Monday, August 17, 2009

Dealing with Time Management

Running late? Many people struggle with time management, and they’re always running late. Missing appointments, late for work, racing to get to the meeting on time. Time management is a part of executive function, something that many people struggle with. It can be especially troublesome for individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) like autism or Asperger’s, or ADHD.
How can you improve your time management and be on time? Here are some simple tips, tailored especially for individuals with ASDs or ADHD, but anyone can use them.
1. What time is it?
It may seem obvious, but many people don’t know what time it is. If you’re always late, you’ve got to wear a watch, carry a cell phone with a clock, carry a pocket watch, have clocks in your home and office and get an alarm clock. And they have to be accurate, so go online and check to make sure every clock shows an accurate time.
2. What specific problem are you working on?
It’s always best to solve one problem at a time. When is being late most troublesome? Let’s focus on that one situation. I’ll use getting to work on time as an example.
3. A routine can be quicker.
Time management is easiest if you do the same things every day, in the same order. I know that I’m most efficient if I make espresso first, then cut up a bowl of fruit, then heat the milk for my morning latte. If I do the steps out of order I have to think about them more, I’m less efficient and it takes me more time.
4. Step by step
Think about all the steps involved in your morning routine. Waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, your commute. You may need to be more specific. Waking up may include the alarm going off, hitting the snooze button, dozing for just nine more minutes, and then getting up for real. The more detailed your steps, the better your results, so think about this in detail.
5. Create a timed list.
Take all these steps in your morning routine and list them in order. Then estimate how long each step will take. Many individuals with time management issues have a real problem here. Some people just don’t have a strong internal clock. What seems like five minutes turns out to be 20, something that should take half an hour seems to drag on all afternoon. This timed list will help you calibrate your internal ideas of time, and discover the truth about your actual morning routine. So don’t worry too much about accuracy at this point, just make your best guess of how long each step takes.
6. Test it out.
Tomorrow, see how accurate your list really is. Carry it with you throughout the morning. Carry a watch as well. Keep checking with your list, noting which step you’re on, and the time. Are there any steps you missed? Don’t spend time analyzing your list right now, just try to record what you doing and what time it is.
7. Fine tune your routine.
The morning rush is over, you completed the day’s work and you have some free time. Now is the time to analyze how accurate your time estimates were. Did it take as long to get dressed as you expected? You might want to repeat this exercise several to improve your accuracy.
8. Work backwards.
What time do you have to be at work? Start there, at the end of your list. Working backward, and using the amounts of time it take to accomplish each task, you can figure out what time you need to start your morning routine.
9. Leave some room for error.
The truth is, there’s a lot of unpredictability in some schedules, especially when you’re not in control, like during your morning commute. Most prompt people are actually a bit early much of the time. You need to consider if you absolutely need to be on time, or if it’s OK to be a bit late on those days the traffic is especially heavy, or if your dog is sick, or you knock over the carton of juice. The more trouble it is to be late, the more you’re going to have to accept getting there early most of the time.
That’s it. Give your new routine a bit of time to fine tune it and see how it’s working and then move on to your next time related issue. The more you work in this way, the better you’ll get at estimating how long things take, and the better you’ll be at being on time.