By Susan Alves, MA, PhD


We all find it challenging to stay productive at this time of year. So many distractions pull our attention away from our day-to-day commitments. If these distractions are fun, like parties, gift shopping, and holiday get-togethers, we still can become overwhelmed. Even if we do not celebrate a holiday at this time of year, we experience the swirl of a society in an overdrive cacophony. The students in our lives are no different.

Although middle school, high school, and college-age students may tell you that they have it under control, most could benefit from your support if they are to stay productive and happy during these busy weeks. Beware the notion that multitasking is effective. Usually, it is not. Conversely, slowing down and choosing to focus on one thing at a time often produces better-quality work. Concentrating on one task at a time also can leave room to enjoy one’s work. Have a conversation with your student about how they are feeling and about how they are experiencing the responsibilities they are juggling. Find that sweet spot where a real conversation is most likely to happen. (Hint: It might be while driving somewhere with your student.)

Our minds can become overloaded with extraneous information and tasks to complete. When this happens, our productivity suffers. Students are no different. They may need help sorting through what is essential, what can wait, and what can be skipped. Try asking open-ended questions so your student can articulate what is necessary to them. If their answers do not match your priorities, stay in the conversation so you can better understand how they think. Work your way to a negotiated agreement. Especially if you are prone to the breathless activity of multitasking, partner with your student for a few weeks to pare back, slow down, and focus on what really needs to be done. Together, you can alleviate the extraneous load you both carry at this time of year, making room for greater productivity and better understanding and appreciation of each other.

Susan Alves, MA, PhD is the Principal of Mindfulness Tutoring & Coaching. She is currently completing a graduate level certificate in Executive Function with Landmark College (VT). Susan has a private practice that focuses on building young adult clients’ executive function skills.