If you have a master task list, that’s great! Now you need to execute on those tasks, right? Here are strategies you need to use to do that.
- You may avoid your task list, if you don’t know how you’re going to follow through on the tasks.
- Weekly planning is one technique you can use to execute better.
- Another technique is batching and scheduling reoccurring tasks.
- Choosing 1-3 tasks to do each day can also help you follow through.
If you’ve managed to create a master task list, that’s great. But are you now avoiding it? Because looking at it just makes you stressed because you’re not sure how you’re going to get it all done. You’ve tuned into Scattered, Focused, Done – Re-Imagining Productivity with ADHD, a podcast for ADHD, adults like you who want to learn how to adopt the best strategies, tools and skills to be able to get your essential work done in a way that works with the way your brain is wired. I’m Marla Cummins and I’m really glad you decided to join me today on this journey to Re-imagining Productivity with ADHD. So you can get your important work done without trying to do it like everyone else.
In the last two podcasts, I focused on walking you through how to craft a task list, as well as each individual task to make it easier to execute. Those are both important steps for sure to be able to follow through on what’s important to you. But having a nicely crafted task list is just not enough. So, today I’m going to share with you some of the steps you can take to be able to translate your to-do list into done. Because if you’re not careful, it can be easy to get caught up in crafting the perfect to do list.
And while, if you’ve listened to the other two podcasts, you know that having a well-crafted to-do list can help you follow through, spending too much time doing this can also be a way to procrastinate. And then having a list without enough follow through will just cause you more overwhelm and stress because the list will just serve to remind you of all your open loops, all the stuff that you’re not getting done.
And because of this resulting stress and overwhelm, you’ll probably stop using it regularly. When this happens, of course, your task list will not be up to date. And when it’s not up to date, you’ll begin to lose confidence in its usefulness. And this loss of confidence will just exacerbate the cycle. A vicious cycle, no doubt. A cycle, I know you’d rather avoid. Because the whole purpose of having a list is to help you execute on what’s important to you. The following strategies are going to help you do this.
Of course, you’ll need to do work at times that are not optimal for you in terms of your energy and time. But as much as you can use the following questions to guide you as you decide how to tackle your to do list. The first question you want to ask yourself is, what is the best time of day for me to work on this particular task?
For example, I only work on my blog post and podcast thing in the morning when I’m more clearheaded, clear headed. Well at least after I have my coffee. The next question you can ask yourself is how much time will I be able to focus and attend to this particular task? In the example for me of my podcast and blogging, I usually can only write for about 45 minutes. After that, I’m just not very productive when it comes to this particular task.
The third question to ask yourself is, which tasks should I leave for times when my energy is likely to be low. For me, I leave tasks, like fixing broken links on my website that don’t really require heavy intellectual or cognitive lifting, to later in the day. And then the other question that you might want to ask yourself is, how can I batch some of my tasks to minimize the number of transitions?
This one I’m going to get to later in the podcast. I’m sure there are other considerations that you have when thinking about how to execute on your list. But the whole idea is to really think strategically. When you take the above into consideration, you’ll then minimize the chances of just haphazardly working on whatever pops into your mind as the mood strikes you. It’s not necessarily a bad thing sometimes to do work when the mood strikes you, but you do want to be intentional much of your time, right?
So, if you don’t yet have a good understanding of how your energy and attention typically ebbs and flows in a typical day, just try experimenting for a while. You can figure it out. If you need help, reach out to friends, family, maybe colleagues who know you well. They can be a mirror and reflect what they may have observed about how you operate. And, remember, this isn’t an exam.
You can’t fail. As you experiment and collect more data, you’ll learn more about how you operate best. And then, with this understanding, you’ll be able to be more strategic, more intentional about how to tackle your to-do list effectively. Once you have a understanding or at least a better understanding of how your energy ebbs and flows during the day and how much time you can focus and attend to particular task, the next step in helping you execute is planning. Yes, planning. And depending on your personal and work responsibilities, there’s probably some planning you may need to do months or more in advance.
But, when it comes to deciding specific steps, at minimum you’ll want to decide your focus for each week. To do this, hands down a weekly review and planning session is one of the most important cornerstones of your task/time management system. It’s a time when you slow down and do the upfront thinking you need to do to be more deliberate in how to follow through.
I often recommend to people that you do this on a Thursday or Friday so you can go into your weekend feeling more grounded. And this might just help you mitigate some of the Sunday blues. Because at least you can anticipate what’s coming up the following week. Doing this will also allow you to be clear on what’s on your plate. If you want recommendations on how to do a weekly review, check out the post I wrote entitled The ADHD Adults Guide to The Weekly Review. An apt title, don’t you think?
Anyway. Once you have clarity on what’s on your plate, you then can decide, at least with the information you currently have, where you want to focus your time and energy for the following week. So you don’t default to whatever feels urgent in the moment or get swept up in endless meetings, emails, and other people’s priorities. As you don’t have time, day to day and moment to moment to do this type of upfront thinking.
So this time of weekly review will help keep you connected to your master task lists. As a result, you’ll be more confident, you’re keeping it up to date. And then this will provide you with the encouragement you need to keep on using it. Nice, right? But, of course, you don’t know what may pop up tomorrow or next week. So don’t try to pack your week with everything that you want to do. That is make sure you leave plenty of buffer so you can be flexible enough to pivot when urgent matters suddenly get thrown at you that you need to tend to. It happens, right? Because you’re just not in total control of your time. But to the extent possible, you can schedule blocks of time on your calendar to make sure you work on projects that are fairly energy and time intensive.
While you may want to schedule time to work on big projects for sure, it would be impossible to schedule all your tasks a week or more in advance, of course, right? So another structure you can use to increase the chances of following through is to set reoccurring times when you do similar types of tasks. For example, you might decide that you’re going to work on home finances the last Friday of each month or maybe you decide you’re going to do home admin type stuff every Sunday for an hour. Whenever a task related to home finances or admin pops into your head, you put it on your task manager. But you don’t have to worry that you’ll forget about doing it unless you do it right now.
Because sometimes for adults with ADD, that’s what happens, right? This feeling of urgency, like I have to do it right now or else I’m going to forget it. Because you have a time, Sundays in the case of home admin and at the end of the month in the case of finances, when you know that you’re going to do these tasks. So all you need to do on Sunday or at the end of the month is look at your task manager for guidelines on which tasks you want to tackle.
Like the example of home finances, you probably have certain types of reoccurring types of tasks you need to do at work, as well. So you may decide to carve out a block each month or each week to tackle these. To commit to these weekly or monthly times. I always suggest you put them in your calendar so you can remember to do them. You can also try this technique with tasks that you need to do every day. For example, could you batch emails and do them at certain times of the day and not at others. Of course, it would depend on your work environment or personal circumstances as to whether you can defer email emails to just these times. But the advantage is you won’t feel compelled to jump from email to task, to email, to task, to email. Oh, you get the point.
Remember transitions are a challenge for ADHD adults and the more transitions you have, the less efficient and productive you’ll be. Because, not only is it hard to start, stop and task switch, but every time you transition you increase the chances of getting waylaid by some entirely unrelated distraction.
There goes the squirrel. I know you know what I mean. So you’re better off if you can to batch relate a task like email and do them together. No doubt, having reoccurring times each week or month to do specific types of tasks are definitely a great strategy, as well as doing a weekly review and scheduling times for the following week to work on specific projects. But obviously you’ll have other work that isn’t accounted for during these times. And not knowing when or how you’re going to follow through on these other tasks can be stressful. As swimming around in your head are questions about when am I going to do this or that or X, Y, or Z.
So another technique you can use to ensure more follow through on the task in your task lists is to plan your day each morning and include one to three tasks on your lists that you must get done that day that are not accounted for elsewhere.
The key is to keep up, to keep coming back, to work on these throughout your day. Being intentional in this way will help you follow through. Even amidst all of the distractions, including interruptions by colleagues and others. But it’s not enough to decide at the beginning of the day. You need to remember them throughout your day. Not easy, I know. So it’s important to make sure they are visible. You might want to put them on a whiteboard or a piece of paper on your desk or any place that you’ll likely see them. But bottom line, it’s important to keep them front and center as this will help you remember to work on them when possible.
Another technique that some people use throughout their day is to stop at moments and pause and ask themselves, what am I doing, what should I be doing, and why is that important?
In any case, while you might be able to tick off more of your to do list, at minimum you want to make sure these ones that you picked those one or three tasks in addition to whatever is on your calendar, that they get done. So that by the end of the day you’ll feel like you did what was most important. Instead of riding the currents of whatever washes up to your shore that day. It’s really easy to get stuck tweaking your task list to make it look just right. But at some point you want to move on to executing, right? So what are you going to do this week to move from working on your task lists to executing more often?
So you can move from to do list to done. So that’s it for now. I’m really glad you joined me, and as always, I’m glad you stayed until the very end. If you’re interested in learning more about my work with adults with ADHD, please go ahead and check out my website, marlacummins.com. Of course, if you’ve learned a thing or two from today’s podcast, go ahead and pass it along to someone in your circles you think might also benefit. And until next time, this has been Scattered, Focused, Done. And I’m Marla Cummins, wishing you all the very best on your journey to re-imagining productivity with ADHD.