ADHD and Time Management



At the last meeting, we discussed the very important (and scary) subject of Time Management. This is an area that ADDers often need help with because, as an executive skill, we don’t always have the oomph behind us to allow us to thrive in this area. But with a little practice and some perseverance, you can definitely improve your management of time.

The main thing we talked about was the personal planner. Having one of these is essential for ADDers. Often we think we can keep all the information around our schedule in our heads, even though we know that our memory can be untrustworthy. To do lists can be helpful, but many times, people think To Do lists are the end of the process, when really, they are the beginning. A good personal planner will incorporate all the best qualities of a calendar, to do list and goal setting/project management system. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but what it does need to be is the right platform for you.
So what platform is for you? Some people swear by online or electronic systems like Google. Google is good in that it is quick and easy to learn how to use. It integrates with your computer and your smart phone, and can remind you of things by email, pop up notifications or alarms. Many smart phoneès like iPhone also have these capabilities.
For others, the digital method is confounding or too difficult to maneuver. For myself, I have found that I begin to ignore my electronic systems because I spend most of my time at a computer and a lot of what I see there is irrelevant. I don’t want to run the risk that I will overlook something important because it is lumped in with all that.
For people in this situation, they may find pen and paper in the form of a notebook is a better solution. I find that when I handle the information I need to keep track of by writing it down, it sticks in my brain better. Everyone is different, so it’s important to remember that no one can recommend the best system for you but yourself.
Regardless of what system you use, there is something none of them will do for you and that is the actual management of your time. To form good habits in the area of time management, you need to follow a few rules that are designed to keep you on track.
  • Set aside a time every week to plan. A good planning system will break things down by month, week and day. I plan for my week ahead on Sunday nights with a cup of tea and some quiet music. At the end of a month I plan out the next one as best I can.
  • Determine what your roles/obligations are in the form of ‘projects’. If you know what a projects end result is, write that down on a piece of paper. Then around it, start writing the individual steps you need to take to get to that goal and connect them to their related steps. This is called mindmapping. The items surrounding your center goal are actionable steps you can take — this is your to do list.
  • Once you have your to do list, set aside time to action those items. THIS IS CRUCIAL. Assign specific times to tackle those steps in your calendar and then try your best to deal with them when the time comes.
  • In order to keep the actionable items in the forefront of your mind, look at your planning system every day when you wake up. It will stay fresh in your mind that way. Look at it throughout the day, especially if you start feeling out of focus or overwhelmed. Knowing and seeing that you have things planned out in your planner will help that sensation ease. At the end of the day, look at it again to see how you did.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve all the things you want to. This may be an indicator that you put to many things in one day for you to achieve. There is no shame in not getting everything done. Some people find it helpful to just identify three things that they want to get done and focus on those three things. Other people use a prioritization system.
  • Plan to adapt. Plans and situations will change. This is totally normal because it is life. So you need to make sure that your schedule is not so rigid that you will suffer greatly if something comes up and you don’t know how to compensate. Balance out your various priorities across several days if you can.
  • Don’t stack things too close together. Try placing a 15 minute (or even a 30 minute) gap between items in your calendar. This will help with adaptability and also give you breathing room if you get distracted and run to long on a task or two.
  • Review your progress and your process. Reviewing is crucial. Check after each day, week and month to make sure what you are doing is working for you. If you find you are forgetting to many things, falling behind or getting overwhelmed, something needs to be fixed. Perhaps your system is too complicated — or too simple. Then again it may not be the fault of your system at all — you may be forgetting to check your planner often enough, relying on your memory. There are many possibilities; it will take some personal insight and honesty to determine if and how your system is working for you.From this point, you can start to use companion skills like timers or alarms to ensure that you are keeping to your management system as best you can. Set timers for certain tasks so that you know when it’s time to move on, or set alarms to remind you of things that need attention. Or some combination of the above. Some people don’t really respond well to alarms (I’m one of those people — I begin to resent them then later ignore them) but for other people, they are a must. Again, this is personal to each person.
If you are looking for a personal planning system, there are many available. Here are a couple.
Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First, describes a very effective planning system based on the the identification of personal priorities as ‘roles’. I have used it and it can be quite effective. The book is a good read as well. You can find it here — — but there is also a copy in the ADHD?OK! Library.
Similar to the above, but perhaps a little less complicated is the Passion Planner. This is a kickstarter campaign where you can purchase a planner from the creators, or download a free version which you can print out yourself. This is what I am currently using.

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