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Naturally, we’re all looking for ways to boost our productivity!  The rigors of capitalism demand it, right?  Although we’re always trying to impress the boss with our unwavering work rate, what about our brain rate?  Although cognitivity (productivity of the brain) is important at any age, it is particularly important for our children.

Emphasizing “productivity” over “cognitivity” can actually be more damaging than we realize!  We’ve all heard the expression, “work smarter not harder”—right?  While we all know it, actually living the mantra is something altogether different!  We all want our kids to work hard, but we certainly don’t want them aimlessly spinning their wheels either.  Consider this phrase from Kevin Horsley’s book, Unlimited Memory

Being busy is sometimes just procrastination in disguise.

The above quote sums up precisely why we need “cognitivity” over “productivity”.  Here are my 3 strategies to help children change the way they work…

  1. Be Present—Mindfulness Matters

Presence is the key to freedom, so you can only be free now.

Eckhart Tolle

As adults, we know all too well how we hold ourselves back from progress by dwelling in the mistakes of our past.  We also realize how much we can get caught up in our ambitions, constantly working to achieve future success.  What do we not do enough of?  Live in the Moment!

Consider this quote by Michael Formica in Psychology Today:

Most of our time is spent in the past or the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in doing so, we miss the moment.

Our children are missing the moment!  Kids of today are missing it even more than those of past generations.  Why?  The internet and smartphones are turning kids into human pinball machines—bouncing back and forth from one image to the next.

And teachers wonder why children can’t focus in the classroom, right?  As parents, we should encourage our children to enjoy quiet time and learn the art of mindfulness.  Before study time begins, have your child engage in breathing exercises to settle the mind.  Such exercises in mindfulness are also extremely helpful in resolving issues related to executive functioning.  It should help kids to be better prepared for those focused activities and declutter the brain so more meaningful content can be added.

  1. Find Clarity

 Presence of mind is a great first step toward clarity, but it is merely intended to set the stage.  Once the brain has been fully decluttered and free from digital distractions, then the “study process” can begin to take shape.  In order for this process to unfold properly, a conscious effort should be made to UNDERSTAND the material—NOT memorize it!

This quote from Horsley’s book Unlimited Memory best conveys the point…

Many people are not recalling what they know and they are constantly learning and forgetting, and learning and forgetting…

Kids are too busy cramming for tests and not taking the time to understand the material.  When a child tries to memorize a definition exactly as the teacher provided it, then this is the start of the problem.  Why?  The focus is on the construction of individual words and not the meaning.  Without meaning, there can be no clarity!

Allow me to make this argument.  Child #1 spent 2 hours memorizing exact definitions and got an A+ on the exam—which would be a great example of “Productivity.”  Child #2 also got an A+, but spent his time understanding the material and restating the definitions in his own words—and that would be a great example of “Cognitivity.”  Why was the same outcome given an entirely different label?

Simple!  It’s all about clarity!  How likely is child #1 to retain the information one month after the test was completed?  Not likely!  The reason is because his focus was on the precise wording rather than having the goal of understanding it.  If he did not truly understand the material, then retention is unlikely to occur.

As parents, we need to guide our children to use creativity in the learning process.  We should encourage them to utilize the tools that make the most sense to them.  To some, the understanding may come from using an acronym like ROY G BIV to learn the colors of the rainbow.  To others, it may be easier to form a visual picture of something that relates to what their trying to learn.


  1. Say No to Multi-Tasking


Your mind never wanders away; it only moves towards more interesting things.

-Kevin Horsley-

In addition to having stated the above quote, Horsley has also famously said—“Multi-tasking is a myth!”  As a society, it seems as though we revere those who have this “gift” for multi-tasking.  Guess what!!??  Multi-tasking is not a gift at all, but actually more of a curse!

How can this be?  Those who effortlessly “juggle multiple balls” have super hero-like talents, right?  Wrong!  Firstly, there is nothing effortless about it.  They only make it appear that way.  Secondly, the more tasks that your child is engaged in, the less focused he or she will be.

Imagine listening to 5 different conversations at the same time.  How engaged are you likely to be in all five of those exchanges?  Will you pick up on every piece of information among all that chatter?  You’ll quite possibly pick up a bit here and a bit there—and that’s being generous!

Now parents… how comfortable would you be with your children merely picking up “bits and pieces” during test preparation?  Not so much, right?  Unfortunately, it is happening far more than you may realize.  Headphones blaring in the ears! Two or three apps always engaged!  The ding of a text message!  The chime of an email!  This list barely scratches the surface of all the distractions that loom.

As parents, you’re all too familiar with the attachment that children have to their smart phones, Xboxes, etc.  I’m sure some of your minds are already swelling with anxiety at the thought of taking away these devices.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what must be done!  A recent Huffington Post article said that the mere presence of the phone (even without notifications) is a distracting force.  This same article offered the following as a proposed remedy…

A “cure” for the problem can be a digital detox, which involves disconnecting entirely from your phone for a set period of time.

Condition your children to not only abandon their digital devices during study hours, but to also view their academic space as a “sanctuary” of sorts.  It’s where they will go for their scholarly meditation.  I know!  I can just imagine the rolling of the eyes and exasperated sighs of disgust.  Parents, your mission will simply involve establishing the setting, so giving it a name is of no importance.  Truly focused study will not only improve your child’s academic performance, but it will greatly increase his or her overall knowledge retention.


I realize that this was a lot to take in.  I also realize that implementing these methods are often easier said than done.  It can certainly be beneficial to apply a “baby steps” approach, as you’re less likely to overwhelm your child.  So, feel free to start with some small changes and then slowly introduce some of the other suggestions.  In the end, remember that “cognitivity” is the main objective.

Just because your child is busy with his or her work doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a “GOOD” sort of busy!  To achieve positive outcomes, it is generally advisable to have an approach favoring “quality” over “quantity!”  I certainly hope this was helpful.  Remember… deep breath… all will be fine!


For a different perspective on this subject, you may also like to read my article in Psychology Today entitled, “9 Signs You May be A Cognitive Miser.”