How to Prioritize the Most Important Task

Prioritizing

 

Prioritizing. It’s one of the hardest aspects of time management.  You set aside time to get important work done, and now what to do?  Here are 5 ways of determining what to do first when you are ready to get to work.

 

One thing

If you could choose just one thing that makes the biggest difference in your day at home or work, what would that be? That’s the essence of prioritizing and knowing the one thing that you can do each day. On the opposite hand, what is the one thing that if you did NOT do it, that your day would go awry?  Either perspective helps you prioritize what to choose that is the most important part of your work.

 

Getting Things Done (GTD) lists

GTD starts with a mind sweep and writing everything down. You divide the list into current projects and someday/maybe projects.  Then your list is grouped by the places you work will be accomplished. That can be at the computer, at a meeting, anywhere and errands.  Finally you add the single next step to each of these actions.  GTD helps you prioritize by knowing where you do your work and knowing the one next step to accomplish that task or project.

 

Mindmapping

For non-linear thinkers, here’s a way to find your priority.  There’s not always a start or end, it’s a context within the work itself.  A mind map helps you write down ideas, link tasks that support that goal and then prioritize. By creating a context of what work needs to be accomplished and knowing the many different directions that are possible, you can focus on where you are in the task and project.

 

The Painted Picture

Getting things done is not the same as getting the right things done. To do this, Brian Scudamore  uses his “Painted Picture” strategy.  Keep the big picture in mind with the top third of your capture tool, then below add quadrants for quarterly, monthly and weekly.  Select just 3 tactics that align with this goal and your projects are outlined for completion.

 

Choose the one thing you never get started

Intuitively you know what to do and you never get to it. That’s the priority for you.  It’s when you have procrastinated and let tasks lapse, you know it’s time to get started.

 

How to accomplish prioritizing also depends on setting up your weekly routines to follow through.   Set up a weekly planning time to establish a big picture view that allows you to establish priorities.  That weekly planning time also gives you the opportunity to match your weekly tactics with your calendar.

 

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How to End your Work Day Productively

How to end your work day

 

It’s well past 6 pm and your family is waiting for you. Your paper and digital inboxes are still overflowing.  You don’t feel like you have accomplished your goals for the day.  It’s time to close down and rejuvenate for the next day. Take the last 30 minutes of your day to successfully end your work day.

 

End your day with a mind sweep

Be true to your productivity plan with a mind sweep at the end of the day. Much information has come in so capture it.  By keeping it in a trust spot like your paper or digital tool, you know you can come back to it with a fresh perspective, place it in a time line, and work with others.  With the fatigue of the end of the day, giving ideas a holding spot help you.

 

End your day with your Most Important Tasks

Jump start and front load tomorrow with your 3 Most Important Tasks.  It’s a head start to the work of tomorrow.  Not sure what the 3 MITs for tomorrow are you? Write down where you are leaving off in a project you worked on today.

 

End your work day with by freshening up your environment

Freshen up your desk, computer and work space at the end of the day. Not unlike an artist, even though you are returning to this spot tomorrow to continue, a cleared desk brings you a blank canvas.  It’s sort of what our parents always reminded us, to pick up and put away at the end of the day.  If doubt this, try it for a week. It’s like making your bed.

 

Creative ways to end your day

  • Set an alarm with a special sound or music to herald the end of the work day.
  • End your day an hour earlier to pack your work into a smaller time frame. Your work expands to fit the time you give it. Give your work less time and give yourself more time.
  • Travel by public transportation and give yourself a deadline to get on that bus or train.
  • Give yourself a reward as you return home. Listen to an audio book, podcast or music you love.

 

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How to Start your Work Day

How to start your work day

 

It’s 9 am and time to get to work!  You grab your planner, you sit at your computer and you start your work.  Not quite!  Not surprisingly it often takes a warm up of sorts to get started. A warm up prepares you to do the work you intend.  It’s not only motivation. It’s also at times physical and cognitive acts that prepare us to do our best work.  What does that look like to warm up?  Here’s some possibilities of how to start your work day.

 

Self care start to your day

With so many possibilities, perhaps a self care warm up will suit your need to clear your mind and focus on work.  There’s several ways the self care focus appears to us.  Many of my clients start their days with meditation.   Spending time in meditation offers the benefits of lowered stress, greater focus and clarity.  Another choice is a spiritual start to your day, including a bible reading or prayer time. Getting in touch with God helps us align our thoughts with our spirituality.  A physical self care warm up incudes drinking a glass of water, taking any medications, exercising, and eating protein.  Your self care warm up might be also called your routine for starting your day.

 

List making start to your day

As part of the strategy of Getting Things Done (GTD), there’s always a mind sweep.  It’s how we clear our thoughts and capture them.  A list is a great way to start your day and clear your mind to prepare to start real work.  Simply writing down all your thoughts in a capture tool either paper or digital helps give you clarity.

Now what about all those thoughts and ideas?  This is when we must prioritize.  We can’t and should not do everything on the list.  It’s our priorities that rise to the top for our work.  I call these Most Important Tasks (MITs).  If you want to start your work quickly the next day, write out your MITs at the close of your work day in preparation for the next day’s work.

 

Verbal processing to start your day

Team up with a partner for a short conversation to start your day.  Many of us are verbal processors, meaning that in talking through a thought we can become clear on next steps.  It’s also a great tool to remind us where we are, what our thoughts are, and our current task.    A short team meeting can help you start your work day with priorities.

 

Creative ways to start your day

In my conversations with clients, here’s a list of ways they have decided to start their work day.

  • Start your day by drawing or writing on a white board.  A mind map, a picture or an icon can be the visual start for your work day.  Use this big space to be creative and connect your thoughts.
  • A quick morning shower where ideas percolate.  Capture your ideas with a waterproof voice recorder.
  • Don’t hold back. Start. Then assess after the first hour what you have accomplished from yesterday’s list.
  • Do the babiest of baby steps to a big goal.  Chunk your list into manageable steps over the time of a week.
  • Create a metric. Determine a measure of what you want to accomplish in a certain amount of time.

 

Once you know how to start your work day, create a daily routine that empowers this.  Write it down, share it with your colleagues, and tweak it as you work.

 

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ADHD Guide to Happier Holidays

adhdholidayguide adhd

 

Time is not your friend during the holidays. There’s so much more to do. If you have ADHD, time challenges are part of what you face during the year.  Here’s a simple guide to a happier holiday for you and your family.

 

Keep self care at the top of your list

Holidays are the season of lists, with lists having lists.  Top off your list with holiday self care. This is the time to keep your exercise, medication, meditation and sleep schedules without disruption.  Keeping these routines on track will help you stay energized and positive.

 

Set your budget early and keep on track

Finances are a major part of all holidays. There’s gifts to buy, food to purchase and always last minute unplanned expenses.  Set up your budget early, with specific names and dollar amounts. Leave a little wiggle room for last minute purchases.  There’s apps for that too! Spendee, Mint and EveryDollar help you track your funds. Even before you set out to shop, open up all the Amazon boxes and make a list of all the gifts you purchased throughout the year. The power of a small, thoughtful, handmade gift can make a big impact if your funds are small. A donation to a meaningful charity in the family’s name shows thoughtfulness.  Simple gifts are profound and from the heart.

 

Meet to know what’s most meaningful

By far the most important and valued time of the holiday season is time spent together.  Get your family calendar together in early November.  Invitations, school plays, church gatherings and other celebrations will start soon! With your family, decide what’s most important and meaningful to each family member. Be ready to prioritize and then capture on your calendar these dates early.  When double bookings arise, take a few minutes to send a gracious thank you and proceed as planned.

 

Team work makes holidays easier

Make a list of what you have to do this holiday season. Now write a name next to the responsibilities where another person, team or tech can do this work.  Delegating is the way to have extra time to get the most complete. Create partnerships for work that can be done by more than one person. A partnership means that there will be laughing and fun, not just work to get done.  Look for community members to be a part of your team too, like teens who babysit, wrap or add extra hands when needed.  There’s lots of ways to add help in the holiday season.

 

Holiday are not all perfection all the time.  Take time this holiday season to find ways to make your holiday happier, and not perfect. The most imperfect holiday is often the most memorable.

 

Choosing Time Management Tools

Time management tools

 

Say the words time management and we say how can be manage time?  We can’t really. What we can do is track how we use time, understand how long a tasks takes, and prioritize what we spend out time on.   Time management tools help us track and record how we spent our time.   By tracking and recording our tasks and how much time each takes, we can be more productive about how we use our time.  These basic, elementary tools also empower us to be more productive.

 

Capture tools: planner and task list

A planner is where you place dates and appointments. It’s also where you can create a plan for your work by breaking tasks and projects into smaller units. Planners come in a variety of formats so choose what works for you.

 

A task list is where you record all the details. It’s the spot for all ideas, whether actionable or not.  The task list evolves into the 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs). Those the tasks that are assigned by date and recorded on your panner. These capture tools can include a simple notebook to the online tool Trello.

 

Both capture tools are essential for productivity. Knowing the high priority tasks, choosing which to schedule when, then you can use your planner.  Your planner is your every day map for getting stuff done.

Focus tools

These tools help you stay on track with your plan and ensure productivity.

 

A timer can help you start, finish and stay on task. Setting a timer helps make the shift into action.  It’s set to help you with the duration of the task. Using the Pomodoro technique, you can break up your work into chunks too.

 

An analog clock can help you gauge the beginning of a task.  Placing an analog clock where you can see time elapsing is beneficial in that you can assess how much time has passed and when to move onto the next step.

 

There are many apps that create more awareness about your own productivity.  RescueTime is a a digital tool to assess where you have spent your time.  This time management software helps you stay on track knowing that your time is being assessed. TimeDoctor give you tools for analysis for you and your team.  Trello helps you set up an online tracking tool.  Check out of one these on one of your devices.  Use these focus tools together to help you keep to your plan.

 

Time management concepts

Time management concepts provide the perspective of how to use your tools.

 

The Power of One highlights how important a single capture tool can be for you.  Capture your tasks and assigments in one place. It’s easier to know what you have to do and when you are doing this tasks.

 

Chunk your  work into segments that work for you. If you are someone who likes long time periods to work, create theme days to do this work. If you work for an hour at a time, break your work into these units.  Chunking is a powerful way to be sure you are accomplishing and not procrastinating.

 

 

Now you have the tools. It’s time to put them to use!  Be sure to have your planner, task list, clock and timer at your side at all times.  Put them to work today as you start your work day.

 

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4 Simple Productivity Concepts to Organize Your Work and Life

4 simple productivity tips

 

Take a big step back to think about your productivity.  Are there foundations that you can build on to organize your work and life to be more productive? There are! Think about concepts that can be overarching your work and life. Here are 4 simple productivity tips that can be the base of your producitivity strategies. These are to pause, to consolidate, to chunk, and to create a process. In addition, here are ways to use these strategies in your home and office.

Pause

a temporary stop in action or speech.
“she dropped me outside during a brief pause in the rain”
synonyms: stopcessationbreakhaltinterruptionchecklullrespitebreathing space, discontinuation, hiatusgapinterludeMore

 

It’s so easy to jump right  in and start organizing and getting stuff done. The power of a pause can make your work more efficient and focused. Inserting a pause gives you time to plan and prepare for the outcome. You can look at what you are working on and prepare sequentially for the outcome you want.  With a pause, you can define what is your end goal before you leap ahead.  Giving yourself a pause is a way to ensure your work is your best effort leading to the outcome you have in mind.

  • Use mindfulness throughout the day to stay in the moment as you work.
  • Include meditation or yoga as the first routine in your day.
  • If you are feeling aggitated or anxious, take a few deep breaths or take a walk.

 

Consolidate

combine (a number of things) into a single more effective or coherent whole.
“all manufacturing activities have been consolidated in new premises”
synonyms: combineunitemergeintegrateamalgamatefusesynthesize, bring together, unify

“consolidate the results into an action plan”

 

When you consolidate, you are getting all the items, tasks or thoughts in one place.  If things are too spread, you are not sure what you have, your thoughts are jumbled and your tasks might be in listed in many different spots.  The Power of One is when you only have one place to look, one list to review or one thought that summarizes your results.

  • Write all your ideas and tasks in a single notebook.
  • Gather all your supplies and store these at a single point of use.
  • Add all your contacts to a single database, CRM or contact list.

 

Chunk

divide (something) into chunks.
“chunk four pounds of pears”
method of presenting information which splits concepts into small pieces or “chunks” of information to make reading and understanding faster and easier. 

 

To chunk, or chunking, is a strategy to break a big project into smaller, do-able units.  When you are feeling overwhelmed by a project, create a plan that breaks it into smaller chunks that are manageable. Chunking also creates a unit for context.  By grouping together information into ideally sized pieces, these can be used effectively to produce the outcome you want.  Time chunking, according to Productivityist Mike Vardy, allows for purposeful use of your days.

  • Use a project management tool like Trello to establish chunks.
  • Set up your day with a chunk of time set aside for a daily routine.
  • Create your task list with just the one next step, the one next chunk.

 

Create a process

a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.
“military operations could jeopardize the peace process”
synonyms: procedureoperationactionactivityexerciseaffairbusinessjobtaskundertaking

One of my biggest pet peeves is “re-creating the wheel”, that being when I am doing the same things over and over.  There might be a better way to do something, however first I want to establish one way to do that thing with the outcome that I want.  Yes, it is highly linear and specific in that it is step by step. At times we need to know what to do to achieve the end result we want repeatedly. That’s where a process makes all the difference.  Your process should be a tried and true method.  Here’s what basic processes come into play.

  • Set up a process for getting laundry complete and dinner on the table at home
  • What is the process for when you have a new client?
  • Use a bill paying process that includes setting up online bill paying.
  • Create a paper process for your home or work.

 

This is big picture stuff! One of these is most likely already a part of your productivity toolbox. Think about how one of these as a single concept can make a difference in your work and responsibilities. All 4 concepts help you use your time productively as well as efficiently.  Assess which tip is already working for you and that could be enhanced, as well as which tip you would like to try out.  If you are already working hard, it’s time to assess and work smarter.

 

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Back to School and Back to Homework for your ADHD Student

 

Back to school and back to school for ADHD student

 

It’s the first week of school and you and your student are not ready to buckle down for homework.  With less structure and more free time, homework is an unhappy addition to going to school all day.  The first week of school is an important time for year-long homework success.  It’s time to set up a successful homework time and station for your ADHD student.  Here’s how to make homework time work for you both.

 

What most ADHD students need

ADHD students struggle with organizing and planning, getting started and getting finished, taking more time to complete work, and turning in homework.  As you plan for homework time, be sure these needs are met during homework time.

 

What works and what doesn’t

Last year’s homework successes and struggles are a great starting point to jump-start this year.  Coach your kids about what works for them, rather than tell them how.

Here’s topics to discuss

  • Are there organizing tools will they use for homework?
  • What are the possible organizing tools will they use for papers?
  • Where is a positive location and set up and location for their focus?
  • What are the times that  work best to complete their work?

While coaching, you can help by asking positive, engaging questions to set up structure for your student. Keep it simple with how to set up for success.

Organizing tools for homework can include a planner, post it notes, or a dry erase board.  For paper, your student can use an accordion file, pocket folders or binder with slash pockets.  Best locations for homework are the dining room and a study.  It’s easiest to get to work after a short break and a snack.

 

Distractions, interruptions and more

Here’s a variety of solutions for distractions, interruptions or trouble getting started.

  • Have a homework helper each afternoon to partner with your child.
  • Arrange study times with other kids, swapping spaces and moms to help with homework.
  • Use a timer to get your student started.
  • If you are away and your student is at home working, identify your student’s independent work  before you get home.

Real distraction, such as Instagram, texts and online browsing can be difficult to monitor. Internet blockers can help you student stay on track.

 

The real outcome is support. As you and your student head back to school and back to homework, you will both need support to feel successful about homework each day.  Reach out to local support with ADHD specialists, therapists, coaches and educators to make each afternoon a positive experience. Be sure to have an expansive team to support you both!

 

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ADHD and Tracking Tasks

 

ADHD and tasks

Is your mind is swirling with ideas? Are there so many projects you would like to do, but they are all running together? Perhaps there are also lots of small but very important unrelated tasks, which never seem to be at the top of your list. You’re not sure what to do or where to keep your tasks and ideas.  You need a task list or tracking tool to capture this.

According to ADDitude Magazine, “personal productivity is not a matter of coming up with ideas for what to do. The problem lies with poor sense of time and inability to gauge how long it will take to complete a given task. Then there’s trouble with setting priorities, and tendency to get distracted and forget what we were trying to do.”  If you are ADHD and struggle with getting tasks done, you may need some strategies that help you prioritize and focus. Here is a list of some ideas that can help you get more done in your week.

 

Capture your tasks and ideas

  • Be sure to list all your tasks in one place. This can be on paper or in technology.  The list starts with just a brain dump, getting everything out of your head.  This step makes the biggest difference in clarity!
  • Paper options are a post it notes, simple notebook or TUL notebook.  Date the top of each page as a reference for yourself later.
  • There’s tech tools too! Favorites include Evernote and Trello. Not only can you capture your ideas and tasks, you can track your progress with each.
  • Choose just 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) for you complete.  Prioritizing these 3 MITs can be difficult. However, any 3 completed are 3 less tasks to do.

Tips and tasks

  • Set a timer to get started on your tasks.  Initiation, that is just getting started, can be your biggest challenge.
  • Give yourself ample time to complete a task. If you think it will take 10 minutes, give yourself 30 minutes. It may take up to 3 times longer for completion.  Give yourself some “warm up” time too.  That is about 10 minutes to get oriented. Prioritize and get into the mindset of the work at hand.
  • Find someone to assist  you with verbal processing.  Verbal processing is talking the ideas that are swirling in your head.  “Talking”  through the work is a processing tools for you. It helps you be aware of what is most important and cull out the first action step.
  • Get started with a body double. Ths is a person who is with you, virtually or in person, to just be in the moment with you. The person is just there, not giving you advice or being an expert, just in the space with you.

Set a great foundation

  • Know how important self care is and practice it. We all work much better with a good night’s sleep and good lean protein in our diet. Be sure you are at your best to get your best work done.
  • Track your tasks either each evening before you head out, each morning before you start off and weekly with a weekly planning time.

What’s most important is to choose a tool that will work for you!  If it’s paper or digital, choose what’s easier to use reguarly.

 

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Empowering Creative Solutions for ADHD Challenges

empowering creative solutions for ADHD

 

My clients with ADHD are brilliant and creative.  They have often found innovative solutions to some of their ADHD challenges such as being on time, managing paperwork, or eliminating tedious, boring tasks.

 

Getting to work on time

Instead of leaving late each day and driving herself, my client wanted to be eco-friendly and get to work on time.  Since she lives close to a Metro stop, she decided to ride the bus to work daily to get to work. Not only is she always on time, she has contributed to the greater good.

 

Getting dinner done

According to my client, variety is overrated for dinner! She choose to have a 2 week set of dinners that she could prepare from pantry staples each evening.  A simple meal plan made for happy family dinners.

 

Getting homework done

After school homework time can be a challenge for families.  My creative client partners with 2 other families where they rotate homework time for their daughters.  The girls rotate between homes to complete homework each afternoon. The parent in that home is available to answer questions, check online for assignments and check the girls’ planners.

 

Getting ready each morning

Make your morning easy by creating a “uniform” dress for work.  The uniform for my client is a dress.  Rather than matching tops and pants, she wears a dress every day to make it easy to get ready for work.  Peter Shankman, podcaster of Faster than Normal, wears black shirts and jeans each day. Simplify your dress to make it easy to get ready each day.

 

Keeping one simple task list

Evernote or a simple notebook are  your solution to having your list in one place.  Decide if you are going digital or paper, then keep all your tasks on one list. Having one list for my clients means that you can find all your information easily.

Working with a partner

Organizing and productivity can be isolating.  My client knew that she worked better if someone is in the same space working on a project too.  She invited her assistant in to work alongside her each day for an hour at a time to get her project completed.  She was so surprised to learn this strategy, known as body doubling, could make her work more productively.  It works!

 

What are some of the creative ways you have made a difference and made it easy to get stuff done?

 

 

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ADHD and Team Support

Creating an ADHD support team

 

As an organizing coach, I’ve noticed an important element for my clients.  My clients need a “boost”to get tasks done, such as an extra set of hands.  They need Vitamin C, called that by Edward Hallowell, the C representing connection.  At times my clients stumble when they don’t know a skill or technology gets too complicated. At times they need to verbally process information, create a plan or help getting started.  All of these pieces add up to adding an element called support.

 

What do you mean by support?

Support can appear like many different things. It can be physical support with extra help to accomplish something. Think of it as someone on the end of the furniture you are moving.  Support can also mean being body double, where someone is in a space alongside you, doing a parallel activity or sitting quietly.  Support can mean adding more players to your team, like a therapist, house cleaner, or administrative assistant.  When working together, we process what kind of team members can support you best.

 

Why do brain based conditions like ADHD especially need support?

All of us need support.  Brain based conditions especially need support with planning and executing. Executive function is weak in the ADHD brain.  Time management and paper management need boosting with the ADHD brain.  With ADHD, there are many projects with many open items.  Often an assistant prioritizes these projects. For these reasons, having a team in place can amplify what you want to accomplish.

 

Emotional support is important.  An organizer coach, ADHD coach, or therapist can play a role in emotional support. Emotions are intense and can affect every day living.  Normalizing these emotions and processing emotions are part of working as a team.

Are you reluctant to ask for support?

Without a doubt, many of us have had experiences that have left us vulnerable to ask for support. It might have been unintentional however has left us feeling that we can’t ask for help.  There’s no shame in being vulnerable, as noted by Brene Brown. It’s in that moment we can benefit the most from creating our best team.

 

What are some ways to find support?

  • Find a clutter buddy or paper partner to help you declutter. Your partner tethers you to the task by keeping you in the space you are working in. Having a partner means you are committing to what you intend to accomplish.  A partner is there when you are stuck with a decision.
  • Ask a friend to be a body double. That’s a person who works in the same space you are working, however on their own task or project. By virtue of that person being in the space, you’re benefitting from energy and connection.
  • Virtual support is available online for you.  CHADD offers classes for yourself, for you as a parents, for teachers and others.  You can volunteer and support others as well.
  • Look for an ADHD therapist, Organizer Coach or ADHD coach specifically trained for working with brain based conditions.
  • Support can look like many different things. It can be your housecleaner, your nanny, or your baby sitter. It can also look like your bible study group at church or your pilates class. Look around and see who is available for you.

I find support in creating a team for my work and home. I walk with a partner, go to pilates weekly, have a helper at home and collaborate with my colleagues. Not only is teamwork and support help me run my business, it makes my work and life more fun!

 

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