Friday, September 25, 2009

Getting the Job Done: Creating a Visual Plan

As I discussed in my previous post on managing procrastination and distraction, getting lost in the details can make it very difficult for anyone to finish, or even start, a project. For those with ASDs or ADHD, this can be even more troublesome. One technique I’ve found to be useful for many clients is to create some sort of visual plan of the project. Taking time to think about the goal, organizing the details, and jotting it down on paper will give you something to refer back to while working.

Here’s an example of a simple outline you might use to stay on track while completing a project. I’ve chosen the topic I’m working on right now: writing this post. (I’m typing this for the blog, but I’d only scribble it down in real life.)

Goal: Writing a Blog Post on Procrastination and Distraction

                    1. Reread previous post on this topic
                    2. Consider steps involved
                    3. Create examples:
                    A. Detailed list
                    B. Detail cloud
                     4. Find appropriate pictures to illustrate
                    A. Dog
                    B. Snack
                     5. Copy and paste document into blogging software
                     6. Create links and finalize details on blog
                     7. Publish
Here’s an example of a less structured detail list. You can make the more important steps larger and bolder.

Goal: Writing a Blog Post on Procrastination and Distraction

                    Find Pictures                                     Reread previous post
                                          Create examples   
                                                Publish                 Create links
                    Copy and paste into blogging software           Plan steps involved
That’s it! These are both pretty straightforward and it only took a minute or two to put them together. Now, while you’re working you’ve got a very clear idea of what you should be doing to accomplish the job.
If you decide to pet the dog:

or get a snack:

it’s pretty clear that you’re off topic. But, I think it’s more frequent that people get pulled into the details, and then wander around off topic. Finding a picture of an apple can turn into sorting through all the pictures in the photo library, or wandering from topic to topic in an internet search. That’s where the list helps. You’ve determined the goal: writing a post, and browsing internet photos has nothing to do with that. It’s a clear example of when you need to pull yourself back to work.

If you’re more auditory than visual, recording a list can be helpful. Whatever works for you is fine, just take a few moments to plan, set a goal, and then check back with your plan frequently.