Executive Functioning in 2021: Looking Inward as We Aim to Exit the Tunnel

Melissa Pluchos
January 27, 2021
min read
Executive Functioning in 2021: Looking Inward as We Aim to Exit the Tunnel

Whether you have already broken your well-intended resolutions or resolve each year to not set any resolutions, the new year can be a time for reflection on the past and the chance to take stock of our personal and professional lives. This year especially, we wonder what best practices we will take from the changes 2020 required as we wonder if that is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel. As Rick Clark said in a recent College Admission Brief podcast, “What do we want to keep forever?”

In my own family, I have seen my elementary-aged children becoming increasingly comfortable keeping up with assignments during virtual school days and remembering their masks for in person ones. But there are still times when I see anxiety rear its head and a minor spelling test becomes a regular source of worry over multiple days. I wonder if this is actually emblematic of their feelings of control (or lack thereof)? These types of challenges led me to pull out Applerouth’s most recent publication, the Guide to Academic Success which helped us make sense of how to navigate the worries:

A little anxiety can help, a lot can be crippling. As I was thinking about how powerful this research is for students, it occurred to me how well it applies to parents, educators and consultants as well. So with that spirit, here are a few tips from Applerouth’s Guide to Academic Success that can apply to our own work:

1. Read all about it!

Like most of us, I have spent countless hours in the last 10 months reading articles, listening to podcasts, and watching webinars in an effort to stay on top of the latest news related to college admission testing. Interestingly enough, I have found that when I take the time to read for pleasure, I become more intellectually curious and sharp in my professional work and can retain more of what I have read, heard and watched.

2. Know you can grow

A growth mindset is required for piano practice at our house just as it has been for all of us at work as we look to navigate uncharted waters. Just as we encourage our students to believe they can improve, we must model working through mistakes and adjusting to “new normal.” When I was honest with my children about my worries about mastering a new form of technology (to simulcast our webinars on Facebook Live, for example), they felt more comfortable sharing their concerns about that nasty spelling quiz with me.

3. Make friends with your calendar

While the use of permanent ink on a 2020 calendar may have a poor choice, the practice I developed in 2020 of time-blocking to help prioritize projects and meet deadlines is a habit worth keeping. Life seemed to just happen in 2020, so scheduling time for tasks helped me chip away at longer-term projects and maintain priorities even when the news of the moment wanted to demand my time and attention.

We hope these tips help you and your students get 2021 started on a good footing as we all look ahead to that hopeful light at the end of the tunnel. Want more ideas? Click here to request your Improving Executive Functioning Handout or request a free digital copy of the Guide to Academic Success.

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