Yearly Calendar November Article

Navigating the Yearly Calendar: Executive Functioning in November

Welcome to “Navigating the Yearly Calendar!” This is a monthly series where we will explore strategies and tools that intersect with the calendar and rhythm of the school year. 

There is a reason we as humans mark time. It is a vital part of our being that helps us make sense out of the world around us, as well as our own existence. Marking time is not new; it dates back to the earliest of civilizations. However, in our fast-paced world, marking time can be complicated given all the simultaneous demands on our lives. Marking time has been further impacted by the COVID pandemic, during which time, as we know it, was disrupted. Even today, we are still grappling with the effects of this time disruption.

This series is designed as a reset of how we mark time as it relates to executive functioning skills. By looking at executive functioning on a monthly basis, we can help our children manage time, stuff, and information.

Let’s begin…

Executive Functioning in November: 

November involves balancing a complex workload with the excitement of holidays and celebrations. The beginning of the month can include increased due dates for projects, papers and tests/quizzes in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday break.

Students typically enter the month of November in one of three ways: 

  • with a clear system and scheduling that allow for quality work to be completed on time
  • with a faulty system and scheduling where work gets completed but under stressful conditions 
  • with no system or scheduling where feelings of overwhelm take over, resulting in work not being done or not being of high quality

The goal of November is balancing long-term projects and studying for assessments together with regular school work and extracurricular activities, along with the excitement that comes with the approaching holidays. 

From an executive functioning point of view, November is the month to intentionally engage in thoughtful multitasking so that there is adequate time and there are systems in place to manage multiple tasks that have hard deadlines. 

  1. Include time slots during study times to allow for pacing and progress. When there are more long-term projects or studying involved, it is helpful to create daily time slots with the specific long-term activities to complete. This moves long-term projects along to completion. 

For example:

4:00-5:00 Work on the history rough draft

5:00-5:15 Break

5:15-6:15 Study for the math quiz 

6:15-6:30 Break

6:30-7:00 Proofread English essay 

  1. Watch for the priority trap. There are professionals who build executive functioning practice around setting priorities. Setting priorities is a good thing–it can bring clarity to what must be accomplished. However, establishing priorities can also have negative unintended consequences. This can be referred to as the “priority trap.” Here’s how it can play out:

When individuals who have yet to develop robust time management skills have deadlines, they often establish a “priority” and work to complete only this task before moving on to something else. The “trap” is that the deadlines of other projects are pushed aside or halted due to the focus on the “priority” task. Although the “priority” task gets completed, stress continues to increase as other task deadlines approach, and new tasks are added to the list of things needing to be completed.  

Another issue with setting priorities in a school setting is that each teacher believes their work is a priority. So establishing certain assignments as priorities over other assignments does not usually go over well with teachers. This can cause tension between the teacher and the students. 

  1. Recheck that weekend schedules include time for long-term projects and studying for tests/quizzes. Often students’ biggest desire is not to engage in school work on the weekends. While this can hold true for children in the earlier grades, at the secondary school level, this is less often the case. As the time towards school breaks or vacations comes near, some extra time devoted on weekends to be fully prepared for tests/quizzes and paper/project due dates could be needed. 
  1. Plan for two short previews of what is coming up at the beginning and end of the Thanksgiving holiday. Older students in rigorous academic programs may have work to do over a Thanksgiving break. The completion and quality of the work will improve when time is set aside intentionally for working during the vacation. Additionally, spending 30 minutes or so the night before going back to school helps make the transition back to school easier by allowing students to prepare mentally for what lies ahead. 
  1. Take time and organize work spaces and backpacks. A little time devoted to cleaning up and organizing papers, throwing out trash and replenishing supplies is time well spent. 

Wishing you and your child a successful month and a well deserved Thanksgiving break as you enter the last part of the calendar year.