enters the first room of the mansion, and it’s dark. Completely dark.” after bumping into various objects, ‘you learn where each piece of furniture is.” Finally you find the light switch and at last you can see exactly where you are and where everything is… “Then you move into the next room” and repeat the process. The moments of insight and illumination come suddenly; the work to achieve them is slow, methodical and painstaking; and the experience of finally discovering the solution is deeply satisfying.

2680: Richard believes that reward-based motivation is a useful tool.

2764: Adam Grant of Whaton College documented that different personality types require different motivations boosts for the same work

Chapter 7: Learn to Fail: Self-Confidence

3062:’ Self Handicapping’- accepingt invites to parties and movies on the nights before big tests, thus your can say “I didn’t really try”.

3166: There are three different ways to attain level one confidence (ie: confidence in your true self)

-1. Someone you respect believes that ‘you can do it’

-2. A Rite of Passage

-3. The Power of Faith, more detail follows

3192: Roughly 30% of the effectiveness of medicine is said to come from the power of suggestion, even higher for pain relief.

3316: Level two confidence: The success mindset (see my blog post on Mindest-Ollie)

Chapter 8: Focus Your Mind: Passion, Imagination, Intuition, and Reason

3551: 78% of ‘highly accomplished professionals’ cited focused goals as a critical success factor

3563: “The Zeigarnik effect”-This mental crowding in one’s consciousness as a result of unmet goals

3575: Plato conceptualized the mind as a charioteer driving 2 horses, Charioteer=soul, Horses=passion and reason

3649: “The Recency Effect”-The brind most vividly recalls the most recent data and overweights that in your decision

Chapter 9: Influence Others: Credibility and Dialogue

3994: Quote: “That’s the way to really learn things – by yourself,”-Willy Gibbs, inventor of the double hull ship design, studied engineering independently whilst attending law school

4039: Aristotle divided friends into three distinct categories: Pleasure, Utility and Virtue in his book ‘Nicomachean Ethics’.

4345: Quote: “Friends are as companions on a journey, we ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life”-Pythagoras


4405: Quote: “The only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have done and what we might have been on the one hand and…the things we have made of ourselves on the other”- H.G. Wells

4522: Danish Folk Saying: “You must bake with the flour you have”

4552: Quote: “It is not always the people who start out the smartest, who end up the smartest.”-Alfred Binet, inventor of the IQ test


4647: See Richard Shell’s (author) Success course syllabus here: http://lgstdept.wharton.upenn.edu/shellric/teaching.htm