Most of my coaching clients think they have a lot less control over their time than they actually have. Part of the problem is that they have very little idea how they are managing time. So I ask them to set up a Google Calendar that they share with me and to enter fixed, repeating events that occur at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.). Examples of these fixed events are college classes, soccer practice, carpool duty, etc.
After setting up a basic calendar, my clients then schedule activities that they are having difficulty getting done, but which do not necessarily need to occur on a fixed schedule. These flexible events might include study times, exercise, family phone calls, laundry, etc.
Staying Accountable With Managing Time
I also ask my clients to spend about three minutes at the end of the day updating their calendar so that it becomes a daily “journal.” Google Calendar makes it so easy to adjust the amount of time spent on events, to move activities forward to another day, or just to eliminate activities. The simple step of turning a daily calendar into a journal helps my clients get more insight about how they actually use their time.
Finally, when my clients are first learning the calendar/journal system, I offer support to help them stay accountable for managing time. I encourage them to text me just two words at the end of each day: “Updated Journal” or “Updated Calendar.” It takes 15 seconds or less to send the text. And it’s such an easy way for me to keep up with my clients and help them tweak their schedules.
Keeping Track of Time
One of my college coaching clients (I’ll call him Tom) complained all semester that he was just not good at calculus. He said that it takes him twice as long as other students to do calculus problems.
Tom and I talked a lot about strategies (study strategies, using a tutor, meeting with the professor, etc.) for doing better in calculus. Tom became very upset at mid-semester when he realized that he had a low C or high D average in calculus. His goal at the beginning of the semester was to make a B in calculus. He had no alternative but to make a very good grade on the final exam to get a B in the class – or maybe even a C.
For the first few weeks of the semester, Tom had me convinced that he had more difficulty than most students with calculus. But his professor made it very clear in the syllabus that calculus was challenging and that students should plan to study 10 – 14 hours per week! I frequently reminded Tom about this. I knew that he didn’t study calculus 10 – 14 hours each week. However, he didn’t update his shared Google Calendar at the end of the day, and he didn’t know how much time he spent studying calculus.
Raising Awareness of Managing Time
I finally told Tom that I was no longer convinced that he couldn’t make a good grade in calculus. He seemed to be putting in far fewer hours studying calculus than his professor suggested. I asked him to start updating his calendar/journal regularly so we could tell how many hours he studied each subject. Tom agreed to start updating his calendar/journal on a daily basis.
Not surprisingly, we discovered within a couple of weeks that Tom spent exponentially more time studying Spanish than he spent studying calculus. In fact, he was spending only 4 – 6 hours of the suggested 10 – 14 hours per week studying calculus. And some weeks he spent even less time!
Prioritizing How You Spend Your Time
Tom absolutely loved Spanish! And since it was his favorite subject and he was very motivated to make an “A” in Spanish, he would usually do his Spanish homework first. His rationale was that he knew he could make an “A” in Spanish – and at least an “A” would offset any bad grade that that he might make in calculus.
When Tom started keeping an accurate calendar/journal, he realized that there were huge chunks of time that he “wasted” almost every day! In short, Tom became very aware that he was simply not prioritizing how he spent his time!
Tom finally came to the conclusion that he could have done much better in calculus all semester. He quit saying that calculus was too hard for him. He realized that if he didn’t put in as many hours into calculus as he put into Spanish, he had no reason to complain. And he quit complaining!
Tom started scheduling one or two calculus tutor sessions each week. He worked hard at learning calculus concepts that he previously did not understand, and he started averaging about ten hours per week studying calculus. Due to managing time much better, he actually pulled off a B in calculus!
Managing Time Means Developing Structure
There are so many reasons that managing time is challenging for most people. But it’s especially challenging for many of our coaching clients who have ADHD. In reality, however, it all comes down to developing and following a structure. And that’s a lot of what we work on in ADHD Coaching.
Using a calendar and a journal each day is one of the most effective tools for managing time. It’s simple, but it does require discipline and structure. Here are the steps to take:
- Get clear about your priorities and priority activities. Write them down.
- Set up an electronic calendar that is easy to adjust and that can send scheduled reminders.
- Write down a list of all the activities you already do (or want to do) that are on a fixed schedule.
- Eliminate those activities that are not on your priority activities list.
- Enter your fixed priority activities on a calendar.
- Evaluate your schedule. If it’s too full, make adjustments.
- Write down a list of activities that you already do (or want to do) that can be done on a flexible schedule.
- Repeat the same 3 steps as you did for fixed schedule activities.
- Update and make adjustments to your calendar/journal at the end of each day.
- Look at your calendar first thing each morning to remind you of your planned daily activities.
- Consider sharing your calendar/journal with your spouse, a friend, a coach, or someone else who cares about you and will help you hold yourself accountable to managing your time.
Getting Help If You Need It
As coaches, we help you hold yourself accountable to managing your time, as well as to meeting your other goals! Please contact us if there is any way we can help. And let us know what you think of this article. We love to hear from our readers!