View Full Version : My simple "Stay-On-Track" system.


Wizard_Mike
10-01-10, 05:55 PM
I quickly learned that medication helps me STAY on track, but it doesn't necessarily help put me on the right track. So after a little trial and error, I've come up with the simplest and easiest system I could think of that actually WORKS.

This is nothing new or revolutionary, by any means. It's actually so simple you might think "well duh!", but it actually took me a few weeks of using this system before it really clicked into my natural daily life, so if you've tried something like this before and it didn't work, you may not have given it enough time to take root.

So what I have is this little pad of paper that fits in my pocket. It's about the size of my phone, and like my phone, it stays with me at ALL times. Anything I need to do, or want to do, or just want to remember, I right down in the pad IMMEDIATELY when I think of it. Each time I right something in the pad, I also look over the entire list of things in there, to make sure I'm on the right task.

The tasks are handled on a priority system... whichever has less time to be completed is done first. For instance, you have "buy cat food," "study for ethics exam," and "read midsummer night's dream for lit class." Since the exam is in two days, and the story doesn't need to be read for another three weeks, the exam takes priority.

BUT, I always check the list when driving to and from places. If I'm about to drive home from class and see "buy cat food" on the list, then that becomes the priority item, as it's just a quick stop on the way home. This makes the priority system adaptable. The goal is to cross out things on the list as much and as fast as possible, so if there are quick cross-off items that you can do in between other major tasks, then do so.

And here's where this list really shines: Being ADHD means we usually aren't going to stay on a task from start to finish. This is probably the number one productivity killer for us, next to procrastination. With this list, you can actually turn this problem around a bit by making your deviations productive. So I'm reading a midsummer night's dream, I start getting restless and have to go do something else. No problem! Put the book down, look at the list, and find out what your next highest priority item in the list is and go do that. You can be a little flexible on this, as your next highest priority might be something too similar to the task your wanting to take a break from, so you can pick something else. Just make sure it's something on the list! This will keep you productive, even when constantly jumping from task to task.

If any items are really getting close to a deadline, then put a star or something by it to make it stand out. This is not a numbered, do-it-in-this-order type of list. It's a do-these-things-first-before-random-stuff type of list.

The final key to keeping this system working is using your phone or other alarm (that you will have with you at all times) to remind you to look at the list periodically. You'll be looking at the list each time you write something down and each time you get in your car or take a break from a task, but sometimes you might go hours without looking at the list due to being hyperfocused on something. This is why there's need for an alarm. I havean alarm on my phone set to go off once an hour to remind me to review the list and adjust fire accordingly, if need be.

Did I say the alarm was the final key? Ha! There's actually one more piece to this system. Using it! You have to turn this into a habit before you'll really start seeing noticeable effects. When you first start this, you'll think of something to write down, but instead of stopping right there and doing it, you'll think "I'll write that down as soon as..." blah blah blah. WRITE IT DOWN NOW! Stop what you're doing and get that pad out. If you're worried about other people noticing and asking questions, just tell them it's your "external RAM", or something else casual. Also, checking the list when you get in your car will be easy to pass up, until you've done it a bunch. That phone alarm going off every hour? Yeah, it's easy to ignore it, but you'll eventually fall into a groove and stop ignoring it.

It took me around three weeks of trying to use this system before it finally starting falling into habit. Once the habit formed, my productivity has increased tremendously. I'm actually sitting here taking a break because, for the first time in my life, I don't have anything pressing to do. My list is completely cleared except for a few readings for classes that I've actually pulled off the syllabus because we don't need to start reading them for another couple of weeks. I'm actually about to start one of these readings here in a few minutes. ;)

Yes, you just read that right. Not only am I caught up with everything, I'm actually getting ahead! I'm still scatterbrained loopy, but damnit I get stuff done now. At 32, I've finally got a grip on things, and it's making me feel superhuman, lol.



Anyways, I just thought I would share the little system that has drastically improved my productivity. Hopefully this helps some one else! :)

sabrina
10-22-10, 04:56 PM
thank you so much for ur post!! I hope it works for me. I m in a similar situation.

bumpey
10-22-10, 06:31 PM
I'v been trying similar things, but the same thing happens with it, can you guess what it is yet?

MrObvious
03-09-11, 02:22 AM
Hmm I may try to implement this with my phone. Since I have a BB then I can just do it.

hoolio
03-09-11, 02:52 AM
I have kind of the "baby" version of this system. I use a notebook (not always with me) and my phone (always with me). It hasn't "matured" to be as inclusive or effective as your system... time to do some tweaking I think!

I agree it takes time to develop a habit. I bought an iPhone and got a great calendar/To Do app for it to get organized... took me quite a while before it really became habit to actually use it. It does me no good if I don't remember to add things into it, and then remember to look at it later. Now I try to enter appointments right away, and then remember to check it daily to see what was in it! I have a notebook that I keep up to date To Do lists in. If they have a deadline I put it in my phone (if I remember!).

For example, my therapist appointments - I don't even bother getting an appointment card, I know I will just lose it and forget to enter it in the calendar later. So I put it in my calendar right away, as we are booking it. (Although, today, my therapist had to remind me to put it in my phone! lol). Funny, we talked about this at my session and I said I needed to get a notebook I could fit in my purse so that it was handier than the one I keep at home!!

Thanks for posting this!

Cacho
03-09-11, 06:51 PM
This is very helpful. I'm trying to do something similar. I especially like your idea of looking at your list for something quick to cross off when you get restless in the middle of a longer task.

What I found helpful was migrating my to do list from electronic form to a paper notebook. I write out my to do list the day before.... cross out stuff and update during the day, then I rewrite the undone portion of the list for the next day. Like this, if I don't complete a task, I'm forced to write it out again. This really makes the tasks I am avoiding jump out at me.

bothell41
05-10-11, 12:16 AM
Wizard Mike,

Great idea -- this is what works best for me too. I would like to know how do you keep from losing the notepad as well as how do you carry it and what type of pen/pencil do you use? I tend to lose both of them and my car also ends up with 6-8 pens after a couple of days accumulation since having one in my pocket is not good to sit on :)

All this being said it still works great for me too -- thanks.

DocrobDc123
05-25-11, 02:57 PM
There are 2 Iphone apps that I use that help. I discovered them on another adhd website. Evernote and Home Routine. I think evernote is free. You can prioritize the to-do's. Hope this helps someone.

String
05-26-11, 05:53 PM
I've been doing something very similar. I even have a little pen (Zebra brand) on my key chain. My only problem has been consistency.

I'm going to have to try to set some phone reminders to remember to look at my little notebook more often. Great idea.

maddiegirl
07-20-11, 08:27 AM
Does anyone feel like it is difficult to use phone apps because they are not right in front of you at all times and/or your phone goes dead from forgetting to charge it? This is why I keep going back and forth between phone and pad of paper.

String
07-20-11, 10:57 AM
Does anyone feel like it is difficult to use phone apps because they are not right in front of you at all times and/or your phone goes dead from forgetting to charge it? This is why I keep going back and forth between phone and pad of paper.

For me, phone apps all have a layer of complexity that make them unproductive. With a piece of paper, there's a chance my thought will actually get noted. With a phone app, I have to unlock the phone, open the app, go to the right spot or name the note... and usually my brain is gone before anything gets written down.

ljay85
08-17-11, 11:53 PM
My problem would be in the long(mid)-term, after a good habit becomes a routine, about 3-4 weeks. I coax myself into doing it at first, then I start doing it out of habit, and stop needing to coax myself, and then I fall completely out of routine. What's worse is it takes months to rebound and be ready to try a routine again.

I don't think an alarm would help. I probably need a coach. =( I think that it's setting up the routine, I procrastinate. And I make such good progress while on task, that it takes a few months before I fall behind again, for where I am in my life struggling with ADHD... pretty low expectations right now.

marywarren
03-30-12, 08:46 AM
Thanks, I'm going to use these ideas, I so need to get more productive

SublimeIdeology
04-25-12, 01:51 PM
I started using a to-do list booklet about 2 weeks ago, and it's working great. I know the consequences of letting my adhd run wild: low self-esteem, and low confidence. So I have extra motivation to keep my booklet near by and stay in the habit of checking it often. My bedroom and car are as clean and neat as I can ever remember them being. College is almost out for the summer, so i'm excited to put some heavier projects on my daily list.

VERY IMPORTANT imo is that when you make a to-do list, don't list big projects like "clean the house". Put projects on the to-do list that can easily be achieved like "clean the dishes". This gives a boost of confidence and self-esteem, and I end up finishing more than the small project that was on my list.

dogenthusiast90
08-16-12, 07:06 PM
I really needed this right now, thank you!!

Sandy4957
08-16-12, 10:11 PM
This is more or less how I live.

dexmasterflex
11-24-12, 09:11 AM
Does anyone feel like it is difficult to use phone apps because they are not right in front of you at all times and/or your phone goes dead from forgetting to charge it? This is why I keep going back and forth between phone and pad of paper.

Hi Maddie,

I have a similar problem. What i have done previously is to take a screen shot of my to-do list on my phone, and set that as the screen saver on my phone.

Like many others here have identified, the issue is consistency!

To solve that, i set an alarm on the phone that goes off every day when i wake up to make sure that i make that list the phone screen background.

Even then, i still have consistency problems. But as they say it takes '21 times' to form a habit. Now just to apply the discipline to do it 21 times...!

saritamackita
12-20-12, 03:15 PM
My problem would be in the long(mid)-term, after a good habit becomes a routine, about 3-4 weeks. I coax myself into doing it at first, then I start doing it out of habit, and stop needing to coax myself, and then I fall completely out of routine. What's worse is it takes months to rebound and be ready to try a routine again.

I don't think an alarm would help. I probably need a coach. =( I think that it's setting up the routine, I procrastinate. And I make such good progress while on task, that it takes a few months before I fall behind again, for where I am in my life struggling with ADHD... pretty low expectations right now.

I've had this exact same problem. I think a lot of people need to realize that part of the problem with ADHD IS motivation (inconsistent at least). That's why I really want to set up some kind of reward/punishment system app to improve motivation to get things done--anyway, that's a long story. I am going to try the phone reminder though.