What does a DIY project have to do with executive function coaching?

A topic I often focus on with students is project management, or how to break down a project into smaller, manageable pieces and set a corresponding timeline. Creating bite-sized tasks can make anything seem more approachable, and a good ole DIY project is no different.

Our original desk

I’ve known I wanted to repaint this desk for my new kindergartener for weeks, and I had looked forward to it all summer. But until I broke down the task, it seemed surprisingly insurmountable. It turns out that small steps and a concrete timeline were exactly what I needed!

  1. Have my 5 year-old select her paint color
  2. Purchase paint and supplies
  3. Clean the desk
  4. Apply the first coat of paint (and embrace its imperfections)
  5. Apply the second coat of paint
  6. Apply the wax coat to seal the paint
  7. Find the right sized stool she’ll need to prop up her feet, helping to ground her and support her core
  8. Stand back and admire our handiwork
After the first coat…not the best look!

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the feeling that a project is too big to handle. For example, though I’ve done DIY projects before, I haven’t given myself the same tight timeline (5 days from the time we purchased the supplies until the first day of remote school). When we step back, determine a timeline, and break the task down, it becomes much easier to get to work.

Ready for the first day of remote learning!

What would I do differently in the future?

  1. Start earlier
    • Even an executive function coach procrastinates from time to time. Making the time for self-reflection (even when it’s to give ourselves some gentle feedback) is an important step for growth and continued improvement.
  2. Embrace the awkward first draft
    • We knew that the first coat of paint was only a rough draft. Giving ourselves the space to be OK with that knowledge was crucial.
  3. Have a bit more faith in my partner
    • My young daughter was my right-hand-woman in this adventure, and she proved to be much more capable than I’d realized. Taking a moment to recognize strengths in a group member or in ourselves is so important, as it allows us to place more trust in that person and be more confident in the work they (or we) are doing.
  4. Over-estimate the amount of time each task will take
    • This is a tricky one, as we may not have a clear understanding of how long an assignment will take. Giving ourselves some extra time is always a win! If you end up finishing a step earlier than expected, you have found a few extra minutes in your day.

Do you have a looming deadline you’d like to talk through? I’d love to connect about strategies that might work for you and how to make them realistic for your needs! Please feel free to send an email to danaroseroth at gmail dot com to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation!

Wishing you and your students a great start to the school year!

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