Yikes College! Here I am on my own (finally) in a world filled with new friends, parties, social events, sporting events, non-stop activities and oh yeah major responsibilities like those challenging college classes and those never-ending assignments. So many distractions and so little time to focus on that learning stuff. It’s great being on my own but who is going to make sure I get to class every day and complete my assignments on time? And forget study time. College doesn’t have the same daily structured routine that I hated, but so needed like I had in high school. I don’t have my parents pushing me to study and focus on my priorities every day. Can I trust myself to make good decisions? Who can I rely on when I start to doubt myself and lose sight of what works for me. Can I survive all of these distractions and manage on my own?
Oh well no time to worry there’s a party down the hall.
I am sure you are aware of the multitude of challenges that college students with ADHD face on a daily basis.
These students often exhibit above average intelligence and great creativity. Unfortunately these attributes are frequently insufficient to assist the student in managing inhibiting traits of ADD such as, impulsivity, procrastination, poor follow-though, low frustration tolerance, difficulty prioritizing, difficulty staying focused, self-doubt, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
Is it any wonder that these students frequently under-perform and even worse give in to their struggles and give up?
Too often these students lack awareness of how their traits negatively affect them and how to work effectively. They operate on habit and impulse rather than self-awareness, focus and intention. And now they carry the responsibility of structuring their time and days, organizing their work load, managing their impulses and making decisions that will impact their outcomes favorably or unfavorably and many times they are unprepared for this responsibility.
I had the enjoyable opportunity to coach a student at Columbia College. Don (I call him Don but his mother has never used that name to call him to dinner) is a highly creative, intelligent and artistically gifted student who was underachieving and who feared he was on the verge of failing out of school. Don struggled with time management, prioritizing, sustaining focus, follow through, self-doubt and anxiety. We met weekly through the semester and focused on techniques to help Don manage his anxiety to afford him sufficient energy to develop a structured routine that he could be intentional and consistent with. As many students and adult professionals do, Don initially struggled with the idea of a structured routine and frequently fell back into old habits that did not serve him well. Eventually, through repetition and with support and encouragement, Don began to see the benefit of having a routine that he could embrace as his own and one that began to evidence new successes. Don’s ability to manage his time effectively grew through this process and became less of a deficit.
Don‘s routine was developed to allow him to identify priorities and to set daily and weekly goals with deadlines for each priority. He factored in potential roadblocks and distractions and built in proactive plans for managing these roadblocks and distractions.
Don focused on setting realistic expectations that he could meet which afforded him an opportunity to build on his small successes rather than experiencing failure which he often anticipated. We maintained daily accountability check-ins via email to assure that the focus was not lost to distractions and impulse.
Don was an expert on all of his deficits, shortcomings and failures. He could rattle them off in little time. He was quite accomplished in the art of overwhelming himself with a steady stream of negative thinking. He seldom thought of himself as a competent student, capable of achieving his goals or even performing adequately. Could self-doubt be far behind? I encouraged Don to develop an inventory of past and present accomplishments and suggested that he gather objective information from family and friends that he could use to practice challenging his negative thoughts.
Don avoided communicating directly with his teachers when he was struggling with a project or assignment. He feared that he would not ask the right questions, hear the answer he was avoiding or show himself to be inadequate. I encouraged Don to gather information that would allow him to know what was expected and how he was performing.
After a number of role playing conversations and some hesitation Don was ready to sally forth. Eventually he learned that he could express his concerns effectively, gather objective information, reduce his anxiety and formulate decisions based on facts rather than fear.
Through his persistence, consistent effort, willingness to develop new habits and greater self-awareness Don’s performance improved, his confidence grew and his self-doubt began to dwindle. I am happy to report that Don recently graduated with honors and is currently focused on developing his own business.
Don’s experience demonstrates how coaching works and what the positive outcomes can be. ADD is not a pre-determinate of negative outcomes and failure. Coaching often is a significant factor in the development of critical behaviors and activities that leads to success.