4 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Considering Adding Something to Your Counseling Plate

Have you seen something SO cool and creative that another counselor is doing and wondered, “Hey, should I try that too?” Or, felt pressured to help with a new initiative, event, committee, program, etc.? If you’re a school counselor, the answer to that question is likely, “yes, of course I have!” Though our plates are already full, we are often placing pressure on ourselves to do all kinds of “extras.” Sometimes, these can be great opportunities to expand our programs, reach new students and families, build relationships with staff, and so much more, but sometimes they can be a waste of our valuable time or resources.

Part of school counseling time management is thinking critically about each new service or program we consider adding to our plates. This post will guide you through the decision-making steps you can take to help determine if this should be a “yes” or a “no” or even a, “maybe someday” to ensure that you are protecting your professional and personal boundaries! 

1. How much effort and resources will this take?


Time is precious and there never seems to be quite enough of it! As you think about adding something new to your plate, it’s important to assess just how much time it will take. Ask yourself, “Realistically, how much time will I need to dedicate to this?” And, “Do I have that time?” It’s also important to consider is that ASCA recommends that school counselors spend 80% (or more!) of their time delivering direct or indirect services to students. If you are tracking your time, you already know how close (or far) you are from that target. A question to ponder here is: “Will this new task bring me closer to or farther from that number?” 


We are all familiar with the need to fund our own groups, lessons, offices, etc. and supplies can be a barrier to any task we need (or want!) to take on. When thinking about whether or not to take on a new task, think about a few key questions: ”What materials will this task require?”, “Do I already have them?”, “Is there a vault of resources that I have access to that can help?” “Will this involve a last minute trip to the store or an Amazon Prime order out of your own pocket?”, and if you have a budget to work with, “Is this a good use of those funds?” 

Mental Load

Being a school counselor can be, and often is, exhausting and the mental load is heavy and we all know you can’t pour from an empty cup! A question to ask yourself is, “Do I have the energy to do this AND continue to do everything else? It’s also important to keep in mind that our energy shifts throughout the year. Around certain holidays or major school traditions, you may have less available to give and that’s okay! 

Let’s go through an example:

You saw a post online that another school counselor held a parent breakfast upon return from Winter Break to reconnect with parents and you thought it was a great idea! Some questions you might ask yourself before jumping in: 

  • Time: When will this take place? If it is during the school day, will it take away from other scheduled tasks? If it is before the school day begins, will that impact my personal schedule? Does the time spent at this breakfast feel like time “well spent”? 
  • Supplies: Who will be responsible for gathering and paying for the food and drinks? Who will get those? When will that preparation happen? 
  • Mental load: How full is my tank right now? How much of my mental energy will be spent preparing for or hosting this event? Are there better ways to spend that energy? 

2. Will teachers, students, and parents be invested participants?

Here’s the thing, we all want buy-in! There are few things more defeating than having an awesome idea that you put effort, time, creativity, and money into and having stakeholders who are unwilling or unable to participate. 

My co-counselor and I once planned a movie night for families to come watch “Inside Out” together. It was an entirely free event that we put a lot of time and effort into preparing for and promoting. Ultimately, only four families came. And while I’m grateful that four families could enjoy this experience, it was extremely disappointing to us AND felt like a waste of valuable time. 

To avoid that feeling, we can be proactive and think about whether or not this will be something that your stakeholders will one, see value in and two, engage in. 

Just like we use data to plan for our classroom lessons or small groups, data can help guide us when it comes to these “extras” too! Before you dive in, ask yourself, “What do my stakeholders need right now?” Your most recent needs assessment might be able to help you answer this question! 

Our plates are full, but so are our stakeholders’. Families are busy, children are busy, faculty and staff are busy. Ask yourself, “Will ______ think this is important or valuable?,” “Is this something that _____________ can feasibly attend?,” and “How can I ensure ____________ will want to take part in this?” A few important pieces to consider here would be: the setting, duration, frequency, content, and delivery. 

Let’s try another example:

You want to coordinate a career fair for your 5th graders before they head off to middle school next year. It’s something you’ve been thinking about for years! 

  • Value: What need would this address in my school community? Considering the time and effort it would take, is that a need I want to prioritize? Is this the best way to meet that need?
  • Engagement: How will I get members of the community to attend? How will I then get students to feel connected to the event? What will I be asking teachers to do? What will I be asking teachers to reschedule?

3. Does it align with the school counseling program goals? With my personal or professional goals?

At the beginning of the year, you likely sit down and parse out your programmatic and professional goals for the year. Maybe you are working on strengthening your advisory council, expanding your small group offerings, improving attendance, increasing family communication, or participating in specialized training. Whatever your goals are, it is important to keep them in mind when you are deciding whether or not a task is appropriate for you to take on. 

When faced with a decision about a new task, it can be helpful to ask yourself: “Does this help me achieve one of my goals?” 

Let’s look at a few examples: 
  1. A counselor at another school in your district planned a great mindfulness theme week that you think would be so much fun!
    • “Does this help me achieve one of my goals?”
      • If you have a goal about mindfulness education and awareness, then this could be a “yes” for you! 
      • If your goals are more focused on attendance or small group interventions, this would likely be a “no” for you. 
  2. You have always wanted to have a therapy dog visit your school on a regular schedule.
    • “Does this help me achieve one of my goals?”
      • If you have a goal around building relationships with community resources, anxiety in children, or potentially faculty/staff involvement this could be a “yes” for you!
      • If your goals are more focused on family engagement, this could be a “no” for you. 

4. How much of an impact do I think this will have?

Whenever I am contemplating whether or not to add something to my plate, I like to ask myself what impact it will have on others. Imagine the (realistic) end result.

What do I hope will happen as a result of this new program/event/etc.? What do I think will be different as a result of this service/program/intervention? How big of an impact do I think this is going to make? How will this impact compare to the impact of other things I currently do or could do in the counseling program.

The things that we dream up for our counseling program can be AMAZING, but we want to be sure that the things we are imagining are worth our time, energy, and resources. Imagine you are planning an event that you think will be fun, but takes a whole bunch of your time and energy and doesn’t have much of an impact. As fun as you might have expected it to be, it may not feel like a good use of your time and should be a “no” or a “not right now.” If you are running a new group that will take time and energy to plan, but will positively impact your students, that is likely a good use of your time and can be a “yes”!   

Last example:

Your admin asked if you would take the lead on a series of biweekly all-school assemblies to teach a new character education program. 

  • What will be the students’ big takeaways? 
  • Does this meet the needs of all stakeholders? If not, is there another way to reach those students and have a greater impact? 
  • Will the impact of this lesson match the effort, resources, and time? 
  • If the effort does not match the impact, what can I suggest to my admin instead?

We all have to make tough choices about how we spend our time and what we say and no to. Our choices and answers might be different from one another, though – they should be! I’m certainly not here to talk you out of taking on programming that feels right for you, but I do want to make sure that you have the tools to gauge whether those responsibilities are logistically feasible, beneficial for your stakeholders, in alignment with your goals, and incredibly impactful!

Do you like thinking through things like this? Making sure that what you do is worth your time and energy? If yes, then I think you will LOVE Your Counseling Compass, where you get the resources and trainings you need to be the strongest and most fulfilled counselor you can be!

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Hello, I’m Sara!

With 10 years of experience in
elementary school counseling,
I get to serve in a different way now
– by helping fellow counselors and

I value quality over quantity,
effective practices and resources,
and meeting the unique needs of all
our diverse learners.


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