7 Steps to Get Control of Your Day
By CoachRudy Rodriguez, PCAC, LCSW
Many adults with ADHD begin their day with a vague idea of what they want to do or accomplish during their day. Of course, by day’s end, adults with ADHD typically review their day only to find that they have accomplished very little if anything of what they intended.
If you’re like most adults with ADHD, you’ve probably noticed that when you look back on your day you frequently find that you’ve been very busy but unproductive. Is this your experience? The following seven steps may help you set the foundation to reduce stress, anxiety, and overwhelm while creating greater life satisfaction and productivity
7 Steps to get control of your day (and maybe your life)
1. Begin with a plan
There is a scene in Alice in Wonderland in which Alice is lost and comes across the Cheshire Cat and asks, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” Cheshire Cat carefully considers her question and responds, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice explains, “I don’t much care where” to which Cheshire Cat replies, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
The example above may be true for adults with ADHD as well. To be successful, accomplished, and/or productive you MUST have a plan. Where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish? If you don’t have a clear plan or specific destination, you’re likely to meander and accomplish little. Secondly, it’s important that your plan be written. I can’t begin to tell you how many ADHD individuals I’ve met struggle with poor time management and a lack of effective productivity. I often hear them say, “Oh, I have a plan”. But, more often than not their plan exists in their head… but not on paper. Successful leaders often claim that “if a plan (goals or To Do List) is not written down, then it doesn’t exist”. You may have also heard the expression, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail”. It’s critical to have a written plan.
2. Plan your day the night before
That’s right. Too many people start their morning without a plan or clear direction for their morning or their day. The result is often meandering about and ultimately losing a few hours of valuable time.
If you want to get more done and have a more productive day, try listing all those things you want to do or accomplish the next day. For instance, as you wrap up each day, this is an excellent opportunity to review your day’s accomplishments, your incomplete tasks that may require more attention and finally those new ‘To Do’ items to be added to your list. Write your list, numbering items from 1-10 or 20. Simply make your list. Don’t worry about the order as it makes no difference at this point. It’s only important that you write the list.
3. Important or Not?
Now that you have your written list let’s explore what to do with it. To-Do lists are often used ineffectively and frequently become overwhelming for many adults with ADHD.
Here are a few simple steps to increase both the effectiveness of your To Do lists and your level of productivity. You may also experience a reduction in anxiety and overwhelm.
that is MOST URGENT and MOST IMPORTANT. This item is now ‘A-1’
4. First things first
Now that you’ve completed and prioritized your TO DO list (last night) it’s time to get started. Congratulations! You’ve already accomplished the most important task by setting a clear direction for what is most important for you to accomplish today. First things first, so now you’re ready to start your new day with the task [A-1, the most IMPORTANT and most URGENT] item on today’s TO DO list. Think of it this way, “If there was ONE thing that you could do today that give you the greatest payoff or benefit. That is your A-1 task.
All too often adults with ADHD start their day in a ‘fog’. They lack any clear idea or plan for the day. Thus, the tendency is to begin the day with a vague idea, and thoughts meander from one task to another and another. This allows circumstances to drive their day. If you think about it, you only become victim to circumstances because you have allowed yourself to become a ‘backseat driver’ in your own life.
Start your day with the clear intention to complete tasks A-1.
A few important rules about the A, B, and C methods of prioritization. Yes, I hesitate to use the word rules but the truth is if you desire productive and consistent results – this system will quickly fall apart if you allow yourself to vary from the system.
Here’s a general rule of thumb:
5. If it’s going to be, it’s up to me
During the mid-1990 I attended a very large convention in Charlotte, NC. I was simply tagging along with a friend so my expectations were fairly nominal. Boy, was I wrong! I was blessed to hear one of the most impacting speakers I’ve ever heard. Her name was Danielle Kennedy. Danielle described that there are essentially THREE kinds of people in the world.
Yes, these are the people who live without intention; living in the drift and victims to circumstances, or those who live in a world of distractions.
Which of these groups do you identify with the most? When asked, I find, that many ADHD individuals identify with the second or third grouping of people. Great ideas, and good intentions but less than stellar follow-through and accomplishment.
6. Proceed with Mindfulness
Have you noticed how easily we become side-tracked? We may be working on a project or involved in thought, and FLASH! – Just like that we have a squirrel moment and find ourselves sidetracked from our intended object of focus and attention. One solution is the use of what I refer to as Mindfulness Bells. Mindfulness Bells can be an effective tool to redirect your focus back to an important task… “Earth to Rudy”.
Over time, I’ve realized the importance of using Mindfulness Bells to bring my awareness into the moment. “Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing?” “Is what I’m doing the best use of my time and focus right now?”
As an ADHD Coach, I frequently prescribe the use of multiple Mindfulness Bells. For instance, I recommend dual digital timers, wristwatches, cell phone alarms, or similar devices to alert you to: take your medication, prepare to leave for an appointment, wrap up a project or simply shut down your computer and prepare for bed.
Using Mindfulness Bells is quite easy. Each time the bell rings, make it a practice to STOP. Take a moment for a deep BREATH. Allow a moment of SILENCE and bring your awareness/mindfulness into the moment… then re-engage in what you were doing, but this time more mindfully.
Adults with ADHD also have a tendency for a very poor sense of time. We easily say, “I’ll be ready in 10 minutes” but in truth, we generally lack a realistic sense of time. Our internal clock tends not to have a true-felt sense of 10 minutes. It’s likely that we’ve become hyper-focused on an activity or thought and easily lose total track of time. We have multiple squirrel moments that distract us, redirect our attention, or we simply find something more interesting and entertaining. Thus, Mindfulness Bells can be a friend or ‘Accountability Buddy’ to keep us aware and mindful and to keep us honest.
7. Review your day and plan for tomorrow
Your final step toward “Getting Control of your Day” brings you back to the first step – Planning. Effective planning begins as you wrap your day by reviewing your ‘To Do List’ from today. Start with a quick inventory of what you managed to complete today and what tasks or items are remaining on your TO-DO List.
Many people find this next step to be cumbersome nevertheless, it’s highly advisable to rewrite your list from scratch for a fresh tomorrow. Once again, make a list of TO DO items, adding any new items to your list. Next, reprioritize your list using the A, B, and C methods. Remember that yesterday’s and today’s ‘B’ items may become tomorrow’s ‘A’ items as they gain URGENCY and IMPORTANCE.
There is a likely temptation at this stage to create shortcuts or cut corners but true effective planning is best accomplished with a consistent recipe for success. Simply stick to the plan and enjoy your results.
CoachRudy Rodriguez – is a PAAC Certified Professional ADHD Coach who specializes in coaching ADHD and Executive Function with adults, entrepreneurs, and those who struggle with managing time, projects, and productivity. Rudy has worked with ADHD clients since 1981 and was diagnosed with ADHD in 1993 when ADHD was recognized in adults. Rudy has blended his 40 years of psychotherapy experience and nearly 20 years of ADHD coaching experience with his personal life experience as an adult living with ADHD. Rudy has a strong passion for coaching people with ADHD. Rudy was awarded the ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO) 2022 Professional Excellence Award. He is on the board of the Professional Association of ADHD Coaches (PAAC)
He can be reached by email at: email@example.com
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