4 Core Areas for Self-Assessment

4 Core Areas for Self-Assessment

There are four basic pieces that form the foundation for executive functioning. In this episode you’ll learn what they are and how to look at these areas to assess how you can help yourself.

If you’ve explored coaching before and it didn’t work, or just have trouble making things stick, Rebecca Shafir, an ADHD coach at the Hallowell Center, offers concrete ideas in this episode on how to make lasting improvements in your life.

Email Rebecca Shafir at [email protected].

Or contact Rebecca at the Hallowell Center by calling 978-287-0810.

Rebecca’s book: The Zen of Listening

Check out Focusmate.com for distraction-free productivity help (mentioned in this episode).

Share your thoughts with us! Write an email or record a voice memo and send it to [email protected].

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin (@sarahguertin) and our recording engineer/editor is Pat Keogh.

Click here to listen to this episode!

A transcript of this episode is below.


Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Hello, this is Dr. Ned Hallowell. And welcome to Distraction. Today, I have a very special guest. She’s an old friend, and she works in my office in Sudbury. In addition to having her own practice, she’s a multi-talented woman. Not only is she a black belt in karate, but she is the author of a wonderful book, and is a speech language pathologist, and she is a coach extraordinary. She’s developed her own system of coaching, and whether you be a student or adult professional, Becky will absolutely help you, and you’ll have fun in the process. She’s one of the best in the business. So I am very, very happy to have her join us. And let’s just jump right in. Becky, welcome to Distraction.

Rebecca Shafir:

Oh, thank you for inviting me Ned, I really appreciate it.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Well, it’s wonderful to have you. You told me you wanted to talk about core coaching, is that correct?

Rebecca Shafir:

Yes. It’s interesting how it all got started, is that I was working with many of your patients with executive functioning and ADHD, and they reported trying many strategies for time management focus and follow through, et cetera. But to no avail, they were really trying to be better and better themselves, and do well in their work and at school. But they were just having trouble making things stick. And they had explored coaching with some very fine coaches, by the way. But again, the strategies and tactics weren’t sticking.

Rebecca Shafir:

So I asked myself, “What’s another way to go with these clients? What do most of these folks have in common?” Number one, I noticed they have poor sleep or wacky sleep patterns. Number two, they were low on exercise. Number three, they were emotionally dysregulated. To some extent they were anxious, procrastinating, depressed, and highly vulnerable to distraction, and their accountability for how they spent their time or activities was rather poor.

Rebecca Shafir:

So I said, “Huh, interesting.” Those core skills and routines form the foundation for executive functioning. So just like a house that’s built on a shaky foundation will topple, for me to ignore those core skills and routines just seemed foolish. So I said, “Becky, how could I make a coaching experience more effective and positive? If I could help them strengthen their core skills and routines, what would come of that?” So identified those core skills and routines, those four basic core pieces. And so I noticed that as I addressed those versus throwing bags of solutions at them, that we started to notice that the patients were becoming more enabled and more successful in implementing the strategies. So that’s my approach.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

So, tell us about how it goes. What do you do with them? And by the way, who is the, them? Who is your target client?

Rebecca Shafir:

College bound students, student that are already in college, working adults and entrepreneurs.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

And then what is the method? Say they call you up and they say, “Becky help me achieve my goals.” Walk us through what it would look like.

Rebecca Shafir:

I like to assess their current level of performance, their medical history. Are they taking medications or not? What are they doing now? What’s working, what’s not, what has been their experience in coaching before, because I want to know what not to bother doing again, or to identify what went wrong in that coaching experience. And then I ask them a very interesting question. I’ll say, “Can you give me a vision of yourself when you won’t be coaching anymore?” And that makes them pause a bit and go, “Boy, I never thought of that.” And I say, “This is important to determining what our target is. How do we know when we’re done?” I mean, this could go on for years.

So they tell me their vision and I often ask them to write it down. And sometimes they have a real hard time doing that, which is what we end up doing some times in our first session, is for getting us at least a general idea of what they’re striving for. So once we have that vision statement, then I want to check on their motivation for following through with coaching. And this is like the moment of truth Ned, because I’ll ask them, “List me your why’s, your W-H-Y-S, your why’s for wanting to meet that vision, to achieve that. And that’s oftentimes for pause, because sometimes their reasons for coming to coaching aren’t their reasons, they’re encouraged by somebody else.

But oftentimes they have a good, strong set of why’s, and it’s things like, “Because I want to be successful, I want to be able to hold a job, and I want to be able to make money and have a good quality of life for myself, and have a sense of self confidence.” I’ll say, “Great, just keep listing those why’s, because those why’s are going to be the drivers when we want to slack off a bit.” Then I’ll say, “How about those why nots? Why not make a change? Why not take advantage of coaching?” And they’ll say, “Well, there’s plenty of those. If I don’t make a change, I’m going to lose my job,” Or “My marriage won’t last,” Or “I’ll be living in my parents’ basement.” I mean, all sorts of horrible things. And I’ll say, “Great. Because we need to have those listed too, combine those with your why’s, then I know you’re motivated, you have some real strong drivers for this process, because changes small as I try to make it is not easy.” Are you with me so far?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Yeah.

Rebecca Shafir:

Okay. From there, we list our areas of improvement. They may say, “Well, I want to manage my time better.” And they’ll make a list. “I want to be able to focus better.” A list of things, and I’ll be, “Okay, you have many objectives here, but we know not to throw bags of solutions at you. That didn’t work before, why don’t we be strategic and brainstorm together to find one small step that we can make?” I like to call it go micro. Let’s find one thing that we can change that could be a catalyst to making all those other objectives easier to attain. And we’ll say, “Okay, let’s figure this out.”

So sometimes that one step is as simple, and you won’t believe it, is as simple as putting out their exercise clothes right by their bed in the morning, or it could be a little bit from a greater step such as, “Well, let’s come up with a calendar system that really works for you.” But I like to start small, because they’ll be looking at me like, “Well, that’s not enough.” I’ll say, “If we start small, then we can bank on making that particular do activity consistent. It’ll be slightly outside of your comfort zone, which is a good thing. But if you can make it consistent, then we can take the next step.” And we build on those challenges.

And what often happens is that we have a trickle down effect, where by making those one or two small changes, well, then they’re a little bit more confident in being able to implement a strategy such as looking at how to manage their time, or their money, or how to get things done.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

So once they get past these elementary steps, then how do you take them into greater success?

Rebecca Shafir:

So we meet weekly, sometimes a couple times a week, and we talk about-

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

And this is over Zoom or in person?

Rebecca Shafir:

Oh, yes. It can be Zoom, it can be FaceTime, Skype are my favorite. And in between though, Ned, what I ask them to do is, “Send me a text, send me an email in between our sessions, let me know what you’re struggling with or how things went or any successes, large or small. I can make and prepare ourselves best for our session when we meet.” So I gather those, and we start off going over the progress with that one step, and we work out the kinks in that one step until it’s consistent. And we assess, and we say, “Okay, if we fell off the wagon, no shame, no blame,” I make that very clear from the beginning. “I want you to learn how to solve problems without getting emotional about it. And stepping back 30,000 feet and looking at the landscape of what went wrong there, what happened?”

So this way we’re starting to step back from problems and look at them more strategically. We take on them the next step. If a couple of weeks they’ve been consistent with that one step, we say, “Okay, what’s the next thing that we can do?” Well, maybe if you’re having troubles with sleep, we might try to normalize just with small tweaks that’s sleep regimen. That might be a real good starting point for them. That might be their one thing. And that can start as simple as waking up about the same time every day.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

So say they’ve done these little steps, what do you do to really have them take off? Tell me a story of a great success that you’ve coached.

Rebecca Shafir:

Oh, certainly. No problem. I have a computer engineer, he writes software and he has ADHD, and he was really struggling with getting things done, managing distractions at all. Perfect example. And we started off addressing what he’s done before and what worked, what didn’t, and he was really having troubles on the verge of losing his job. So I said, “Okay, let’s look at your core. Let’s see what’s going on there. What’s your sleep like?” Well, his sleep was all wacky. He was going to bed some nights at two in the morning, others at four in the morning, sometimes he fall asleep at seven, and his sleep schedule is all messed up, which accounted in great part four his irritability and not being able to get things done and all that.

So, our one step for him was saying, “Okay, you’re going to try to wake up about the same time every day. However you do it, the same time every day.” Well, what we started to notice with that one step is that he was on time for meetings with his boss. Now that was huge, and his boss gave him a lot of kudos for that, and he felt good and he felt prepared. And from then he was able to say, “Wait a minute, now that I know what my plan is for the week, I know what I’m supposed to do, I had that meeting, I’m not flailing and just grabbing at anything, and I’m able to get started and accomplish a little bit more.”

So this is how I built things up with Steve. Steve started to gain more momentum, he started to feel more confident, and then I said, “Okay, now that you’re waking up about the same every day, why don’t we try then the next level. Let’s try to say, if you were to get a little exercise in, might your focus be just a little better.” And he says, “Well, I don’t have time to work out, I only have like 15, 20 minutes.” I said, “Well, great. Peloton has a free app. You have a bike, or you have a format, 10 minutes of interval training will kick up your energy and focus to endure you to the end of the workday. Let’s give it a try, you like to exercise anyway, Steve.” He goes, “Yeah, I do.”

So one of the main things I do to help these clients flourish in their successes is to change their negative self talk to constructive self-talk. Like, “Hey, what did we do well, what do we need to improve upon? Let’s start changing the language of the way we speak to ourselves.”

Number two, many of my clients don’t know how to prioritize many tasks. And it’s just because they lacked some type of a criteria for doing so. So I said, let’s together, decide on a prioritizing criteria, and often involve things that are time sensitive and things that have strong personal value, like spending time with their family or having the connection with people. But we would look down and focus on what they need and what is important, or what they’re motivated to get done today.

And then, the third suggestion I had is for folks who are listening to look into a wonderful website, https://www.focusmate.com/. And this is live partner, that is live on the internet that you choose, maybe similar to you, like another graduate student or another entrepreneur, and you agree to sit down and do work together online, virtually. He’s doing his tasks online and you as the client, you’re doing your work at the same time. And everybody’s keeping everybody engaged and focused, and it works really, really well. Have you ever heard of that?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

No. It sounds wonderful. That’s great. You just discovered that on your own?

Rebecca Shafir:

I did.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Well, aren’t you special? You are special. Focusmate.com, that sounds great.

Rebecca Shafir:

Yes, it’s a virtual study buddy.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

And then the final one?

Rebecca Shafir:

The final one is, know your biological prime time for getting certain tasks done over others.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Now, what does that mean? I know you abbreviated it BPT.

Rebecca Shafir:

Yes. So biological prime time, is there a certain time of day when you write the best?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

No, it really varies hugely. It varies on the day, sometimes not often, but sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, and sometimes in the evening. I’m unusual that way. Most writers have a definite time, see, I can’t do that, I can’t have a definite time. And so I’ve learned over 40 years of writing to catch it when it hits. And that’s what I do. So my biological prime time varies from day to day.

Rebecca Shafir:

Oh, but you can gauge it. You know what the day’s going to be like, right?

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

No, I don’t. I know it when it hits. And next thing you know, I pull out my laptop and start writing. Unless I’m in the middle of seeing a patient or doing a podcast with Becky.

Rebecca Shafir:

Well, for the rest of us, many of us, we might be better between, let’s say, 11 o’clock and two in the afternoon.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Yeah, and I think most people are like that. I think I’m an anomaly. Most people are what you’re describing. They have a reliable BPT, and your suggestion is to save your most taxing, difficult mental work for your BPT.

Rebecca Shafir:

That’s right. And do the folding of the laundry at 10 o’clock at night. So, sometimes that can make those more odious tasks look a little bit more tolerable and palatable if we set a schedule to apply those tasks to the best time for us to do them. That’s a great tip that’s often ignored. So there we go.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

This is so wonderful. So to sum up, you’ve developed over your many years of coaching, a method you call core coaching, right?

Rebecca Shafir:

Right.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

And your core method includes attention to sleep, exercise, emotional self regulation, and some degree of accountability, right?

Rebecca Shafir:

Correct.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

And then you have a process that you reviewed with us, which you found is very effective in helping people, regardless of their actual level of helping them achieve even greater success. See what a good listener I am here. You concluded with your four tips of constructive self-talk and learning how to prioritize, and you referred us to focusmate.com. And then you urged us to work within our BPT, I love the BPT, or biological prime time, whatever that might happen to be, and I confessed that I’m an anomaly. I don’t know when it is, I just try to grab it when it comes. Now, if someone wanted to read one of your books, you go to Amazon and what’s the name of your book? The Zen of Listening, right?

Rebecca Shafir:

Zen of Listening. It’s now on audible.com too.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Wonderful, wonderful. So look for Rebecca Shafir, on Amazon. And if they wanted to get a coaching appointment with you, how would they do that?

Rebecca Shafir:

Sure. They can call the Hallowell Center at 978-287-0810 or they can email me at [email protected].

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Or they can call the Hallowell center in Sudbury, 978-287-0810. And I can’t recommend Becky highly enough, I’ve known her, I don’t know how many years Becky, must be going on 30 years.

Rebecca Shafir:

Yes.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

… Because I saw a photograph of her in the newspaper demonstrating karate. And one thing led to another, next thing I know we’re working together. And she’s one of the most multi-talented people I know. She can be a speaker, she can be a writer, she can be kicking butt in karate, she can be coaching, she can be doing speech language pathology. She’s endlessly curious for finding new innovative techniques. And if you happen to go to see her, you’ll be thrilled because she’ll be probably interesting you and something that you’d never even heard of. She does that with me all the time. A wonderfully brilliant multi-talented exceptional woman, Rebecca, Becky Shafir. Thank you so much for coming and joining us on Distraction.

Rebecca Shafir:

Thank you so much Ned, I hope it’s a help.

Dr. Ned Hallowell:

Okay, well, that’ll do it for today. If you’d like to reach out to Becky, as she said, you can find her at my center in Sudbury, Mass, by calling 978-287-0810 or go to hallowellcenter.org, or email Becky directly at [email protected]. Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. The podcast is recorded and mixed by the mixed up, but absolutely delightful, Pat Keogh. And our producer is the weld produced and absolutely brilliant Sarah Guertin. I’m Dr. Ned Hallowell, and thank you all so much for listening. We are banding together during this trying time and hope to bring you some interests as well as entertainment. Be well, stay safe.

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Do you have a question or comment? We’d love to hear from you! Write us an email, or record a voice memo on your phone and send it to [email protected]

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is Sarah Guertin (@sarahguertin) and our recording engineer/editor is Pat Keogh.

Learn about our sponsor, Landmark College, HERE.

Episode image courtesy of Vic on Flickr

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Do you know someone who learns differently? Our sponsor, Landmark College, might be the right place for them. Learn more HERE.

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Reach out to us at [email protected].

Distraction is created by Sounds Great Media. Our producer is @sarahguertin and our recording engineer/editor is Pat Keogh.

Do you know someone who learns differently? Our sponsor, Landmark College, might be the right place for them. Learn more HERE.

This episode was originally released in October 2018. 

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CLICK HERE to sign up for Marshall’s FREE 10-day course, “Introduction to ADHD for Lawyers.”

Please reach out to us with your questions and show ideas! Record a voice memo or write an email and send it to [email protected]. Our producer is Sarah Guertin @sarahguertin, and our editor/recording engineer is Pat Keogh.

To learn more about how our sponsor, Landmark College, helps students with ADHD succeed click HERE. See their beautiful campus in Putney, Vermont at their next Open House on Friday, January 10, 2020.

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http://cluttersort.com/services/digital-organizing/

Professional Organizer, Judith Kolberg: http://fileheads.net/

Find a Professional Organizer Near You: http://www.napo.net/

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http://www.junk-king.com/

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Transcript

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