Demystifying the Task of Organizing Tasks
Do you make to-do lists and then ignore them, lose them, or get derailed after the first task? I’m most productive when I start my day meditating first, and then writing my task list. I prefer pen and paper, using one sacred notepad that I keep nearby…except when I lose it. If you prefer using your mobile device, be mindful of risking the out-of-sight-out-of-mind problem. How often do you scan your entire list, or your calendar, on an electronic device?
There is more to prioritizing than creating a task list. The time you protect for making the list should be on your calendar. It may be your most important, non-urgent task. Non-urgent tasks are easy to neglect. Brains like mine are drawn like a magnet to urgency. God only knows what I’m forgetting in this moment, while pushed to meet my blogging deadline.
Starting your day by jumping into a task with a microscopic state of awareness interferes with open awareness. Start your day in an open state before engaging in selective attention. Prioritizing requires both states of awareness. Going from an open state to focused attention is easier than shifting from one object of focus to another. Doing is more stimulating than planning. Prioritizing tasks requires patience and inhibition of impulsivity. If you neglect to prioritize the task of prioritizing, you may remember a critically important priority after it is too late to begin the task. Feeling horrible about having used your time unwisely, you may distract yourself unwisely with negative self-talk. That’s where a meditation mantra can help: let it be…move on.
Beginning your day with a wide angle lens is important for living well with ADHD. You have an attention management problem, not an attention deficit. Broadening your awareness is no less important than focusing it. I have a harder time with open awareness. I can focus too well at times and lose awareness of time, other priorities, and other people. Poor attention management not only contributes to inefficiency, it can make you appear unconcerned about others.
Modern television studios use a small mounted camera for a director to employ for scanning and directing multiple robotic cameras. One robotic camera may show a wide angle view of the entire set, and another may focus on the face of a show’s host. We direct our visual attention in a similar fashion, first determining where to direct it, and then shifting from a broad view to a focused one. Scanning for where to direct your visual attention determines what you see. Scanning is like prioritizing.
Give your task list the time and attention it deserves. Expect occasional setbacks, but don’t waste time criticizing yourself for wasting time. Just return the wheels to the tracks in that moment of recognition, before the self-criticism engine starts. It takes seconds to get back on track and far more time to lecture yourself. The moment you have completed a task, direct your attention back to the task list, immediately, before your brain gets hooked by something urgent and less important. Just note what grabbed your attention and add it to your list if it is important. Then keep moving forward.
Now, back to my task list…