Time & Productivity

You’re Wasting Time. And That’s Bad for Your Health.

You don’t know where to start, so you procrastinate. Or you spend your day chasing emails rather than tackling to-do items. Or you lose the forest for the trees. Learn how to solve these common time-management problems with these 5 expert strategies.

A calendar with a marked deadline can help people with ADHD manage time.
A calendar with a marked deadline can help people with ADHD manage time.

Every 24 hours, 1440 credits are deposited in our personal time banks. These are the minutes of our lives. How we spend those credits is up to us, but each day the balance reverts to zero. Ask yourself, “How wisely do I invest my daily allotment of credits? Do I respect and treasure these irreplaceable moments of my life? What are my goals and priorities, and am I living the life I choose?”

To accomplish our goals we have to be clear about what they are, why we’re committed to them, their priority, and how we can structure our lives to get them done.

Project vs. Task Management

You can’t “do” a project, you can only do a task. One of the biggest barriers to getting things done is to think of a project as a task. A project consists of many different tasks, and unless we break it down into tasks, it may seem overwhelming, and we’re likely to walk away from it.

So the first step in any project, whether it is setting a routine for cleaning a house or redoing your website, is to create a project sheet. Write the name of the project on top, and the expected due date. Then answer some questions:

1. Why am I doing this — what do I want out of it? Sometimes we put more time and effort into something than it merits. This step helps to put it in perspective and stay focused on the goal.

2. Am I doing this project for myself or for someone else? Am I clear as to what they want, and when they want it? Do I know how to get this done, or should I ask? If we’re not sure, we’ll go into avoidance mode.

3. What resources will I need — time, money, other people?

4. How do I feel about working on this project? You may have to do it, but it’s helpful to know that you’d rather not, so you can be wary when you find other things to do.

Now list all the steps to accomplish the project, along with due dates for each step (working backward from the deadline, if there is one).

Focus Daily

The Daily Focus form is not your to-do list, which could be 20 pages long! It is a grounding list, with space for only three primary tasks that are critical to accomplish each day. You can tackle three secondary tasks if you complete the first three.

Smooth Transitions

Transitions are difficult. Many of us find it easier to focus on one type of activity at a time, so you might want to use time blocking to plan your week. The idea is to set aside a block of time to devote your energy to a particular activity. For example, you might decide that Mondays are administrative days, Tuesdays are sales days, and so on.

Some people divide their days into blocks of time, so they don’t lose an entire day to one activity. An example would be setting aside a morning block of time for planning and review, a late-morning block for sales activities, an early-afternoon block for meetings, and a late-afternoon block for marketing activities. You can check your e-mail between the time blocks. Use the transition time to walk or snack, to recharge your energy.

Plan (and Other Strategies)

1. Begin each week with an extended planning session. You will gain about 20 minutes of work productivity for each minute spent on planning.

2. At the end or beginning of each day, review your progress and commitments, and adjust your plans as necessary.

3. Leave “blank space” in your daily calendar. No matter how busy you are, don’t overbook. Leave time to catch up on tasks that take longer than planned or to add in new time-sensitive tasks.

4. Plan realistically. If things take you extra time to complete, better to account for it than to miss deadlines.

5. Accept that you will occasionally have an “I don’t feel like it” moment. Remember: You can do anything for 10 to 15 minutes. Set a timer. The problem is usually one of getting started; once you’ve begun, you’ll be able to continue.

6. Check things off your lists, so you have a sense of accomplishment.

7. Stay with your commitments. Use the ITTT method (“If This, Then That”). “If it is 3 P.M. on Thursday, then I do my expense reports or pay bills.” We are good at talking ourselves out of doing things, but this concept makes it more difficult to not follow through on a commitment.

Deadlines Are Key

People with ADHD need deadlines. Don’t say “yes” if you can’t say “when.” We usually work better when it’s down to the wire. The adrenaline rush of having to get it done stimulates our brains. However, be kind to yourself. Just because you do better as a burst worker doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about what you need to do and how you’ll get it accomplished.

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