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Time management and organization are two common problems faced by people with ADHD. A day planner can help better manage these ADHD problems.Time management and organization are two common problems faced by people with ADHD. A day planner can help better manage these ADHD problems.

For People with ADHD: Using a Day Planner as a Life Planner

Been there? Done that? Lost a dozen? Using a day planner one of the most essential coping skills that a woman with ADD can develop, but it's one that you need to practice and develop. Actually, using a dayplanner is not a single skill, but involves a set of skills that can be worked on, one-by-one.

  1. Learn to have it with you at ALL times.

    When I am helping someone develop the habit of using a daytimer, so often, in the beginning, I hear, "I'm using it, but I just didn't bring it to the session." Or, "It's in the car." The only way for your day planner to become your "exterior frontal lobes" - your life planner and manager - is if you have your exterior frontal lobes with you at all times! You wouldn't intentionally leave your brain in the car, or at home, would you?

  2. Write EVERYTHING in your day planner.

    If you must have a social or family calendar in the kitchen or a three-month wall calendar in your office, develop the unwavering habit that items are written in your dayplanner first and are then transferred to other calendars. That way you can be sure that there is one place you can quickly refer to for appointments, upcoming travel dates, phone numbers, confirmation numbers on phone orders, etc., etc.

  3. Learn the difference between a "to-do" list and a daily action plan.A "to do" list is a long list of action items.

These may be business, family or personal. You may want to keep lists in categories:

  1. Business to do's
  2. Home maintenance to-do's
  3. Family to-do's
  4. Long-term goal to-do's
  5. Personal goals - fitness, health, down-time, reading time, etc.
  6. Social to-do's

A "to do" list is a list of actions or tasks from which you draw to create your daily action plan . Your daily action plan is your "To-do Today" list, with assigned times during which you plan to accomplish them.

Learn to become a better time estimator.

Taking items from your "to-do" list and placing them on your daily action plan, with assigned times, forces you to begin to think about how long things take. One thing you'll learn very quickly is that you underestimate how long things take. For example, you may have a string of errands that looks like this:

  • Grocery - pick up items on list, grab something for dinner.
  • Drop off dry cleaning.
  • Bank - make deposit.
  • Car - fill up tank
  • Dentist - 3:30 PM
  • Return video

When you're placing that "to do" list into your daily action plan, how much time should you allot?

What have your forgotten? If you're a parent, you may need to add carpooling, or errands such as "pick up posterboard for book report" to an already jam-packed schedule.

The first month or six weeks that you work with your dayplanner, write down how long you estimate your list of errands and appointments will take. Then, when you come home, write down how long they actually took. In this way you learn to be more accountable for your time, how you estimated it and how you spent it.

  • Learn to Plan for Contingencies.

    The second thing you need to learn is to plan for contingencies. "To-do's" become "Not-done's" when we fail to take the unplanned into account. Traffic happens. Phone calls happen. Emergencies happen. Priorities change. Will the grocery take 10 minutes or 30? What if there's a line at the clearner's, at the bank? What if the dentist is running late? What order should they be done in for efficiency's sake? For the sake of being on time at the dentist's?

    Many people with ADD make a habit of masking their poor planning skills behind the unexpected. In fact, for some, the unexpected comes as a great relief. "It's not my fault I'm late now because there's a traffic accident up ahead." (Even though I would have been late anyway.)