Ok, well, don’t ditch you task list entirely. You definitely need a way to see and manage your tasks, especially as an adult with ADHD. Because, when you are creating and using your list in the right way, it can help you do what is important to you. And, of course, that’s what you want.
But, if you are using your task list the wrong way, rather than helping you, it may be getting in the way of doing what is most meaningful to you.
Ready to figure out how to fit your task list into your overall task management system so you can truly be productive?
What Does It Mean To You To Be Productive?
Have you noticed that some people feel ok about how much they get done in a day — like they’ve been productive — and others feel constantly under siege? How about you?
How you feel lies in part in how you answer the question, “What am I doing when I am being productive?” Since your task list guides you in deciding what to do, you’ll need to answer this question in detail in order to create the right kind of task list to guide your actions.
Your response, like many I hear in initial conversations, may be, “That’s easy! I’m productive when I’m getting all my work done.” If this is your answer, you’ll need to add more detail.
Charles Duhigg, author of “Smarter, Faster Better: The Secret of Being Productive in Life and Business,” writes that:
productivity is figuring out “the best uses of our energy, intellect and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort.”
Being productive is not about getting all of the stuff on your list done, but doing what is most meaningful to you. So, as you read on and with this definition in mind, try again to complete the statement, “I’m being productive when I am…”
Are You Using Your To Do List For Mood Management?
If you are creating a To Do List like most people do, according to Duhigg, your current list may actually be hindering your ability to be productive — do what is most meaningful to you.
Yes, I know this claim may seem counterintuitive. After all, you may be wondering, “Doesn’t a task list help me be productive because it helps me remember my tasks?”
Take a minute right now to look at your list. What do you see?
- Does it reflect what is most important to you, including projects like planning a family outing, getting the garden ready, scheduling time to see friends, etc.?
- Do you have tasks on your list related to your dreams and aspirations, like starting a business, going back to school, running for political office, etc.?
- Alternatively, does much of your list consist of tasks, like email Terry, schedule meeting with Ahmed, get an oil change etc.?
If your current list consists mostly of tasks like the latter, you may be using your list for mood management. That is, to feel good you put tasks on your list you feel you can complete. You may even put completed tasks on your list just to check them off. Feels even better, right?
So, sure, your task list can help you remember to do the items you put on it.
But do you have thoughts like the ones below running around in your head?
- “I really want to…”
- “I wish I could…”
- “It would be great if I…”
If you do have these thoughts, are the related tasks on your list? If not, you might be avoiding including them because you don’t want to feel overwhelmed when you look at your list.
Ready to include what is most meaningful to you on your task list, and stop using it to manage your mood?
How To Decide Where To Focus Your Time and Energy
The first step to creating a task list that reflects what is most important to you is, of course, to decide what is most important to you. I know. Obvious, right?
The reality is, though, most of us don’t have time in our faced paced lives to make this decision day to day and moment to moment. And decision making, as you know, can be a particular struggle for ADHD Adults.
But, if you don’t make this decision in advance, you may, as David Allen of GTD notes:
“waste energy and burn out, allowing your busy-ness to be driven by what’s latest and loudest, hoping it’s the right thing to do but never feeling the relief that it is.”
The key is avoiding this scenario is to carve out time and space to do the necessary upfront thinking so you can be sure you are focusing your time and energy on what is essential to you.
So you are ready to begin each week and each day in ways that are meaningful to you:
- Check out How ADHD Adults Do Better By Doing Less to see how you can decide where you really want to go big in each of your roles and choose the right activities that will allow you to do this.
- Use a journal to reflect each week on the ways you are fulfilling your roles the way you want and, if you are falling short, how you want to do better the next week.
- Make sure you are doing a Weekly Review so you can be sure you are, in fact, doing the activities that will contribute to what is essential for you.
What are other strategies you use to make sure you are using your time, energy and intellect in ways that are most meaningful to you?
Use the Four D’s to Create an Effective To Do List
Once you decide what is essential for you to do in your various roles, then you will be in a better position to choose the right activities — tasks — to put on your list.
One way to align your list with what is most meaningful to you is to sort your tasks into the 4 categories I describe below.
#1 To Do
First, the tasks you put on your To Do List should only be the ones you decide must be done and only you can do them.
Then to determine whether the task is one you might Delegate ask yourself, “Does this task require me to use skills that are not my strong suit or to my liking? Can I delegate, barter or ask a hired professional, colleague, family member or friend to do it?
Limiting your focus will allow you to do more than you might imagine you can do. So, if you can see little value in doing a task, relative to everything else you need to do, or you just don’t have the capacity to do it, you may decide to Drop it.
If you have gotten this far, you should have a list of only tasks that you can do. And you may be feeling like you should it all right now or yesterday, for that matter. But, in reality, there are likely a few (or many) tasks that you either don’t have the bandwidth or the intention to do immediately.
To decide whether to defer a task to a later date or indefinitely ask yourself:
- Is it urgent? If not, it does not necessarily need to be done now.
- Is this task important? If not, it does not need to be done now. If it is important, go on to answer the next two questions.
- Are there other tasks that take priority? If your answer is “yes,” you may want to defer it. If your answer is “no,” go on to answer the next question.
- Do I have the capacity (time and energy) to do this right now? If you do, then you may decide to put in on your task list. If your answer is “no,” you may decide to defer it.
If you do defer a task, but you do not want to forget it, park it in your task manager.
- You can put it on your list with a due date if you know you want to defer to a later date.
- Alternatively, if you don’t know if you will do it, you can put it on your Maybe/Someday List — tasks you might want do, don’t want to forget, but have no real intention to do now.
And, as your priorities change, you may decide later on to drop these deferred tasks, do them or delegate them. But for now they are off your plate.
During each weekly review, you can reevaluate what you want to do with your deferred tasks.
Question For You
Are you ready to put your dreams and aspirations on your To Do List?