By Linda Walker
Do you resist planning? Do you worry that it’ll rob you of your spontaneity or creativity? Do you think it’ll make your days predictable and boring? On the contrary, planning will set you free.
Thinking strategically about your day will make a much bigger improvement in your life than just boosting your productivity. You don’t need to get more done if you’re not doing the right things. Highly successful people manage their time as a non-renewable resource.
Here are a few of the strategies that make a difference for adults with ADHD, who I like to call Creative Geniuses:
Take time to plan your day
Take time to plan your day, preferably in a weekly planning session that allows you to take a big picture view of your projects. This will make the second strategy, prioritizing much easier. But first, recognize and embrace the idea that for every minute you take to plan your day, you save ten times that in executing your plan.
Planning weekly lets you review all your projects and prevents missing important details that might derail your plan. It also keeps things real. If you’re trying to make progress on too many projects in the week, you won’t make enough progress in any one progress to make a noticeable difference. Remember, you already have scheduled meetings and appointments. Creature Geniuses need to see more progress more quickly to get those much-needed dopamine hits.
Plan maintenance and recurring activities first
Plan maintenance and recurring activities first in your calendar: Include sleep, exercise, nutrition, activities that develop your strengths, planning and opportunities to connect with loved one and friends.
Plot planned activities into your calendar.
Plot planned activities into your calendar. A to-do list does not provide enough information on its own. It doesn’t tell you how much time you can allot to each task, nor does it take into consideration what’s already in your calendar. If you already have 4 hours of meetings scheduled, it’s unrealistic to fit 7 hours of additional work in an 8-hour day. The to-do list also doesn’t tell you when it’s the best time to do the task.
Determine your top one to three priority tasks
Determine your top one to three priority tasks in each of your top projects for the week. Schedule those tasks first in your agenda before you schedule anything else. This doesn’t mean you need to do them first, but as soon as you reach the right level of mental energy to attack the priority tasks, do these first.
Be ready for the unexpected.
Be ready for the unexpected. Don’t automatically jump on these as they occur. If you do that, they become interruptions that derail your plan. Instead, write them down and continue with your original plan. Once you’ve completed your planned task, you can review your list of new, unexpected tasks and re-examine your priorities. Ask yourself, what has the most impact for your business and your life? And leave space in your agenda (It’s unscheduled time – but I don’t leave it blank – I put it in my agenda and call it “Firewall” time. I use these buffer ‘appointments’ as time to deal with emergencies that spring up without derailing my schedule!) to fit these in once the priorities have been tackled.
Learn to say No.
Learn to say No. When you say No to non-essentials, you make room to say Yes to what really matters. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
Keep your appointments with yourself.
Keep your appointments with yourself. There is no one in your life more important than you. I know many of you will balk at this. If you don’t set time in your calendar for you, someone (interruptions) or something (distractions) will take it from you.
But if you make time for what’s important to you, but you don’t keep those appointments with yourself after you’ve taken time to determine what’s important, you erode your belief in your ability to make things happen. If you no longer trust yourself to accomplish what you’re committed to, you’ll avoid commitments with yourself and with others. It’s totally acceptable to say, “I’d love to take that on right now, but I have a prior commitment.”
Ensuring you can implement what you planned requires a planning approach that works with your brain. It’s not easy to create a planning process without gaps. Many Creative Geniuses set up systems that don’t work for them. It’s not your fault. Most systems and apps out there are created with neurotypicals in mind. They don’t account for challenges with time blindness, challenges with prioritizing and planning, unrealistic expectations, missing details or not allotting time for preparations and transitions.
Linda Walker offers training and group coaching to Creative Geniuses (her term for adults with ADHD). Her programs help Creative Geniuses move from a life of chaos and overwhelm to one where they feel productive and in control. If you want to take control of your time, your energy, your life, don’t miss Linda’s free Webinar, Own Your Future: Avoid These 7 Planning Pitfalls.