This is how my work day used to go.
I would sit down and think about all the things I had to do.
It was a big mix of stuff. Everything from sales, to calling a particular client about a particular issue, phoning the bank, listening to their stupid hold music, researching social media techniques, buying a new Hello Kitty bag, and so on.
Like lots of people – and maybe even you – I would write a “to do” list. Everything that I needed to do would go on the “to do” list in no particular order.
Not much got done.
Why I never got anything done
There are lots of reasons why this happened, and I will go over prioritising and categorising in a different blog post. But one of the main reasons, is that I didn’t schedule any of those things.
I knew what I had to do.
But I didn’t know when I was going to do it.
Anyone who has ADHD will understand this. So will anyone who has a task on their list that is challenging or insanely boring.
You’ll also understand if you live with someone who says they are going to fix that wonky toilet roll holder, but weeks, months – even years – go by, and the toilet roll is still askew.
Lots of people understand this. Even though you know it needs doing, you don’t do it without a deadline.
So how did I get from a never-ending and never-complete “to do” list to the model of productivity that I am today?
[Spoiler: it never happened, but I am approximately 10 times as productive as I was a year ago].
The magic of using a schedule
The big change was when I started using a schedule.
I made myself very pretty schedules for a month, a week and a day.
These took ages! I am a master of “positive procrastination” – spending hours on a task that is neither urgent nor important, but is fun.
In my defence though, people with ADHD do need to use tools that are specifically designed for them. Colours need to be right, the design needs to fit the person, and so on. I love my schedules but one of my clients hates them – she likes plain black and white.
That’s one of the strange quirks of ADHD. Some of us have to have GLITTER and SPARKLES and COLOUR. Others find that all too much and need to have the most simple schedules imaginable.
But I digress.
My schedules have a “to do” list next to the weekly or daily planner. So I write my “to dos” in that space first. Then I write those things on the actual planner – so each item has a time assigned to it.
Then when it comes to that time and I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing, I can just look at my schedule and see. And then I (usually) crack on with it.
Why it works
The massive benefit of using a schedule is that it takes away the decision-making.
Making decisions is bloody hard work. If you do them all at once, long before you have to actually do any work, it takes away a huge cognitive load.
In other words, it means you don’t have to waste energy deciding what to do, because Earlier You made that decision for you.
It’s almost like having someone else assign you a task. All that pondering which thing needs to be done first, or when, or what needs prioritising – all that has been done so all you need to do is actually do the task.
Why it works even more
Given the opportunity, I will piddle about for hours on one job that probably isn’t that crucial. Even if it is, there are other things I need to be getting on with.
So having the schedule helps me stop one task so I can start on the next. Not only that, it encourages me to get the task done in time, because I know that this is all the time I have so I’d better not waste it looking for people to argue with on Twitter.
Will this work for you?
If you’re having trouble getting stuff done, or you make “to do” lists but don’t actually do anything, give the schedule a go! And let me know how you get on.