Have ADHD? Stay On Track Using Time Blocking With Greater Ease

I have three questions for you today.

Do you ever look at your to-do list and wonder how to get it all done?

How often do you tell yourself you need “just a little more organization and planning” so you can finally stay on top of things?

Have you ever thrown your hands in the air in frustration, convinced it’s all too much?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, first of all, you’re in good company. 

Second of all, you’re going to love episode 94 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast.

This week is part two of our time budget series, and it’s all about getting granular. 

It’s time to dig into the specifics of your daily schedule to discover:

How we can make the most of the time we have.

Whether or not the daily tasks on our plate are simply too much for one human.

What can we do when it’s procrastination, perfectionism, and indecision that keep us stuck.

If you’re ready to reclaim your time and finally check those important items off your list, tune into episode 94 now.

You can listen to the episode above, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here: 

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • How we can make the most of the time we have.
  • Whether or not the daily tasks on our plate are too much for one human.
  • What can we do when procrastination, perfectionism, and indecision keep us stuck.

Links From The Podcast

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Episode #94: Have ADHD? Stay On Track Using Time Blocking With Greater Ease (Transcript)

Hello everybody. Welcome to episode 94 of the podcast. This is part two of our two-part series all about time and budgeting your time. So if you have not yet listened to episode 93, I do recommend making checking out that episode as well. You can listen to them in either order, but when you implement the steps, you will want to start with episode 93.

Part One Recap

So as a quick recap, last episode we talked about the concept of budgeting your time in the same way that we think about budgeting our money. We decided intentionally how we want to spend the time that we have in the different areas of our life. How much time do we want to budget to work, and sleep, and self-care, and time with friends, family time, hobbies, etc.

And I gave you the homework of not only creating the budget but also doing a time audit. I asked you to track your week in order to gather the actual data. Hopefully, you took some time to do this over the past week so you now have a better idea of where your time is going. 

Because once you have that data, then it is time to compare and discuss. How does your actual use of time align with the budget you created? Is it pretty close? Is it way off? Did you forget any major components where you want to spend your time but forgot to budget for it? What did you learn over this past week? 

I encourage you to spend some time identifying your takeaways from this experiment. Because now that you know where your time is going on this macro scale – now that you have the actual numbers – you have an opportunity to check-in, assess, and plan more specifically how you want to show up each day, which is what we’re talking about today. 

Getting Granular With Time Budget

So today we are shifting from that overarching macro scale and zooming all the way into the microscale. How can we use a similar approach but pull it into our day-to-day tasks so we know that we are staying within our time budget and using our time in a way that serves us and our long-term goals? 

And in order to do this, we will use a similar approach, but get a little bit more nuanced. Now we want to get clear on when these blocks of budgeted time will happen throughout the days and the weeks ahead. We want to know when your time for your hobbies or self-care or your working hours will happen and how they fit into the weekly schedule. 

For this episode, I am going to focus on just one specific area from our bigger macro scale categories, and I will walk us through the process. Then you can take the concept that we learned today and apply it to the other areas of your life as well. Since we’re zooming into the details, walking you through every area would take hours and that is not within my time budget. So I thought I would focus specifically on work, since – in addition to your sleep hours – this probably one of the largest time investments within your budget.

What Are Your Roles?

So thinking about your job, and if you are a student or a full-time parent, use these same concepts for your situation, what are the main areas of your job description? What are the key components that you need to fulfill in order to get the job done each week? Chances are, you have a list of recurring tasks and responsibilities that make up your job. The first step is getting cleared on what those are.

So if you are a doctor, maybe your list includes meeting with patients, email and correspondence. You probably have administrative tasks like entering notes and filling prescriptions and things like that. Perhaps you have meetings or collaborations with other health professionals in your field or in your clinic. Maybe you have dedicated research time to read up on the latest advances in your field, etc.

If you are a teacher, maybe your list includes teaching your classes, preparing lessons, creating homework assignments or activities, grading those assignments activities, email with teachers, parents, maybe even students depending on what grade you teach, meetings and parent-teacher conferences, etc.

For me, as a coach, I usually have between 17-18 client calls per week plus a couple of consultations with new people, so I budget about 20 hours per week for that. I also budget about 8 hours for my podcasting time between choosing the topic, outlining the concepts, recording and editing, creating the shownotes, creating the post for the website, the visuals, etc.).

In other words, I broke each of those smaller responsibilities down and assigned a time for each of them, so when I added them up, that’s when I get that 8-hour mark. It was not just a random guess, there’s data that backs that up as well. I have time allotted for answering emails and communicating with each of my clients in slack every day. I set aside time for writing my social media posts and my newsletters. And I also save time for new content creation whether that’s a webinar that I’m teaching or a new workbook for my current clients, etc.

You get the idea, right? Think through your main responsibilities on a weekly basis, and list them all out. Then, similar to what we did last week, decide roughly how many hours go toward each category every week. Once you have that information, then it’s time to add up those individual hours and compare it to your macro budget. If in your macro budget you allotted 40 hours per week for work, and when you add up all of the micro tasks within the job, you’re at 45 hours per week, where is the disconnect? What do we need to do to adjust? Do we need to cut something out?

Cut The Excess

As a word of warning, this is often where the first round of overwhelm and stress comes up for my clients. So if you are feeling similar because your brain is thinking things like, “I can’t possibly cut anything. Everything is detrimental. Everything is a fire that I need to put out.” don’t worry. You are right on track. But we want to pause and get really curious here. 

Because if your hours are already past your budgeted mark – if you are at 45 hours and you budgeted 40 hours for work, the next question is: have you incorporated any overflow time or breathing room as we talked about back in episode 83? As we know, stuff is bound to come up. Things happen. Maybe you get a last-minute request from your boss. Or you underestimate how long a project will take. Maybe your child isn’t going to school for one reason or another and so you can’t get as much work done as you thought. If you don’t have that breathing room because you’ve scheduled every single moment of the 40 hours, you’re not setting yourself up for success. Sure, in a perfect world everything goes according to plan. But let’s be honest, how often does that happen?

Now, if your brain is already freaking out because you are over your budget and you’re convinced you can’t possibly cut anything out or trim anything down, I invite you to get a little curious here. 

Ask yourself, is this true? And really sit with that question. Is it true that all of these items are equally important? What is your long-term goal? When you think about your job, what is the most important thing that you’re trying to complete by the end of the quarter or the end of the month? That will help you identify the top priorities of what needs to go at the top of the list and get enough time. What are the urgent but unimportant things here? Often this new stuff like email, which pretends to be important, but nine times out of ten it can wait.

Now, if you are new at your job and you truly don’t know what should be the top priority or what is the number one thing, then ask. Check-in with a mentor or your boss. “Between all of these different things on my plate, what would you say is the number one what’s absolutely needs to get done first?”

Doing this also opens the door for conversations about workload and capacity. From the conversations I have with my clients, as high achievers and high performers, we often have literally too many things to do on our list. There literally aren’t enough hours in the workday. So taking time to pause and question these thoughts can help identify where you are on that scale. And keep this in the back of your mind, because we’re going to return to it at the end of the week. 

Time Blocking Overview

Okay. So we have identified how much time we want to spend to each of the different roles in our position, and now it’s time to map out your week. This is where I really love the strategy of time blocking, which I explored back in some very early podcasts, but I want to give a quick recap since we’re almost a hundred episodes in, and I know that’s a lot to go back and listen through if you are newer to the podcast.

So time blocking is an approach to scheduling out your day where you assign specific blocks of time to the different tasks on your list. Maybe you answer emails between 4 and 5:00 each day. Maybe between the hours of 8:00-9:00 every morning, you read the latest research. It doesn’t have to be a recurring daily thing, either. Maybe on Thursdays from 10 to 12, you create your social media posts for the week. Maybe on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3 to 5 in the afternoon, you meet with new clients or you grade student papers. Essentially, you identify what you are doing during each block of time throughout the week.

Now as I just mentioned, I usually like to start with an overview. So this means I know that from this time to this time I’m working on this type of task. From 3-5 I’m grading. Then I plan out each week specifically. Wit this, I write in my planner the exact task I’ll complete in that block. So if I normally grade from 3 to 5 on Wednesdays, then my schedule for next week might say:

  • From 3 till 4 finish grading student papers for XYZ class
  • From 4 until 5, enter all student grades into the grade book.

So with this approach, you know exactly what you’re doing throughout the week and you know exactly when you will complete it as well.

Now on the surface, this seems super easy. It’s like a puzzle. You have your blocks, and you plug in the different tasks and activities in them. With that being said, we tend to introduce even more drama in the time blocking practice. We tell ourselves we can’t use time blocking because we don’t know how long things are going to take us. 

Plus, we tend to overestimate what we can complete in a day. If you’re anything like me, you probably love the idea of being able to plug in a whole bunch of different tasks neatly into your time blocks, without thinking through realistically how long we will take to complete them. Just because you put it in an hour block, doesn’t mean you can get it done in that one hour block. So we tend to overestimate what we can do each day, and this is especially true for my fellow ADHDers who are time blind.

So if you feel the mind drama coming up in this step of the exercise, first of all, remind yourself that you’re simply gathering data. You are using this week to get an estimate. It’s okay if you’re off in your guesswork. This is why we’re doing it. You are gathering data so you have a better understanding of how long you take to complete the different aspects of your job. That way in the following weeks, you can create a more accurate schedule for yourself. It’s all about iteration and learning.

Get Granular Scheduling Your Time Blocks

Now with that being said, even if your brain is freaking out saying, “I have no idea how long this will take!” The truth is, you probably have a better guess than you think you do. And the secret to getting that more accurate guesstimate is all about getting super granular. You need to break down your big tasks into those small units of time.  

For example, let’s say I want to schedule a time to write my social media content and create the infographics to go with it. If I didn’t break down the steps, I might think to myself, I can probably do that in about 30-45 minutes. But when I really slow down and break apart each of the different steps in this process, I realized that this is not nearly enough time. And by the way, if you’re not hanging out with me over on Instagram, let’s connect. I am @imbusybeingawesome.

So when I break down the steps, I get a more accurate estimate of time. First, I need to think of the topics I want to explore for the five posts. Maybe that takes me 5 minutes. Then I need to write the copy or the words that I put in the Instagram caption for each of those five posts. Maybe I take about 5 minutes per post, so that’s 25 minutes.

But then I need to create the images. I tend to do a couple of different quotes and three different carousel-type infographics. So first I need to find the quotes and make the quote graphics, which is about 15 minutes. Then I need to do the infographic images, which usually takes about 10 minutes each. From there, I need to schedule everything which is about 15 minutes. And when I add all of that up, I’m at about an hour and a half.

Now I know the breaking things down into these tiny steps can seem like a drag. You’re probably thinking to yourself, this takes more time. I don’t have the time to spend to make such a detailed plan. But I’m telling you, one hour of careful planning will save you five hours throughout the week. It really is a powerful thing. And when you are learning to budget the specific requirements of your job, this is going to help you work as effectively as possible throughout the workweek.

All right. You’ve mapped out your week, and now it’s time to test it. It’s time to go through the week and gather your data. How accurate are you? Just as we did last week in terms of tracking your time, you can do the same this week. You can use a piece of paper or use one of the many different tracking apps out there. Gather the data for each area and at the end of the day ask yourself. What worked? What didn’t work? And what did I learn for my scheduling approach next week? Write these notes down so you remember when you schedule the following week ahead. That way you have this information, and you have ave these lessons to help you more accurately create a schedule going forward.

Daily Time Audit

And then finally we get to step three. It’s time to compare. What is your actual data compared to your budgeted time for the week? Once again, your brain will probably have thoughts. And if you underestimated your time, it will probably have many negative thoughts. It will probably think things like: I should have got more done. I need to work faster. This schedule is impossible. There’s never enough time.

Now, if you did match your budget, congratulations! That’s amazing. Lock that in. Now you know what your time budget is. You know where you are spending your time. And as long as it coincides with how you want to budget your time, it’s awesome! 

On the other hand, if you find that you went over budget. If you spent more time in different areas than you originally planned, it’s time to get curious and honest with yourself. When you went over the time, why did it happen? Why did you choose to spend a longer amount of time on this activity or that project? 

Again, when you are starting out on this process, there will be many situations where you genuinely underestimated the time. You thought it would take one time, it turns out that takes another. No problem. This is great to know so you can set yourself up for success going forward. 

Similarly, maybe you did stick with your schedule. You adhered to it closely and stayed focused on your tasks. Nevertheless, there’s simply too much work. It’s more work than one human can do in the allotted amount of time. In this situation, we have a math issue. There are too many hours of work for the time you have allotted to do it. This is where you can ask yourself, who can I talk with about delegation? Is there an area where I might be putting too much focus but it’s not a game-changer for my goals? Am I spending too much time in an area that might not be necessary? If so, what can I do about that?

Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Indecision

On the other hand, there are also situations where this is not the case. While you didn’t get the work done in the time you set, it’s not because of a math issue. In these situations, that’s when you start asking questions like where did procrastination set in this week? Was I dealing with perfectionism in certain areas? Was I stuck in indecision at different times? When it comes to boundaries and protecting my time, am I saying yes to too many things that don’t fit within my time budget?

These are often common culprits when we go over our budget. All of these different forms of distraction are similar to the excess spending we don’t realize happens in our financial budget. It’s like the subscription services you don’t actually use but just keep spending the money. So be on to yourself. 

When are you holding on to a project and tinkering and perfecting to make sure everything is “just right” but you took an extra 2 hours for those details? When are you spinning out in indecision about whether or not you should try this approach or that approach? Or whether you should write a sentence this way or that way in an email? How often did you get a last-minute request or an interruption when there was an opportunity to say no or say, “can we talk about this a little later? I’m finishing something up.” 

When is your time slipping through the cracks here? Because when you uncover these areas, it’s like magic. When you can start cleaning those up, and eliminating those time sucks, you uncover so much more space in your day. It’s like canceling all of those unused subscriptions having a surplus of cash in your account that you’re not used to having. It’s awesome.

So as a quick recap, in order to create your time budget on a microscale, it’s important to look at each of the different areas that we budgeted in the last episode. Today we looked through the lens of work, and you can apply this is the same approach to any of the other areas in your time budget. When you’ve chosen the area you want to budget first, then identify the different responsibilities or tasks within that area. What are the different responsibilities within the job and how many hours do you want to dedicate to each of those sections?

Using time blocking, then decide when you will do those different tasks. Create a general outline for yourself, so when you plan each week specifically, you can assign the individual tasks within those blocks. If you normally prepare your documents on Mondays from 9 until noon, which specific documents will you complete this Monday from 9-12? 

Once you’ve created your schedule, then it’s time to test it. Do the time audit on the microscale. Where were you accurate? Where did you over or underestimate? The areas that are genuine over or underestimations are no problem. Now you have the data to readjust for next time.

Where we really want to get curious are the areas where procrastination, perfectionism, indecision, and time boundaries were the culprits for going over budget. This is where it’s important to get curious and question each situation. How can we work on those different areas so that you’re following through on the tasks when you scheduled yourself to do them? Because once you get that locked in, you can set your week according to that time budget. You can know that you are indeed intentionally spending your time attending to all of these different areas in your life that are important to you. Remember, time is the one thing we can’t get back. It’s a nonrenewable resource. And when we are intentional about how we use our time, it’s so much easier to make the most of it.

And if you do find yourself struggling in these areas. If you notice yourself battling with procrastination, perfectionism, indecision, or saying no, we should absolutely talk. This is one of the things I work on the most with my clients. Creating a schedule and honoring it, even when you don’t want to. Even when you’re worried about things not being perfect. And even when you are stuck in indecision. Regardless of the procrastination obstacle, you learn how to show up and get it done. So if you want to start following through on your time budget and schedule, sign up for a free consultation with me at imbusybeingawesome.com/coaching. We’ll talk about how we can start making the most out of your time.

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