By Rick Green:
“I don’t know where the day went,” was a familiar, almost constant lament of mine.
Eventually, after yet another day slipped past me, I sat for an hour trying to discern how 8 hours had simply vanished in a jumble of tiny tasks, none of which stuck in my memory, leaving me feeling like I’d accomplished nothing.
Where did the time go?
That day, as I paused, I realized the day doesn’t go anywhere. I do. At least mentally. But where exactly do I go?
As I mentally retraced the day, I realized where I went off track. Wildly.
Multi-tasking on mini-tasks, trying to play catch-up on a score of emails, requests, promises, and ideas… no wonder hours passed with nothing to show for it. (Or so it seemed. But I must have done something?!)
The big task of the day barely touched, and now, late in the afternoon, my energy low, it was too late to start on it. “I’ll move it to tomorrow’s Task List.”
Easy enough to do that. After all, I’ve done it every day for the past three weeks! (Sigh.)
This Time For Sure, Rocky!
I start each day with energy, focus, good intentions and a manageable list of To-Do’s, but end the day exhausted, scattered, lost and an even longer list.
Picture me, ready to go, excited and eager, like a thoroughbred horse in the starting gate, waiting for the Kentucky Derby to begin.
The bugle sounds, “Charge.” The bell clangs. The gates open! The crowd roars! The announcer yells, “They’re off! Out of the gate Rick takes an early lead, hitting his stride, pulling ahead!”
Someone calls. Ava answers, but it is for me. A college is waiting for me to send an outline of my talk on Earning a Degree With ADHD. I’d replied to their inquiry, but forgotten to attach the description! “Right, I’ll email it to them right now.”
It only costs me a minute to send it. Done!
But I notice incoming emails, labeled ‘URGENT’ and ‘FUNNY’ and ‘SEE YOU TONIGHT?’ and two minutes becomes 40, spent reading a dozen emails, three of which remind me of other ‘To-Do’s’ I forgot to put on my list. Wanting to avoid missing anything, I dutifully add them to my list.
Gradually, all the spaces I have left in my schedule, the time for recharging and switching focus, begin to fill up.
I hear the garbage truck coming down the street, “Oh, I forgot to take out…”
I rush to grab the garbage and recycling… they’re already at the curb. Ava must have done it. I opt for a coffee, my cup is in the dishwasher, which is done washing, so I empty it while the kettle boils…
“THEY’RE BUNCHING UP ON THE BACK STRETCH…”
My day starts out like the Kentucky Derby, and gradually it becomes a steeplechase as I hit one unforeseen obstacle after another. By lunch it’s a fox-hunt, dashing in all directions, the baying of the hounds, “Do this! Do that! Here’s an idea!”
I return to the blog I was writing, but end up hyper-focused on one paragraph, and another 30 minutes slip away. Later, 45 minutes spent modifying an image to go with the blog.
By mid-afternoon I am racing in a dozen directions at once, mentally. I’m still trying to do everything I planned, because dammit, the list was manageable!!!
Eventually, the Kentucky Derby descends into a Demolition Derby. And I crash.
THE FINISH LINE IS THE STARTING LINE
Racetracks are ovals. The horses start at the starting line. They finish at the finish line. And it’s the same line.
That’s often how my days went. Not just days, but weeks and months.
Like the world’s fastest horses charging full tilt in the Kentucky Derby, I can end up right back where I started from. (Or so it felt.) Or worse, get thrown and give up, another day squandered..
“RICK IS A LATE SCRATCH”
What do I do differently now?
Yes, starting the day with a VERY doable list of tasks is crucial. But it is not enough.
Allowing breaks and extra time for unexpected interruptions is crucial. But it’s not enough.
There are 36 different ADHD-strategies in our program, ADD & Mastering It! Every day now I use at least a half dozen of them. Hugely helpful.
But I’ve also learned that before I start running the race, I have to be very clear about which finish line matters the most. What’s the one thing I most want to get done? What provides the biggest payoff?
I have to prioritize. And, unless the house catches fire, nothing is allowed to interrupt me, and no checking email.
In conversation with my coach I realized that my time is sacred. I have to protect it. Guard it from intruders. Everyone around me needs to know that I won’t be checking texts, emails, voice messages, or postings until after lunch. My morning is my time.
THE WORLD CONSPIRES AGAINST YOU
If you do not protect your time, the world will take it away from you.
Since the most urgent task is usually the one that I least want to do, and have been procrastinating around the longest, getting it done feels soooo good. Suddenly everything else I have to do feels like a piece of cake.
Otherwise, I get side-tracked, lost, scattered, defeated, and consoling myself by eating a piece of cake.
(Mmmm, Cake. Let’s wrap this up. I need lunch.)
Here’s the Dilemma
Why is it so difficult to stake out uninterrupted time? Why does it feel selfish to say, “I will be unavailable for the next three hours.”
Why do I feel like I have to respond to every incoming call or stray thought? Especially when I know from experience where it will lead me, or mislead me, galloping off in a dozen directions.
Creating this ‘sacred’ time was difficult at first. It’s gotten easier and easier because I’ve seen how effective it is.
It’s a great practice. But of course I have ADHD, so a few hours of dithering can go by before I realize, “Oh, right, email can wait, I need to pick my priority and focus on it.”