Five Steps to School Project Success

Here are five simple steps, based on the book Getting Things Done®, for helping your children take full responsibility of their school projects.  (You’re welcome to offer help and support . . . it just won’t be out of necessity!)

Step 1: Identify the purpose of the project.

Step 2: Create a vision for what you’d like your project to look like.

Step 3: Brainstorm!  What are all of the little steps that need to be accomplished?

Step 4: Organize each task into three categories: Things that can be done independently, things that can be done with a parent, and errands.

Step 5: Identify the Next Action.  What is the very next (specific) step that needs to be done to move this project forward?

And here’s a little story to go with this video:

One afternoon, my older sister Laura dropped by our parent’s house, and Dad asked if she could run by the library to pick up some books for our brother Ryan’s high school assignment.  Happy to help our youngest brother–the final one at home–with his project, Laura immediately started looking for my mom’s library card and coordinating the trip to get the books.

Mom was in the kitchen making salsa–extra credit for Ryan’s Spanish class. Dad was at the dining room table, getting a little bit frustrated as he tried to make a double helix out of marshmallows and toothpicks for Ryan’s science project.

At this point, Ryan finished up the bowl of cereal he’d been eating and said, “Dad, can I go to Joey’s?”

“Ryan!” Dad reprimanded, “You’ve got Laura going to get your books, Mom making salsa, and me making a model for your science class.  Do you really think now is the best time to go to Joey’s?”

Ryan got a little scowl on his face and complained, “Well, I’m bored!”

My whole family laughs at this story now.  Ryan has since graduated from college, married, and secured a full-time job.  And we all admire our parents for putting so much time and energy into helping us with our projects as we were growing up.

But I don’t think there’s a parent in the world who wouldn’t like their children learn to become more independent with their school projects.

These five steps have worked wonders in our home, and I wish you the best as you apply them in your own home.

QUESTION: Do you have any tips for helping children independently accomplish their projects?

CHALLENGE: Next time your child receives a project assignment, sit down and walk through these five steps together.

**For more great ideas on organizing school papers and projects, check out our

School Paper and Homework Mastery Kit:

***Getting Things Done® is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company. This is my personal interpretation of David Allen’s work and is not affiliated with the David Allen Company.


  1. says

    I love this! I love the system and I especially love that your girls are more in charge of their project than you are. That’s how it should be! As parents we are there to assist our children with their homework and projects, not just do it for them. Love the independence it is fostering.

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