Getting Things Done – 101


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Ten Tips for Focus and Intentionality – Part 1

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Another article in the TaskMaster™ Series

I finally had time to sit down and read a past issue of Maria Gracia’s excellent Get Organized Now newsletter.  This one had a great article entitled “Hopping and Dropping.”  (If you don’t already know Maria’s website, RUN to sign up – you’ll thank me for the tip many times.)  

Thanks Maria!  Your article reminded me to go look for a similar document on Organization and Task Completion, hiding out somewhere on my hard drive waiting for its turn in the blog spotlight in the TaskMaster™ series.

Getting things DONE

Those of us who are highly distractible (as well as those who are highly impulsive) generally run out of day l-o-n-g before we run out of To-Dos. We shake our heads sadly and ask ourselves,What did I DO all day? I’ve barely stopped working and I have nothing to show for it.”

Maria calls this “Hopping and Dropping — starting one task, hopping to another,” then dropping that task for something else, moving right along to whatever grabs your attention next — and repeating this process throughout the day.

This not only results in exhaustion, it’s lousy for getting much of anything DONE!

I call that exhaustion nonsense the [old] ADD Way!

The *NEW and IMPROVED* ADD Way: Ten Tips

This is a HUGE topic for a single article, so I’m going to whittle it down to a size we can manage in two ways:
1. dividing it into three parts, and 2. directing it primarily to those attempting to Get Things Done at home,
whether the tasks are personal or professional in nature.

1. House the Homeless

So maybe you don’t yet have “a place for everything,” maybe you rarely see a day when “everything’s in it’s place” and maybe you never will – but the concept is more important than ever when it comes to planning what you are going to do with your TIME!

The use of a Time Map — setting aside a regular and recurring time in your calendar or datebook where you plan to work on the same types of task each time – reduces the prefrontal cortex resource depletion that happens every darn time you try to DECIDE what to do when.

Interestingly enough, shuffling the deck
- assuming you HAVE a deck to shuffle -
takes far fewer cognitive resources.

Think of it like a commune in your calendar.

Every task has a tent, but the community members kind of float from one tent to the other — making sure all the kids get fed, the laundry is done, all homework is attended to, sleep happens nightly, and all of the recurring activities of the commune are attended to daily, weekly and monthly – just not always in the same tent every time.

2. Name the Game

As I’ve said for almost 25 years now, how we name the game determines the rules. Naming the Game is sometimes the only thing that makes it possible for us to play at all! It clearly delineates a mini-goal for the activity at hand that keeps us on task and focused. It also makes it possible for us to make a wild stab at guessing how much time it’s likely to take.

Rank it for import



Make sure you’re naming a game that’s really worth playing. Jettison the busy-work, the in-order-to’s, the impress-the-friends and neighbors, the everbody-has-tos, and other people’s agenda for your life.

  • At the end of the day, what will allow you to look back with satisfaction?
  • What are the tasks that you never seem to have time “left over” to handle — that make you feel crummy about yourself and about life every day you drop them out?
  • Those are YOUR high priority tasks – the ones that make you feel great about being, well, YOU.

Keep those A-1 tasks on a notecard or a sticky note, and put them somewhere you can’t help but see them any time you’re likely to be vulnerable to distractions or hyperfocus.

This is what’s important to you.  If you don’t have time to do what’s important to YOU, you certainly don’t have time to do what’s NOT important to you.  Right?  Don’t let yourself ADD-out on your LIFE!   “Just say NO!”  

3. Mise en place

Pronounced something like “meez-own-plasse,” the term refers to a way of cooking that many chefs use to run professional kitchens.

They measure all ingredients for a particular dish into containers before they even think about turning on the stove.

This is the term we’ll use to remind you to be certain to have everything you need you to complete any particular task before you begin.

I don’t have to ask you to recall what happens when you decide to take time
for a scavenger hunt in the middle of a task, do I?  That’s right — nothing!

If you can develop this one habit, you will probably find that it will serve you well, leading you right into the task you need to accomplish — as long as you remember to name the game and chant it like a mantra while you go about this hunter/gatherer expedition.  It helps, by the way, to work from a list.

The further decision and action are from each other, the easier the decision is to make.  

Don’t float around the house hoping to recognize the things you’ll need.
Think about everything you are going to need before you look for the first thing.

A list of what you’re gathering for the task at hand, by the way, is a great use for all those sticky notes most organizers tell you to get rid of.  You most certainly will — just as soon as you’ve collected all the items you need to begin the project at hand, you’ll toss it right into the circular file (that means the trash can, for those of you who’ve never heard the term).

Since your first task will be to house the homeless (putting together that deck you’ll shuffle later), you will need to have at-the-ready the following ingredients:

1-sharpened pencils with decent erasers (a pencil sharpener?)
2-a calendar or datebook
3-a pad of paper, and
4-some kind of timer that is as easy to set as a kitchen egg timer.

If you can handle the ticking, a kitchen egg timer might be perfect for this task.
If not, see if you can find a nice quiet 30-minute hourglass; you’re going to work
on your map in 30-minute chunks.

I warn you away from going high-tech with this timer, and especially urge you not to use your computer or your smart phone. Beware — the next thing you know you’ll be checking your email, updating your FaceBook status and tinkering with technology.

4. Plant your flag and stake your territory

Practice setting boundaries with those who share your space.  Tell them what you need, clearly, with the expectation that they will be willing to work with you happily.

  • Privacy?  Ask them what they plan to do with the time you’ll be unavailable — and remind them when that unavailable time IS and what that means: no “one quick questions” what-so-ever.  Tell them that the only “emergencies” you want to know about are those that involve fire, flood or bloodshed.
  • Quiet?  Swap minutes of quiet time for noisy time — time they can turn the volume up on the latest cool tune while you hold a family dance party. Everybody can use the exercise and the chance to work off a few extra calories — after you get the quiet time you need to finish the game you named for yourself.
  • I’m sure you can figure out all by your lonesome how to take “plant and stake” to the office by trading what you need at work for what they need at work.

5. Remember the cookie

If you think I’m talking about a snack, you need to go back an episode.
Click here to read about the importance of the cookie.

6. Stop and Drop 

- get thee to thy Boggle space!

I’m “stealing” Maria Gracia’s “Stop and Drop” for this hint – it’s PERFECT!  The text below is hers too, “Cliff Notes” of many of the points in The Boggle Book.

“Sometimes constant distractions lead to a frenzied state when we completely lose our ability to focus. It is time to stop and drop, meaning take a break, sit down, rest, breath deeply and reflect on our current state and what can we do to calmly continue with our day feeling refreshed and more focused.”

Mapping your universe

The next article will begin to explain how to create a Time Map to reduce the “cognitive drag” of daily decision-making.  Don’t worry – your calendar commune will be able to swap tasks at will, but now you’ll have some idea of how to keep everything humming along like a well-run summer camp, rather than an episode of Survivors Gone Wild.

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned. There’s a lot to know, and a lot more to come.

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As always, if you want notification of new articles in the TaskMaster™ Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article (either for your own life, that of a loved one, or as coaching skills development), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)
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Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above)

Wanna’ see how I use this technique?

Articles in the TaskMaster™ Series
(articles click only once published)

  1. TaskMaster – Getting things DONE!
  2. Task Anxiety Awareness
  3. Virtue is not its own reward
  4. Doling out the Cookies
  5. When the Game is Rigged
  6. Sherlocking Task Anxiety
  7. Taking Your Functional Temperature
  8. Juggling Invisible Balls
  9. Getting Things Done – 101 (part 1)
  10. Mapping your Universe (Getting Things Done-101, part 2)
  11. Ordering your Deck (Getting Things Done-101, part 3)
  12. TIME Mapping your Universe (Getting Things Done-101 finale, Part 1)
  13. TimeKiss™ – Tips for Time Mapping (Getting Things Done Finale, Part 2)
  14. Calendars and To-Do Lists

Related articles ’round the ‘net

BY THE WAY: I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Founder: ADD Coach Training Field; Co-founder: ADD Coaching; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with Executive Functioning struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

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