Dr. Umesh Jain is now exclusively responsible for TotallyADD.com and its content

Time management. Organizing your tasks. Prioritizing tasks. Managing the time you spend on tasks. Staying focused on what needs doing. I had a real breakthrough with all of this when I suddenly recognized that these common ADHD challenges are different facets of the same diamond. Or, when I am struggling, different facets of the same dirty piece of coal.  Looking at these core challenges from a fresh perspective has been liberating.

I wanted to talk to you about time management, two people asked me to talk about time management  “my biggest issues seem to be time management and dealing with old internalized messages”.  So time management now at the same time we’re actually a little earlier Christine asks “I would appreciate more information on time management and tasks focusing for adult ADHD

Again two topics, time management and task focusing, two topics, two separate issues or are they? Let’s start by talking about time management.  Now I have lots of books about it, many books about the topic.  I haven’t had time to read them all.  Irony.
The one commonality that they all mentioned is that we all have the same amount of time in a week, seven days, 24 hours, seven times 24,  is seven times 25 is 175 minus seven because it’s 24 is 168.  So we all have a hundred and sixty eight hours.
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The point is everybody has the same number of hours and the books all make clear it’s how we spend them, like you know showing off your math skills, but what took me a long time to realize is that what matters is what we do at that time with those hours or minutes or seconds.  Where we are focused on and what did Christine ask? time management and tasks focusing.
What if the problem with managing your time is that you’re focusing on the wrong tasks?  For example I was supposed to be here recording this and I was watching a documentary on the building of the Hoover Dam which is really interesting.
That was where my focus was and I don’t mean focused as in hyper focused watching, right, I was just watching something that was interesting. Emptying the dishwasher and getting down to work and writing which I you know I loved but requires a lot of thought and care and mental energy for me.

Like a lot of people with ADHD I’m not a eat dessert last kind of person I’m a more eat dessert instead kind of person. Impatient. You know the marshmallow test back in the 60s and 70s before ADHD was even called ADHD.  Dr. Walter Mitchell at Stanford University did an experiment where kids were offered a marshmallow and if they could wait five minutes before eating it they would get a second marshmallow and the study concluded that the kids who could wait had much better life expectancies.  A later study done with many many more kids suggested not.  Just economic background, that’s a big factor for that the willingness to wait and I came from a fairly middle-class background and I wasn’t waiting five minutes to get the second marshmallow.  We’re eating it right? and then we’re looking around for the whole bag, seeing where they hid it.

The point I’m trying to make in spite of myself, is that time management problems are really a problem with tasks focusing.  That’s not all time management problems are.  Another aspect of time management is estimating how long it’s going to take to get to the dentist, shower before you leave you make a lunch to take with you, you’ve got to get on the treadmill to work off the calories from all the marshmallows.

So we fail to take into account the other things that might get in the way, and that’s really about getting real about the time and about sort of imagining your way through what it’s going to take.  This is a common frustration that I hear all the time and one I’ve experienced myself arriving late for things because we have an 11 o’clock dentist appointment, it’s a 30-minute drive so okay I need to leave about 10:30 and when we now look on Google Maps it’s actually 37 minutes.

This is where so many of us screw ourselves up.  I need to leave by say 10:20, we forget I need to shower and how long does that take?  Then I gotta find my keys, and my wallet, and my my sunglasses, and it’s a summer day, and so I need my water bottle, and I can’t find my sunglasses, so I have to go look in the other car but I don’t have the keys.  We have a car and then I find the sunglasses are in my pocket where I put them.
I Drive finally but there’s traffic construction because it’s summer.  There’s two seasons winter and construction so really I needed to start getting ready not at 11:20 but 10:15 oh and before I go ahead to reply to someone who wanted to book me for a talk that’s gonna take twenty minutes.  Who am I kidding it’s gonna take forty minutes and another ten because there’ll be other emails that catch my eye.  I’ll have to read about some emergency.
So I actually need the timer to go off at about 9:30 and I could set a timer to time me so I don’t spend more than 40 minutes on the reply so I’d set a timer for 40 minutes right?  No.  I’d set it for 20 minutes so that at the halfway point when it goes off I can go well I’m still working on entering my name and that address.  I need to speed up or do this later.
So my time management technique is I leave way early for things and if I arrive at the dentist early and I have to wait I’ll tidy up the car, go for a walk and get some steps in, or I’ll check in and answer mail on my phone, maybe jot down ideas that I had for a video.  I could do some mindfulness exercises in the car, or in the waiting room I could sit in the waiting room and practice doing magic tricks.
So the point of this is actually, okay as usual there are several points

The 4 Keys To Time Management:

  1. Be realistic about time
  2. Break down what’s going to be involved in whatever you are doing
  3. Plan for the worst-case scenario
  4. Prioritize what is important
I have discovered to my chagrin but not surprise, that if I actually plan and leave early my stress level goes way down.  I’m far less likely to be using my middle finger at other drivers.  You see I used to think that I couldn’t take it easy that I needed to move fast to rush to make up for all the lost time the time that I had wasted in a way or mismanaged spent watching videos about the Hoover Dam or converting school buses into… I mean wouldn’t that be cool a school bus turned into a motor home?
The  third point you could argue that this is about prioritizing and I’ll not argue but I’ll mention it, by doing all the things that had to be done before, shower, dress, teeth brush, keys wallet, etc then I could have found time to sit and watch the video then I’ve still got time or even realize my son works near the dentist’s office I’ll just text and see if we wants to do lunch.
So rather than look at time management as managing this amorphous thing that you can’t really manage because it’s going by at a set speed, try looking at what you’re focused on…  and don’t get ambitious and say that’s it I’m never gonna watch youtube videos again, or I’ll never be late again or I’ll never eat marshmallows again because they’re empty calories.
Just make one choice one little change. I’m okay I’m going to shower first and then answer the request for that live talk and then if there’s time I’ll watch the video on the school bus.  But what about the toilet?  So Kathryn and Christine and everybody my suggestion would be to not think of time management as this managing this amorphous thing but rather focus management.  What do I have to do right now and what do I have to do next and what do I have to do after that and what do I have to do if I want to be there by then and that could be the dentist at 11:00 or it could be married with children and a house by 40.
Whatever it is so thank you Catherine and Christine and all of our patreon patrons you were the ones who allow us to keep doing what we’re doing if you like the video do hit like if you want to share the video you hit share if you want to hear more about patreon there’ll be a button somewhere David will do that.
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