Become the Master of Your Day

top-picDo you make the most of your time? At the end of the day do you feel like you had enough balance between work and pleasure? What about time for exercise, eating well and engaging in meaningful activities?  Most of us would answer, unequivocally, No!

 Life is demanding, yet there’s a high cost to letting your day master you – from chronic stress to pure exhaustion.  When you react to what’s in front of you instead of consciously deciding how to spend your time, you lose autonomy!

 The ADHD Factor
People with ADHD often feel like the sky is falling. This overwhelming sensation is understandable when you consider just a few common symptoms, like distractibility and difficulty remembering and prioritizing multiple matters. Think about getting ready for work in the morning.  What’s straight -forward for a neurotypical person is highly stressful for someone with ADD.  There are all the small decisions about what to wear or bring to lunch – as well as the need to remember what’s ahead.  (Just think about how often you run back from your car to grab a forgotten item!)  This extra effort is taxing and is not a good start to the day.  

Below I will review four areas that, when mastered, can help you move forward in new ways.  These are not simple ‘How- To’s’ but concepts to work with over time.

Concepts to Help You Master Your Day

I. Have something to look forward to.
No one is happy when life tips out of balance towards ‘all work and no play’.  But for procrastinators, it’s particularly hard to proceed when there’s nothing pulling them forward.  I’ve listed this first because pleasure is too often the last priority.

Feeling positive about your life is really the main purpose in mastering your time.  Consider what you want more of, or what’s missing in your life.  It could be something simple like more time with friends or getting away for a weekend.  Maybe you want to expand your life by volunteering or taking a course.  Or perhaps you need a major change in your life like moving or finding a new career direction. 

While adding something new can feel daunting, focusing on these important goals is empowering and will give you a sense of purpose and pleasure. For those of you who aren’t natural planners, unfortunately, there’s no way around it – but you can enlist help. Be brave and expand your life!

II. Free yourself from indecision.
There are no perfect decisions, yet we act as if there are, endlessly pondering our choices.  The fear of making the wrong decision or wanting to keep options open is often behind this difficulty.  And if you have a history of making poor decisions, this is understandable.

But consider how indecision impacts you and those around you.  When you endlessly deliberate, you’re pre-occupied, waste time and energy, and also risk becoming overwhelmed, which makes these decisions even harder to reach!

I encourage you to work towards being more decisive.  Learn to distinguish which decisions deserve your time and analysis and which are time-suckers. One quick way is to consider how much money, time, or effort is at stake. For important decisions, go ahead and take plenty of time to decide, enlisting the help of others as needed.

Remember that few decisions are irreversible or catastrophic – and that it’s impossible to have all the knowledge you need to make many decisions. There are advantages and disadvantages to every decision and there is great freedom to be found in accepting this. In addition, even if you make a poor decision, you are likely more resilient than you think.

For less important decisions, adopt the mindset that you will be more empowered, present, and available if you are decisive!  People tend to be kind towards those who make mistakes, but less forgiving towards those who are wishy-washy or stuck in decision paralysis.

Try these simple questions when you just can’t decide!

  •  If no one was impacted but me, what would I choose? 
  • What potential consequences am I worried about, and just how important are they?
  • Would I feel better doing nothing or choosing an option?

III. Learn to pick your top priorities every day:
Each morning, ask yourself the question:  “At the end of the day, what completed action(s) would best meet my/my families needs?” 

Look over your list and commit to just one action a day.  I hesitate to suggest that you schedule it because many people do fine fitting them in naturally. Do what works best for you. Once you get used to completing one priority a day, add another.  Feel the sense of completion and how it helps you feel more in control. Consider using the free ADHD HealthStorylines App to track your completed priorities and gain a sense of success.

 IV. Remember that you don’t need to feel like doing something in order to do it:
We all postpone tasks we don’t feel like doing, focusing solely on the present and ignoring the future consequences.  According to Ned Hallowell, MD, people with ADHD tend to think in terms of NOW and LATER, emphasizing that they usually focus on the present moment and fail to connect with later.  By slowing down, you can learn to make choices that take both the present and the future into account.

 There is also the common saying that what you focus on expands. When you focus on how much you don’t want to do something, it makes it harder to do!  When you shift your focus from reluctance to deciding to complete a task – despite the feelings – you can make enormous strides.

While I always cringed at the Just Do It campaign, I’m advocating for a version of it, when you: a) need to get something done soon, b) know it will not harm you to do so, and, c) have time in your day.  Under these circumstances, take your mind off your negative feelings and tell yourself, “I am now going to take care of business!”  Distract yourself by being in the moment, taking in your surroundings, and letting go!

Being the master of your day will lead you to a more satisfying and meaningful life.  When you feel on top of things there’s a sense of control that’s powerful.  Each adjustment takes some time and effort, but taking even one step in a positive direction will pay off.

If you can master one day you can learn to master all your days.