How often do you finish your day thinking “I finished all my work and now I just don’t have a thing to do!”?
These days, it’s rare for even the most organized among us to fully complete that to-do list, so imagine how difficult it is for those with attention issues, especially our teenagers?
Students with AD(H)D need your help (think “strategies”)! Below are some ideas you can start weaving into the conversation even before school starts.
Track To-Dos in new ways
- Keep a living checklist in the inside front of your binder. Some students will like seeing things crossed out, but also make a column for “completed” and “turned in” (if homework). Some students finish their work but forget to turn it in, and it’s good to know where the breakdown is happening.
- Use your PHONE! Call your own number and leave yourself a message. Use the reminder function “Siri, at 4pm remind me to finish my Spanish homework.”
- Use an app like Dragon Dictation to dictate texts or email (most phones do this as well).
Eat the Frog First – or the tadpole
A good friend of ours, Debbie Rosemont, the owner of Simply Placed (Professional Organizers and Productivity Consultants) often reminds us to “eat the frog” early in the day. That means take the thing that you’re least interested in (or that scares you) and tackle it FIRST. Then you get an entire day without anxiety! If you have time to read the book Eat That Frog by Brian Tracey, great. If not, just remember to get SOMETHING out of the way first thing.
However, accomplishing ANYTHING (a small homework assignment or reading, a worksheet, etc.) can give us a sense of satisfaction and build momentum. Even if your day is going sideways, you want to be able to say that you got something done, so Eat the Frog, or tackle a small task. Either way, you’ll feel better!
Create the Calendar Deadline
Having a long to-do list can actually be overwhelming for anyone, but especially multi-tasking teens. Strive to get as much off your mind as you can and into a calendar. Assigning a deadline to ANY task increases the likelihood it will get done (research proves it!). A task on a checklist has a 50/50 chance of completion, but a task with a deadline have a 70% chance of actually happening.
For bigger projects, build in checkpoints long before the actual due date. Need to create flashcards for your research paper? Put THAT on your calendar as well. Need about a week to polish your rough draft? Put the rough draft as due 8 days before the final product is due. We call this “backwards build up” and it’s not a natural skill for most students.
Location Location Location
I work from a home office. Sometimes my staff stop by, my neighbor has a question, my cat is meowing, and my chair just isn’t feeling comfortable. If you can, opt for a change of scene when AD(H)D attention spans are challenging. Find a place with a lot of white noise (background noise without a lot of singular or one-off noises that would distract). I find libraries GREAT for this, even when it’s packed with 200 kids after school. Coffee shops can be OK, too (try to put your back to visual distractions, and stay away from the baristas since the sound of steaming milk can be jarring). Plus, the act of preparing to change my location forces you to get organized so you’re bringing all the right supplies!
Get a Tutor!
As the owner of a 1-on-1 private school and tutoring service, you might think “of COURSE she would say that!” Well, you’re right! However, I’d say it whether I ran a school or not. Nothing beats the power of a coach/mentor or friend who can serve as a support and accountability partner. When we are tutoring, I tell my students that it’s like having a personal assistant. We probably won’t bring you coffee, but we’re here to help you build a plan, stay on track, learn some new strategies and then constantly reinforce what you’ve learned. Since we’re not a parent or a teacher at school, we can sit side by side and support a student’s goals without imposing even more work on them.
Keep Learning New Strategies
I don’t know about you, but I get bored with routine. Those of us with AD(H)D suffer from this in a variety of ways, and unfortunately it can keep us from even the basics of day-to-day functioning. Do you always keep your homework on the left side of the desk? Put it on the right! Do you usually use a green pen for notes? Switch to blue for a while. All brains are most lit up by NOVELTY, so use that knowledge to your advantage!
Breathe Deeply and Calm Your Nervous System
Stephen Krashen, an international authority on language acquisition, introduced me (via his writings) to the idea of the Affective Filter almost 20 years ago. I had the pleasure of finally meeting him in July ’17 and he’s still talking about it! Basically, when we are under duress or feeling anxiety and stress, we CANNOT learn. Our “affect” (emotional state) “filter” (block out) new information. It’s impossible for the brain to acquire new information while we are in survival mode and that’s why we need to calm ourselves before learning.
Try the 4 7 8 breathing exercise:
1) Exhale completely through your mouth
2) Close your mouth, inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
3) Hold your breath for a count of seven.
4) Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
What do you or teen do to get things done? Let us know!
Pacific Learning Academy is a fully accredited, NCAA-approved one-on-one school offering single courses, dual enrollment, and accelerated graduation. We also offer in-home tutoring in all subjects from 6th to 12th grade, including test prep, across the Eastside (Issaquah, Sammamish, etc…).
See more at www.PacificLearningAcademy.com