Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: I’m All Preparation and No H!

We struggle to “see” time, so the ticking of the clock isn’t always a great motivator. Instead, we need to use our ADHD traits to help us get started.

Q: “I cannot judge the relationship between time and task. Often, it takes me more time to think it through and break it down than it does to actually tackle the task. I also find it very hard to just get started doing something that doesn’t come easily to me.” — Jim


Hi Jim:

Let me assure you that you are not alone. Understanding or “seeing” time is not easy. And seeing time is absolutely a pre-requisite to managing it. In addition, we all procrastinate when something is hard to do. We’re wired to put things off. BUT we also have the capacity to override this tendency. Here are some of my tried and true strategies for doing so.

  1. Use a timer. This is one of the simplest, yet most powerful, tools for demonstrating the relationship between time and task. Setting aside a predetermined amount of time to work can also help you stay focused during that time period — and just get started quicker. Use a timer that actually shows time moving, which will provide a helpful cue for how long things are taking you.
  1. Make getting started simple. Begin with something so easy and small that success is guaranteed. One bill to pay. One phone call to make. One email to send. You get the idea. Chances are that, once you just get started, you’ll keep on going.
  1. Separate the setup from the task. My friend Alan Brown offers up this strategy in his latest article for ADDitude. You mention that it takes more time to think through and break down your tasks than it does to actually do them. So make that habit work FOR you. If you make setting up for the task a task of its own, and only focus on getting that done, it will make getting started easier and give you a sense of how much time you are spending on each part of the process.So what could that look like? Say you want to prepare more healthy meals. Focus first on the list making and grocery shopping so you have all the ingredients in place to do so. The meal prep happens at another time. Merely starting gives us a small sense of accomplishment and the confidence to keep going.

[Read This: 6 Ways to Get Started on That Project]

For more tips and tools on how to manage your time, visit orderoochaos.com.


Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, answers questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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