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January 2nd, 2010


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12:11 am - Weird RL-type question
Do any of you have recommendations, books or whatever, for someone who isn't good at setting and sticking to a schedule? It's not just that I procrastinate (although I surely do that, as well) but that 1) I am a task-oriented person, which inhibits me from using my time in small chunks because I hate to work on a project but not at least finish whatever step I'm on; 2) I'm not good at multi-tasking, at keeping a lot of important tasks in my head, and lists/calendars (which I do use) only help a little bit; and 3) I don't have any way of setting up a proper filing system at the moment (I'm working on that, having been promised office space in this house when we moved in).

Seriously though. Anything? Not just about organizing, but about, like, retraining one's brain? I don't even know what I'm looking for, I'm just quite sick of the constant (and usually correct) feeling that I've forgotten to do something important.

BTW, I'm not remotely ADHD; I'm kind of the opposite. It's not that I can't focus, it's that I focus too hard on whatever I'm doing at the time, to the complete detriment of whatever else I'm supposed to be juggling. Give me a single task, or a series of closely related ones, and I get wickedly productive. *shrug*
Current Location: the wasteland of government paperwork
Current Mood: frustratedfrustrated

(21 lit candles | Light a candle)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:fpb
Date:January 2nd, 2010 08:16 am (UTC)
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If such a book exists, I could do with a copy as well.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:January 2nd, 2010 08:31 am (UTC)
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First, brainstorm all the tasks you have to do, breaking each task into smaller steps/goals if necessary. Then put ALL the items on the list in order of priority. Only once you've done that can you start working on anything - namely, the thing at the top of the list. Don't skip down or around. Later, as new things come up or priorities change, reorder the list, always working starting from the top. This way you can force yourself to juggle multiple tasks if necessary, by alternating stages of the two tasks on the list and then sticking to it.

Lists are the absolute ONLY reason I managed to finish all my work on time and graduate in June. The satisfaction of crossing things off it really does it for me, and by writing out a list I can hold myself accountable for doing things in the right order... otherwise I skip forward and do all the things I like, then have to go back and do a crappy rush job on the higher-priority stuff I hate.

Anytime you feel like you've forgotten something, stop and consult the list. Should something else be on it? If so, add it. As long as it's written down and you're working from the top down, you can't forget stuff!
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 2nd, 2010 08:50 am (UTC)
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This doesn't work. All I end up doing is finishing a couple of items, stressing about the rest, and moving huge chunks from day to day.

(btw, who is this? you forgot to sign in. *g*)
[User Picture]
From:maevebran
Date:January 2nd, 2010 09:45 am (UTC)
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Actually what you describe is a form of ADHD. I get like that too. I can get focused on a project or reading a book and the world could end and I wouldn't notice. And yes I have been diagnosed and treated for ADHD from High school through college.

So I sugest maybe a book on ADHD. I don't really read nonfiction so I never reszearched the condition so I have no recommendations.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 2nd, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
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I kind of don't believe you. All the people I know who have ADHD are easily distractable, rather than super-focused.
[User Picture]
From:sallymn
Date:January 2nd, 2010 09:56 am (UTC)
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I'm just naturally lazy, I guess :) but yes, I have a similar problem (you should have SEEN the way I scrambled through my Uni studies)

Lists do not work since I get such a feeling of self-righteous virtue from making the list that I don't feel a great need to actually tick them off... ut my method at work (which it seems wouldn't work for you) is to work out what I need to get done that day and then start them all at once. Being me, I then do get the burr up the bustle to get as many finished as possible...

It drives my more organised and methodical workmates bonkers, but since I'm the fastest and bestest assessor they have (yes, that may sound vain but they will all agree it's true) the boss averts her eyes and just lets me get on with it.

At home, it doesn't work so well :(
[User Picture]
From:rabidsamfan
Date:January 2nd, 2010 02:12 pm (UTC)
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Multitasking isn't necessarily the best way to do things, as various folks are finding out. The trick to using timers is to allot enough time for the task in front of you, or to redefine the task as "I will work on X for fifteen minutes" with the following task being "I will work on Y for fifteen minutes." If necessary, intersperse tasks that need longer chunks of time with tasks that are ongoing, like the dishes, or filing.

Lists work only as priorities. Rather than making a list, try keeping a pad of postits, and put each task on a postit. You can rearrange the postits by priority very quickly, and they can have DO BY times and dates very visible. That should help you avoid losing the important tasks in the clutter. I prefer postits to computer lists because it's faster rearranging them, and postits to slips of paper/cards/etc, because I don't have a bulletin board and I need things visible or they get forgotten. Postits I can run down the edge of my screen. Glaring bright colors ensure that they won't get ignored.

The trick isn't so much organizing, as finding the level of organization that lets you function optimally.
[User Picture]
From:rose_griffes
Date:January 2nd, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
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Yes, setting a timer really works for me as well--both in getting me started on a task and in remembering to stop and work on other tasks.

I like your post-it notes idea! I may have to try that one...
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 2nd, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
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I guess that's part of the problem--just allotting time freaks me out, because it never seems to be enough to get anything worthwhile done (see: how task-focused I am), and I can't seem to accurately predict how long anything will take to do. My dad is great at that; he does the whole priority/task/timing Seven Habits thing and is super productive; I keep trying and not getting the process to work.

Post-its worked pretty well at my last job (except for the fact that I still can't multi-task, and would randomly forget even stuff that I had next to my screen, especially if the day was stressful), but at the moment I am doing stuff from home and literally have no place to put them. I can't think of any space in my room or house that could function that way. Maybe when I get my office space organized...?
[User Picture]
From:rabidsamfan
Date:January 2nd, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
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Then that's your first task. Create the space for your postits. Then the first task of every morning is to go through them and arrange them by priority. (Some of them can be the same priority, of course.) The thing is that what you really need is to make sure that the MUST GET DONE stuff gets done on time.

If you're lousy at estimating the time something will take to do, then use your timer to learn. At the end of each fifteen (or twenty) minute segment, if you're not done, give yourself another fifteen and put a hash mark on the postit for the task. Over time (and this is how your dad learned the trick) you will get better at knowing how much time it takes you to do things.

Thing is, you've got to work with the brain you got issued. Instead of trying to organize everything and then kicking yourself when the organization turns into a task that obliterates every other task, focus your efforts on eliminating one problem -- in this case, the problem of losing sight of priority tasks. Once you've got that licked, you can go on to something else.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 2nd, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)
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That sounds...maybe doable. Tryable, anyway. Thanks!
[User Picture]
From:rj_anderson
Date:January 2nd, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
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I don't like lists, but I do like my Time Map. Having my day divided into blocks of half-hour or hour-long time, color-coded so that I know what things should generally be taking place during that time period, allows me to concentrate on just one type of task during that time and not feel guilty about not doing other types of tasks, because I know that I've given myself ample time for those other tasks elsewhere.

This is the closest approximation to what I do: Lifehacker: Map Your Time. I downloaded their Excel spreadsheet and modified it to my own purposes, so that I have four types of activities in my week: Spiritual (reading, prayer, attending church meetings), Family (which includes housework, meal preparation, reading to the kids, getting them into bed and ready for school, etc), Work (writing and author-type business stuff), and Me (personal e-mail, LJ, Twitter, watching TV, etc.).

I find myself much less frazzled when I can say, "Okay, this is Family time so I'm not going to sweat it that I'm not writing," or "This is Me time so I'm entitled to browse LJ and read fanfic as much as I like." But I also know that I've set up the schedule in such a way that I should have ample time to get everything I need to do done during the day/week, but which is also flexible if something else should come up. If my Work time gets shot because I'm dealing with a sick kid, it's no big deal -- I can always go back to the schedule on my Time Map the next day.

I don't know if that works for you or not, but I like it.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 2nd, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
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Huh. I'll check this out, thank you. Sounds like it might be helpful in the retrain-the-brain sense (I have a very hard time doing something for just 15 minutes, if it ends up taking longer--not finishing tasks freaks me out except for when I'm writing).
[User Picture]
From:rj_anderson
Date:January 2nd, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
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I can't do anything for just 15 minutes either -- that's why my time blocks are usually at least 2 hours long. And I know that I can always run overtime if I need to, as long as I'm conscious of what I'm pushing out of the way in order to do it.
[User Picture]
From:kizmet_42
Date:January 2nd, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
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The Seven Habits book was great as long as I applied the rules to my life.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 2nd, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
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I read that in early high school (my dad swears by it); it's never really worked for me, I can't seem to figure out how long anything should take, and if I don't get a task done in the allotted, prioritized time, I stress about it and get even less done.
[User Picture]
From:kalquessa
Date:January 2nd, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
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Dude, I totally used to do that. I hate estimating how long something's going to take since I never have any idea. It takes as long as it takes!
[User Picture]
From:mistraltoes
Date:January 2nd, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
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I notice that rabidsamfan has already said most of what I wanted to say, so pardon the repetitions. Also, pardon the abruptness, as I'm very tired. I've been trying different task-management methods for more years than I care to admit, and so far this is the best I've come up with:

1. Being able to focus is a strength, and multi-tasking is over-rated. Since you can already use a calendar and lists, you're only missing one step.

2. The ONLY things that should go on a calendar are appointments and other things that can only be done on a specific date. EVERYTHING else should go on a master list.

3. I like to keep my master list on small Post-Its, one chore per Post-It. (And when my budget allows, I use different colors of Post-Its for different categories of chores: financial/medical, household, writing, education, etc.; also, I split the Post-Its in half or thirds to save money and space.) The Post-Its get roughly sorted by category and priority on the *inside* of a file folder. Then each day I review the chores and put the ones I want to work on THAT DAY on the *front* of the file folder, and sort them into rough priority. I can rearrange them as needed, I never have to make a new list, and crumpling up and throwing away the finished ones is very satisfying.

4. Now, here's the step you're missing: set a timer, and every so often (I suggest thirty to forty-five minutes or so), STOP what you're working on, stretch your muscles, look at that front page of Post-Its (or whatever reminder system you use), and ask yourself Lakein's Question: "What is the best use of my time right now?" This will remind you to give attention to more than one chore, and if you use colored Post-Its for categories, making sure to work on a variety of colors helps keep any areas of your life from being neglected.

Anyway. What you need isn't multi-tasking, it's serialized concentration. (True multi-tasking, BTW, doesn't exist; it's just very *rapid* serialized concentration.) If you will force yourself to use a timer to remind you to change tasks occasionally, it will drive you crazy at first, but it should help eventually.

::hugs::
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:January 2nd, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
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LOL @ your icon.

I do already use a master list (sort of), and my calendar has only date-specific things on it (scheduled tutoring sessions, meetings, evenings out, etc). That's definitely the best way to organize those things.

I like your folder idea. If I can figure out a place to put it where it will be visible during the day (I have got to get the "office space" cleared out, it's driving me crazy having to stack crap up in my room because there's nowhere to put it). At least there'll be a place where I can keep the list!

This timer thing is sounding more and more like something I need to do. I'm nervous about trying it, I'm not sure I have the mental energy right now for that sort of learning curve, but I'm even less sure that I can keep going *without* learning this, so. *deep breaths*

(and thank you!)
[User Picture]
From:mistraltoes
Date:January 2nd, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
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The learning curve may not be as high as you think. All you have to do when the timer goes off is review your list and ask yourself the question. The answer will often be to keep going on the same task. Or maybe it will be to stop and make an important phone call, and then go back to your same task. The point is that just by stopping and checking, you minimize the chance that some other important chore will get forgotten completely. (That's actually why I use the Post-Its, BTW; if I just keep my list on the computer, I totally forget to look at it, but I can't miss the brightly-colored Post-Its. Now if only my stamina would come back and my timer would stop going missing...)
[User Picture]
From:kalquessa
Date:January 2nd, 2010 07:43 pm (UTC)
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I don't know of anything, but if you find something that works, do let me know. I may or may not have someone who kind of needs a book like that in the worst way. Said someone may or may not be married to me. Ahem.

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