The Keys to Time Management with ADHD/ADD (Part 3) “Calendars”

Thank you for coming back for more Keys to Time Management with ADHD/ADD!

Calendar management is the other important component of time management where many of us struggle.  Calendar management itself is also not a single skill, but a set of skills that need to come together to be effective.  First, we need to pick or create a calendar, we need to know where it is and have access to it when we need it, we need to put things on our calendar (always), and we need to refer to the calendar frequently as a resource.  For most of you reading this, although this sounds simple enough, you know that it is not!  If any one cog of any one wheel in this set of interacting gears gets out of sync, we’re sunk!  Our calendar management falls apart.

calendar-with-pencil-by-shadowkill-stockxchange-300x225People ask me all the time, what’s the perfect calendar for someone with ADD?  My answer is always, the one you use!  There is no perfect calendar—there never has been, and there never will be.  If there were, I’d just be giving you a link to buy it on my website!  But seriously, it’s important to really listen here—because I know you all want the magic solution to end your time management woes.  But there really is no one-size-fits-all solution that I can give you.  Again, you’ve all tried to fit yourselves into someone else’s solution, and it doesn’t work!  You need to tweak and individualize any system into something that works for YOU with your own style, your own needs, and your own strengths in mind.

So many of my clients spend a lot of energy, time, and money trying to find the perfect calendar, only to end up frustrated and resistant.  But a lot of their frustration comes from over-complicating the process, and thinking there is some perfect calendar with some magic trick that the rest of the planet has figured out while they weren’t paying attention.  So I’m going to save you a lot of time, money, and anguish here!  Stop trying to find the perfect tool for you!  It doesn’t exist.  There is no perfect tool because there is no such thing as perfect—it’s just an illusion!  Think about this way:  what’s “perfect” for you today is different than what’s going to be “perfect” for you a year from now.  And, really, what’s perfect to you right now is a little bit different than what will be perfect to you in an hour.  Perfect is subjective, and it’s a moving target that you’ll never be able to attain.

So, let go of perfect, and grab a ‘good enough” calendar to use as a tool to help you manage your time more effectively!  We’re striving for better, not perfect!!

Of course there are differences in calendars.  Some are more comfortable for us than others.  We all have preferences, and of course we need to think about which of those preferences really affect a calendar’s usefulness and aren’t just making it “shiny” or appealing in the moment.  And I believe those differences are much less important than you might think!

The big dilemma I hear from many of my clients is whether use a paper or an electronic calendar.  And, really, it is a matter of preference!  Both have advantages and disadvantages, but whether or not you choose to use a paper calendar or electronic is much less important than whether or not you use it and use it habitually!  If you’ve never used a smart phone or electronic calendar at all and having to set one up and learn how to use it makes you hesitant or likely to spend hours you don’t have, then it may be better for you to create a solid calendar management system, solid habits around using your paper calendar effectively, before you consider a foray into electronics.

So, briefly, here are the benefits of one over the other, as I see them myself and for my clients:

Electronic calendars on our phones or computers can be really helpful because we can set alarms and reminders and notifications for events.  Of course, this can be really helpful unless we’re over-using them or not using them well.  Too many bells and alarm tones will make you start to ignore all the sounds your device makes, so it’s important not to create too much clutter with alarms and reminders.  And reminders can be really helpful, but not if they’re not used carefully.  A reminder for a Dr. appointment can be really, really wonderful, for example, but not when it goes off 15 minutes before the appointment and you are 20 minutes away.  Also, not if it goes off 30 minutes before the appointment (from which you are 20 minutes away), but you don’t have the insurance referral for the Dr. Appointment because you weren’t checking your calendar in advance.

The long and short of it—reminders and alarms can be helpful, but they’re not a substitute for creating the habits we need to create!

Paper is great for some of us because the act of writing things down reinforces the information for us.  Some of us also like the tactile feel of paper, and being able to lay the calendar out in front of us, visually.  That’s hard to do with some electronic calendars—but there are ways to work with that, too.

If you are not using your calendar and checking your calendar very regularly so that you’re aware of your time commitments at an appropriate time, again, your calendar won’t be of much help.  You’ll never feel the benefit of the tool sufficiently.

And how do you make sure all three essential behaviors happen?  By creating habits around them.  Habits around where your calendar goes so that you know where it is at all time, Habits around recording commitments, and habits around checking those commitments.

Regardless of what kind of calendar you choose, you need to have it with you so that you can put things in it, right?  So if it’s on your phone, are you pretty good about remembering to have your phone with you?  If it’s a paper calendar, are you good at always having it with you?  If not, then what do you always (or almost always) have with you when you go somewhere?  Your car keys? The keys to your home?  Your purse or wallet?  Your transportation pass?  Whatever it is, think about how you can link those two things together.  Picture them together.  Store them together.  Physically connect them with a zip-tie if you have to!  Seriously, think about how you can connect the purpose of the calendar to the thing you will connect it to.  It makes it a lot easier to create that habit.

Next, creating the habit to check your calendar regularly is just as important!  Again, regardless of whether you choose a paper or electronic calendar, it does you no good to become aware of an appointment or commitment after the fact or when it’s too late to prepare or follow-through!

And the behavior of checking your calendar regularly is what I’m talking about.  And, really, this is a form of Planning.

Next month, I’ll explore how your to-do list impacts your time management skills.

Until next time …

The clock keeps ticking!



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