Structure’s Challenge

It seems to me that all the time management courses and conversations promote scheduling and blocking your time. I think it’s especially valuable that ADDers use schedules because it helps keep them on track and being productive. In general, it’s a great idea for anyone wanting to be productive.

That said, there’s a potential dark side to a schedule — especially a rigid one. When I was a B&B innkeeper, there were those who would counsel me that I needed more time management skills so I could have more productive days. In the sense that yes, there were times blocked for breakfast, housekeeping, checking guests in, baking cookies, and prepping for breakfast, those people were correct. In the sense that I put my work first and ignored the needs of my guests, staff, and vendors, those people were incorrect. The solution for me was to have staff cover the must-do tasks at times so I could step away to deal with things I had to do, like marketing or leading How-To seminars. When I was alone at the inn, though, my schedule was secondary to others’ schedules and needs.

The role you play at work determines, in my estimate, the level of scheduling that’s appropriate. When my real estate broker took a time management class, he decided to rigidly block his time. Good for him and his productivity! Bad for us, his agents, and our productivity. In real estate, time is of the essence. When a contract needed the input of my Broker, my clients wouldn’t understand a response like “My broker won’t be available for another four hours when his schedule is open for agent questions.” or other such delays. Buyers and sellers want answers fast and don’t understand being put off like that. Sure, maybe we shouldn’t have put quite so much emphasis on “immediate” replies, but that’s how it was in those days. Some jobs have different responsibilities that change the time-management rules. Can you imagine an ER doctor or nurse refuse to tend to a patient’s needs because they had other things blocked at that time? No, me neither. Nope, that just wouldn’t fly.

When you have nobody to answer to but yourself, a tight schedule, rigidly blocked, is a tool for productivity. That sounds like a great tool for entrepreneurs. Well, most entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs with ADD may have a different take on that kind of time management, though. Your ADD-ness determines the degree or style of scheduling you do. ADDers can be rebels. They don’t like to be told what to do or when — even if they set the tasks and timing. They don’t like to be held tightly — like a rigid schedule would do.

Structure is vital for ADDers to manage their characteristics and traits. Rigid structure brings out the rebel, though. So, what’s an ADDer to do? What’s a person with responsibility to others to do? The solution as I see it is to use what I call fluid structure.

In fluid structure, you schedule the most important projects during times when you are most alert and fresh; they don’t have to be done first thing in your day. Ideally, regardless of what time management tool you use, listing your projects for the day, enumerating their action items, and then scheduling them are the steps for success. To be most effective, by the way, the scheduled time needs to have a reminder attached to the scheduled item — preferably an alarm that will interrupt you and require acknowledgment.

You can make your schedule look like a formal list, a mind map list, or an informal To-Do list in a small notebook you can easily carry anywhere with you. The best way to figure out what works for you so that you are productive without rousing your inner rebel is to play with the different styles of tools. Whatever style you like best, use it daily.

The challenge with structure is multi-fold. You want to be productive yet without shirking your responsibilities to those who depend on you. And you want to be productive without rousing your rebelliousness. With mindfulness and creativity, you can find a solution that supports a productive day and your responsibility to others.

Productivity is the goal. Structure offers a challenge in finding the right productivity balance. That challenge provides the opportunity to create the right solution for your personality style. When you are ready to be productive on your terms, you’ll be ready to say “Challenge accepted!” as you stand tall and step forward.

Part of stepping forward very well could include hiring a coach. You don’t see your blind spots, something a coach does see and works with you on. This is where you get support in becoming your most effective with your ADD type and personality.

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