Keep it simple, students.

In a world that is fast paced and full of information and expectations, it is easy to become overwhelmed and find ways to avoid the task at hand or distract ourselves.  It’s no wonder so many of our students (and we, as adults) feel a sense of dread or anxiety as all of these to-do items and tasks swirl around in our minds.

Fortunately, after our mid 20’s, we are at least more equipped to manage and tackle these obstacles.  Neurologically speaking, our brains have developed enough to have the capacity for drawing on past experiences (plus there has been more time for learning opportunities) and to make connections we simply were not able to in our adolescent years.

In the spirit of simplification, I thought I would share a few tips for sorting through the “swirl” so it becomes easier to jump in and manage day to day.

Brain dump. Get ALL of the thoughts, tasks, emotions and ideas OUT.  Write, type, draw – just get them all out of the swirl.

Grab one.  Envision grabbing one of those many ideas swirling around and jump right in.  Maybe it’s the most important one; maybe it’s not.  What matters is that SOMETHING gets done.

Find ONE simple way to manage ALL expectations and tasks.  Most of our students (and parents) find that a functional assignment notebook or planner is the go-to tool for this (even those who at first resist, perhaps because they don’t want to take the time or write that much).  Once we find a way to SEE everything in one place and have the security that all is accounted for, it becomes easier to lay out plans and jump right in.

Be SPECIFIC, concrete, realistic and visual.  That’s quite a list, but give it a try.  Instead of “I need to get better at _______”… make it “In order to improve _____, I need to _______.”

Ask simple questions.  What is this about? What will it take? When can I get this done? What can be postponed? What will be my reward?

Create go-to plans and strategy lists (study plans, organization plans, asking for help plans) to make managing tasks across multiple areas become MUCH easier to carry out. Knowing there are options, and that we have plans, can significantly reduce anxiety and avoidance.

Make a list.  Simple, right?
Again – any way, shape or form will do…

  • write it out
  • print one
  • find an app
  • create a doc or chart online
  • use categories (do now, do soon, back burner, email/call, ideas, shopping list, etc.)
  • color code if you prefer
  • write these on mini sticky notes, and toss as you complete
  • write on scraps of paper and move them physically to reorganize or categorize, and toss as you go
  • don’t forget to list small rewards to keep motivated in between

Enlist help.  Yes. It’s ok to ask for help.  It may not be easy to delegate or ask for what we need, but this is a necessary skill.

Use other tools or charts to break down larger tasks.  List basic steps, then ask and record what it will take to complete each one; check off as you go.  Write out an organization and management plan for each class  (ex:  To find answers keys, I go here ____.  If I need help, I can go here _________.  Three people I can ask for help are ______, _______, ________.  To find the homework, I go here ________. Passwords and websites for this class =  __________).

Make an if-then list:  If I need __________, I can __________.  (If I am stuck in math, I can… go in early, ask my dad, text my tutor, search online for ideas or images/videos to help; If I am feeling stressed about a test, I can try deep breathing, make a study guide, use scratch paper to dump formulas and reminders at the start of the test, do online searches to print/save extra visuals; If I don’t know whether I am making the right parenting choices, I can draw out a plan or flow, enlist help, organize concerns and search solutions online to get started).