When to do my “to-do”s?

“My to-do list is so long! I try to chip away at it, but I never get very far. It’s just too overwhelming to face most of the time!”

Endless to-do lists seem to be the stuff of life! I remember my dad carrying several index cards full of to-dos listed in his scratchy handwriting. Times have changed, and now, many of my clients use various apps to hold their long lists. But, the lists aren’t any shorter.

The challenge many of us, with or without ADHD, face is not as much in making the list, it’s in getting the “to-do”s done!

In her book Time Management from the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern recommends a system that simplifies planning and reduces the need for decision-making … while at the same time making it easier to do the “to do”s.

Morgenstern’s approach begins with a strategy she calls “time mapping”  which she defines as creating “… a visual diagram of your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule.” Fundamentally, time mapping consists of dividing your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule into blocks of time devoted to specific types of activities that help you meet your goals. Making your personal time map takes a little while, but the time investment will set you up for future ease.

Here’s a six-step overview of “time mapping”:

Step 1. Assuming that you have a planner, make a copy of a blank week. If you don’t have a planner, now’s the time to pick one out. Choosing a planner is very individual, but it can be very helpful to get one that allows you to see a week at a time. If you are using an electronic planner, find a blank week calendar on line to print out.

Step 2. The  next step is to consider and list out the various aspects of your life, based on the goals that are important to you.  Morgenstern identifies the following common categories:

  • self
  • family
  • work
  • romance
  • finances
  • community, and 
  • knowledge. 

Your own list might be similar or might be different in certain ways, depending on your personal goals and values.

Step 3. Decide how much time you want to devote to each aspect of life in a typical or ideal week.

  • If decisions are tough for you, just do your best – you can always adjust later.  
  • If you have no idea, take a week or two to track how much time you do spend in each category. If you are satisfied with that balance, you’re all set. If you are not satisfied, look at how your time was used and make adjustments in each category to reflect how you want to be using your time.

Step 4. Once you have an idea of how much time you will devote to each category, take a look at your weekly calendar page and “map” out how you will schedule the time across the week. If you’re employed, schedule in your work hours first, then schedule in any fixed appointments or activities. Finally, you can add blocks of time for the other aspects of life around that. You can block things in however it will work best for you. For example:

  • If you have decided to spend four hours per week doing some community service, you could schedule all four hours in one block of time, or schedule two blocks of two hours each, or eight blocks of an hour each.
  • If you know that you have more energy for exercise in the mornings, you might want to block in “self care” early in the day.
  • If family activities take up most of the evening on weekdays, romance time may work better if scheduled on the weekends.  

 Now you have a “map” of your typical week, laid out the way you want to use your time. This is your template to work from in planning each week.

Step 5. Next, you can look at your to-do list and sort the items or tasks into the same categories you used in developing your time map. For example:

  • Meditation would likely fall in the the “self” category.
  • Paying bills would fall into the “finances” category.

Step 6. Then, each week, you can select several important to-do items and schedule them into the time block set aside for whatever categories they fit in.

In her book, Morgenstern goes into more details on  time-mapping, sorting tasks, and other strategies to ease time management and getting those “to do”s done.

If you need extra support with time management, or getting to your “to do”s, consider coaching. Contact me today for a free introductory consultation.

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