Craig* did not do well last school year, and as a result, he and his parents fought frequently over his performance. Craig’s parents had him tested for a learning disability, and his results suggested that he did not have any learning deficits that would interfere with his school performance. In order to help Craig be more successful this year and to make their family life more peaceful, Craig’s parents brought him to Outreach to meet with a counselor. Craig and his counselor worked together to determine that there were three areas where he could make a positive impact on his school performance.
Procrastination Craig often put off tasks, including homework, projects and reading, until the last minute. Procrastination increased his anxiety and made him forgo those tasks completely because his anxiety was so unpleasant. As a result, his grades suffered. The counselor informed Craig that turning in assignments makes a huge difference in students’ grades. They worked together to set small, manageable tasks for completing his work that were easily accomplished. Accomplishing these small tasks helped build momentum and kept Craig working towards completion of his assignments.
Poor planning Craig had no system to remember his assignments and plan how to get them done. The counselor suggested Craig use a planner to keep track of his assignments and important dates. They discussed how checking off tasks will give Craig a motivational boost to continue working. They also discussed making to-do lists and prioritizing by using the ABC method. Must-do items (A) are things that must be done that day. These include assignments that are due the next day and things like household chores and after-school activities. Can-do items (B) are things that can be done to work towards completing tasks that are due at a later time, like researching a topic or completing part of a reading assignment. Finally, Like-to-do items (C) are things that can be done if the other tasks are completed. Craig categorized playing video games and spending time on social media as C items, and he used them as a reward if he finished his other tasks.
Where to Study Craig usually studied with the TV and his phone distracting him. He recognized that he spent more time on these distractions and less time studying. The counselor informed Craig that research shows the best place to study is one that closely resembles the test-taking environment. Since he doesn’t take tests on a couch, with the TV on and his phone buzzing, Craig thought that he shouldn’t study there. He decided to leave his phone downstairs and sit at his desk in his bedroom. He reported that it was easier to concentrate and that his homework actually took him less time!
After making these changes, Craig and his parents reported that his grades were improving and that their family life was much less stressful.
*Craig represents a typical Outreach client. Details do not correspond with any specific case in order to protect client anonymity. Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service.