What to Avoid When Planning Your Week

Planning is a real delight. It’s one of the most fun things I can do with my precious time! When I sit down to plan, the only thing I really want to plan, is the next session of planning, which can’t come soon enough.

… said no one with ADHD. Ever.

Yeah, we know. Sitting down to plan your week is hard, and if you’ve ever been burned by missing your own plan, you might not find a whole lot of value in it. This week on the show, we’re going to make the case that maybe, just maybe, you’re falling into one of three perilous traps that have impeded your successful efforts to plan. If you can get your hands around these three, you’re off to the races!

Links & Notes


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello everybody. And welcome to Taking Control, the ADHD podcast on true story FM I’m Pete Wright, and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer. Hello, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello Pete Wright.

Pete Wright:
How are you feeling?

Nikki Kinzer:
Great, how are you?

Pete Wright:
I’m feeling great and positive.

Nikki Kinzer:
Awesome.

Pete Wright:
And well planned and yeah, right? I’m feeling on top of the world.

Nikki Kinzer:
Ready to be proactive?

Pete Wright:
I am. You know what it is? My partner, Andy, is out of town and when he’s not around, I get a lot done.

Nikki Kinzer:
Do you?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, because I-

Nikki Kinzer:
Is that a good thing? Why? What happens when Andy is home?

Pete Wright:
We just end up trying to accomplish a lot more. And so when he’s gone, I’m not thinking about his stuff and I just do my stuff and it’s like a vacation. It’s like a productivity vacation. I can only think about one thing at a time. That’s brilliant.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s true.

Pete Wright:
It’s just brilliant. And we’re going to be talking all about planning and productivity today. We’re starting our little, not really starting, I guess we’re continuing our little productivity series, April productivity, celebration.

Nikki Kinzer:
Stuff. Productivity stuff.

Pete Wright:
Productivitypalooza. And we’re starting with what to avoid when planning your week. Not how to plan your week, but what not to do when planning your week. And I think it’s going to be super useful. But before we do that head over to takecontroladhd.com. Get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website, or subscribe to our mailing list right there on the homepage. And we’ll email you with the latest episode each week. Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook at Take Control ADHD. And if the show has ever touched you or helped you make a change in your life for the better, if you’ve ever found you understand your relationship with ADHD in a new way, please consider supporting the show directly through Patrion.

Pete Wright:
Patrion is listener supported podcasting. With a few dollars a month, you can help guarantee we continue to grow the show, add new features, invest more heavily in our community. You can visit patrion.com/theADHDpodcast to learn more. And I’ll tell you right now, you may be seeing the fruits of some of that labor in the form of our new ADHD podcast resource database, which we’ve just demoed here on the live stream for folks who are watching along with us. And hopefully we’ll be having that released by this time next week and it will be the newest, latest thing that our members have supported for the show. And it’s fantastic.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s pretty cool.

Pete Wright:
So delighted that that listener support allows us to do more stuff like this. So, that’s where we are. I do want to say a very quick thorough shout out to our newest members at Deanna and See Alex and Linda and Donna and Robert. These are just people that are signed up over the weekend. Thank you so much. What are you doing with your weekend? Signing up and supporting us. I’m humbled by the attention that you all are giving us here. So thank you to our new members and old, again, patrion.com/theADHDpodcast to learn more. Do we have other announcements?

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, we always have study hall every Thursday afternoon is available. So check out the website. If you’d like to join us in study hall and work with fabulous people alongside you and get some stuff done. And I’m going to talk about GPS, the workshop, a little bit later, because the workshop has to do with planning and we’re talking about planning. So, that’s coming up.

Pete Wright:
Oh, good. All right. Well, let’s get to it, Nikki. Let’s talk about what to avoid when planning your week.

Nikki Kinzer:
So when you think of being productive, what do you think? What does it mean?

Pete Wright:
Oh, okay. I’m going to go back to our organizing definition, finding what you need when you need it, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s organizing.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Productivity for me is getting stuff done when I intend to get it done.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, brilliant.

Pete Wright:
When you think about that?

Nikki Kinzer:
I love it.

Pete Wright:
That’s just hot off the dome right here.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s fantastic. It’s great, actually, because that’s where we think, right? To be productive means you’re getting things done. However, to be the most productive, it helps to know what you’re doing.

Pete Wright:
Right. That’s the third vector. So for me, I need to know what I’m doing and when I have to do it, what I have available to do it. And that’s usually where I screw it up. I way over-plan.

Nikki Kinzer:
Or people will do the exact opposite and don’t plan at all. They’ll skip the planning piece and they go straight to work. So it’s not a happy medium, right? It’s either, you don’t plan and you go straight to work or you over-plan and you still don’t get the work done because you probably have over-planned, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, right.

Nikki Kinzer:
So there’s this not happy place. So we want to find a happy place. But the problem with planning that I have found with my clients is that it’s really overwhelming, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing, where to start, everything feels urgent. You’re looking at several tasks on different task lists that are everywhere, paper, computer notes, right? I mean, it can be anywhere. So of course, the work isn’t always getting done or the work is getting done, but it’s on a very reactive type of mode and you’re not very proactive.

Pete Wright:
Sure.

Nikki Kinzer:
So this is the thing, when we don’t plan, it’s almost like you’re playing darts in the dark. Imagine that for a moment.

Pete Wright:
Oh, yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
So you’re in this-

Pete Wright:
In a room full of friends and family.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, of people, yeah. Yes, exactly. So you’ve got the lights off and you’re just throwing darts and you are hoping that you don’t get your wife or your child, or-

Pete Wright:
I think you just described the plot of Saw Seven or The Purge Nine.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right. Yeah. Well, to get your target is pretty slim. We know that, right? So we want the lights on. We want to flip those lights on.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. First things first, get the lights on, yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right. So, that’s what we do with planning. So today what I want to do is just share with you a few ideas on what to avoid when you’re planning your week and really hope that it gives you some different insights on how to plan. And let’s go with this and see what you think. And if you have questions, I know that Pete will ask them because that’s what you do.

Pete Wright:
That’s right. All right. So, where do you start?

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. Number one thing that you don’t want to do is not have a standing appointment to plan your week.

Pete Wright:
Sure.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay? So the problem with not having a regular time that you do this, and I’m not saying that it’s a regular time all the time, and we know that inconsistent behavior is not usual for the ADHD, but when you don’t have any type of time scheduled or intended to do this, the likelihood of you ever getting any planning done is really, really, really slim.

Pete Wright:
Super slim.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. So, we want to have some kind of thought process where you’re thinking, okay, when does it make sense for me to plan out my week? And for most people, if it’s a Monday through Friday work week, you’re going to want to do that on a Monday morning, maybe on a Friday afternoon. But Friday afternoons are pretty shot for me. I don’t really do a whole lot. But Monday morning, it’s fresh. It’s a new week. It can definitely work. But if you don’t have anything planned or if you don’t have a time, it’s just probably not going to get done. So, you want to think about that.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, right. I still advocate for Thursday afternoon.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, tell us why.

Pete Wright:
Thursday afternoon has been the sweet spot for me because I used to plan Monday morning and it was always too late. There are always fires that start right away Monday morning. And it’s so hard to put the gate down that says, I know I’m here, but you can’t have me yet world. I know I’m working. I know you know I’m working. I know you know I know I’m working, you don’t get access to me until I’m ready. That proved impossible for me. I just don’t have the willpower for it, but I find that Thursday afternoon, I’m not yet in the Friday, oh, catch up on the last few things and meetings. It’s still early enough that I’m fresh with the stuff I didn’t accomplish this week.

Pete Wright:
And so Thursday, I can build out my calendar for next week and then know, when it hits Monday morning, I’m able to roll with the punches. If anything came in on Friday or over the weekend that I need to adjust, fine. But if I adjust nothing, I know I have a plan and I haven’t had to be stressed about it all weekend long.

Nikki Kinzer:
I love that.

Pete Wright:
So I am an advocate, definitely an advocate for the Thursday afternoon plan, planning session.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. That is definitely something worth trying. And that’s exactly what I would encourage listeners to do is try. Practice some different times during the week and see what works best for you. So it could be a Thursday afternoon, Thursday morning. It could be Friday. It could be Sunday. Some people like to do some planning on Sunday. So I definitely say, go into it with a practice, curious mentality of where you’ll get it done. Because if you find that you schedule it and you’re not getting it done on a Thursday afternoon, or like what Pete said, I tried doing it Monday mornings and it just wasn’t getting done. Then we want to try something different then. We want to see, okay, this isn’t happening. I’m not getting it done. So I’m going to change the time and I’m going to see how this works. So we want to keep experimenting on something that will work most of the time, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah. And I think that’s the thing you’re fighting against there is, that our instinct is, well, it didn’t work for me to do my planning on Monday morning, I guess planning doesn’t work for me.

Nikki Kinzer:
I can’t plan.

Pete Wright:
And that would be the wrong lesson to get out of this. It took me years to figure out Thursday would work for me. I tried Sunday, there were invariably too many family demands, family dinner, those kinds of things for me to get it in my head. The planning had to be, there are a couple of emergent rules. It had to be during the workday because my head’s in a workday mode and I also needed to not be rushed by all of these other work demands. And Thursday was the sweet spot. Find the sweet spot. It serves you to find the sweet spot.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. All right. So the second thing that we want to avoid is having your planning sessions be too long. Unfortunately, when they get drawn out, they are going to be more likely not to happen. So we want our planning session to be pretty simple, pretty concise, clear checklists that you can just go off and check off pretty quickly. And the reason the planning session doesn’t have to be a very long period of time is because it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Pete Wright:
Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
So that’s the thing that we want to avoid here is perfection, because I can guarantee you, whatever you plan on Monday is going to be adjusted on Tuesday. Very rarely does the plan go exactly the way that you think it’s going to go. So ideally, you want your planning sessions to be around 30 minutes long. You want to have a chance to be able to look at your task list, look at your calendar, figure out what your priorities are, match those priorities to your calendar and put some intention behind your planning, but we really only need to do it for about 30 minutes.

Pete Wright:
And I would say that once you get started planning and you start doing it, I’ve been doing it now for a number of years on Thursday at four o’clock. And I have it in my calendar blocked out four to 4:30. It rarely takes me more than 10 or 15 minutes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. That’s exactly sure. And I’m glad you say that because the more it’s a habit and the more you keep up with your task lists and you’re keeping up with everything, it doesn’t take very long. So at the beginning, it’s probably going to take longer than 30 minutes just because you’re getting used to what it is that you need to look at. But I’m glad you say that Pete, because yes, with time it can get faster and quicker and it’s more fluid and just easy. It comes to you easier, I should say, not easy but easier.

Pete Wright:
So even as I’ve been planning for a number of years, doing my weekly planning and putting all my tasks in the calendar, when I’m going to do it, I still get bit by something that, almost every week, I get bit by this one thing. And it happens to be the one thing that is number three on your list of things not to do when planning. Allow me to be case example number one.

Nikki Kinzer:
Please tell people what this is. What’s number three?

Pete Wright:
You get in there, you start planning, you’re feeling good about planning, you’re moving tasks around, and then you see that one task. And you know that task? You know that task.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, yes.

Pete Wright:
That task is the one that says, “Do me now. You can do it. Just do it now, I’m fine. You just knock it out. It’ll take you two minutes. Don’t worry, it’ll be great.” And you say, okay task. I think I can do it. I think I can s [crosstalk 00:13:33]-

Nikki Kinzer:
I’ve got your back.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. I think I can do it. I think I could do it. And then you start doing the task. And that two minutes turns into five minutes, turns into a half hour. And before long you’ve started working for your day and you have not planned. Am I saying it about right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yep.

Pete Wright:
Is that the experience?

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, that’s right on.

Pete Wright:
Oh, my goodness.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, absolutely. And a couple of reasons why this happens. One is, that your planning sessions might be too long. And so you might, without even knowing it, you’re having that anxiety of, I’ve got to get this work done. So that little task that says, “open me” is going to be even louder because you’re going to be pulled to want to do that because you have that anxiety of having to get the work done. But yes, that can definitely happen. And do you remember that book? I’m sure you read it to your kids because we re-read to our kids all the time. If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want this and he’s going to want that.

Pete Wright:
Oh, yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s the same thing. You are going to open up that one task and then another one’s going to want your attention and the other one’s going to want your attention. So I think there’s a mindset here that has to come in and that is, you’re only planning for this period of time. You have the whole day to do your work and the planning can be just as important as the work because it’s getting you organized to do the work. It’s getting you in the headset, the mindset, to get into the work. You’re not as reactive. You can feel a little bit more in control. So I would say, think about that as you’re going into your planning session, I’m not going to work. I’m not going to work. Put a big sticky note on your computer if you need to, just to remind you not to work during that time.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. I just want to go back to that one point you just made, which is so valuable for me, which is about getting yourself in the mindset of work. Think about how bad you are, if you’re like me, at making transitions. Transitioning from work to not work and not work to work is really hard. And sometimes it’s seductive to trick yourself, to cheat yourself into thinking, if I just do that one minute, two minute task, then you will be making that transition into work. But what you’re really doing is you’re just chumming the water for distraction. You’re just looking for more stuff not to do. You’re not really actually focused on finding more focus throughout the rest of the week to come.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right. So quick review, you want to have a standing appointment to plan. You want to make sure that your planning sessions are not too long and you want to plan, don’t do the work. Plan, plan, plan, don’t do the work.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Next week, we’re going to talk about the daily plan, daily review, whatever you want to call it. So here Pete on a Thursday afternoon has thought about his week, has reflected about this past week. What’s going to happen to this next week? But then there’s this also daily review that has to happen. I’m sure you check your to-do list every day, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, multiple times a day. So if I were to characterize the difference between what we talked about this week and what we’re going to talk about next week, this week is about big rocks. This week, I’m looking at next week and finding where are the big blocks of time that I’m going to be able to do sets of tasks or sets of client activities and daily, at the end of each day, I’m looking at, what is tomorrow half hour by half hour going to look like in terms of moving those smaller rocks around? So I think that’s a great way to pick up.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. One last thing that I want to say that we started to talk about at the beginning of the show, the GPS program.

Pete Wright:
Yes.

Nikki Kinzer:
This is a workshop that I am leading and it’s a six week workshop and it stands for guided planning sessions. We’ve talked about it in the past. But what this workshop does, is it actually gives you the time and space to do this planning with the support of myself and others that are going through the same thing. And I have a system that I go through. We have a step-by-step that’s broken up by time of what you’re going to do during this five minutes, what you’re going to do during this 10 minutes. And it’s really been incredible to witness how people feel about planning in week one and what happens to them at week six. I’m not saying that, oh, it’s no problem. And it’s easy peasy, but there’s this transformation that happens. And they think about planning in a different way. They’re more realistic. They give themselves more grace. They understand their ADHD more.

Pete Wright:
More confidence, less fear.

Nikki Kinzer:
More confidence, less fear. Exactly. That’s exactly it. And so if you are struggling with planning and you would like to learn more of how you can do this in an ADHD friendlier way, I highly recommend that you check out GPS. I’m going to be offering this workshop throughout the year at different times and check it out.

Pete Wright:
Excellent. Link in the show notes. Thank you everybody for hanging out with us today. Thanks for putting up with my technical issues. I don’t know what that was all about. We appreciate you downloading and listening to this show. We deeply appreciate your time and your attention. Don’t forget if you have something to contribute about the conversation, we’re heading over to the Show Talk channel and the Discord server, and you can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control, the ADHD podcast.