One of my students who struggles with executive function and time management came by after school to drop off a bunch of missing assignments and to get a list of what she still needs to finish by the end of the quarter. She excitedly told me that she had worked out the problems she was having with getting her school work done and that she was on top of things and was catching up in all of her classes. I replied, “This sounds serious. I think we need to talk about it.”
She seemed surprised by the comment, but I explained that when baseball players are in a slump, the best way for them to break out of it is not to watch videos of them striking out to try to figure out what’s wrong, but to watch videos of themselves getting base hits to try to figure out what’s happening when they’re being successful. She was clearly doing the equivalent of hitting well, which meant we needed to do the equivalent of making the video.
So I interviewed her about what was enabling her to feel that she could stay on top of her school work. She has been planning her weekends in a lot of detail in order to manage her anxiety about time management, so we talked about what she could do to get back to where she is now if something interrupted her timetable. We talked about people in her support network, and the importance of building the habit now of asking her friends for little favors and reassurances from time to time, both to keep herself on track, and to build the habit of being able to ask them for things. This would make it easier for her to ask for help when she needs it, instead of trying to do everything herself and ending up with a crisis that they need to bail her out of. We talked about what she thought the early warning signs might be if she started to slip away from her newfound success, and what simple action she can take sooner rather than later if this happens, again involving her support network.
I suspect that this phase will last somewhere between a few weeks and a few months; these kinds of struggles have a habit of not staying away forever. However, if she is able to use even some of what we talked about, I’m hoping it will have a significant positive impact on her in college and beyond.