Agony Aunt: Finding time for 11+ preparation

You run a household and look after other siblings. So how do you fit 11-plus preparation into a day? Three life coaches provide advice on finding time for the task.

I intend for my year 3 son to sit the 11-plus. I don’t work but I have three children under the age of 8. My husband doesn’t have much time. I don’t know how I will find the time to prepare him. 

Aasma, Watford

Juliet Landau-Pope a productivity coach and study skills expert and the author of Being More Productive and Clearing Your Clutter says:

In today’s fast-paced society, the word that most commonly describes the lives of both children and parents is “busy.”

With three youngsters at home I appreciate that your time is very stretched. It might not be possible to set aside an entire afternoon to help your son study but it’s amazing what you can achieve in short bursts of, say 15 – 20 minutes.

Creating routines that include short study sessions can be very effective, especially since your son is still so young.

It’s never too soon to start helping your son to develop independent study skills. And motivation is key! In fact, the more you encourage him to enjoy learning and to engage in tasks without you by his side, the better prepared he will be for the academic rigours of grammar school.

Finally, you mention that your husband doesn’t have much time but he has the same number of hours in the day as you. It’s worth discussing what role he CAN play. It doesn’t have to involve huge chunks of time: perhaps he could read together with your son or quiz him on spellings for 15-20 minutes on a regular basis?

Since your son is only in year 3, it’s great that you’re planning ahead. Planning will be vital to not only finding time but to making the most effective use of it.

Good luck!

Karen Eyre-White founder of Go Do Productivity says:

‘It certainly sounds like you have a lot on your plate – three children under the age of eight is hard work. You are right to be thinking early about how you can manage the 11-plus support, and with some planning I’m sure you’ll be able to find the pockets of time you need. 

The first thing to do when time is short is to think about anything you’re currently doing that you don’t need to be. With three young children, this may well be the busiest phase of your life, so it’s the time to be asking for help.

That may be friends and family who you can call on to help with cooking or other chores (if you explain the reason people are often more motivated to help), or if it’s within your means then consider paying someone.

In today’s world you can outsource almost anything – as well as the obvious cleaning, you can also find people who will do your meal preparation, ironing or dog walking, to name just a few.

Once you’ve reduced your commitments down to what only you can do, it’s time to do some planning. Find a blank week spread in your diary or electronic calendar (you can find a blank weekly template on my website here) and start planning out how you spend your time in a typical week.

Make sure to include any work commitments, childcare responsibilities and regular social commitments. Seeing the week planned out like this will help you to identify pockets of time which you could put to use on the 11-plus support. Think about when your son will be most receptive to the support and when you’ll be in the best frame of mind to give it.

Get your husband involved and suggest he creates a weekly plan of his own. Support from both parents is invaluable and will mean you can each play to your strengths. If you’re struggling to find time in the week, think about trading off some time at the weekend.

Perhaps your husband could take your other two children out (not somewhere too exciting, lest it frustrates and de-motivates your son!) for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, so you can knuckle down with your son in a quiet house.

Finally, create an achievable plan for what you’ll do during these slots of time with your son. A plan will set you up for success and make sure you maximise the time you do have. It will also give you, your husband and your son a sense of progress and achievement which is crucial for keeping you all going on this important work. 

Life coach and author of The Purposeful Planning Method Matt East says:

It sounds like this is a really important priority for you. As I’m sure you know, priorities are simply areas of your life that are important and meaningful to you. Priorities are typically projects you’re focusing on at work or home, activities you want to do, or relationships you want to nurture. I would suggest approaching this type of studying in a similar way to how you would achieve any other priority. 

Here are some tips:

1. Get clear on what you what to achieve and why you want to achieve it. 

2. Block a specific time for the activity.

3. Start with very small blocks of time for studying and increase gradually over time.

4. Offer a special reward after studying is complete.

5. Build momentum by keeping the studying streak alive each day.

6. If a day of studying is missed, don’t stress over it, get back on track quickly.

7. Try to stack the new study habit with another habit the child already has (for example maybe studying for 15 minutes always following breakfast).

8. Ask for help from others or hire help if that is an option.

Also, if prioritising, in general, is a struggle. Here are 11 guiding questions to help you determine your priorities each day.

1. If I could only achieve one thing today, what would it be?

2. What’s the second most important thing I need to accomplish?

3. What’s the third most important?

4. What else needs to be done?

5. What could I complete today that would make me happy when reflecting on my day?

6. What can I do that will move me closer to achieving my goals?

7. Are there projects or tasks that others own but I should follow up on?

8. What key relationships in my life need my energy today?

9. What can I do to remove stress from my life?

10. What tasks can I delegate to someone else today?

11. Is there a task I’m avoiding that I should complete today?

Leave a Reply