Time Management Answers

Now that I'm in college, why do I have a difficult time when I want to study?

Hi thank you so much for reaching out with your question!   It can be so hard to focus on tasks such as studying, particularly if the subject is something you are not all that interested in or if the subject is confusing.  It seems like you want to study but when the time comes, you are overwhelmed and this prevents you from effectively studying.  The first thing to note is that you are not alone in this struggle!   I'm wondering if these things may help: 1.  Since this has been difficult for you since you were a child, I would first encourage you to get evaluated for any type of potential learning challenge.  So many people who are highly intelligent can also have difficulty learning in some way (difficulty reading or writing letters/words/numbers, interpreting what they read, being able to repeat back what they have learned, have difficulty processing, etc).  This can be hidden for years and it would be worth checking out to see if there is an underlying issue there first.  If so, there are numerous tools and approaches that will help once there is a definitive answer about any learning difficulties. 2.  Work on Mindfulness techniques.  Mindfulness can help to slow down your brain and body and to focus on tasks more effectively.  It will be important to practice mindfulness skills even when you are not studying so that your skills can be most effective when you are trying to study.  Then study one subject/assignment at a time, focusing on that specific topic.  Let all other topics, distractions, thoughts, etc sort of float through - acknowledging these things, not judging yourself for having these thoughts, but returning your attention back to that one subject or assignment. 3.  Take advantage of outside resources.  From what it sounds like, you are in college, and colleges have specific study tools set up for student success.  Check out any study groups, form a study group with other classmates, study with a peer, check out any learning labs or tutoring on your campus, and ask a teacher for help during office hours.   4.  Set yourself up for success.  This can be done by actually putting study time on your schedule and then dedicating that time to studying.  If study groups are difficult for you (sometimes they help, sometimes not so much), utilize one of the dedicated study spaces at your campus library or make one of your own at home.  This can be a corner of the room which has no other distractions, or just clearing off your desk.  It can also be taking only your study materials into a study room at the library to limit distractions.  Set a timer for a time span you know you can do (30 mins, 1 hour, etc).  Then take a small break to walk around, get a healthy snack, etc.  Then set a timer again.  Take it in small increments and study over a period of days rather than trying to cram it all in just before something is due.  When your brain is less stressed, you will retain more. 5.  Reward yourself for doing a good job at studying by doing something you enjoy.  It can be a small reward, such as your favorite ice cream or coffee, taking a walk in fresh air, hanging out with friends, playing video games, or reading a book you don't have to read for school.  It can be helpful to set up this reward system prior to beginning studying to keep you motivated. 6.  Lastly, one of the best resources for college studying (or any studying) has been Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book.  You can find videos regarding this as well as the book online or probably in your library.  This book has helped many college students effectively study material in textbooks. I hope these resources and tips have been helpful, and again thank you for reaching out!   I wish you all the best with your studies!   You can do this!   
Answered on 01/05/2023

I don't know who I am, what I want, or what I even like. How can I reconnect to my real self?

Failure? I want to take a moment to say that I think you have a good understanding of yourself. You have insight, and you seem like you are willing to deal with difficult things. I think that you know you know yourself well and then assume that what you know is all there is. Like, if you don't see it, then it might not be accurate. Yes, your self-awareness is high, but there is always a blind spot.  In what you wrote, I see someone who believes he must be something more than he is to be accepted by people. Since going to college, you have met a larger pool of people to compare to, and now you realize you are mediocre. This is how you see yourself in comparison to others. You think that your job is to impress people, and if you can't or don't want to put yourself up to the potential of failing, you stay by yourself. You would rather be alone than fail. You would rather stay quiet than ask for help. You will be shocked if you knew what people thought of you and it wasn't what you thought.  I don't think you are lazy; you don't have the motivation because what motivates you is a fulfillment of self. You have to realize that the people that do and do successfully often do from a place of desire to see something great, not an inadequacy to fulfill with academia or the validation of a degree. Yes, inadequacy and overcompensation can get people far in life, but they are still left with the turmoil of questioning themselves. You have too many options, and you fear making a choice. It seems like you worry about what other people would think of you if you decided whatever, but then you don't know yourself enough to see what you want. What do you want out of all this, to feel better? To have friends? To not have so much pressure just to be you? And lastly, do you even accept yourself, or are you a less than person now that your grades aren't that good and you are seemingly not doing well?  You won't be what you fear because what you fear is a version of yourself is you seeing what you think would be the worst from the outside. In reality, you will subtly sabotage and make every choice along the way to whatever life you are in, good or bad, agreeing to things the entire way. Eventually, you will wake up and see where you are, but until then, you will keep living in avoidance of fear. This avoidance then puts you right where you don't want to be.  It's like the father who is controlling a son who controls his life to not be like his dad has. However, that kid then controls his entire life and others to not be like his controlling father. Then one day, he is sitting in therapy, saying he cannot be like his father because his father was controlling. You have to admit to yourself that the way you think, and the future you fear, are your problems, not lack of motivation or not having as good of grades. If you think that grades or career or what calculated choices you make will make you better or worse, you are too dependent on others to define you.  What do you want? What matters to you? Once you find your "why" you can endure any "how." 
(LCPC)
Answered on 01/01/2023

Is therapy for me and how can it help my situation?

First of all, congratulations on graduating and starting your new career as a teacher. That is a huge accomplishment in a much needed field. Therapy is for everyone and can be beneficial in many situations. Yes, it can help your situation too as long as you're ready and willing to do the required work. What you described in your question sounds like procrastination.  While this skill can be helpful at times, putting things off until the last minute can add unnecessary stress to our days.  Creating a schedule can sometimes help with this. A counselor can help to identify strengths you already possess that will be helpful for you to utilize now. You made it through school and that alone is a challenge. That lets you know you already have the skills needed to manage; you just need to sharpen them more.  Therapy is good for helping you to improve your self awareness and learn more about you and how you function.  There are resources and tools obtainable to help those who struggle with procrastination. Together your therapist and you can tailor a plan that fits your needs.  You can assess how you got through college. For example, how did you get assignments turned in on time? What motivated you to complete school? Then find ways to implement those skills now or develop new skills. For example, if you have two weeks to complete a lesson plan, incorporating 15 minutes of planning per day could help break it down into smaller more manageable tasks.  There could also be other areas in your life that contributes to the habits you mentioned. Therapy can help you to explore those areas and find any correlation to how it affects your response now.  That's one result of therapy, being able to understand why you do the things you do. Once you understand, it sometimes helps with making the necessary changes to improve in areas you want to improve in. Overall therapy can be helpful for you in multiple ways. It's up to you to determine how you want to be helped and what you can do to facilitate that process.  Therapy is what you make it, you get out of it what you put into it. 
Answered on 11/23/2022

What do you do if you get so overwhelmed that it makes you freeze completely?

A pleasure to meet you! It takes courage to be here and you just took the first step, so cheers for that! My name is Lorena Klahr and I am a licensed marriage and family therapist in Florida; I work with individuals, couples and families! Hopefully I can help you and guide you with your concern... I hear you saying that you do not know where to start or how to start when you have a lot of things going on! I like to call this procrastination, which means delaying an activity that needs to be completed. Procrastination happens as a way of coping with anxiety or negative thoughts that are difficult to cope with, which is probably what is happening to you. When procrastination happens, this coping mechanism is tied up to another one, for example, what you are mentioning about watching TV.... I want to give you some tips to fight procrastination! Hopefully it will be helpful and you can move forward and change some habits. 1) First and most important you have to consciously fight procrastination and change behaviors (perhaps, not turning on the TV at certain times of the day, try to set up a schedule or routine where you can plan when to watch TV). 2) Break tasks into manageable steps, which means do not leave everything to be completed in the moment but distribute it through the week/ month. Perhaps, grab a piece of paper and write down everything in bullet points that needs to be completed, next to it write if it needs to be done now or if it can wait. 3) Commit to a first tiny step; be conscious and sincere that you need to start somewhere. Create a reward system, example, if I do x then I can watch TV. 4) Give yourself permission to make mistakes, which means, if something does not go as planned, that is okay and part of the process. 5) Make tasks more enjoyable: add music in the back, a coffee, a little sweet, a podcast, something that tides up to what you are doing. 6) Make it hard to procrastinate, which means, do not let impulses come close, make them hard to reach. For example, do not turn the TV on. Remember, write things down and make it easier to remember (now or ideal which means when are you going to do it) and then create a reward system (if I do exercise then I can have a smoothie)... this does not mean that your positive reward system is going to be strict and will always be there, remember, it is for certain occasions where you need a little bit more of a push... time management is crucial and once you understand your time management and how your system works, things will be easier for you :) Hopefully this can guide you and help you get to a better place!  When you finish reading this, right away write things down and start the process! If you are in Florida and want further help feel free to book a session! Looking forward to hearing back from you. Respectfully, Lorena Klahr, LMFT.. Have a good day and take care!
(LMFT)
Answered on 11/22/2022

I struggle with procrastination which then leads to anxiety, depression. How do I deal with it?

Hello Nora! What a great question! Thank you for asking!  Procrastination is a problem for many people. You are definitely not alone. There are a number of theories about the causes of procrastination. Probably, the most likely answer is that it is the result of a number of things combined with each other. 1. We procrastinate doing a task when the task seem to be too big or overwhelming. For example, I am going to put off cleaning if I believe I have to clean the whole house in one day. My brain is going to say, "That is way too much for me to do. I don't even know where to start!" Then my brain is going to say, "Let's just not do anything!" What is the answer to this problem? Most likely, the answer is to break the task down into little manageable pieces. I might feel much better about cleaning one room than cleaning the whole house. I am more likely to see that one room is do-able. I might be more willing to get started if I realize that I am going to be done in a short period of time -- not the whole day. And one of the payoffs to breaking things down into bite-sized pieces is that a lot of times we will keep going once we start even if we had previously decided to do just one room. Many times, it is just getting going that is so difficult and once we start, we keep going. Energy begets energy as the saying goes. But even if we don't want to keep going after we do the one bite-sized piece, we still have accommplished that one piece.  2. Another theory suggests that we procrastinate on those things that we fear we might not complete satisfactorily. Sometimes we have our own unrealistic standards that we think we need to live up to. Sometimes, it is someone else's unrealistic standards. Either way, if we think we cannot meet those standards, then we might convince ourselves that it is better not to even get started or try to do the task rather than risk the feeling of not having done it "perfectly" (which of course is impossible). The answer to this problem is to really come to understand how we think about ourselves and others. We need to gain some awareness of our core beliefs or what I call our scripts and rules. Are the standards that we have set for ourselves -- or the standards that we believe others have set for us -- reasonable? Could anyone actually meet those standards? It is one thing to strive for excellence but another thing to strive for perfection. The latter is not possible but if we believe it is, then we might feel paralyzed by the fear of not meeting this unreasonable standard, and we might not even start the task. We have to be able to talk to ourselves with compassion and remind ourselves that no one is perfect and it is okay to do the best we can on this task or project. 3. Another theory suggests that we do not like to feel whatever feelings are connected to this project. Perhaps the project seems boring or frightening or anxiety-provoking. If we are not willing to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings that go along with this particular task, then we might put it off as long as possible. A homework assignment might sound boring and so we wait until the last minute because we don't want to feel bored. Maybe we need to create a presentation but the idea of the presentation raises our anxiety. Maybe we don't tolerate the feeling of anxiety very well and so we put off putting the presentation together because we don't want to feel anxious. The key to this particular problem is learning to identify and tolerate our feelings. Feelings are normal human reactions to situations. They might be uncomfortable but there is a reason for our feelings. They are like little messengers that are telling us something -- maybe a warning, a need for something, some kind of message. So, the key is to learn to listen to our feelings, understand what they are telling us, and increase our ability and willingness to tolerate uncomfortable feelings. If I can learn to tolerate the anxiety that goes along with creating a presentation, I am more likely to dive in (maybe break that presentation down into pieces that I do a little at a time) and get it done rather than putting it off. 4. Another theory suggests that we do not have very good time management skills. Perhaps we are not that great at planning and organizing. So, rather than setting aside a designated time to get the task done, we just don't even think about it until it is almost due and then we panic. So the answer to this dilemma is to keep a calendar that is big enough to write down when you are going to do certain things on certain days. So if I have a big project that is due in a week, I might break it down into four parts and designate a block of time to four separate days in the upcoming week. I will write that on my calendar so I don't forget. I also have to be willing to commit to doing what I wrote on the calendar. 5. Then there is the theory that we are just too distractable. We can't stay focused on one thing so it just doesn't get done. We are not really procrastinating. We are just not getting the task done. The key to solving this problem is going to use the tip from number 4 -- blocking off a period of time and writing it on the calendar -- plus another tip which is turning off all of the potential distractions when it comes time to work on the task. Put the phone in another room so we are not tempted to look at it. Turn off the television. Create a space that is quiet and is not going to be distracting. These are just a few ideas that might help you understand why you procrastinate and what to do about it. I have a library of handouts, podcasts, and YouTube videos that I like to share with people on specific topics and procrastination is definitely one of those topics. I hope you have found this information to be helpful! Judi
(MA, LMHP, LADC)
Answered on 11/15/2022

How to stop procrastinating?

Hi Rumi. I am so glad that you have reached out for help. I really appreciate you bringing this great question on the topic of procrastination to the BetterHelp platform. It sounds like you are willing to make some changes for yourself in order to start improving your procrastinating behavior. It is a really good sign that you are reaching out for support at this time. I realize that it may be of great difficulty to have to constantly cope with procrastinating behavior. I hope that you have some faith in yourself that you will be able to make small improvements over time, which will likely lead to attaining bigger goals. I understand what you are saying in that your work tasks tend to pile up. What are some of the challenging aspects of your work? It sounds like you are experiencing an element of burn out as well based on how you had mentioned feeling worn down before you even have a chance to get started on completing your tasks. I have some questions for you to consider as you process your experiences with procrastination: When did you notice that this behavior started for you? Is this something new or something that you have been dealing with for a while now? How are you feeling about your behavior? Do you experience heightened anxiety or stress in the moments of procrastination? What have you been doing to manage your time lately? My advice is to explore some of these questions in therapy, through therapeutic journaling or even when talking with family or a close friend. Is there a person in your life that can help guide you and remind you to stay on track with your goals and deadlines? Utilize your support circle as a means to check in, obtain gentle reminders, encouragement and assistance. Perhaps you will be able to return the favor for the people in your life some day! The first step for you to avoid procrastination could be to begin focusing on time management. What time management skills do you have that you currently are not using? Would you be willing to keep track of due dates, events and assignments in a daily calendar or planner? Are you more of a visual learner or a hands on learner? Consider what your strengths are and focus your energy on learning new ways to improve your time management skills. You can absolutely build upon the talents, strengths and interests that you already have. The fact that you are feeling really stressed out about the procrastination is concerning to hear. I imagine that the stressful feelings must be an added layer to this experience. What can you due to manage your feelings of stress? What has worked for you in the past? I would like to encourage you to practice stress reduction skills on a daily or weekly basis. I can share with you a list of stress management strategies for your review: https://www.verywellmind.com/tips-to-reduce-stress-3145195 In addition to practicing stress management techniques, I would like to encourage you to participate in therapeutic writing or drawing directives. As a provisionally licensed art therapist, I always recommend art making as fuel for healing. Creating art, in its many forms, may allow for you to express the feelings and emotions that you have been experiencing. It is important that you have a strategy for emotional expression that you feel comfortable with doing. An art therapy approach for procrastination could be drawing a map or a timeline that depicts your daily or weekly to do list. I would also encourage you to explore more about your technique of procrastination. What has this behavior been doing for you? What are you trying to communicate to yourself, or perhaps to others, by procrastinating? Draw a picture of what procrastination means to you. Set a timer as a means to start practicing setting time limits for yourself. Time limits can also enhance and cultivate spontaneity, which in turn can reduce feelings of anxiety. Slow down your thoughts and close your eyes as you envision a calm, peaceful place. I will share it with you an activity on developing your inner peaceful place. Here is the link: https://emdrtherapyvolusia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Calm_Safe_Place.pdf In addition, I recommend making a list, such as a to-do list. You may want to keep track of your to do-list on post it notes, in a small notebook or even on a white board. It can be such a great feeling to visually see yourself physically cross off the items on your list as you complete them. Try to set multiple deadlines for yourself and your plan for accomplishments. If you missed the first one, you will have a second deadline as a back up plan. At this time, I would like to recommend that you begin attending individual counseling sessions. I realize that you have already recognized that you may be experiencing a loss of self control. Attending therapy appointments on a consistent basis may give you the foundation and encouragement that you need to regain a sense of control. Also, the therapist that you are matched with will likely help you in learning new skills. This is a great way for you to practice taking accountability and managing your time. In addition to individual sessions, you may benefit from attending a group or a groupinar. Surrounding yourself with other people who have had similar experiences, behaviors and symptoms may be beneficial for you to hear other people's perspectives on this topic. Thank you again, Rumi, for reaching out for support at this time. I want to wish you all the best in your therapeutic journey on BetterHelp. I hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. Take good care and have a great day!
(LMHC, ATR-P, MS, NCC)
Answered on 11/09/2022

How can I lessen my use of social media, Internet, YouTube etc and focus more on my studies?

Hi there, I do understand that you are finding quite challenging to keep yourself engaged with the activities you need to do. Internet, with the thousand distractions it might bring, is coming in the way of your studies. First and foremost, let me say that this is a very common issue that many people nowadays are facing. It is just very complicated to manage your time, especially because it does not seem as much time consuming as it actually is afterwards. So, there are different reasons that might push you in this sort of behavioral pattern, but all of them lead to the same two root causes:  - It could be because of procrastination.  - Your brain is constantly looking for highly rewarding activities. Let's look into them one at the time. So, procrastination is not the art of being lazy, as many would suggest and as it was seen in the past years. It is all about coping strategies. We procrastinate because we fear something. Then the way we procrastinate can vary. Anyways it has to do with emotional stress and with sense of pressure. Taking care of emotions and stressors in your life can be game changing. Many times, when my clients face challenges like this one, I invite them to ask the following question: "What is it that I am afraid of"? This very simple question can open to very deep reflections. I see that you mention that before the pandemic you did not have such issue. The pandemic did not only affect  the way our education is delivered, it affected our social life as much as our own vision of the world and the future, giving them a way grimmer look. On top of that, I see that you have recently started university. First and foremost: Well done for that. Being in university is a great experience, that can bring a lot of satisfaction, but it can quite quickly become a source of intense stress and pressure and paradoxically increase the number of meaningless activities we engage with. The way you actually wrote that message, and the choice of words and phrases that you have made, give me the impression that you are indeed a high achiever, but as well that you are quite hard on yourself. This can be detrimental to your own confidence and self-esteem. Again here, two elements that are at the core of the reasons we find in procrastination. Moving on to a more neuropsychological reason, as we said, your brain might be interested in highly rewarding activities. This is one of the most common elements of engaging with activities like web browsing and spending a lot of time watching online material. Our brain has a specific pathway, which involves dopamine, a neurotransmitter, which is technically known as the reward pathway. It basically creates an element of dependence around activities that make us release high levels of dopamine. The bad thing about this though, is that dopamine is not a compounding substance, so that I watch videos and get 7 dopamine and then do homework and get an extra 3 so that all together I have 10 dopamine. The dopamine receptors work slightly differently: if you watch videos and get 7, an activity that gives you a release of 3 will not look appealing anymore because in order to get that 3 you have to drop the 7. Your brain, as the clever machine that it is, will never take such an inconvenient choice. But unfortunately, your brain is not aware of the society and the rules around you. It will not know that doing your homework can lead to a way bigger reward and sense of satisfaction than those videos. It just thinks about maximum reward in the present moment. So, now that we have a basic understanding of the root cause, let's make a clarification. These two causes are most of the time related, triggering each other as they please. What this means in regard to your question is that the best way to control such behaviors and feel more engaged with your life, you need two things: Being more aware of your inner world, and create a structure around your life where you regulate accordingly the pleasant activities you engage with. Increasing awareness is in general always good practice. In your case, being more connected with your inner world can be optimal to raise up again your motivation levels and desire to commit. That will be a key element in order to stick to the structure we mentioned above. Your brain would not like the changes that you need to take, and will try to fight them with all its resources. That's why people many times try to bring structure but fail in maintaining it. You need to have a strong motivation in order to commit to such structural changes. That motivation comes from accepting one's fears and recalling to all the inner resources that one has inside. Remember that we work as a whole. Bringing just structure without keeping care of your inner world will quickly lead you to burnout. So, you want to approach this challenge in an holistic way and treat yourself kindly while working with your emotional world, and use the same kindness when dealing with your engagement around structure. Building structure is something easier said than done. It needs to be flexible and require to allocate space to self care (which will turn into maintenance of your structure). These are my suggestions. I hope you find them useful and if you feel in need to explore more such topics, please feel free to get in touch.
(Psychotherapist)
Answered on 10/28/2022

How to be consistent in reaching goals

We set different types of goals for ourselves to move forward and feel accomplished. Personal growth can include goals towards health, inter-personal relationships, financial, career, and family. It can be overwhelming to take on goals, whether they are small or large.  I assist many individuals who experience anxiety and stress and are not getting sleep (poor quality and not enough restful sleep). We work on setting small goals. Progressing from poor sleep 7 days a week to enough sleep 1-2 days a week is the first step we look at for goal setting. Sometimes we need assistance to develop skills to improve focus and concentration. It can be helpful to work with an objective individual to provide support and help with accountability and encouragement when it's most needed. Have you tried breaking down the goal into smaller steps, an easy to follow "map" of how to get there? A to do list with actionable items you can check off to lead you closer to your goal. The list can include a daily checklist, a weekly list, and a longer term month or year planning list. How have you successfully accomplished goals previously? What lessons can you take from those times to help you succeed in your endeavors? Are you setting realistic goals for yourself? Identify how additional supports and resources can make it easier to complete your goals. How has putting off accomplishing these goals affected your daily life and your long term plans? What are some consequences of not completing these goals?  What are the benefits you will gain from accomplishing these goals? A visual representation of what it means to achieve these goals can be a good motivator. A drawing, vision board, a small daily reward system are encouraging ways to keep moving yourself forward and help measure growth and achievement.  Dedicate some time each day to help you get closer to your goals. When you see you are able to accomplish these smaller steps, you may gain confidence and resilience needed to get closer to reaching your goals.  There are times in our lives when it can be beneficial to meet with a licensed mental health counselor to help with these types of stressors.  
(LPC, NCC)
Answered on 09/25/2022