When organizing our work schedule whether at home or in the office, we need to consider more factors than what time we should start each task. Because we all are so uniquely wired, our preferences and methods can vary. So how can we create the order needed for ourselves to accomplish our work tasks?
I found this very useful article on the Clockify blog that details ten easy tips to design our daily work tasks. I will highlight several of their tips in the context of ADHD coaching and what we find is useful to spotlight when designing an approach for a client.
Tip: Create an Order that Suits YOU
We all have a biological clock that determines our body’s rhythm and have multiple highs and lows throughout our day. And we have one peak productivity period in our day where our energy, attention and dopamine levels are high. However, that peak productivity time can vary from one to another. An “early bird” will experience the peak earlier in the morning while a “mid bird” will find their peak more towards the middle of the day. And of course, the “owls” will find their peak brainpower will arise later in the day.
Trying to follow a work schedule that conflicts with your circadian rhythm is going to be like trying to swim upstream. So, if the “early bird” wastes their peak performance time on menial tasks like checking email, taking calls, or attending meetings, they will have very little to give to those important tasks or projects. And the “owls” can feel pressured to get focused on those big tasks early because society sees that as the correct way to work. But they will struggle mightily, and it won’t be close to their best output.
So how can you get to know your chronotype better? Dr. Michael Breus has an easy test to help you identify your type – go to this link. Or answer the questions on the Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ). Daniel Pink also has some great information on chronotypes in his book “When” – have a look at his website and read this article for more timing hack ideas.
Tip: Be Realistic and Set Realistic Goals
We all overestimate our commitment level when we first set a goal or project. Having high expectations of accomplishing those 10 pounds of weight loss can feel great at the outset. But as they say, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Most productivity experts agree that being specific about your goal and then breaking it down into manageable steps is the best approach. Instead of “lose 10 pounds this month”, I will do better with some clear and concise steps such as “research how many calories a day I should consume to lose 10 pounds” and “create a weekly meal plan schedule” and “what resources can I use to keep me on track”. I will also want to attach each of these steps to a date on my calendar to make them actionable. Use the SMART goals acronym to ensure your goal can be reached. The “SMART” acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This link is one of many good explanations of how to use SMART goals.
Tip: Learn How to Prioritize Your Tasks
Another successful method used by many is the Eisenhower Matrix which is a great framework to determine which tasks are the most important. Many of us find ourselves operating in what I call the firefighting mode (reactive) rather than a fire prevention mode (proactive). We are reacting to what is being thrown at us because time-sensitive items tend to get our attention more urgently even though the less urgent items might offer greater rewards. Psychologists call this the “Mere-Urgency Effect”. And we tend to allow other people’s emergencies to lead to a sense of urgency on our part.
This is where the Eisenhower Matrix can help us discern the important and urgent for ourselves. Once you know what your priorities are, it becomes easier to create a precise schedule tailored for you. Combined with knowing your daily energy level pattern, you will be able to set the biggest priority tasks during times when you are most productive.
Have a look at this handy article explaining in more detail how to use the Eisenhower Matrix to determine your priorities.
Tip: Predict and Plan for Distractions
A very useful exercise to deal with distractions is to do a “pre-mortem” which is a look at the future and predicting what distractions could possibly occur while trying to do this important task. After predicting, we want to make a plan for how we are going to eliminate or reduce the effects of that distraction.
For instance, maybe I have predicted that there is a potential in the environment I will be working in for noise to become a distraction. Noise for many is distracting and can impair the ability to focus and stay on task. I would plan to have my noise-canceling headphones available just in case. And if possible I would plan to pick the least noisy and distracting area of the environment I will be headed to.
The important point to remember is to find the framework or strategies that work for you. It probably will involve some trial and error which is great to refine your methods. The main thing to remember is the problem is not you, it’s your method that doesn’t suit you.
As I said before, these are only four of the ten tips offered in the article. You will probably want to read the whole article and it can be found here.
Owner, Founder | ADHD & Executive Functions Coach