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Day Planning for the Neurodiverse
Some people can effortlessly stick to a minute-by-minute schedule and get everything done on time. I envy them and can’t help but think that just maybe they are psychopaths. Then, there are people like me, we kind of have a to-do list, we sort of have vague plans, but without one of those type A people hovering and reminding us that stuff needs to get done, stuff just does not get done. Well not all the time, sometimes I get super organized and get everything done and live up to my dreams of a minute-by-minute time blocked day. That lasts about a day or two. Then I accidentally take more time than I allowed for a project, or a project takes less time than I planned, and everything starts to unravel from there.

Welcome to the world of the huge bubble of people known as Neuro-diverse. It's an umbrella that encompasses Autistics, Those with ADHD, the Anxious, the ones with Dyslexia. Anyone who’s brain works just slightly differently from what society has deemed “normal”. Most of the time, most of us function simply fine. But when it comes to planning out our days the beautiful, hyper-organized time blocked day tends to just make us break out into a cold sweat.

So, what do we do?

Work on a weekly level, with a to-do list, deadlines noted if you have them, and lots of blank space where you can simply follow where you are led.

What I have found works for me, is instead of a rigid schedule, I looked for the rhythm to my days. I asked myself pointed questions like “when am I most productive?’ “When do I have the best focus?” “When do I need to be alone?” (this is a big one for many of us, people are tiring!). For me personally, I focus best in the mornings, I’m the most social in the afternoons, and by evening? Forget it, I’m hiding under the bed sheets with a book. When I am designing my day, I take this into account. Blog post writing, business planning, anything that requires that I focus, I do my best to do in the morning. Afternoons I am happy to book readings, to go out of the house to shop or have appointments.

Each day I start with a list of the three things I must do that day. Popular, typical thinking planning says to start with the hardest one first. For those of us wired a little differently though, that challenging task can appear so daunting that our day grinds to a halt right there and nothing at all gets done. For us, it's best to start at the other end, what is the easiest task on that to-do list? Do that. That way we get to ride that wave of success endorphins and use them to power us through the second hardest task and then finally the hardest. Sometimes, there is no motivation more powerful than simply being able to cross that task off our to-do list!

For me, when afternoon rolls around and my focus is more scattered, this is the perfect time to do housework (If I don’t have appointments). I usually have a running list in my head of things I need to get done. I break those down into five minute tasks and take it from there. Cleaning the bathroom goes from a huge chore to five or six small five minute tasks such as “clean hand basin” “scrub shower”. Sure, it makes the to-do list a bit longer, but it works! During the afternoon, while I am working on other things I simply take five minutes each time I go to the bathroom to quickly accomplish one of those items. By the end of the day the room that needed to be cleaned is clean, and I have honored myself and my way of getting stuff done which makes for far less stress for me.

I know my neurotypical, highly organised friends are probably thinking that this could not possibly work and enable anyone to get anything done.

It works, I promise, it just takes a to-do list, a little self knowledge and a dose of compassion and creativity.

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