This is the second productivity related episode I have done. The last episode Stuck in a Moment I started with Mind-mapping and brain dumping. This episode is all about time-blocking, how to do it, or how not to do it. Check it out.
Episode 22: Time
**Before I start the ‘episode’ I want to tell you how funny the universe can be. Last night maybe 10 minutes after I finished writing/editing this episode I was looking through apps and what did I find but one I hadn’t seen before. All the complaining about not being able to find an app that I liked and did what I needed it to do and here is one (at least on first glance). Boosted is the name of the app and no I don’t have any affiliations with the ap but maybe I should look into that...hmmm anyway. It;s pretty cool so far in that I have only spent 15 minutes on it. I plan to use it this week to help with my goals and time blocking. I will let you know how it goes. In the meantime let’s get to the episode.**
Growing up Pink Floyd was my favorite band and the first concert I went to. My Parents took me to the Division Bell concert for my 14th birthday. Time, Wish You Were Here, and Another Brick in the Wall were some of my favorites. But writing this episode and looking for a song title Time was the obvious choice. I usually try to make sure that when I pick a title (yes, if you haven’t noticed all of my solo episodes are song titles) that the lyrics actually mean something that when I read it I feel a connection to what I want to talk about. Time in particular this lyric:
“Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines.”
Uhm YES! This is exactly why this song is the perfect title. Even in these strange COVID days, time is slipping away and sometimes I feel even busier and shorter of time then pre COVID. Just when I was getting things under control? OMG!. Take time blindness for example, you know that pesky Executive function ‘malfunction’ that tells us it will only take 20 minutes to get home when in reality it’s rush hour and will take 40min. Or that task you think will take 3 days takes a week and you have to explain to your boss why you suck at gauging how long things will take to complete. Now at home, I sit and try to work on one thing and make plans for the day and they never seem to work out. Something is always coming up and changing my plans. At the end of the day, the week, the year I have lost time somehow. This verse kind of relays exactly that:
“So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.”
That is absolutely how it feels, running to keep up only to realize you are being chased. All of the things have to get done but it feels like there is never enough time to get all of the things done. This is where boundaries come in, a very wise woman who I consider a friend and mentor is teaching me about many things and Boundaries is one of them. I am learning that if I am going to get “All of the Things” done I need boundaries around my time. I have to know and be very set with what my priorities are, communicate what is ok and not ok, consider how it might impact my family, and really what is going to make me feel good. When I was working on Mind Mapping or my revised version of it Time Blocking was the natural next step. So many people with and without executive function issues swear by it. I did what I normally do and spent 5mintues…..ok an hour or maybe 2 looking up how to time block. I looked at different websites that are supposed to make it easier and tried a few apps. I didn’t like them it was tedious and took too long to set up or maybe I was just being super impatient that might be a possibility. Either way I went back to my Bullet journal like a curmudgedy old lady stuck in her ways. Fine maybe I am a little, I did just turn 40 and COVID is making me a little crazy. I was determined so I scoured Pinterest for layouts and found one that seemed to be exactly what I needed. Simple to put together and I drew it all out. Then I sat there….and sat there…Think, think, thinking like Winnie the Pooh only without the honey pot.
What are my priorities? How do I set time for them when I don’t know how long they will take? I started taking stock of my days. At this point in COVID we have kind of settled into a sort of routine. In the morning it’s breakfast, work, lunch try to get the kids outside for a bike ride or hide n seek just something to get them out, back to work, dinner, a little more work, play with the kids, laundry, dishes, get kids ready for bed, work on my podcast, sleep. The days go by so quickly anymore and honestly I don’t always know what day or month it is. All of the transitions of the day make concentrating on tasks for work really hard. You know all of the starting and stopping for a snack, he hit me, she hit me, what was that?, mommy play with me (this one kills me the most about COVID bc I want to play with them all day but I can’t). All of the transitions have made working from home very hard. A lot of what I do requires me to have blocks of uninterrupted time so I can focus on what I am doing otherwise it could mean the difference between can we afford a new dance floor or can it wait so we can teach more courses. It is totally not the kids fault. They just want to spend time with us because they are bored, they don’t have anyone to play with, they haven’t played with friends in months and it’s hard. However, I still have monthly reports to get done and meetings to attend so does my husband. It is probably taking me at least 1.5 times longer to do some of the things I have to do because I get lost. I get up then sit back down and don’t know where I left off, where did I save that file, did I save that file, what did I name the file, where are my notes, did I even take notes I thought I did. Then, there are all of the things I have done multiple times because I can’t remember if I did them or not so I do them again just in case. Sound familiar? If not then are you sure you even have ADHD?
After a week of trying to figure out how long it takes to do things, I think I am ready to give this time blocking a try. I start with the easy one my family. I block off breakfast time, lunch/play time, and dinner-bedtime. Ok this is easy what’s next..oh work right. No worries, I just say all the time during the day between breakfast and lunch then lunch and dinner is for work. That leaves me with cleaning, laundry, yoga, podcast, graphic design courses, learning to video edit, and anything else I want to do. WOW. That’s a lot. I have about 2.5 hours left of my day because the other thing I blocked off is sleep. We all know how important sleep is to the ADHD brain right? If not, I might have an episode about sleep in the works. Anyway, my problem now is I need to do all of these things so how do I fit them into 2.5 hours a day? This is the dilemma I am currently having. Competing priorities. I decide that until I can catch up on the podcast stuff, I will wait to do the others. Occasionally I can get some time throughout the day to work on other things but I never know when.
For the most part I was feeling pretty good. I color coded my blocks because well colors obviously and you need to be able to differentiate your priorities. Day 1 goes pretty smooth, I was able to stick to my blocks pretty well. Then Day 2 happened and it rained and the kids were extra bored and everything went to shit. Day 3 was better then the rest of the week went to shit after that. I couldn’t keep my boundaries and the blocks didn’t work. I thought ok I am going to try this for a month and if I can’t figure out a way to make this work by then it’s just not going to work…at least not for me and not during COVID. The next week was pretty much the same. I was able to keep with it for a couple of days and the rest were crap. The third week I tried to take a slightly more loose version of the time blocking by instead of literally coloring in each slot essentially cementing my plan I outlined the blocks so I could more easily make changes. Yeah that didn’t work either. Great, now what this is just going to be yet another productivity tool I can’t make work for me. I had asked for help and someone told me I should try and mix the way I was doing my journal before with the Time Blocking, do one day at a time instead of the whole week, and be more forgiving if I can’t make it work one day. Another tip was to try using sticky notes or even a dry erase board. Deep breath, ok, let’s try this again give it another couple of weeks and see how it goes. That was Friday so I am going to give it another go this week and I will update you on how successful I am or am not. I am going to try and do just one day at a time instead of the whole week. I am going to try and adjust it to fit my life instead of trying to continuously force myself to fit into the format that is obviously not working. Don’t get me wrong the theory behind it is great and like I said tons of people swear by it. Timeblocking can give you more time to do deep dive working, help you stay organized and focused on what’s important to you. Unfortunately for me, there are too many variables changing day to day in my house right now. Now, when the world gets its act together and things get back to whatever our new normal will be after this I may be able to give it another go the traditional way.
Ultimately, I think the point of productivity tips/tools is not for it to be the end all be all. They are just tips/tools, they aren’t written in stone they are flexible, adaptable, and changeable. I think that is where many of us (or at least me) get frustrated and give up. We (I) try to follow the tips or do the tool exactly like someone else all the while forgetting that it doesn’t have to be followed to the letter. I knew that already but time after time I forget and do the same thing over and over. I try a new tool or follow a tip and take it at face value instead of trying to use my creativity to make it work for me instead of against me. I already do this with my bullet journal and the Pomodoro method. Anyway, all I am trying to say is that just because a productivity tool doesn’t work the first time that doesn’t mean that you can’t make adjustments to it that will make it work for you and your life. I know this is the same thing we have to do with everything trial and error right? We have trial and error finding the right doctor, trial and error finding the right medication or holistic way to manage symptoms, now we have to do trial and error just to be more productive? It is so exhausting just thinking about it. It’s hard I know it is but we keep going and keep trying new things. Just think of it this way if it was easy would you try as many new things? Would you learn as much about yourself? Probably not. Putting different tools to use and trying new things to help supplement for the executive functions we lack helps us learn more about how our brains work. The trial and error helps us discover new possibilities. If it doesn’t work one way how can you make it work? Look at it like a challenge or a puzzle. That is how I am approaching this I am taking the whole premise of time blocking and I am going to tear it apart lay the pieces out and merge it with the way I am currently scheduling to see if I can find a solution.