The amazing adventures of Doug Hughes

I’ve ranted and raved on this blog previously about how having ADD can make it hard to actually accomplish anything that’s not strictly necessary.  It’s also no secret that I have entrepreneurial aspirations, but I’ve had a really hard time successfully executing on them.

I have also been known to avoid doing other things that I should, like cleaning, laundry, etc.  Unless it’s a responsibility, like keeping the kids, cats, and chickens alive or doing work I’m contractually obliged to do, it’s rare that I willingly do it.  Trust me, my grass needs mowing like you wouldn’t believe, and I’m just not very likely to actually do it.  As far as I’m concerned, laundry is for schmucks who care if their shirts are wrinkled.

While drugs have helped me, they’re not a panacea.  They can give me the extra wind behind me that helps make things like lawn mowing a tenable idea.  However, I still have to decide what to do at any given moment, and that’s where I fall down.

It turns out that ADD is an impairment of working memory.  Working memory is essentially the memory associated with goals and task execution.  The net effect of this (I once worked for a company called the NetEffect) is that it can be really hard to remember why I’m doing something.  Essentially, every time I decide what to do I have a different perspective on the world and therefore my decision making process changes.  This is why I could work for two or three months on a personal project and then switch to something new and exciting as soon as the first project becomes something less than thrilling.

There’s a ton of frustration, self flagellation, and guilt that goes along with this.  I really, really, want to get beyond these roadblocks!

My psychiatrist recommended that I create a flow chart of my decision making process that I could hang on the wall.  The purpose of this is to keep all the little variables that play into what I could be doing visible and harder to forget.  I tried making this flow chart and got pretty much nowhere.  However, after a little more consultation, she helped me come up with another approach.

What I’ve done is break things that I can or need to do down into categories.  For me these categories (currently) are:

  • Family Responsibilities
  • Chores
  • Recreation
  • Personal Projects (Not Committed)
  • Entrepreneurship (Committed)
  • Contracting Work

These are categories of things that I need or want to do.  For example, a family responsibility might be to take a kid to the doctor.  Recreation is anything I enjoy.  Etc, etc.  There’s also a seventh category of On Hold, which where my personal projects go to die (but now with permission).

For each of these categories I’ve created a list of categories of my life that they relate to, general notes about them, examples of these types of things, best time of day to do them, best moods to do them in, and ways to convince myself to do them.

My goal is to take this document and use it to help keep in focus what I’m working towards and what’s really important to me.  I assume this will morph over time as I learn better how to use it.  Heck, maybe I actually can make that flow chart now that I have so much information about each category easily accessible.

For those of you who might find it useful, here’s the final document I created (click for a larger version):

This is my table of stuff to do, when to do it, and more.

Who knew life could be so complicated?

So… what do you think?  Would this work for you?  Any bets on this being useful for me?

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Comments on: "My Personal Time Management… Thingy" (2)

  1. You have a lot of stuff on your plate. It is time to pare it down and decide what is important enough to see through to the end since you are not going to get all this stuff done. You have categorized and listed out a lot of stuff. The risk is that you don’t finish much of anything.

    One technique to get things accomplished is to use something like the pomodoro technique to time slice. That way, you only work on one thing at a time and hopefully finish work. Plan to finish projects by dividing them up into tasks and deliverables. Then, work on those tasks and deliverables one by one.

    Another issue is to decide what the end of a project would be. Sometimes, we keep adding things to projects rather than finish then iterate. Decide on a minimum number of your tasks that you have to do and make some hard choices. Once the important stuff is done, you can move to the things you set aside or work on new ideas.

    • Roger, I think maybe “time management” isn’t really the word for what this is. It’s more of a way of keeping track of priorities. So, for example, it should be harder to forget that on the weekends, when I’m in a good mood, I should play with the kids before working on some one-off project for fun.

      To clarify, the things under entrepreneurship aren’t all being done at once. They’re a queue where I (now) have a rule that I can only work on one at a time. But, part of the reason why I tend to get distracted by new projects is because I don’t want to forget them…. now I can add them to the list and not loose that.

      So, it’s not so much about time management, really, as about helping me keep my eye on the prize. Make sense?

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