How to Plan Your Time

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 9.54.07 PMTime management studies say that the average person wastes fully one-third of their work day . . . one-third! Scary, huh?

And that’s for the average person. Think about what that statistic would be for the average ADHDer! And as business owners, we can’t afford to waste this much time.

That’s why it’s so important to plan up-front and be proactive about your time and productivity, and not let it get away from you. Once you drift off, those minutes go by really fast.

So what’s the best way to focus your time management and stop wasting so much time?

The most important thing highly effective people do

I’ve heard this one thing credited by management consultants as one of the most important actions successful and highly effective people take. (Not just successful ADHDers, successful people do this.)

It’s worked for me for over 30 years, so I like it a lot. And I stumbled upon it myself, before I even knew other people did it. It’s pretty simple:

Schedule every part of each day ahead of time

It’s easy to do. The hard part—like so many things for ADHDers—is actually doing it.

Take these steps to make it happen:

1. Save 15 to 20 minutes at the end of every day just for this

Once this becomes a habit for you, you’ll look forward to it. It’s a wonderful time to clear your head and calm your anxiety about what’s coming up next. Making time to schedule the next day is an extremely satisfying way to pull everything back down to earth and end the day. Do not leave your office or shut down for the day without doing this.

2. Decide what you’ll do for just the next day

During this end-of-day time, make a list of just the tasks and meetings for the next day. If you’re not going to do it tomorrow, it doesn’t go on this list.

3. Block these things on your calendar

After you know what these tasks, meetings, and obligations are, go one step further and block out the time to do them on your calendar. 

If you need to dig right into that proposal because you have to present it at the end of the day, then you know it needs to go first—block off the time you think you’ll need to actually work on it. Work around any appointments that are already on your calendar, and schedule in all of the tasks that need to be done tomorrow.

Your calendar doesn’t have to be just for appointments with other people—you can also use it to block in these tasks you need to do.

4. Pad your time blocks

Try to estimate how much time the task will take, then add half again as much time, because you’ll think you’re faster than you really are, and it will take you longer than you think it will. So if you think it will take you an hour, block off an hour and a half.

5. Give yourself some wiggle room

Don’t pack your schedule too tight. Things do and will come up, and you’ll need some breathing space. We ADHD entrepreneurs think we are capable of major miracles every day, for some reason, and this is what gets us in trouble. Give yourself some wiggle room.

6. Don’t move anything. Unless you absolutely can’t help it.

Try really hard. Make it a rule. These are appointments with yourself and they’re just as important to keep as an appointment with a client.

7. Try it for at least 30 days

Yes, I know it won’t be perfect. Yes, I know it won’t always work out exactly as planned. Yes, I know a monkey wrench will be thrown in to totally mess things up and throw off the entire day sometimes. But humor me, will you, and try it for at least 30 days? If you mess up, you can always start fresh the next day.

You are a business owner. You have more control than you think you do, so don’t give in and throw the baby out with the bath water. The idea is to focus your time management, and to try to get better at this, not to give up before you give time blocking a chance.

You’ll get a realistic idea of what your next day could actually look like

Blocking your time gives you a more realistic and concrete view of time—and I don’t have to tell you that having ADHD gives you a warped sense of time. Being able to see that you don’t have enough time to do 60 things will keep you from promising to do 60 things.

“Magical time,” as one of our clients calls it, doesn’t exist and won’t suddenly appear to save you. You have to work within the hours in the day if you want to remain sane and still like your business three years from now.

You can take this further, like I do, and block out the rest of your week while you’re at it, or schedule time to finish tasks you can’t completely finish tomorrow. Time blocking comes with a certain sense of relief that doesn’t come any other way—and that’s because you can see, visually, right in front of you, that what you need to do can indeed be done within the time you have available . . . or not.

It’s also great for when you’re overwhelmed and can’t see how you can possibly accomplish everything that’s on your plate—just dump your work into your calendar in time blocks, and you can see if and when you can physically accomplish it all. Neat, huh?

What gets scheduled is what gets done

It’s your time. Planning ahead on how you’ll use it is a terrific way to take control so you waste it less. Schedule your tasks as well as your appointments, and they’re more likely to get done.

Once you see how helpful this is, you’re gonna get hooked.

And—bonus—you will no longer be one of those people who wastes a third of their day.

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