I was recently working with a student who adopted Green Ivy’s organizational and time-management techniques, and has been using them with an inspiring level of success in the new school year. Instead of feeling confident and elated, his new organizational prowess (and related increased productivity and free time) made him feel nervous, because he had never experienced a time when things were going so well – it all seemed a bit too much.
“Now that I’m organized and staying ahead, I worry because I’m not stressed out. I’m also worried that if one thing goes wrong, everything will go wrong,” he said.
I reassured him both concerns were entirely normal, and in part, a side-effect of trying out anything new. Whenever we become used to the underlying stress that comes from being disorganized, distracted, and always pressed for time, a more effective system can feel strange. It can take time for the new habit to become part of our routine that we begin to feel comfortable. We also talked about the importance of allowing for missteps and mistakes along the way. In part because any new habit takes time to embrace and in part because there are always times in life when things don’t go as planned, and it is how we regroup that is most important.
The following week, he told me he hadn’t been prepared for a quiz because he hadn’t remembered to write it down. Although he was allowed to retake it, he was frustrated and worried “everything was falling apart.” (Many teens go directly to the worst possible outcome – that was the WORST day, etc.) We talked about the fact that one mistake doesn’t equal failure, and he should instead take what he had learned and continue to build productive habits going forward.
These conversations reminded me of how important it is for students to regroup on at least a weekly basis. So much can happen in a week for a teenager (or any of us), and allowing teens time to reflect and on what went well the previous week and what they want to do differently in the coming week can be crucial in their overall academic and personal successes. A weekly regroup helps them focus on the habits and strategies, and allows students to become intrinsically motivated to achieve the goals they set for themselves.
As our founder Ana Homayoun likes to ask students, “Are you doing the best with what you’ve got?” Questions like these can help students honestly reflect on their behaviors and habits, while aiding them in recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, along with areas they’d like to improve upon.
Along with encouraging reflection, at Green Ivy, we also promote weekly organizational regroups. We suggest students spend 20 minutes every Sunday filing their papers, organizing their binders and mapping out their week as fully as they can in their written planners. This can help “reset” students who’ve had a challenging few days and are feeling defeated, by showing them there is always an opportunity to start new and start better.