If you talk to any given person about how they organize their day, you’ll hear an assortment of answers… sometimes form the same person. I use to fit into that group, a middle-aged person who never really had a solid system to organize my day. My sense of planning use to be a hodgepodge of mental notes, stuff scratched on whatever paper I had on hand and of course blotting words on calendars I rarely used.
The result was the typical ADHD end result: a constant state of chaos under a veneer of “organization” followed by a wonderment at how things go so bad. I use to be in a constant state of anxiety, which led to all kinds of mental health issues. I had a difficult time tracking what needed to be done and felt overwhelmed by what I knew had to get accomplished. My recent career experiences had introduced me to concepts like SMART Goals, and from there I had explored subjects regarding how I need to execute and plan – not just on a project level but on a day-today level. I knew the mechanics how to get through projects, but managing the daily stuff was difficult. I had a hard time finding a system and sticking with it long enough. The more complex a system was, the easier it was for me to give up on it. needed something I could quickly engage with and have little heavy lifting.
The system I finally adopted started off as a to-do list in the At-A-Glance action planner. The to-do page is simple, It has just a column for priority and a description of the task. That’s it! The advantage of this system is that it’s built for simplicity, and it forces you to assign a priority the second you write it down.
3 Mail off Mother’s Day card
3 Vacuum kitchen floor
1 Pickup meds from pharm
2 Mail off check for CC bill
Determining priority is a critical and overlooked portion of my personal task management, and it forces me to think beyond the nature of the task into the importance of the task versus other tasks I also have to do. And this is critical for me because I have a bad habit of doing things I want to do rather than doing things that need to get done. Establishing priorities helps me determine what needs to get done first. And once I’ve completed my task, I get the satisfaction of crossing it off. Ahhh, nothing better than a page of stuff that you have accomplished to give you some confidence that you are getting work done.
So, now that I have my list of things that has to get done, I have to revisit the nature of SMART goals which tells me that all actionable goals have to have a time component. The best way to manage time is to have a calendar system, and for me that’s a day planner. I use a separate day planner from my to-do list. I use the Inamio Day Planner which breaks down the weeks by hours (see the right side of my pic above). With my to-do’s on the left and my day planner on the right, I force each to-do to have a spot on the calendar. This has beneficial affects, primarily forces me to recognize that the price of doing things is time. In order for me to respect the task-at-hand, I have to conceptualize how much time it might take me to get a task done. This is arguably the hardest part, as some tasks don’t have easily definable time ranges. Mailing off a check likely won’ take more than 15 minutes, but weeding the garden might vary depending on the weeds growth .
The system is easy to engage and I’ve found that writing things out ( as opposed to typing on my smart phone) helps me engage the ideas more and retain them in my memory. One huge realization I had from adopting this system is that I constantly was under estimating the level of effort needed on most of my tasks. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself having to re-shuffle you calendar around early on. I’ve since been adopting the mode of blocking out additional time on tasks that I am uncertain of. If you think it might take 1 hour, make it 2. You can can reclaim that time if need be, but I found myself being grateful of the padded calendar items that ended up being used as I had drastically underestimated my ability to execute.
Another thought that I would share is to be sure to schedule the mundane. Eating is a task. Taking a break is a task. Spending time with family is a task. Be sure to schedule all of that, as down time is just as essential to our productivity as the chores and work.