Casey has ADHD and ASD (autistic spectrum disorder), and has struggled to manage her time. Luckily, she’s found a pattern that works for her, and is here to share her tips on how to manage your time as a neurodivergent.
Managing Your Time as a Neurodivergent
My whole life I’ve had time management problems. I’d do homework until 10pm. I wouldn’t get my bosses’ to-do lists done the day they wanted them done. When I became a stay at home mom, I just never seemed to be able to catch up on chores. Sound familiar?
Of course, I’ve tried numerous methods to fix this. I’ve had planners that I’d write everything in and list the tasks in order of priority. After a few days, it’d be left in its spot forgotten.
I’ve tried time blocking, setting alarms for each task to begin. Unfortunately, my ADHD would get distracted by something. Or worse, my child and pets would have different ideas of what was supposed to happen at that moment.
As an autistic, homemaker, mom, and chronically ill person, I need a flexible schedule that accounts for distraction, flair ups, and breaks. I tried many different routines before I finally found one that worked for me.
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Different Time Management Routines
The Habitica App
The first routine I tried to put into action was the app Habitica. It takes your love of games, and turns it into task completion. When I completed a task, I could level up, buy new equipment, and have cute pets. It seemed like the perfect solution.
Unfortunately, for me, the notifications to complete tasks were too easy to ignore. They’d be swiped across my scene and forgotten. After a little while, it felt less like a reward and more like an additional chore, and I wasn’t interested in another chore.
Another routine I tried I actually found on neurodivergent TikTok. Instead of time blocking, it suggests a section of the day blocking. You divide your day into morning, afternoon, and evening, and decide what you want to do in each block.
This was closer to the answer I needed. I could have a regular routine that provided flexibility in that block of time. The problem was I would get fixated on a task in a specific block and it’d run into the next block. I felt perpetually behind schedule, trying to finish tasks before the afternoon or evening. Eventually I would fail, burnt out and frustrated that I didn’t have any breaks, but also didn’t finish what I wanted.
Getting Support from a Partner
The last thing I tried was simply having my significant other tell me what to do. He’d message me in the morning with what chores or tasks he thought I should do, and I would do them. My husband, though, doesn’t value the same tasks that I do. I would finish what he wanted me to get done, and then feel guilty that other things hadn’t gotten done. I knew he took my disabilities into account and tried to get me to rest, but for me that was the same as being lazy.
An additional issue with all these routines was that they never took into account that I usually crash at one or two o’clock. Suddenly, I’ll be exhausted and unwilling to do much of anything, let alone a whole to-do list. At that time, I focused on surviving and keeping the living creatures in my care alive. (This is probably another thing I need to figure out, but that’s not the point of this article).
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My Neurodivergent Time Management Solution
What I suggest is to combine routines. If you pick your favourite parts of different routines you’ve tried, chances are that’ll work better for you than anybody else’s routine. Here’s how I made mine:
Have a Morning Routine
First, I have a specific time I wake up. It’s before the baby and dogs wake up, so I have time for myself, caffeine, and a quiet task, like reading or writing.
Then, I have a morning block. I feed the baby, walk the dogs, and do a chore of the day. I’ve divided my days to have a specific chore so I don’t get overwhelmed by doing too much every day. Monday is dishes and cleaning the kitchen, Tuesday is laundry, etc. This ensures that even if I get distracted, I’m getting distracted in the same area and it’s working towards my goal.
Usually, I finish the chore of the day before a scheduled lunch and dog walk. That gives me time to check with my husband if there was anything else he wanted done, play with my kid, or just simply relax.
Schedule Your Mealtimes
Scheduling my lunch at a specific time helped me immensely. It provides a transition task. It also reminds me to eat. Like most neurodivergent folks, I’m not always aware of when I’m hungry and can often go hours without eating anything. Sometimes, eating lunch prevents the afternoon crash, sometimes it doesn’t, but I always feel better for eating either way.
Plan Tasks For When You’re Feeling Good
For the afternoon block, I plan two sets of tasks, one for when I’m exhausted or having a flair up, the other for if I’m feeling great. Having small, easy to do tasks when I’m exhausted helps me to feel productive and not guilty for having my disabilities. On the other hand, having more complicated tasks for when I’m feeling great makes me feel like Superwoman.
The evening block starts when my husband gets home from work. It’s a great transition moment for me because now there’s another person and everybody naturally transitions to different activities when he’s home. I’ve dedicated the evening block for me time, family time and dinner. It’s a perfect time to relax.
Every neurodivergent person needs to find what works for them, but I hope my example helps. The most helpful aspects for me were having tasks that happened at specific times, having blocks of times that were more flexible, and having transition activities to help me get from one task to another.
I want you to also consider making different task lists for different capabilities. Sometimes, you feel like a Superperson and can do all the things. But, you shouldn’t expect yourself to maintain that if you have chronic illness flair ups or burn out. In a future article, I’ll explain how I determine different goals and tasks for my capabilities.