I work with a lot of college students who struggle to get their work done. Some of the things that help them get through the semester could also help those of us who have jobs or have long-term projects.
If I am starting with a college student at the beginning of the semester we take the syllabus of each course and read it carefully to get a good start. It tells us the expectations of the professor, assignments, projects and exams for the semester. Most important the syllabus usually gives due dates for readings and assignments as well as the dates of the tests and exams.
Those of us with jobs don’t always get clear directions and expectations but there can be clues. Check your job description, memos and notes you have about your tasks and assignments. Gather as much information as you can on your tasks, responsibilities and projects.
The college students often find it helpful to “calendar” their syllabi. This means putting everything in a calendar so it is possible to see how all the various due dates intersect. It also gives a good timeline of when the work has to be done. This way it is possible to plan ahead and also to reduce the number of surprises.
One can do the same thing on the job and with long-term independent projects. “Calendar” out all your tasks and projects. For big tasks and long-term projects it is helpful to break up the task or project into smaller chunks that you can set the dates to do the job.
This can be hard to do for those affected by ADHD but it can be helpful whether you are a college student, work or in charge of a long-term task. The goals are to reduce the number of surprises as to when things are due and to have a better chance at getting tasks done because they have clear due dates whether they were assigned to you or you assigned to yourself.
Now you have a road map for the semester or quarter if not longer. You can make this roadmap digitally or use a paper calendar. Personally I do this in a paper planner because the act of going through the calendar and writing the tasks down helps me see the ebb and flow of my work. As a result I able to make adjustments so that too many things are not due on one day. I can plan when I am going to start and complete each task.
A lot of people affected by ADHD are resistant to doing this. Some feel too stressed and overloaded just by thinking about all that they have to get done. Some feel that this is a waste of time because they won’t follow the schedule so why create it. Some of them may think the real problem is getting started on the tasks.
Yes it is hard to think about all your tasks and when they are due. And yes you will most likely not follow your calendar exactly. That is the nature of ADHD. But this calendar can be a resource for you and your thinking about how to plan your day, week and month. I am always looking at my planner to know what tasks are due the that day, the next day and what tasks are coming up in future days and weeks. We tend to forget things so having one place that we consult daily, if not multiple times a day like me, can help us.
As for getting started on tasks I have written about that extensively and I am sure to do so again in the future.
(Check out my blog https://abigailwurf.com/blogs/ for some posts on getting started and completing tasks.)