Clearly defining your work in advance makes it easier for you to start and follow through on your tasks. And the time to do this is during your Weekly Review, which I outlined in my last post, The ADHD Adult’s Guide To The Weekly Review.
The question that naturally comes to mind for many after reading that post is:
“Well, ok, but after I figure out what I need to do, how do I figure out when I am going to do the work — all the tasks and projects I just reviewed?!”
For Adults with ADHD figuring out when to do your work can definitely be a challenge. Below are a few options you can try to address this challenge.
Choosing In Advance When To Do Your Work Can Help You Manage Your ADHD
No doubt, choosing in advance when to do specific tasks will help you manage some of your ADHD challenges.
First, if you are like many other Adults with ADHD, you know choosing from among many options in the moment can be particularly difficult, and can lead to procrastination. Choosing in advance will minimize the number of decisions you need to make on the spot.
Second, you may tend to choose to do work in the moment that catches your attention because it seems the most urgent or interesting. Choosing in advance when to do your work can help ensure you are doing your most important work, and counter these impulsive tendencies.
Third, you know your memory is, well, a little wonky, right? So, you might forget about some tasks until, perhaps, someone ask you about them or you happen to remember them. When you have a time you know you will do this work you won’t need to rely on your memory.
Finally, you may procrastinate because you are overwhelmed or afraid you won’t finish a task. And you tell yourself in the moment, “I’ll do that later.” Having a time when you will start, along with other strategies, can help you address this procrastination.
I’m sure you can think of more, but these are a few challenges that can be addressed by having deciding in advance when to do your work.
Step 1 – Schedule “Guilt Free Play” First
With all the work you have to do I know this suggestion may seem counterintuitive.
But, while intensive non-stop work may be possible for a short time, it is just not sustainable. You probably know that already. And I bet you’ve had the experience of procrastinating when all you see in front of you is work and more work.
Neil Fiore in his book, The Now Habit, suggest that you can be more productive — complete more high quality work — if you schedule play. Play can be anything that, well, doesn’t seem like work including exercise, hobbies, home tasks, etc. You get it.
One of the reasons we procrastinate, Fiore points out, is that we are afraid we won’t have time to have fun because we have too much work. Scheduling our play can give us assurance that we don’t have to wait to have fun.
Also, rather than pushing yourself to work with fear and threats, you may be more willing or pulled to do your work when you have more frequent rewards in the form of scheduled play.
It works, really.
Step 2 – Create Routines For Certain Types of Work
One way to ensure better follow through for tasks that you consider work is to schedule regular time slots — create a routine.
Think of the times you find yourself saying things like,
- “I need to do laundry.”
- “I need to go through my email.”
- “I need to do my expense report.”
- “I need to pay my bills, check my accounts, etc.”
And these thoughts keep popping up…
Maybe you like to plan organically. That is, there are tasks you do when the mood strikes you. As long as this work for you, keep on keeping on! For an adult with ADHD, leveraging your moods is a great strategy, if it works for you.
But, if doing things when you are in the mood is not working for you, consider scheduling times when you will do the tasks that are just not getting done.
That is create a routine so you have just enough structure. Here are some examples:
- Tony, a self-employed consultant, batches all his personal phone calls and emails and tends to them at around 2 pm each day.
- Leah, an HR director, has a standing appointment with herself each Sunday morning to tend to her finances — review her statements, check her budget, pays her bill etc.
- Trey, a sales director, has a reoccurring scheduled time every two weeks when he does his expense reports.
In each of the above cases they no longer have to wonder, “When should I do…?”
Step 3 – Schedule Time to Work On Your Most Important Projects
How about those projects sitting on the back burner, not getting your attention?
When they do come to mind you might think, “I really need to work on that!” But you don’t. So, while you may not be working on these projects, they still take up your time and energy because you are worrying about them.
One way to ensure you will make headway on your most important projects (MIPs) is during your weekly review schedule time for the following week to work on your projects
The key, of course, to making this work is to honor the time on your calendar when it rolls around. Not easy when you are only accountable to yourself, right?
A few possible strategies to help you follow through are:
- If you dread the prospect of working on the project, schedule 30 minutes blocks of time to start. Knowing that you will not need to work on it for long may make it appear less daunting.
- Use self-talk to remind yourself in the moment why it is useful to work on the project. “If I put in some time now, I will be that much further along and can stop worrying about when I am going start it. I also won’t be overwhelmed by having to do it at the last minute.”
- Also, you might want to check in with an accountability partner.
And, of course, trust that the time spent is time well spent even if the project is not due for a while and you have so much else to do.
Be Sure You Can Trust Your Calendar
Have you ever set a reminder for a task to go off at a particular time only to ignore it time and time again?
Putting items in your calendar that you do not consider time sensitive, must-do tasks will likely have the same effect. In time you will just gloss over them, knowing that you don’t really have to do them.
So, when you put commitments to yourself — time to work on projects, routines and play — in your calendar, make them sacred. Schedule other obligations around these commitments to yourself. It will not be easy at times to stick with this. I know.
It will take practice. And you may need support
Start small and experiment.
- Pick one project to schedule.
- Schedule one fun thing to do next week.
- Try one routine.
See how it goes, and change it up as needed.