Become a Phone-Free MVP

Do you know how much time you are spending on your phone per day?

I have recently noticed that almost every student I meet with largely UNDERESTIMATES just how much time they’re spending on their phones. And while recent reports have shown that the average student is now spending upwards of 7 hours, I have seen even higher numbers in my 1:1 consultations.

Not all screen time is unproductive screen time.  Listening to educational podcasts or watching Youtube videos that are related to your course content can definitely be valuable time spent behind the screen.  But most of the students I have met with have admitted to spending way too much time being unproductive and have recognized that it has been negatively impacting their studies.

Does this sound familiar? If so, here are my top 3 tips for decreasing your digital distraction and becoming a phone-free MVP:

Image Credit: Apartment Therapy

M – MONITOR and limit your screen time usage.  Use the Screen Time function on your iPhone or download one of the many free apps (such as Digital Wellbeing or Rescue Time) for Android.  Set app limits and DO NOT PRESS IGNORE once you have reached your limit. Consider temporarily deleting highly used apps, especially during test/exam times. (You’ll thank me later for this one!)
V – Change the VISUAL display on your phone so that it is less appealing.  Changing the colours on your phone to greyscale so that you don’t enjoy the mindless scrolling as much can help your brain to reduce the cravings and eventually decrease the habit.  You can adjust the visual display in your settings under Settings > Accessibility > Display and Text Size > Color Filters.
P – PLACE your phone out of sight when you need to focus.  Putting your phone in another room when you are at home studying, or in your bag when you are in class can significantly reduce your temptation to pick it up every 2 seconds.  Research shows that if your phone is at least 20 seconds away from you, you will be able to focus more intently on the task at hand and for longer periods of time. 

Happy Studying!

For information on the services I offer, please don’t hesitate to email me at or visit my Contact page for more ways to reach me. I look forward to hearing from you!

How to be a Goal Getter

There is nothing more rewarding than finally achieving something that you have set out to accomplish. In early 2017, I set a personal goal to do a TED talk someday. I drew a picture of the logo on my vision board, wrote an affirmation in my Success Planner, and I started watching TED talks every single morning while getting ready for work. I read several books on how to improve my presentation skills, and even read one called “Talk like Ted” in an effort to become a better public speaker.  I took these steps so that when the time came, I would be ready. Fast forward to October 25, 2018 and as I stood on the TEDx stage, I realized that I was about to accomplish my goal. It was a very surreal moment for me. And now, looking back at my journey, I realize that it was my deliberate actions that led me to my accomplishment. Goal setting can be a very powerful thing.

Why set goals?

According to “Top-level athletes, successful business people and achievers in all fields all set goals. Setting goals gives you long-term vision and short-term motivation. It focuses your acquisition of knowledge, and helps you to organize your time and your resources so that you can make the most of your life”.

For me personally, I set goals because I always want to continue to learn, to improve my skills, and to push myself to do bigger and better things in both my work and my personal life. I’ve learned that just thinking about doing something, is much different than setting a goal to actually DO something, and then deliberately taking action to complete that goal.

Many people desire to achieve certain things in their lives.  From completing their education, to paying off debt, or traveling the world…people dream of the different things that they want to accomplish. However; the difference between goals and dreams is that a dream can be just a thought, a hopeful wish, a “maybe someday” kind of vibe, whereas a goal is a plan of action, a specific process of how you will make that dream come to fruition. A dream is the destination, while a goal is part of the journey you take to get there.

There are several different types of goals. And the type you set can vary based on what you would like to accomplish. Here are some examples;

Short-term goals:  A short-term goal is something you would like to do in the near future, such as cleaning out your closet or learning how to make a new recipe.

Long-term goals:  A long-term goal is something that may take you a long time to accomplish such as, paying off your student loans or training for a triathlon.

Focus goals:  A focus goal is a very big goal that can take up a lot of your time, energy and focus such as starting a blog or writing a book.

Topic based goals: Topic based goals can be personal or professional and focus on a specific topic, such as improving your public speaking skills or learning a new language

While the type of goal you set depends on what you would like to achieve and when, HOW you go about trying to achieve your goal can be greatly influenced by the steps you take in order to achieve it. According to Locke and Latham’s Goal Setting Theory, there are 5 key steps to follow:

  1. Clarity- the goal you set needs to be very clear. What exactly do you want to achieve and why Creating your goal as a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goal can help you to avoid creating goals that are too vague or unrealistic.
  2. Challenge- Set a goal that is challenging enough to spark your interest and keep you motivated
  3. Commitment- You must commit to the steps needed to achieve your goal.  This involves self-discipline which will help you to stay focused and on track.
  4. Feedback- Scheduling time to analyze your progress and accomplishments can help you to assess what is working and what you need to adjust
  5. Complexity- Be aware of how complex your goal is and gauge the amount of time, energy and pressure you put on yourself.  If goals are too complex, they may need to be broken down into smaller sub-goals.

Many times people have great intentions and get all gung ho about their goals, only to find themselves disappointed when their goals remain unmet. Here are some common reasons why goals go in the gutter:

  • Lack of clarity/ direction- when you are unsure of what exactly you want to accomplish, it is difficult to know how to accomplish it. Having a clear and realistic idea of exactly what you want will help you to focus on what exactly what you have to do to get there.
  • No set plan- if you do not create a plan as to how you will go about meeting your goal, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Making a concrete plan of the steps needed will help you stay on track.
  • Fear of failure- a fear of failure can stop you from even trying to accomplish your goal.  Being open to taking risks can be scary, but can be well worth it in the end.
  • Too many goals- having too many goals creates a lack of focus and can make it difficult for anything to get done at all. Prioritizing your goals or breaking large goals down into smaller goals can result in getting things down more efficiently and effectively.
  • Unrealistic or unachievable goals- setting unrealistic goals will only lead to disappointment and frustration when you realize that the goal is unattainable. Set yourself up for success by choosing goals that are within your reach.
  • Negative attitude- If you think that you will not meet your goal, then that will be the outcome you achieve. Your mind is very powerful and can influence what energy you bring to the table. Having a positive attitude and genuinely believing that it is possible for you to achieve your goal will greatly enhance your chances of success. So now that you know how to go about setting your goals, here are some tips that have helped me achieve mine.

My Gold Star Goal-Setting Tips

  • Set goals that you actually want to achieve and not what you THINK you should want or what someone else thinks you should want. This is very important to consider. It is much more meaningful when you achieve something that you wholeheartedly wished to achieve for YOURSELF!
  • Write your goals down on paper, on your computer or phone. ANYWHERE! Writing goals down can help you to set your intention and propel you to commit and get focused.
  • Make your goal into a SMART goal Making your goal a SMART one will help you immensely. If you are unfamiliar with this method, I suggest googling examples of SMART goals to get some ideas.
  • Figure out when you will be able to work on your goal and plan to work on it during that time Life is busy, there is NEVER enough time. If you wait until you “have time”, you will be much less likely to complete your goal. Maybe you will have to get up a bit earlier or make some other changes to your daily routine.
  • Tell someone about your goal- It can be super helpful to tell someone about your goal so that they can help to motivate and support you and also keep you accountable.
  • Just start Often getting started is the hardest part. Make a plan and just get started and you will be happy you did.
  • Use Visualizations and affirmations- Visualizations and affirmations are extremely powerful.  Envision yourself completing your goal and affirm it as often as possible. It’s almost scary how well this works.
  • Give yourself a reward for completion- As humans, we are highly motivated by rewards. Giving yourself small rewards as you complete each step can help with motivation and stick-to-it-ness.

Everybody is different and what works for one person may not work for someone else. There are many great resources on goal setting that can help you figure out what will work best for you. Here are some that come highly recommended:


-Goals: How to get everything you want faster than you ever thought possible
by Brian Tracy

-Eat that Frog:  21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time
by Brian Tracy

-Awaken the Giant Within: How to take control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny
by Tony Robbins

-The Achievement Habit: Stop wishing, start doing and take control of your life
by Bernard Roth

-Better than Before: What I learned about making and breaking habits to sleep more, quit sugar, procrastinate less and generally build a happier life
by Gretchen Rubin


Strides- One of the most powerful and easy to use apps out there. You can set up reminders so that you never forget to maintain those daily habits that lead to bigger goal achievement. Simply pick a goal (or use a suggested one given by the app), set a target by inputting a goal value or a certain date and then specify the action you need to do to turn it into a habit. The Strides app lets you track it all by day, week, month, year or even on a rolling average. All of your data is synced to your account so you always see your latest stats whether you access it from the web, a mobile device, or anywhere else.  Available on iOS.

Way of life- If you absolutely love to look at charts and graphs of your progress, then you’ll love Way of Life. Just pick a goal action, tell the app whether the action is good or bad for you (like eating healthy = good whereas smoking = bad) and then you’ll get a daily reminder to input what you did or didn’t do in terms of your goals. Over time, you’ll have enough data to show you chains, bar charts with trend lines, pie charts and all sorts of other nifty details. Available on iOS and Android.

Goals on Track- a web-based and mobile app that helps users develop and stick to goals based on the SMART goal setting trend (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). The app helps you break up big goals into smaller chunks so they’re not as overwhelming, offering unique animations and offline tracking so you can track how long you spend on tasks. There’s also a built-in journaling feature that gives you the opportunity to get specific by writing in detail about your goals and progress. Membership is not free, and you’ll need to sign up on the web before launching the app. Available on iOS claims to be the leading habit tracking app, even offering personalized habit coaching and leadership coaching as part of its services in addition to its free mobile app. The user interface is slick and beautiful to use. Simply select a goal, track your progress, earn rewards for sticking with it and take advantage of the community aspect by getting involved and asking questions. If you really end up loving it, you can upgrade to hiring a real coach for as little as $15.  Available on iOS and Android.


2019 Success Planner by Karlyn Percil – a personal fave of mine. I have used this planner for 2 years now and it has helped me to manifest so many positive changes in my life, including setting and achieving BIG goals. I can say enough about how much I love this planner. Check it out at

Now is your time to shine

One of my all-time favourite quotes is “it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”.  This quote by J.K Rowling signifies that every single one of us has the ABILITY to achieve our goals, but it is the CHOICES we make, such as the choice to remain focused, the choice to persevere, the choice to be resilient- it is these choices that will ultimately help us to succeed.

So what goals are YOU trying to achieve in 2019?  Maybe you want to go back to school, get in shape, de-clutter your home or save for that dream vacation.  Whatever your goals are, find some time to sit down and plan out the steps you need to take in order to achieve them. The sooner you get started, the closer you will be to meeting your goals and living out your dreams.  As Zig Ziglar states “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great”. So get started, Goal Getter.  You got this!

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How Effective Time Management Can Help You to Succeed in School (and Life)

What is time management?

Time management is the process of organizing and planning your time so that you can be more productive and efficient.  There are many different ways to manage your time, and the method you choose depends on your personal preferences.  Some people like to use good old pen and paper, such as a notebook or an agenda, while others prefer to go the digital route and use their computer or smart phone.  It doesn’t really matter HOW you manage your time, as long as you DO it. 

Why is time management so important?

Time management is extremely important and can help students to stay on top of their studies. Whenever a student comes to see me for help with improving their study skills, I ALWAYS start with time management first, no matter what they think their issues may be.  The reason I do this is because in my opinion, if you are not managing your time well, nothing is getting done anyways.  So it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to read your text book or make good study notes, you first need to make a specific plan as to exactly WHEN you will be able to do those things.  If you have a plan, then you are much more likely to actually get things done. 

Effective time management also leads to many positive outcomes.  If you manage your time well;

  • You will make better decisions– When you practice good time management, you allow yourself more time to prioritize and determine which choices to make. When you do not manage your time well and rush to decide, you’re more likely to jump to conclusions and not fully consider the different options; leading to poor choices.
  • You will make fewer mistakes– When you manage your time well, you are able to get more done in a shorter period of time. This can result in more time to edit and go over your work in order to make necessary adjustments and corrections.  This will result in fewer mistakes and higher quality work.
  • You will feel less stressed– Have you ever heard the saying “I have so much to do and so little time”?  Managing your time effectively can reduce the feeling of being rushed, which in turn leads to less frustration and stress.
  • You will get more done– With good time management, you will have a much better idea of how much time you actually have and how long it will take to get things done.  Because of this, you can accomplish more, and have more free time.  Bonus!
  • You can get better grades– Cramming is very common and in my opinion, it is 100% ineffective.  Cramming forces you to rely solely on short term memory.  Which means as soon as you are finished writing your test, you will forget everything you studied! If you make a plan to start studying earlier, then you can get in a lot more studying over a longer period of time, which will ultimately result in better grades.
Why do we struggle to manage our time?

There are many reasons why students have a hard time managing their time.  Here are the 4 most common Time Management Troublemakers:

  1. Too many distractions. We live in a day and age where many of us are addicted to our cell phones.  Whether it’s social media, games, or Netflix, if you know that you are addicted to your phone, then you need to take some decisive action to decrease its ability to distract you.  I often recommend that during a study session students should turn off their notifications, use an app that will temporarily block certain functions, or simply put their phone in another room and only check it during scheduled study breaks.  You have to remember the bigger picture and ask yourself, is being distracted by my phone worth causing me to fail a course?  Is it worth me losing time and money that I won’t be able to get back?  Likely not.
  2. The Planning fallacy. According to this phenomenon, you often underestimate how much time it will actually take to complete tasks, which results in decreased productivity. Get in the habit of tracking how long certain tasks take to complete.  This will help you to set more realistic goals when planning in the future.
  3. Not taking breaks often enough. The average person’s attention span is approximately 25 minutes, yet many students continue to force themselves to study for long, drawn out periods of time, even after they have lost their ability to concentrate and focus.  This is not helpful and leads to ineffective study sessions.  Essentially, you are just wasting your time as your brain will not be able to retain the information that you are trying to learn.  I suggest taking short breaks every half hour or so, when you notice that you are feeling antsy or can no longer pay attention.
  4. Giving up too easily when things don’t go as planned. Life happens.   And sometimes things do not go as planned.  I’ve met with many students who tell me that they have tried to be organized and plan their time, but something always comes up.  Whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE UP!  I often recommend scheduling a few blocks of “catch up time” during the week, so that if something comes up, you have some back up time where you can still get stuff done. 
My top tips to get organized and stay organized

When I was in school, I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to manage my time, I had to figure it out on my own.  Lucky for you, many colleges and universities have supports in place to help you be successful.  If you feel that you have some serious time management issues, then it may be beneficial to meet with an Academic Counselor or Learning Strategist to help you create an individualized plan and teach you some time management strategies.  If your time management skills just need a bit of tweaking, then here are my top tips to help you take control of your time:

Tip #1. Decide what time management method you will use and start using it.  If your school gives out free agendas, get one!  If you want to use your phone or computer, get familiar with the calendar functions. The best time to start is NOW!

Tip #2. Plan to be productive earlier in the day vs later as your motivation and willpower are depletable resources and are higher earlier in the day and then decrease as the day goes on.

Tip #3. Use your course outline (syllabus) as a guide to determine what you should be studying.  Most course outlines do a great job of telling you when things are due and what you should reading when.

Tip #4. Use the stop light system to help you prioritize what you will be working on.  Using your course outline, place a red dot beside concepts that you do not know well, a yellow dot beside concepts you know somewhat, and a green dot beside concepts you know really well.  Then start studying your red areas first.  Then move to your yellow areas.  Then if you run out of time (which you likely will), you already knew the green concepts anyways!  Basically, the stop light system ensures that you do not waste time studying stuff you already know.  Spend more time on your weakest areas to maximize your knowledge in the amount of time you have to study.

Tip #5.  Just get started.  Often the hardest part is simply getting started.  Many students tend to procrastinate as they feel like their study session will be painful.  Yet once they finally start, they realize that it isn’t so bad after all.  Once you get started, something called the Zeigarnik effect will take place.  The Zeigarnik effect causes a nagging feeling in the back of your mind that keeps telling you to finish something that you have begun.  Use this to your advantage…just get started to get things done!

Tip #6.   Take frequent breaks.  Some students are able to focus for longer periods of time than others.  No matter what your attention span is, it is not helpful to force yourself to continue working when you are feeling less focused and unable to concentrate.  This will only result in wasted time.   Taking frequent breaks can help you to remain focused and motivated.  I have had a lot of students experience success with something called The Pomodoro technique.  The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to help you maintain focus.  There are many variations of the technique, but the basic premise is to set a timer for 25 minutes (which is the average person’s attention span, but you can set it for longer), and work on one specific task.  When the timer goes off, you have earned your break.  You can google Pomodoro technique to learn more about it and figure out how it can work best for you. 

For more information on time management, be sure to visit The Learning Portal.   The Learning Portal is an excellent resource created in collaboration with all Ontario colleges.  There is a study skills hub with an entire section devoted to time management!  Check it out for some more time management tips and tricks.

And remember, good time management is not something you can excel in overnight, it takes time to explore different options and take steps towards the system that will work best for you.  The good news is, the more you practice effective time management, the easier it will get.  Make it a part of your daily routine and soon you will wonder how you ever got by without it!

Happy Studying!

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Jo’s Summer Study Tips: Part 2- My Top 5 Tips for an Awesome August

It’s hard to believe that August is here already! And while there is still a whole month of summer fun left to enjoy, it’s a great time to start putting things in place to ease the transition back to school in the Fall. Hopefully, you tried out some of my tips for July …and now here are 5 more to help get your head in the game for August.

1. Start a positive habit
Summer is a great time to incorporate a new positive lifestyle habit into your daily routine. Things like exercise, meditation, drinking more water, or eating healthier foods, are all things that can improve the quality of your life dramatically when done consistently over time. If you start building these healthy habits into your life now when things are a bit more relaxed, you will start to see the many benefits (sleeping better, improved mood, increased energy levels, etc) and be more likely to want to continue once school starts back up.

2. Reflect
Thinking about how last semester went and what you’d like to do differently this school year is a great way to ensure that you don’t continue on with bad habits or repeat any mistakes. Think about what went well and what didn’t and why. Then plan to make some changes in order to increase your chances of success. To paraphrase one of Einstein’s famous quotes, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, is the definition of insanity!” Reflection can lead to increased awareness, which is essential to making positive changes.

3. Set goals
Setting some S.M.A.R.T. goals for the upcoming school year will help you to remain focused on the bigger picture. S.M.A.R.T goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.  Think about what grades you would like to achieve and then make a realistic plan as to how you will achieve those goals. I recommend writing your goals down on paper as studies have shown that writing goals down can significantly increase your chances of achieving those goals.

4. Get organized early
As soon as your course outline/syllabus is available, open it and read it thoroughly.  Becoming familiar with the learning outcomes will give you a sense of what to expect and can help you to stay on top of things when you are aware of the bigger picture of what the semester will look like. I also recommend going to the book store before classes start to get your books early and avoid long line ups or the risk of your book being sold out (I have worked with students who have had to wait 5 weeks for their book to be back in stock and they were so behind as a result). You can also get organized by mapping out a study schedule once you have your time table. Doing these things now will have you feeling less frazzled when school starts.

5. Attend a Study Skills Workshop or meet with a Learning Strategist
Many students simply resort to studying how they’ve always studied and for some students that means continuing to use the same ineffective study strategies year after year. Attending a Study Skills Workshop will allow you to learn research backed strategies that have been scientifically proven to lead to better understanding and retention of material. Which in turn can result in better grades! I will be holding a few workshops in late August to teach students some valuable tips and tricks and to help them to get set for school. Topics covered will include time management, note taking, text book reading, test preparation and more. If you or someone you know would be interested in attending, please contact me at

I also offer 1:1 private consulting if you think you or your child would benefit from more individualized support. I work with students to help them create a personalized academic plan and teach them how to study smarter and not harder. Please feel free to contact me via email if you’re interested in a free 20-minute consultation to see if this option might be a good fit for you.

We all love summer and we all don’t want it to end any time soon. By following some of these tips, you can continue to enjoy what’s left of this sunny season while you proactively make choices that can help lead you to a successful September. You got this!

Happy Studying and Happy Summer!

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Jo’s Summer Study Tips: Part 1- My Top 5 Tips for a Joyful July

Here we are, right smack dab in the middle of summer. Summers in the GTA are so amazing.  Amazing, but short. I make it a personal mission to have ice cream as often as possible and to wear shorts or dresses EVERY SINGLE DAY as before we know it, autumn will be upon us. I can already feel it getting cooler in the evenings and it’s starting to get darker earlier too… NOOOO!!!!

Because our summers go by so quickly, it’s important to start thinking about gearing up for school. Yes, I know it seems early, but September is just around the corner and if you put certain things in place now, the re-adjustment back into school mode won’t have to be so stressful.

Whether you are a student or a parent of a student, here are some tips that can help keep study skills sharp during these sunny July days!

1. Keep some sort of structure to your days

For some students, summer time can equal late nights and sleeping in till noon. And while this may be appealing, it can really throw off your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock that helps you sleep during the night and be alert and energetic during the day). If you spend 2 months staying up all night and sleeping all day, it can be a huge adjustment when it’s time to start back at school in the fall.  It can cause you to have trouble waking up in the mornings or staying awake in class! My recommendation is to try to go to bed at a “decent” hour and to get at least 8 hours sleep per night. I also recommend trying to get up around the same time every morning to help your internal body clock stay somewhat balanced. And I get it, it’s summer, you have big plans, places to go, people to see, etc. Following the 80/20 rule where 80% of the time you go to bed at a decent hour, should help make the transition to 8:30am classes a bit easier to handle.

2. Try to read at least 1 hour per day

And it doesn’t have to be a textbook! Reading is an excellent way to keep your brain active. Reading anything such as novels, magazines, or articles can increase attention span, focus and concentration.  You want to keep your brain in the habit of reading regularly so that it’s used to reading often when it’s time to hit those textbooks again. Reading for pleasure has also been linked to increased levels of happiness, so it’s a great habit to start regardless. If you plan to read close to bed time, then I recommend reading an actual book instead of reading something off of a screen, as the light emitted can disturb your body’s melatonin production (the hormone that regulates your sleep).

3. Review old notes once per week

Going over your notes and recalling previously learned information will help to ensure that content is stored in your long-term memory. This is especially important for foundational courses where you will need to know the basics in order to help you understand content in more advanced courses that you will take in future semesters. A great example of this is Anatomy and Physiology. This course is typically a first semester course and is so fundamental to your understanding of future courses such as Pathophysiology. Think about it…it is not possible to understand the abnormal structure and function of the body (Pathophysiology) if you do not first understand the normal (Anatomy and Physiology). For younger kids, brushing up and math and English can be a huge help, as the “Summer slide” has been said to cause students to lose approximately 2-3 months of skills. IXL is an awesome app that follows the Ontario curriculum and has modules for both math and English for Jk- grade 12. I personally use this app with my 7-year-old son on a daily basis to keep his summer sliding to a minimum!

4. Set realistic screen time limits and stick to them

Screen time continues to be a major issue for high school and post-secondary students. In my experience, many students are actually addicted and are spending upwards of 4-5 hours on their phones per day. Having more free time in the summer months means having even more time to be on your phone, potentially making that addiction worse. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend using screen time on iOS or AntiSocial on Android to set reasonable limits in order to curb that addiction now!

5. Have some fun 

School can be stressful and it’s nice to be able to have a break to unwind and decompress. Taking some time to enjoy the beautiful weather, check out some of the many festivals around the city, or just get together with friends and family. Having some fun or some good ol’ rest and relaxation can really help to boost your spirits and recharge your batteries….and ice cream, don’t forget about the ice cream!

Hope that you found these tips helpful. Be sure to look out for even more of my top tips in Jo’s Summer Study Tips: Part 2 coming in the next few weeks. Happy Studying!

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