The road is dark and windy, creating limited visibility ahead. The familiar route that I’ve traveled before now feels slightly unnerving due to the combination of rain, wind, and sharp-angled turns.

As I carefully navigate a curve, my vision is dazzled by the bright headlights of an oncoming car. In that moment, a distant memory resurfaces – advice my father shared with me more than 30 years ago: “Look to the right of your car and find the white line on the side of the road. Then look low, as far as you can ahead, to see if you can catch a glimpse of the yellow line dividing the road. And remember, always just keep it between the lines.

Keep it Between the Lines

This memory makes me smile for a few reasons.

First, I appreciate the simplicity of the statement after driving with two new drivers in as many years. Second, and perhaps most powerfully, I appreciate the time, effort, and patience my dad put into driving with me and the impact of my parents’ support in my journey. And, third, my Dad’s wise words offer the perfect analogy for how to approach the end of the school year.

My parents love to drive. While their thousand-mile trips to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan have shortened to more frequent 10-100 mile round trips to follow the grandkids’ swim meets and hockey and lacrosse games, their enthusiastic approach to car travel remains.

They have passed that adventurous driving spirit to me, and I appreciate road trips as time alone or with family members or friends – time to enjoy conversation we normally don’t have, plan ahead for the future, and cast a vision. And then there are times when visibility is limited, extra visiting is limited, and we’re just managing to keep it between the lines.

An Analogy for School Year’s End

I’ve been thinking about this “Keep it between the lines” analogy in relation to our Yellow Parachute students and families – and my own kids – as we approach the end of the school year.

Spring’s signs bring a sense of renewal and rejuvenation. Longer days and warmer temperatures signal the beginning of a new chapter, perhaps a little bit more visibility on the road ahead. But this post-spring-break-period ushers in an increased sense of urgency as the school year draws to a close: “When are we going to get there?!?

As we emerge into this final stretch, I notice that many of our YP students and parents are experiencing mixed emotions and heightened activity and anxiety levels. Parents and students alike, have expressed sentiments that “this is the final shot.” They are out of time to make up assignments, talk with teachers, or get better habits in place.

Tensions are rising with temperatures and the season’s pull outdoors. We experience the temptation to just wrap up impending academic deadlines and, ultimately, begin a new chapter of life.

We are certainly feeling the roller coster of emotions in my family as graduation party invites roll into our mail-drop zone, deadlines for summer registrations pass by, activities fill, and we feel the push to have summer planned and started before spring activities even begin. What zone is my heart rate in after typing this list?

Amidst this whirlwind of activity, I offer myself – and you, dear reader – the practical, steadying reminder from my father, that maybe this is a time to “keep it between the lines.” The phrase serves as a reminder to stay focused on your immediate goals and work to maintain balance in your life rather than create new goals or complicated plans during this busy period.

Whether you’re a student getting ready for final exams and projects or a parent juggling work and family commitments, using your current strengths and finding ways to stay organized and centered can help ease the stress of this transitional time.

When you “do what matters most,” you are guided to journey well. In other words, you are focused on what lies right in front of you rather than behind or way ahead out of reach. You will reach your destination in due time, but your attention is on where you are right now, which is exactly where it needs to be.

SIX Ways to Keep it Between the Lines at the End of the School Year

1. Be present.

The end of the school year can be demanding. Not only are there many deadlines to meet, there is an expectation to remember things fondly and show up with cheer for everything we do.

Hey — it’s OK to be happy and tired at the same time. This season of “lasts” can take an emotional toll that is even more exhausting to push away. In fact, acknowledging that showing up well takes work will free you up to enjoy the entirety of the experience rather than trying to hold back yawns or fake your way through.

Hiding tired doesn’t help.

2. Show up for you, first.

Speaking of tired, remember to prioritize self-care, take breaks when needed, and lean on your support system for guidance and encouragement. You may not realize it, but all of your pushing through tiredness, brain fog, stress, or anxiety builds up over time.

Failing to take the rest can create bigger problems for you later. Treat the end of the school year like a marathon, not a sprint: pace yourself to do what works for you. Consider this a time to practice an important life skill you will use forever!

3. Plan your week ahead.

My #1 piece of advice to make sure you have what you need to be successful: commit to making a plan for the week, each week, on Sunday. Visit your school calendar, write in as many due dates as you can find, and plan when you will work on each assignment, including the other activities you have to do (and want to do!) during the week.

Plan your week ahead each week for the next 6 weeks, and you might actually start to look forward to it!

This activity gives you the opportunity to look ahead to commitments, conflicts, or deadlines ahead. *And it actually helps your BRAIN get ready to do them!*

4. Plan in hard work and quality rest.

Since the term “self-care” has become overused, I’d like to double back on this one. In fact, you’ll probably see it as it’s own blog post in the future.

Let’s talk about, “strategic motivation,” and “doing what you love,” and “finding ways to rest,” as self-care, rather than overemphasizing putting cucumbers on your eyes. (If that is self-care to you, go for it!)

For me, self-care is spending time on my porch in the sun with my dogs. Oh and crossword puzzles: I find them immensely relaxing! Do you? Either way, I am redefining self-care as strategically aligning motivation and energy with the needs of your body and mind. Not quite as succinct, but I hope you find this shift helpful.

Self-care is a personal experience and can be as simple as making a list of things you love to do and setting aside 10-15 minutes to do one of them each day. Make yours right now.

5. Figure out what it means for you, personally, to overcome procrastination temptation.

I’ll do it tomorrow. Too many students and even talented business leaders spend crazy-amounts of procrastinating, only to feel stressed, frustrated, and caged-in at deadlines.

Even worse, the time that they’ve spent procrastinating has eaten away at mental and physical bandwidth, creating more fatigue, tiredness, and fog in the long run.

This may not be the time to fully dive in to replacing procrastination with productivity, but take time to know your obstacles to getting things done and ask for help or use the tools you’ve learned to manage it!

One idea: make a list of things you hate to do – you can even write it right next to the things you love to do – and strategically position the less-fun tasks sandwiched between two enjoyable ones. Your brain will thank you for this simple but powerful move!

6. Protect your mindset. (How you think about yourself).

Journeying well means journeying with a positive mindset and a proactive attitude. Journeying well means keeping your eyes focused on what matters most so you know which turns to take.

When you set aside time to be intentional with your choices – getting rest, building meaning, purpose, and things you like to do within your day, you will, journey well.

You will have what you need to navigate the end of the school year transition with grace and resilience. And grace for yourself means grace for others, which ultimately leads to freedom, creative thinking, and high level problem solving. A MUST for success!

Executive Function Skills Create Space to Keep it Between the Lines

This wouldn’t be a post from Cara without a tie-in to EF skills. But that’s just how amazing they are! When you are practicing SIX ways to keep it between the lines, you are strengthening executive function skills. Take a look at the way in which executive function skills can help you keep yourself between the lines by helping you focus on what you can control, to achieve your favorite version of you.

EF skills help:

  • Monitor your sense of health and wellbeing (metacognition)
  • Build awareness of your emotions (how they affect you) and the ability to regulate them (emotional regulation)
  • Prioritize your time, energy, and motivation to get things done (task initiation, self control)
  • Plan ahead to get what you need (planning, organization)
  • Take breaks and return to the task at hand, stick to it when faced with hard or boring jobs (focus, perseverance)
  • Manage your stress proactively and productively (stress management)
  • Remember the big picture and give yourself time to think (working memory)
  • Give yourself compassion to solve problems creatively (emotional regulation, cognitive flexibility)

Need the quick version of this article? Here you go!

There are concrete, actionable things you can do to embrace the final year-end countdown with determination and optimism.

When you take the time to name, then do what matters most to you, it makes all the difference to your physical, mental, and spiritual health and sense of well being. With this mindset and skillset, you can create habits to celebrate your accomplishments, stay motivated, and keep moving closer to the destination. You’ve got this!

What are we using at YP? Take a look at our free downloadable template (with boxes to CHECK OFF ✅) and accompanying blog post with six activities to do each day.

*You will make a FREE account with Quantum Jump, our learning platform, then visit Chapter 00 in the Parent and Kid Roadmap to School and Homework Success Course!