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Marydee Sklar, Time Management Educator and Teacher
Time management educator and experienced school teacher Marydee Sklar joins us to discuss a ton of tips, tricks, and mentalities surrounding managing one’s time. From her history of teaching reading to kids with dyslexia to her development of systems to help herself better manage her lacking internal sense of time, Marydee derived an effective system of teaching time management to those who lack it. Eric and Marydee discuss topics including her curriculum, brain maturation, “folklore” that parents and kids are told, tips for college students to manage time, and much more.
Beginning with a background as a reading-specialist school teacher, Marydee helped students with dyslexia and ran a volunteer program for those who wanted to teach kids to read.
In her searches for further insight into teaching kids to read, she ended up at the University of Portland where Dr. Ellyn Arwood spoke about how the brain works in conjunction with learning and thinking.
A lot of the work she created for her curriculum came about as a result of looking at challenges she saw with her own brain.
Her curriculum instructor’s manual was honored as an Innovative Program at the 2011 CHADD conference.
She used to describe herself as an “underachieving procrastinator”
Now an entrepreneur teaching the Sklar Process approach, she focuses on using an understanding of executive functioning to help families and individuals overcome struggles with time management and more.
In her work, Marydee focuses on parts of the brain that impact behavior as it relates to time: getting things done, moving forwards, and present choices affecting the future.
ADHD, Language Processing Disorder, and More:
Based on reading her books, Eric thought she might have ADHD, but when asked about whether or not she had ADHD, MaryDee said “I don’t think so”.
Marydee asked her husband, a retired pediatrician who used to diagnose ADHD, what he thought; he said she probably had language processing disorder and working memory issues.
Language processing disorder concerns having challenges with word retrieval. For Marydee, it can be difficult to speak the right word. Sometimes she will internally hear the right word, but have actually spoken another word that sounded similar without realizing it.
This may be similar to a type of spoken dyslexia, since dyslexics will similarly replace words within text with ones that may be incorrect, but that seem correct at the time.
Marydee used to be completely based “outside of time”, consistently being late and sometimes even forgetting to stock food in the refrigerator.
One year, she forgot to go food shopping prior to Christmas, and the family had to drive around searching for a place to eat.
As an exercise, Marydee was challenged to draw on a piece of paper what she did in a week. This was the result:
Following a discussion with Dr. Arwood, she was told to try to take care of herself “in time and space”.
After working with her son and her friends’ kids, others began to ask her for help with what has become the topic of “executive functions”.
She soon became fascinated with how the brain worked in these situations and began to study it.
Eric: Learning about one’s brain changes the story they tell themselves about what they’re going through.
Folklore Many Parents Are Told:
Sometime around their children’s sixth grade, many parents are brought into parent–teacher conferences or open house meetings and informed by authority figures that they need to back out of their child’s lives to allow them to grow up and assume responsibility for their work.
Marydee disagrees with the notion that parents should back out completely: The brain doesn’t develop the executive stills associated with caring about the future, planning, goals, and controlling impulsive behaviors until a person is in their mid-twenties at least.
Marydee likes to make sure that children she works with realize that this is good news. It means that they’re not bad, lazy, terrible people for not being ready to be left entirely on their own – they’re just young people.
Parents should switch their roles away from controlling their child’s life and into being more of a coach for their child going forward.
College Students and Studying Tips:
Most college students’ brains still aren’t fully matured yet. New time management issues along with many more distractions makes the transition to college challenging.
When you’re given an 800-1000 word syllabus, your brain shuts down. There are too many words and too much information. Students may procrastinate because of how intimidating or tedious the syllabus appears. Trouble crops up when the deadlines hit all of a sudden.
Marydee’s method for managing college syllabi:
Grab a piece of paper, a pencil, a highlighter, and sticky notes.
Look at the first sentence and find either the first punctuation mark or the first instance of the words “and” or “or”, Circle it.
Read the words up to the first circled character. Draw a picture depicting what you see in your mind when those words are read. This slows your brain down in order to focus on just the first bunch of words.
The actions are now tied to your brain via an image. Highlight the words from which you just drew the picture.
Repeat this on subsequent sentences and groups of words therein (clauses). Add bullet points below the drawings as necessary for clarity.
This helps provide a wider ranging perspective on a larger task in order to gain a better sense of the amount of time and effort required to accomplish it.
Now, using the sticky notes, write down each action you will need to take along the way to completing the project, but in reverse order. Begin by drawing you handing the project in to the teacher, then draw you placing the project in your backpack before leaving for class to turn the project in, and so on.
Make sure to notate (via a clock perhaps) how long each sticky-noted action will take to accomplish.
Marydee usually has people draw out their notes in order to better remember them.
Eric: drew out his notes on an earlier episode of the podcast (episode 9). See the show notes for that episode here.
A suggestion on timing for writing school papers: take how much time you initially think it will take to write and triple it.
Next: Plan for the future
Print out three months’ worth of calendars and stick them in a high-visibility place on your wall. Marydee: “You need to see them; your brain doesn’t have time.”
Fill in the due dates for all of your exams and papers on your calendar sheets. This provides an easy view of the whole semester out in front of you.
Eric: When working with college students, Eric tells them to extract and re-create each piece of information on the syllabus so that the syllabus could be thrown away and they would still have access to all of its information.
Papers you can’t figure out how to categorize
Visit Marydee Sklar’s website for a video on dealing with papers and files like these with “Tickler Files”.
“Tickler Files” create a temporary holding spot for pieces of paper on a day-by-day basis with a folder of some sort corresponding to each day.
Tickler F iles categorize one’s documents based on when they can be dealt with and later addressed again.
Back when digital watches were relatively expensive, Nobel prize winning theoretical physicist Richard Feynman was interviewed on NPR about the impact of technological change on culture.
The digital clock will be the downfall of civilization, he said. It only shows one picture of time, whereas analogue clocks depict both the past and future and allow comparison of the length of time before, during, and after the present moment.
The challenge one has with an ADHD brain is connecting oneself to the future visually so it doesn’t sneak up on you.
Eric uses a glass-faced metal-rimmed analogue clock and draws on it with dry-erase markers and places magnets on the rim to denote “slices” or increments of time he needs to be aware of.
Random Question Round:
If you could have an invention made, what would it be?
If you could create a new yoga post, what would its name be if it were named after you?
If we decided to add a new day to the week, what would its name be?
If you could learn and become an expert in a brand new skill, what would it be?
Find and Contact Marydee Sklar:
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Third Monday of every month at 6:45 PM
(CHADD does not endorse this podcast)