After writing for a while about David Allen’s GTD and how to adapt it for Adults with ADHD, I thought I had covered some parts sufficiently. But judging by the questions I have been receiving, this is just not so.
And I’m not surprised.
Creators of many tools and systems assume you are proficient in skills, like decision making and prioritizing, for example. And, as an Adult with ADHD, you may need help strengthening these skills in order for a tool or system to work well for you.
So, if you have tried a tool or system, please don’t assume it will not work for you because a part of it did not come easily. Get support. Ask questions.
In this article I’ll address the question below, which I received last week: “How many tasks from a project do I put on my To Do List?”
In my last article, Work with Your ADHD and Complete Your Projects, I wrote about one way to plan a project.
Then a client reminded me that it is not always possible to foresee the future, and plan a project step by step from the beginning. Rather, you may need to plan as much as you can with the information you have. And, as you work on the project and gain new information, you will need to revise your plan along the way.
(If you are interested, you can look at the Agile Method, often used in software development. It is a good example of a non-linear way of planning.)
However you plan a project, the critical piece is identifying the very next action step needed to move your project forward. This is the step you put on your To Do List.
Project Planning and Next Actions
The amount and kind of planning you will need to do will depend on the complexity of your project.
1. At one end of the continuum is the intuitive style of planning. If “buy stamps today” is on your To Do List, “mail letter” might be on your list for tomorrow. Once you complete a step you just know intuitively what the next step will be.
2. Or it may take a bit more work. In some cases, it may be helpful to sketch out a plan and put parameters around the steps. A project, like the example below of choosing gutters, can be overwhelming; breaking it down can make it easier.
Put the very next action step on your To Do List. After you do one step review you plan and schedule the next step; the timing of each step may differ from your original plan
- Come up with criteria (15 minutes) -today
- Email XYZ list serve for recommendations – tomorrow
- Research companies to replace gutters (2 hours or less) – Saturday
- Choose 3 companies – Sunday
- Call the 3 companies to get estimates – Monday
- Choose 1 and schedule time for them to replace gutters – after receiving estimates
3. Then there are projects which require the high degree of planning I wrote about in Work with Your ADHD and Complete Your Projects. David Allen assumes these account for about 5% of all of our projects.
When planning a more complicated project you may have an idea of all the steps needed. But things will inevitably change as you work on it.
It is still necessary to create some sort of time line with corresponding actions so you can assess how you are progressing. As I’ve mentioned before, a Gantt chart is useful for this purpose.
As you progress, you want to continually ask yourself, “What is the very next action necessary to move this project forward.”
It is this very next action that you put on your To Do List. (It is ok to put 1-3 actions from a project on your To Do List, but usually no more.)
Determining the Very Next Action Step
It may not always be obvious what the next action step is for a particular project. The key is to chunk it down until the action seems realistic and doable for you.
Here are some questions to consider in determining what would work for you.
- How much time do I have to work on this project right now?
If I only have an hour, what discrete piece of the report can I write in an hour?
- What can I accomplish In this context ?
I can read the instructions on the train. When I get to the office I’ll be ready to start writing, which I cannot do on the train.
- How long can I typically attend for this type of task?
I can usually write for an hour. So I’ll write the Intro, which should take an hour.
- What can I do that is not dependent on doing something else first?
I will write “Part Y” of the report. I can’t write “Part X” of the report because I still need Bob’s data.
- If there is a logjam in the project, what can I do to keep it moving forward?
Email Bob, asking him when he can send me the data.
ADDED Perspectives Bottomline
It is during the weekly planning that you assess where you are in your project and determine the very next action step. If you need help doing this, feel free to contact me for a complimentary Strategy Session.