As an Executive Functioning Coach, your role is to focus on the systems and skills behind academic performance rather than on the specific academic subjects themselves. You are not a tutor and are not expected to have expertise in every subject that the client is learning about. Instead, your expertise lies in the techniques and strategies that the client can use to organize his time, work more efficiently, and begin to plan for the future. Many clients struggle with the transition to college not due to a lack of ability, but rather due to a lack of systems for managing academic work, personal health, and a healthy lifestyle when faced with increased freedom and limited supervision away from home. As a result, EF tools for a college student will blend academic tools with more lifestyle-driven efforts to promote a healthier approach to time management overall.
How is the client currently spending his time? What are his major obligations and commitments?
- Client will better understand how his current schedule and his values either coincide or contradict the way in which he spends his time
- Client will consider how to be more efficient with his time and more productive with his daily activities
- Client will develop a clear picture of his current academic commitments and upcoming assignments
- Client will identify any outstanding assignments and plan out specific dates for catching up
What information do you need about this client’s schedule and workload in order to best support him?
- Note any discrepancy between how the client wants to ideally spend time and the actual ways in which the client is allocating time presently. Gather numerical data and represent visually to highlight disparity in time allocation
- Prompt client to locate syllabi for each class and gather information about client’s knowledge and awareness of class materials
- Begin to foster dialogue around the factors that may have impacted organization in the past
How will the client begin to manage academic stress and develop greater awareness of his workload?
- Client will develop a better understanding of the volume of recurring academic tasks that can be completed weekly and establish a more consistent weekly routine. Client will gain increased awareness of upcoming assignments and begin to create plans for completing work on time
- Client will identify important or unique assignments that may require a specialized planning process
- Client will be able to recognize the importance of scheduling non-academic tasks such as getting exercise, maintaining his personal space and appearance, and engaging with peers
What do you need to know to best support this client?
- Probe for how the client likes to learn by asking about his favorite professors, classes, and study methods
- Review any existing organization systems that the client may be using or has used in the past
- Explore the client’s lifestyle habits in addition to his academics. How well is the client taking care of himself based on the ways he is spending his time?
What should you do in the session to help the client visualize his time commitments and responsibilities?
- Create a framework for how 168 hours per week will be efficiently and comprehensively spent. Represent that framework visually to help deepen understanding and create a usable tool
- Model planning out work to completion and prompt the client to engage in time estimation in order to strengthen his planning skills. Identify a calendar format that works for the client, focusing on a method he will actually use consistently
How will the client apply and build upon the lessons learned from the initial assessment phase?
- Client will engage in “metacognition” (thinking about his thinking) to foster greater awareness of his learning needs, challenges, and differences
- Client will be exposed to different organizational processes that can assist him in developing a more structured approach to both academics and lifestyle habits
- Client will feel more grounded with the use of an approach that they can apply in a consistent and repetitive fashion. Client will begin to see value of replicable process, and can begin to examine the application of EF strategies in other areas of his life
How does the client respond to challenges or obstacles?
- Support client in considering how unique profile has lead to both strengths and challenges in his academic career; consider areas of resistance that have caused challenges in these respective domains
- Provide thoughtful feedback with regard to challenges or limitations observed in previous sessions while adhering to a strengths-based approach.
- Experiment with different styles of giving feedback to gauge how the client responds
How will you prompt reflection and increased self-awareness?
- Provide the client with information about his learning profile, based upon increased familiarity with key terms
- Create options within specific parameters by giving the client the chance to choose between a few pre-set skills to work on or skills to reflect upon
- Engage in an ongoing review of academic assignments, non-academic commitments, and personal care practices to develop a consistent weekly routine
Defining Objectives: How can the client use the skills he has been practicing to plan for a real-life assignment?
- Client will work with his coach to identify 1 large scale future assignment. Client will map, outline, pre-write, and scaffold to reinforce these concepts
- Client will experience a decrease in stress and anxiety through the use of various types of “pre-work” approaches
- Client will develop understanding of process regarding how to effectively “pre-plan” upcoming work
- Client will identify a preferred method (i.e. outlining, pre-writing, mapping, et. al.) to use in planning for assignments based on the experience
How will you support the implementation and application of new knowledge?
- Anticipate the best ways to effectively introduce client to the practical application of ideas that can help them pre-plan and organize content based on your work in previous sessions
- Give priority to open-ended assignments like research papers or group presentations that involve a number of steps and contingencies to focus on in session; challenge the client (if he’s ready!) to develop plans for more straightforward tasks like studying for an exam outside of session to review together next time
- Consider when to deploy different organizational strategies, based upon client’s degree of understanding
Now that the client has been exposed to and practiced with a few methods for planning and organizing his assignments, he is now ready to build towards independence. Work with the client to develop a consistent routine while gradually extending greater ownership and responsibility to the client. Engage the client in dialogue around his stress levels and overall personal health along with his academics. This is also a good opportunity to check-in with the client’s family to manage expectations and provide an honest assessment of the client’s progress.
What will the client work on in each EF-focused session?
- Client will review academic assignments, map them onto his weekly calendar, and consider both the approaches he will use to complete each task as well as the time each task is likely to take
- Client will flesh out his calendar with time blocks set aside for the personal care practices he has identified
- Client will experience an increase in productivity and a decrease in stress and anxiety as he begins to develop competency in the implementation of this new daily and weekly approach
- Client will be able to reflect on his effectiveness in implementing specific aspects of each approach
What techniques and strategies are resonating with this client?
- Consider how to best help client manage workflow through the implementation of a daily and weekly routine
- Examine personal techniques (i.e. modeling, constructive feedback, encouragement, exposure to new tools, et. al.) to determine what the client responds best to
- Observe which lifestyle habits the client seems to find it easiest to stick to or seems to be getting the most out of as well as any that present persistent obstacle
What content should you focus on in session?
- Use the largest-scale assignment as session content, employing “5-W” worksheets to scaffold academic content
- Challenge the client to develop solutions for hypothetical complications or unforeseen changes to his routine to mentally prepare for such events in the future
If the client is ready to apply these skills on his own and can demonstrate consistency outside of sessions, move on to Week 8. If the client needs more reinforcement or would benefit from additional skill development, circle back to Week 1 for a status update on each of his classes, big picture review of his academic calendar, and additional guided practice in implementing executive functioning strategies. The typical client will benefit from at least one additional cycle of assessment and skill building before concluding the module.
Equipped with a new set of tools and techniques, the client is ready to begin taking on greater independence. In the conclusion stage, the client will practice sharing his plan for staying organized with his family and anticipate obstacles and challenges that may come up in the future. With the foundation in place, the goal now is to build resilience such that the client is able to keep up with his executive functioning habits even as his schedule fills up or unexpected events complicate his plans.
How will the client contextualize his progress and work towards greater independence?
- Clients should be able to speak to parental reservations around future plan and overcome prospective objections
- Client will be able to articulate his vision with confidence and enthusiasm
- Client will role-play interactions with his provider to gain confidence in his approach
- Client will feel accomplished based on the sum total of the work he has completed
How will you help the client synthesize new learning and share his new approach with his family?
- Anticipate possible objections related to execution and implementation of plan and coach the client through a possible response
- Brainstorm possible curveballs or “unknown unknowns” that the client may encounter to build resilience
- Create a concrete takeaway packet or folder for the client to keep handy
- Consider different question sets, modes of communication, and frameworks to effectively present the client’s plan and body of work as a tangible “walkaway” for both client and family upon discharge