Do you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day? You’re not alone. In fact, most of my friends, clients, and strangers I meet on the street feel that way. Plus, conventional wisdom around time management skills really relies on neurotypical patterns and motivations, so those of us with neurodivergences like ADHD, autism, or traumatic pasts have brains that are just wired differently and need different time management strategies. In this post I’ll share some of the ways I’ve used technology to support my time management skills in ways that just make sense for my ADHD brain!
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
Firstly, what are your goals around these new time management skills? Do you want to get a certain amount of work done during set hours, implement a morning or evening routine, or something else? “Time Management” means different things for different people and situations, so get clear on what you hope to accomplish with your time.
As you try and implement new time management skills, be realistic about the amount of time you have each day and each week. Make sure that all of your goals and tasks are realistically achievable in the timeframe that you have available. Don’t try to take on too many tasks at once or try to squeeze in extra hours at the end of the week when you’re already exhausted. And don’t be afraid to schedule your rest and breaks too.
It may take trial and error for you to find a method that works for you.
Step 2: Brain Dump + Prioritize Tasks
The first step to improving your time management skills is to prioritize your tasks. This means sorting through everything that comes into your mind and deciding which is the most important.
I start each week with a brain dump of everything that I need to do that week. Sometimes it’s a pretty long list, but I schedule it into blocks (more on that in the next section). I tend to use headers to separate tasks into categories — things to do for my podcast, for my clients, for my household, etc.
One interesting thing about neurodivergencies like ADHD and the autistic brain is that we aren’t as motivated by “shoulds.” Neurotypically, looking at a list would allow you to pick the top three things that are must-do action items. But to a neurodivergent brain, we follow our own desires as opposed to what other people would expect or what “common knowledge” would say we SHOULD do. We actually CAN focus quite a bit, as long as what we’re working on is interesting to us.
If the entire list is overwhelming, start by identifying the top three or four things that you’d like to incorporate into a scheduled routine. I regularly end up pushing things from my list onto the following week, delegating them, or canceling them entirely. Rescheduling is totally okay, especially as you’re getting the swing of your new time management skills.
Pro tip: Pay attention to the thoughts that come up when you schedule or re-schedule your tasks. Are these thoughts helpful and compassionate or judgy and mean?
Once you have a list of priorities, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get them done. Some people like to break larger projects down into smaller, more manageable tasks, while others prefer to tackle a project from start to finish. It really depends on what works best for you and how much time you have available. Just be sure to set realistic goals for yourself and don’t expect everything to be finished right away. Learning time management techniques is an ongoing practice.
Step 3: Set Up Time Blocks
Time blocking is a great time manegement technique, especially for ADHD. People with ADHD may have trouble estimating how much time a task will take, and have trouble shifting from one task to another. By providing ample time in your calendar with blocks of time dedicated to one focused task or several similar tasks, you can take advantage of your natural patterns.
One client of mine asked for some help developing an ADHD friendly scheduling routine for time management. We worked out a system where they would do one type of work in the mornings, and a different type of work in the afternoons. This way they could get multiple things done in one day, but the “rules” around what type of work to do when were pretty flexible.
Some ways that time blocking might make sense for you:
- Have one or two days a week where you do not take any meetings, so you can block in some time for other tasks without interruption
- You can group like tasks together, like checking emails and responding to social media comments in one block of time, because these are similar types of activities and your brain can transition easily
- You may want to designate time without your phone or without checking social media or email so you can focus without distraction
- If you focus best at a certain time of day, schedule your most in-depth tasks for those blocks
- Schedule breaks!
- If you’re just learning a new task/skill or don’t know how long it will take, give yourself three times the amount of time you think it will take — this will prevent rushing and help you learn to estimate time in the future
Step 4: Use Technology As A Helping Hand
Technology can help a lot, but it can’t do your work for you, and it often feels useless if you don’t know what you’re using it for. My best advice for improving your time management skills with the help of technology is to try multiple methods and find the blind spots and gaps in your focus that can be improved with the help of an app or calendar. It’s also important to note that what works for one person (neurodivergent or otherwise) may not work for you, so trial and error is a necessary part of the process.
I live by my Google Calendar! Not just because it can send notifications both to my computer and phone, but because I can reschedule things on the fly or rearrange my schedule with a moment’s notice if I need to. Besides my ADHD, as the one person in my household who is self employed, I have the schedule flexibility to take care of things midday like grocery pickup, handling contractors or utility company calls, vet visits, etc. — so being able to move something from one day to another so I can get those things done is a huge help to making sure my tasks still get done during the week.
Other apps and tools that can help develop your time management skills include:
- Project management tools like ClickUp or Asana, which you can use to build out to-do lists with recurring tasks AND track your time on a timer to better estimate future tasks
- Automation tools like Zapier, to automatically enact the next step of a process (great for online businesses!)
- Bulletin board style apps like Trello, where you can drag and drop items from list to list (See how I manage my “shiny object” ideas on Trello here)
- Gamified apps like Habitica to turn everyday chores and to-dos into a fun way to earn points
Managing your time effectively is essential for anyone who wants to get things done — and you don’t have to follow conventional wisdom! I hope that by sharing what works for my ADHD brain, I’ve inspired you to try out a few methods yourself and DIY the time management method that works best for you and your unique, brilliant brain.
PS. I’ve developed an 8-question quiz to help identify the top creative block in your life that keeps you from going for the creative practice of your dreams! Take the quiz and get my tips to bust through the blocks in your email today.