For adults with ADHD having and using a calendar consistently is critical to being able to follow through on commitments to yourself and others. You knew that already. But are you using it as effectively as you could? When you use your calendar most effectively you will be confident that:
- you have captured all of your time sensitive, must do items and associated information.
- “most days” your calendar is a realistic reflection of what you can actually accomplish.
- you have easy access to your calendar when you need it.
As you read on, think about how you can create a system that works well for you.
How can calendars help adults with ADHD?
The first tool that you need to create structure is a calendar. In fact, it is one of your most critical tools.
A calendar can help:
- remind you of where you need to be to counter your short term memory challenges Can forget moment to moment. So, need visual and audible reminders.
- facilitate recall. So you can remember what you need when you need to…
- see you scheduled appointments over to help you get a better sense when something is happening – help you to manage your poor time sense
- you get moving. Inertia is the enemy of people with ADHD. You know Newton’s first law, an object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it. This is especially true for people with ADHD. Of course, structure by itself is not enough to help us initiate, but it is a place to start.
- minimize your need to make decisions, which can be difficult for adults with ADHD.
- get more of the right things done, rather than just doing whatever comes to mind.
- reduce impulsivity and help you feel better. For example, think of an unstructured weekend. Do you feel a little lost?
Can you think of other ways a calendar can help you?
Calendar and To Do List
Have you ever set a reminder to go off every day at a particular time only to ignore it after a week or so? Putting items in your calendar that are not really time sensitive, must-do items will likely have the same effect. In time you will just gloss over them, knowing that you don’t really have to do them.
The key is to only put time sensitive, must-do items on your calendar, like:
- appointments (meetings, doctor, classes, social engagements, etc.)
- reoccurring events (birthdays, holidays, etc.)
- scheduled work time (appointment with yourself to work undisturbed on a task)
- time sensitive task (call insurance co. Tuesday at 10:00 am before policy expires)
All other items belong on your To Do List.
Of course, it does not matter if you know how to use your calendar, but do not have it with you when you need it.
We have all double booked ourselves, forgotten appointments or said, “sure, I can do that.” Only to find out later that we are not available. Happens… But these mix-ups can take time and energy to unravel and may even lead to missed opportunities.
By committing to always carrying and referring to your calendar, you can minimize the chances of these snafus. And the more you can rely on external devices, like a calendar to hold information, rather than your memory, the more assurance you will have that you will remember and keep your commitments.
This includes commitments to yourself. In an earlier article, Complementary and Alternative Treatments For ADHD, I noted that getting enough sleep, exercising and connecting with important people in your life are important parts of managing your ADHD. But when these commitments compete with obligations to others, often work related, they may seem more, well, superfluous.
I bet there are areas in your life that you would like to be in better alignment between what you say you want to do and how you use your time. One way to do this is to make obligations to yourself become part of your schedule. For example, schedule exercise, a regular social event, etc. and make these times sacred. T
hen, barring an emergency, schedule other obligations around these commitments to yourself. With all of your competing priorities, I know this is not easy. Willing to give it a try?
Appointments and Associated Information
Including all relevant information in the notes section when you put the item in your calendar can minimize the chances of scrambling to find what you need on the day of the appointment.
You can include:
- phone number
- list of items needed for the task/ appointment
In addition, you could use an electronic notebook, like Evernote or OneNote to capture information that may not fit in the notes section of your calendar.
Possible notes could include:
- an agenda for an meeting
- questions to ask or points to raise
- report you need to give at meeting
- relevant email information
Capturing information in this way is especially helpful for time sensitive appointments when others are involved, as the consequences are more real when you miss them or you are not fully prepared.
When possible leave white space (unscheduled time) in your calendar for the unexpected. As much as you have control over your schedule, try not to schedule items back to back. Even if you have an open time, it is ok to say “no” to a request. Because the unexpected almost always happens. And you need to time to just breathe.
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Your calendar is where you hold your time sensitive, must-do tasks. And when you have ADHD, having a reliable tool to hold information is much better than trying to hold it in your head. What you put on your calendar is very much about how you want to use your time.
Do you want to make any changes to how you use your calendar or what you put in it?