Everyone can have trouble with organization and time management today – there is so much to juggle! But, for women who are struggling with adult ADD or with Executive Function Disorder (EFD), these skills that are required for organization can be even harder! I’ve included a few tips for organization below:
The first two tips I provide may seem counterintuitive:
Exercise. While exercising takes time and seems like it wouldn’t help you manage your time, the opposite is often true. Exercise allows your brain to slow down and gives you the ability to think more clearly throughout the rest of the day. This, in turn, means that the time you spend on other tasks is more focused and productive.
Sleep. Sleep is essential to resting your brain and giving you the energy necessary to make decisions that require overcoming impulsivity, recognizing priorities, and avoiding useless tasks. While sleeping less might mean you have more hours in the day, it will also mean that you utilize those hours in significantly less productive ways.
I’ve sourced the next three tips from Charles Duhigg’s book entitled Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. Of course, everyone is reading and writing about productivity today in a world that doesn’t sleep, and perhaps Duhigg’s book is an oversimplification of our daily race against the clock. However, there are a few key concepts that Duhigg presents that have helped me gain a few more productive hours in my day. I’ve shared them with you below.
Goal Setting. We all have long-term goals that we want to accomplish – we want to write a novel, we want to lose twenty pounds, we want to start our own business, or we want to pursue a hobby. If, in the morning we woke up and wrote a to-do list with the words “write a novel,” we would never get anything done. Therefore, Duhigg suggests creating a smarter to-do list that will ultimately get things done faster and better.
The top of your to-do list should contain your “stretch” goal. This is your long-term goal like running the marathon. Below your stretch goal you should place your “SMART” goal for the day. SMART stands for:
Specific: a specific small goal
Measure: can I measure whether I have done it?
Achievable: is it possible to achieve?
Realistic: can this be done in the timetable I am suggesting?
Timetable: when am I going to do this? In the morning? Afternoon? Evening?
That means that underneath your stretch goal, you might put several smaller SMART goals that will slowly get you toward your goal. And it also means that when distractions arise, you can look back at your stretch goal and decide whether they are worth addressing. If during your timetable of getting your SMART goals done, you are distracted by something that does not pertain to your stretch goal, ignore it! Duhigg says, “We all know it’s so easy to get lost in the weeds. You can start working on something, and then in retrospect you think ‘Why did I spend all that time getting that thing done? It doesn’t get me any closer to the thing I care about.’”
Creativity. Part of being productive is knowing what to do with all the ideas floating around your head and world. Today, those who are productive in the field of creativity are “innovation brokers,” or those who bring together a bunch of old ideas in new ways. Rather than reinventing one old idea, they are taking ideas from different fields and bringing them together in one place.
Duhigg explains, “The secret to being more productive is understanding how to manage your brain better. You can choose to activate your self-motivation. You can choose to direct your focus. You don’t have to react. You can be in control. And when you are, you get more done with less stress, less time and less waste.”
Write it Down. Teach it. One of the ways that we can ensure that how we do spend our time is productive is to hold onto the knowledge and skills we have gained – to make it stick. Research shows that writing by hand helps us pay more attention to information; so write your to-do lists by hand. Ultimately, you’ll get more done.
And, once you’ve learned a skill, teach a friend. This isn’t so that your friend can learn the information, but really so that you can continue to educate yourself. After all, medical education is based on this model: “See one. Do one. Teach one.” The teaching isn’t for the next student, but for the person who is doing the teaching to cement that learning.
Duhigg concludes his introduction with words of inspiration: “Productivity isn’t about working more or sweating harder. It’s not simply a product of spending longer hours at your desk or making bigger sacrifices.
Rather, productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways. The way we choose to see ourselves and frame daily decisions; the stories we tell ourselves, and the easy goals we ignore; the sense of community we build among teammates; the creative cultures we establish as leaders: These are the things that separate the merely busy from the genuinely productive.”