Predicting Time to Manage Tasks
Saturday, November 5, 2016 12 Comments
Beating Back Task Anxiety
by understanding your relationship to TIME
© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections post from the Time & Task Management Series
What’s YOUR Tendency?
As regular readers already know, I tend to put my faith in what science crowd refers to as “anecdotal evidence” — learning from what I have observed in my clients, myself, and what I have heard from thousands of ADDers who have attended conferences and participated in my support groups and workshops in the twenty five years I have been in the field.
As I expanded my evidence collection to include the experiences of the other citizens of Alphabet City (TBI, PTSD, OCD, EFD, AS, etc.), I began to mentally record their experiences as well, and factor them in to my techniques and theories.
When the science supports what I see in the population, I quote it. When it doesn’t, I ignore it or argue with it. It makes no difference if 98 out of 100 people studied tend to do xyz if my client and I happen to be among the 2% who do abc.
It doesn’t matter. Your job is the same either way: check your gut to see what makes the most sense to you and try it on. Tweak from there. Check out another tool when something doesn’t work for you.
But hang on to the first!! Just because you need a hammer NOW doesn’t mean you won’t need a lug-wrench later!
My take on Anecdotal
- For years I struggled valiantly attempting to adopt “majority rules” norms — with little to no success and a lot of wasted life.
- It took a long time for me to develop even a rudimentary feeling of entitlement to my own process, learning to close my ears to the words of the “experts” and neurotypical Doubting Thomases who kept telling me that I was only kidding myself or making excuses.
I coach, train and share here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com hoping to help others avoid some of the wilderness-wandering that has characterized much of my own life. And to remind myself of what I’ve learned.
Trying something different
I want to encourage you to find what works, not what is supposed to work
So, in the first part of this multi-part article, let’s take a look together at how people relate to time and tasks, and how that affects our ability to plan our schedules and run our lives.
Let’s examine the real stoppers to OUR forward progress to see if we can figure out how to work around them, independent of the “standard” assumptions and techniques – a process I refer to as Sherlocking.
Sherlock; Sherlocking One of the ADD Coaching Skills: examining the inner logic of what is occurring.
Looking through behavior for clues to functioning the same way that Sherlock Holmes looks for clues to a crime — with no pre-drawn conclusions.
© From my upcoming ADD/EFD Coaching Glossary
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Sherlocking “Sense of Time” — 4 Examples
. . . article continues after the box below . . .
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My neurotypical friend Sammy has an inner stop-watch that never ceases to amaze me. He can tell you the time whenever you ask, practically to the minute, and without looking at an external timepiece. I used to believe that he was aware of some kind of studied cue from the position of the sun – until I noted that he can do it in the middle of the darkest of nights as well.
He tells me that he “feels” the passage of time and that it feels like input from any of the other of his senses. He experiences no more pressure from his awareness of time than he does from his awareness of hunger or the need to go to the bathroom. It is simply information he can use to decide how to structure his schedule and his life.
He can predict how long most things take to do, and is pretty good at planning his time as a result. When something unexpected skews his estimate, he simply adjusts – no biggie.
2. Madelyn: I can’t relate, can you?
If I rely on a gut-check, I’m in trouble. I can barely tell you if it is night or day without looking out the window, much less how long I have been at a task, how much more time it might take me to finish, and how much longer I can afford to work on my current endeavor before I must move on to another item on my agenda.
I am frequently startled by how very much time has gone by when I look up from my current task “a minute later” and another day has turned to night — when panic and terror hit me in waves.
As a result, planning has remained one of my biggest challenges, and I struggle mightily with scheduling!
3. And then there’s Sue
“Susan” (a past client with comorbid ADD/OCD) seems to have a fairly good sense of time, but she frequently gets trapped in whatever she is doing in the moment and pushes through, ignoring her inner timepiece until her mounting “too much to do and not enough time” anxiety becomes so great she shuts down.
The resulting rumination-time throws further wrinkles into her schedule, increasing her anxiety as well as her resolve to rush the conclusion of her current task — which further exacerbates her OCD.
She attempts perfection faster as she spirals ever downward, stressed to the max. Her completion time estimates can be off by DAYS.
4. Peter’s Process
Before the head-on collision that landed him in the hospital for three months, Peter’s sense of time was more like Sammy’s. He is now struggling with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).
His current state of recovery has left him with severe short-term memory deficits that complicate staying on track for certain types of tasks. Many times he simply has to stop before frustration shuts him down completely. That makes it difficult to figure out how long those things will take, start to finish.
In his attempts to tackle any of life’s many tasks and to-dos, he also gets overwhelmed and exhausted a lot more easily and often. He’s never sure how much he can schedule in any particular day before he will run out of steam.
His inner body-clock seems to be a bit damaged as well. Things he might expect to be able to handle quickly and easily seem to take more time since the accident, even when he checks the clock and sees that they don’t. He worries that life will never be more than one long process of catch-up and fall behind.
Different Folks need Different Strokes
Logic would dictate that the same advice about how to work with time to be able to schedule tasks would never work for each of the four of us, right?
What might look like “procrastination,” or failure to follow-through, for example, would have a two completely different sources for Sammy and Susan, another one for me, and still another for Peter. I’d like to suggest the high likelihood that there will be yet another underlying your struggles with intentionality and productivity.
What each of us need to DO to get into action and end our apparent problems with scheduling and follow-through will depend on what’s causing the problem in the first place. Duh!
And I’m fairly certain that your stoppers won’t be the same as most of those in the so-called neurotypical population – so good luck incorporating the results of those studies!
Making things tougher still is the reality that different tasks are likely to have their own unique sources of struggle.
- What keeps me from cleaning my house is not the same mix of stoppers that gets in the way of finishing one of my books and shipping it off to be published.
- And the rationale behind the stoppers is not nearly as simple as insufficient motivation: blaming it on the degree to which I enjoy each of the tasks themselves, or even my degree of interest in seeing them done.
Nor are the stoppers a factor of the type of task themselves.
Writing, for example, comes easily for me, especially “short” format pieces like blog articles. I enjoy it immensely as long as the WordPress.com folks have left things the way I found them last time.
If “all” I have to do is sit down and write, I can knock off a new article happily, and post it relatively quickly and with relative ease — even though writing and publishing content on a blog is not as straightforward a process as using pen and paper, typewriter, or word processor.
Unfortunately for me, sitting down intending to write and being able to do so is NOT the case as often as it is anymore – but it has nothing to do with what others might call “writer’s block,” nor is it a clean and clear example of “procrastination.”
Follow my process as you Sherlock your own
As you examine some of the details of my particular problem example below, think about some of the areas in your own life that might look like one type of problem but are actually the result of something else entirely.
ONLY when we take the time to Sherlock the details of how and why we get stuck are we able to figure out what might work to help us get UNstuck! And I promise you that it is RARELY as simple or straightforward as the self-help books might lead you to believe. Everything depends on how any particular task intersects with your particular Challenges Profile™.
So here are some of the pieces that contribute to MY scheduling problem –
keep your own in mind as you read.
- My concentration on communication is frequently decimated by being forced to figure out how to work around new formatting glitches introduced by the latest “improvement” to the WordPress platform.
- It takes away from the time I have to run my life without giving me any sense of completion I can use as wind beneath my wings to get still more accomplished, in this venue or another.
The greater problem comes with accumulated experience
I tend to approach blogging with dread rather than joy with each new “upgrade.” I also get stopped more quickly with the first thing that goes “wrong.” It makes it tougher for me to “just DO it” now that I have a great deal of “evidence” that I won’t be able to write without technical stoppers.
The total accumulation of potential stoppers complicates scheduling my time immensely, which makes it tough to decide when to begin much of anything at all.
Since sitting down to post an article on ADDandSoMuchMore has a high-likelihood of throwing the rest of my schedule into a tailspin, you might think it would be logical that I would tend to avoid it – “procrastinating,” as the experts might say.
But that’s not what *I* do.
With writing objectives I’m more like Susan, even though I don’t normally have to work around OCD functioning issues at all. In this case, however, everything ELSE gets “procrastinated” as I hyperfocus on attempting to get an article written and published.
So the “standard” advice about time management and scheduling is likely to do nothing more than make me wrong and shut me down.
To handle the scheduling problems created by attempting to write when the platform I’m wiring on doesn’t support my efforts, I need to Sherlock what’s really going on in MY particular case. And I need to keep my total functioning imperatives into account as I do so. So do you.
So what WILL help?
If I had a magic wand that could turn you all into happy human do-bees, I’d stop coaching, training and writing articles and get rich quick selling get fixed quick wand-zapping services through a single page on this blog.
My reputation would spread far and wide without any effort on my part, and life would be easier for everyone I helped in one quick stroke of wizardry.
Unfortunately, such a magic wand does not exist.
If I could even give clients a list of tried and true steps that worked for everyone, I would. We’d all have a great deal more time to play. Unfortunately, that list of tried and true steps doesn’t exist either.
Even the neurotypical crowd has to tweak the standard advice to make it work better for their individual circumstances. More of the standard advice is likely to work for them, but nothing really works out of the box for anyone.
Most of my clients, readers and I, myself, need to look beyond the standard advice – we don’t have standard-issue brains. We must take many more factors into account than our neurotypical buddies as we develop our success systems — which means a higher probability that no two of us will respond to the same advice, even if the advice comes straight out of some Neurodiverse Playbook.
Modular Success Systems
Yet, if you’ll think of building our life systems as a modular process (one from Column A, two from Column B and so on), our list of choices becomes more straight-forward and less complex. Life really CAN be easier to manage when we are clear about the sum total of what needs to be managed and why! Think of the articles on this blog as a no cost explanation of the modules that work best for US.
As you read, think module application. Like any modular process, you only choose the modules that make sense with what you are trying to develop — but you can’t choose much of anything if you haven’t taken the time to look at what’s available. Building from scratch is old technology, and grabbing the first items you see is not the best approach either.
Do it anyway
Most of us resent the time it takes to research the parameters that will allow us to develop effective work-arounds. It really is a much more effective use of your time, however, than charging full-steam-ahead and being surprised when it doesn’t work as expected, despite the sincere application of time and energy.
Do your best to be patient with yourselves as you take the time it takes to read about the potential pitfalls and research possible solutions. Try NOT to take vanilla comments to heart when they admonish you for procrastinating or avoiding while you take the time to figure out your own best way to proceed.
How in the world can you expect yourselves to PLAN much of anything at all if your projections are made from someone else’s functional abilities?
Even if you know yourself and your functioning well already, there is value in the verification that you are not the ONLY person who struggles with tasks others seem to do easily and quickly. It helps to avoid the shut-down that happens with stress, which shortens completion time considerably.
So stay tuned – and keep reading! Take the time to read the Related Content I always include with every new post, if you want to add velocity to your progress. If you’ll “like” or comment after the pages you’ve read, it will help you keep track and will point others to posts you find especially helpful (as well as helping ME to know what you want me to write about).
If you really want to speed things up, consider signing up for Group Coaching.
Meanwhile, keep reading as often as you can! To double the benefit, whenever I post a new article, make it a habit to pick at least one of the Related Content links to read at the same time.
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You might also be interested in some of the following articles
available right now – on this site and elsewhere.
For links in context: run your cursor over the article above and the dark grey links will turn dark red;
(subtle, so they don’t pull focus while you read, but you can find them to click when you’re ready for them)
— and check out the links to other Related Content in each of the articles themselves —
Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed them above)
- ABOUT ADD Comorbidities
- Your Challenges Profile™
- Evidence of success and failure
- Predict it to Police It, Police it to PLAN it
- Boggle Bait
- Domino Problems
- ABOUT Activation
- Procrastination — Activation vs. Motivation
- Dear Beloveds – here are the Top Ten Things we wish YOU’d stop doing!
Other supports for this article – on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
- When you are NEW to ADD (or to this blog – or to Attentional Struggles or ADD Coaching)
- LinkList of Articles in the BOGGLE Series
- LinkList of Articles in the TransitionTamer™ Series
- LinkList of Articles in the TaskMaster™ Series
Related Articles ’round the ‘net – with tips that may or may not work for YOU
(the ones that best speak to ME are in BOLD)
- Learning Time Management Skills (diy-home-tips.com)
- Start Small: Why Tinkerers Get Things Done (99u.com)
- On time management (motivatingdaily.com)
- Time Management For Retirees (diy-home-tips.com)
- Helpful Tips About Time Management That Simple To Follow (besttipsbusinessprocesstools.wordpress.com)
- 10 Things That Sabotage Your Work Day Focus If You Allow It (smallbiztrends.com)
- Time Management (mcrowth1.wordpress.com)
BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen site, 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.