How to Improve Time Management

Whether time management is a challenge for you due to an excessive workload or due to ADHD, you owe it to yourself to learn how to improve time management.  Follow this four-step process to move towards your best time management in 2011.

First, identify your time management challenges.

Time management likely means something different to everyone.  The first key to improving time management is to identify your challenges and determine what you want to achieve.  Spend some time on this step so you can really uncover your challenges.  Consider these questions as you consider your challenges:

  • What does effective time management look like?
  • What can you achieve if you improve your time management?
  • What strengths can help you with time management?

Second, set a SMART goal regarding time management.

If you want to improve your time management skills, you need to set a clear goal.  You might be tempted to set several goals all at once.  Please don’t.  Instead focus on one goal that follows the principles of SMART goal setting.

Third, implement a time management action plan.

You know your challenges and you have a SMART goal.  Now you need to develop and implement an action plan that will help you manage your time better.  Keep you action plan to five or fewer items.  The secret here is in the effectiveness of your action plan, not in the number of your actions. Below, I am listing some potential actions that you can implement.  Remember, you do not need to implement all of them, especially since not all of them will apply to your specific challenges and goal.

  • Develop a morning routine to get yourself and/or your family going to start the day.
  • Use an evening or bedtime routine to get sleep started more effectively.
  • Set a timer 10 minutes before you need to leave for a meeting.
  • Make a MUST DO list to ensure you focus on your priorities every day.
  • Use a planner (more on this in step four).
  • If you procrastinate, work on that big project for just 15 minutes every day.
  • If you hyperfocus, set a timer to signal when a task should end.
  • Check email twice per day.

Fourth, use a planner that works for YOU!

I am a huge proponent of planners.  Many of my coaching clients ask my advice regarding which planner is the best.  I am sorry to say, there is not a best planner.  Just like there is not one time management goal that works for everyone, a planner choice is very personal.  The good news is that my article Choosing the Right Planner  can help you identify and use the planner that will serve you best in the coming year.

Do you need help with developing your action plan?  Let us know by leaving a comment and we’ll write an article to help you!

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Effective Study Tips for Students with ADHD

Clients and teachers often ask me for effective study tips that will help students with ADHD.  The study tips included here will help students of all ages prepare for quizzes, tests and exams.

Make a Plan

When you have ADHD, making a plan can be the most difficult and important part of studying. Difficult because it may go against your nature of acting in the moment.  Important because it can make your studying less stressful and more effective.  Experiment with this concept.  Next time you have a test, think about how long you should study.  Break your studying into time chunks over several days if possible.  Put the time into your calendar, planner, phone or somewhere else that you will see it.

Implement Your Plan

I can hear your protest now.  “But Laura, I can make a beautiful plan, but I won’t implement it.”  Once you have made your plan, it can feel a little overwhelming to implement it.  Focus on the first time chunk.  What day will you start your studying?  Where will you go to study?  What is your reward when you finish.  Do what it takes to implement your plan, even if it seems like a very small step.  Getting started will help you gain momentum.

Read Your Notes

You are thinking, “of course I’ll read my notes”, but I mean for you to read them aloud.  Especially if you are an auditory learner, this can help you study more effectively than if you try to read your notes silently.  I have one client who has been reading multiplication facts aloud to himself for a couple weeks.  Just one set of facts each evening (3×3, 3×4, 3×5 … 3×11) two times through.  This client reports that this simple act of reading the facts aloud is already helping with his middle-school math class.  Could this strategy help you to study vocabulary?  math?  other subjects?

Take Breaks

Taking breaks can seem to be counter intuitive to my clients.  Many would rather push through all of their work and hope that hyperfocus helps them study.  By taking even a short break, you can give yourself a chance to rejuvenate and recharge to get ready for more studying.  A brisk walk can help even more.

Let me know your thoughts on these effective study tips.  What are your favorite study tips for students with ADHD?  What works for you?  Share here and help others learn from you!

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Are you Disorganized or Unorganized?

Take small steps for big success

If you are disorganized or unorganized, chances are the idea of getting yourself organized is overwhelming.  Those stacks of papers, books, toys or other stuff can be pretty imposing can’t they?  I encourage you to take some of the pressure off yourself and commit to taking some small steps to get organized.  True, you would rather get it all done today, but you need to determine whether that is realistic.  If it is not realistic or seems too overwhelming, take a short time today to identify small steps that you can take to overcome at least some of your disorganization.

Set Organization Goals

Before you begin, think about what goals you have regarding organization.  What goals do you have?  What can you accomplish once you achieve your goals?  How can you break your goals into smaller goals?  How can you utilize the suggestions below to get started?

Small Steps to Implement

If you are disorganized or unorganized, pick a couple of the steps below to implement and start moving toward organization success.  Add your own suggestions in the comments!

  • With email, color code to prioritize email by the sender.  This way, you can see emails from your priority customers, family members and bosses first.  Taking care of priority emails will help keep your email organized.
  • Use the automation features of your email program to automatically move incoming emails to mailbox folders.  Some of my clients use this feature to move low priority items to a “Read Someday” folder.  Saves a lot of time!
  • Set timers to sound 10 minutes before you need to move to your next assignment.  Use these 10 minutes to clean up your current activity or project so that everything can get put away.
  • Make an appointment with yourself to organize.  Spend 30 minutes or less at first.  Any more time can get overwhelming.  If you have ADHD and can make hyperfocus work to your advantage, you might want to plan ahead and schedule a block of a few hours in one day.  Check in with yourself – how much time works best for you?
  • Systematize:  Set up a simple system for yourself when going through mail whether at home or the office.  Give yourself a few options such as File, Toss, Do and Delegate.  If you have trouble setting up a system for yourself, hire a coach or partner with a friend to figure out a system that works for YOU.
  • Motivate:  Identify a reward for yourself when you accomplish a small goal.  Anything that will keep you going and that is affordable for you is a good idea.
  • Limit distractions when you are getting organized.  For example, turn off your computer and don’t answer the phone.  It will take a significant amount of time to refocus on the organizing which makes the overall process take longer.
  • Set up simple file folders that work for you.  Label them in bright colors and use them!

Share your ideas in the comments.  What else can your fellow readers do to get organized?  Looking forward to your feedback!

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College Students with ADHD Benefit From Coaching

During the past year-and-a-half, I have had the opportunity to serve as a Research Assistant at Wayne State University.  The research team studied the effects of coaching for college students with ADHD.  The study was funded by the Edge Foundation and the research team included Dr. Sharon Field Hoffman, Dr. David Parker and Dr. Shlomo Sawilowsky.  I am grateful to have learned so much from this esteemed group of researchers.  The study is the first large-scale, national study to look at the benefits of ADHD Coaching.  It was conducted with 127 participants who were randomly assigned to receive coaching or to be part of a comparison group.

Our research results were announced at the CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD) conference in Atlanta, Georgia on November 12, 2010.  I encourage you to read the Executive Summary and final report on the Edge Foundation’s website.

A few highlights of the study include:

  • ADHD coaching according to the Edge Foundation model is effective in assisting students to improve their self-regulation, study skills and will.
  • Students who participated in the study built confidence, improved time management and organization skills, and improved their approach to learning.
  • Qualitative interviews showed that coaching helped students to set more effective goals and to reach them in more efficient and through less stressful means.

While I was not personally a coach during this study, I have been trained in the same model used at the Edge Foundation by Jodi Sleeper-Triplett of JST Coaching, LLC and am so pleased to see positive results from this highly rigorous study.  I encourage you to read more about the results of the study and let me know your comments and questions.

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