2406@2x ADHD Task Management

Manage Your Time, Not Your Systems

Pete offers a case of a client struggling with task overload. Thanks to a tour of todo systems and a little handicraft, they build a new mental model for managing available time.

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Here’s the case: a busy professional is struggling with 20-25 overdue, bright red tasks in their task management system every morning. But they have a great system! They know exactly what work needs to get done at any given time. So, why aren’t they getting the work out the door?

Because of time, dear friends, time.

This week on the show, Pete has a walk through a few task systems in an effort to build our own, and help this busy client to get the most important work done without feeling horrible about the rest. Along the way, we talk about Getting Things Done, David Allen’s system of stress-free productivity that appears to cause more stress than it curbs, The Eisenhower Matrix, Kanban, Scrum, and Agile Results.

There is a lot to think about in this episode. Remember, you don’t have to pick one and roll with it for the rest of your professional life! In this episode, we’re picking and choosing the systems that make the most sense for us with an eye toward managing our time, not our tools.


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 TruStory FM. I’m Pete Wright, and right over there is Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer: Hello everyone. Hello, Pete Wright.

Pete Wright: Hi, Nikki. That was great. Do that again?

Nikki Kinzer: Hi, Pete.

Pete Wright: Would you do the whole show that way?

Nikki Kinzer: No.

Pete Wright: Can we make that happen? I am very excited today. Are you ready to nerd out about task management systems?

Nikki Kinzer: I can’t wait.

Pete Wright: I blame you. Last week, you said, hey Pete, we had to reschedule a thing because of the holiday on Monday. We were going to do a thing. We had to reschedule it. And you said, "Do you think you could come up with something maybe tech related or something that you do." And I lost time over this. I got some excited about or just reviewing how we deal with and think about tasks and the work that we have to do. So I’m very excited to do just a brief review and I’ll use a case example of somebody that I was working with to help kind of manage some of this story.

Nikki Kinzer: Love it. Can’t wait.

Pete Wright: That’s what we’re going to do. I’m very excited about it. Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com. You can get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website, or of course, you can subscribe to the mailing list and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @takecontroladhd. And if this show has ever touched you, get ready. March is coming.

Nikki Kinzer: Oh, March is coming and there is a lot going on.

Pete Wright: We’ve got a lot going on. This episode is actually going to go live on the first.

Nikki Kinzer: Oh. Well, then we need to talk a little bit about this. Yes.

Pete Wright: Yes. So welcome to March. Welcome to March.

Nikki Kinzer: Welcome, March 1st.

Pete Wright: Oh, March. Oh, I hope it’s sunny.

Nikki Kinzer: Or any time that you listen to this.

Pete Wright: Yes. We’re very excited about it because we’re doing a pledge drive.

Nikki Kinzer: We are. We’re doing a podcast pledge drive.

Pete Wright: I love it. It’s a podcast pledge drive. So the month of March, we’re going to do some new things. And what are those new things, Nikki Kinzer? Where would you like to start?

Nikki Kinzer: Let’s see. Well, we are doing a pledge drive because we have a goal that we’ve talked about for a long, long time. We need to get to 250 members to introduce the membership to our podcast placeholder.

Pete Wright: The podcast called Placeholder.

Nikki Kinzer: Yes.

Pete Wright: I’m very excited about this new podcast.

Nikki Kinzer: Hosted by Pete Wright.

Pete Wright: It’s Pete’s podcast, Placeholder.

Nikki Kinzer: Yes.

Pete Wright: Pete posted the podcast, Placeholder.

Nikki Kinzer: Pete has posted the podcast, Placeholder. But what’s so exciting about this is we’ve wanted to do this for a long time and we just decided, you know what? We need to make this happen. So how can we make this happen? So we are dedicating the month of March to hopefully get you guys excited about this podcast, as excited as we are about having it and sharing it because, Pete, you are adored. People want to hear from you. They want to hear more about your systems, but not just about tech. It’s also about you, you, you over there, as he’s shrinking down.

Pete Wright: I’m shrinking.

Nikki Kinzer: In embarrassment.

Pete Wright: I don’t care for it. That’s triggering a lot of a lot of anxieties, but I’m still very excited about it.

Nikki Kinzer: It is. And so we have a goal and we’ve got a couple things that we want to promote. And one of those is of course, as a member of the Patreon community, you will get this podcast.

Pete Wright: And that’s important to note because if you are not a member of the Patreon community at any level, you will not get this podcast. It will only be for members.

Nikki Kinzer: Only for members.

Pete Wright: It is our first member only podcast, Placeholder.

Nikki Kinzer: It’s a big deal. And one of the other things that we’re adding to Patreon is we are adding a new tier, which is the platinum tier. And what this is going to be for $25 a month, you get all of the other benefits that you get at the deluxe and supreme membership, but we are adding two new services or not services, but aspects, benefits, I guess you would say, right? One is Coffee with Pete.

Pete Wright: Coffee, with Pete.

Nikki Kinzer: Coffee with Pete..

Pete Wright: We do a happy hour every month. Happy hour is for supreme members. We are going to be adding for platinum members at extra events. One of them is Coffee with Pete. We’re going to get together. We’ll talk about technology. I’m happy to screen share and brainstorm Todoist filters or anything you want related to technology, or we can just gab. We can just gab with some coffee. Wherever you are in the world, I’ll be doing it at about, I think we decided on nine o’clock Friday morning once a month. And on the off two weeks each month, you are doing something too.

Nikki Kinzer: I’m doing Coaching with Nikki in the evening time once a month. And what I want to do here is I want to bring up a topic that is relevant to the theme to what we’ve talked about on the show. And so for the next few weeks, we’re going to be talking about time and goals and things like that. So in the end of March, because we are giving these benefits as a sample, right? It’s a little promotion so these are going to go out to any member.

Pete Wright: Just a taste.

Nikki Kinzer: Yes. Any member at any level so you can see if it’s something that you might be interested in. And what I’m going to be doing in the end of March is bringing something up that I think might be relevant. And we can start talking about the things that you’ve learned on the show, support other people, connect, whatever we want. It’s going to be fabulous.

Pete Wright: Very excited about that. In addition, I’ll be releasing the trailer and ideally episode one in the month of March. We will not be going into regular production unless and until we meet that goal and exceed 250 Patreons. We have been just nipping at that level for so long. If you have been thinking about it, if it’s been in the back of your mind, we would love to have you on board,. Join the community. Get access to the discord channels, get access to your very own Patreon member feed for the main ADHD podcast that includes member jibber-jabber in the beginning and end that the regular feed does not include. We’re very excited about doing all this stuff. We need your help to get there. Again, it’s all about making choices. Your help allows us to make choices in how we grow this community and do more stuff and continue to buy our shoes, that kind of thing, keep the kids fed. And so this is our job and it’s hugely helpful. Your tiny contribution goes so far, so, so far in helping this community thrive. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Is that it? Let’s get on with the show.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah, let’s go.

Pete Wright: Let me tell you the story. Let me just tell you how it all started. It started because I’ve been doing this digital funkshway for folks who need it, who call me, who want some support and how to think about how technology can help support their work. And that involves a lot of like, let’s get into your computer and let’s look at what your task list looks like, and that kind of stuff. And I was presented with this case where somebody said, "My ADHD is in the way of me getting things done on any given day. I just can’t do it. And I have a rigorous system, so it’s not about the system." My client says, "It’s not about the system. It’s all about the fact that my ADHD doesn’t allow me to focus." And et cetera. So that was the case.

Nikki Kinzer: You know what the first red flag is right there? Rigorous.

Pete Wright: Sure. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer: Rigorous.

Pete Wright: Right. Right.

Nikki Kinzer: I do not like that word.

Pete Wright: I don’t like that word either. I don’t like it. Makes all the little hairs stand up. So it turns out that my client had adopted the Moscow approach in Todoist. That was the tool that he was using, was Todoist. And the Moscow approach is that you generally want to have in any given day, you have your must have tasks, your should have tasks, your could have tasks and your would have tasks. Now he’s adapted. He said, "Every day, I want to make sure I have two things that I have to do scheduled on any given day so I can keep moving those things forward. I have two things that I should do that aren’t urgent, but I need to do them." Right, "And I have two things on my list that I want to do, that I just want in my life to make me happy and it fills some hole, whether it’s me as a father, whether it’s me as a physician or a doctor, maybe it’s me as a whatever. I just want to make sure that those areas of influence are represented in my daily task." What do you think was happening in Todoist then?

Nikki Kinzer: Oh, I think he was getting a lot of tasks probably backlogged into the today. I can see this happening.

Pete Wright: Overdue.

Nikki Kinzer: Oh, overdue. Probably a whole list of things.

Pete Wright: So many red tasks. I mean, can you imagine what it’s like to have this system that you have in your head is the thing that’s going to save you and yet every day you open up your system and it shows you how behind you are on all of those things, right? This is the curse of systems.

Nikki Kinzer: You’re going to stop opening it.

Pete Wright: Yeah. You’re going to stop opening. It doesn’t mean anything. You don’t care about it, right? It is just a thing that causes you shame, the big S. And so we had to figure out what is it that’s in the way of actually getting those things done. Now he’s really good doing the brain dump. Like getting things out of his head and into the system, aces. Has no trouble doing that, right? So super aspirational goal, but results were just terrible. And every day that interest compounded because the same number of tasks were overdue as the day before, but now he’s added six more tasks that were now overdue and he was just unable to complete them. So we started looking at what the constraints were around why he couldn’t get these things done. And I just said, hey, show me your calendar. And so he opened his calendar and can you imagine given what I’ve to told you about not able to get the tasks done, what that calendar might have looked like?

Nikki Kinzer: Well, I’m going to guess. If he puts his tasks on his calendar and he has his appointments on his calendar, there was probably a lot of overlap, a lot of color and a lot of chaos.

Pete Wright: Yeah. A lot of chaos. And that part at the very top that stacks your non-timed tasks was thick. Those bars that were marked as just like all day tasks, just scroll and scroll and scroll.

Nikki Kinzer: Right. Because he probably wasn’t putting times to it. He was just putting it as any time that day. Oh boy. Oh boy.

Pete Wright: Now let me tell you why he was not putting times on his task.

Nikki Kinzer: Because he had no time.

Pete Wright: Because he is a healthcare professional and his day is full of pre-scheduled appointments from 7:30 in the morning to 8:30 at night, because he also runs group practice in the evenings. And I’m looking at this calendar, I’m looking day, day, day, day, day of just solid blocks of appointments with client names in them, with patient names. And then things start to become clear to me, right? He’s struggling because the windows of time that he has to do this work does not exist. That window does not exist on any given day, right? So where do we have time when time is the primary constraint? It’s the non-negotiable, right? What is happening here? So he had this adherence to to-do system to a fault, right? And I don’t use that word lightly, adherence to a to-do system to a fault. The to-do system adherence was failing him, cascading failures in fact day after day, compounding interest of debt, of time debt and shame. So I thought we might just run through a couple of to-do systems that we talked about in this session because these were the things that he’d been reading about and kind of trying to adhere to over the years and a couple of new things that I’ve been learning over the last year or so that I think are interesting and then I’ll tell you what we ended up doing, which actually is deceptively simple. So first, GTD. We’ve talked a lot about GTD over the years. Getting Things Done, David Allen, his legendary book. David Allen and GTD is a great mechanical process for collecting the things that are in your head and your multiple inboxes and putting them in a system, and with the ADHD brain in my experience tends to fall down after that, right? You do the core dump, you collect all the stuff and then the actual engagement and the work and the scheduling tends to get a little bit flimsy, unsustainable. And I even think David Allen has realized this. Some of his stuff has changed over the years as he’s been evolving his workflow. It works very, very well for an analog system, but once you bring it into our modern sort of phone, tablet, computer, cloud, it becomes fragile.

Nikki Kinzer: Well. And you have to remember, this was not a system that was made up for ADHDers. It’s not thinking the way that somebody with ADHD might think. So I’ve always thought with GTD, there’s pieces of it that I really like and then there’s pieces of it that we have to just tweak and make it your own.

Pete Wright: Well, the core steps to ADHD are, one, capture, right? Two, clarify. Make sure you’ve broken down every task into its simplest atomic components. Organize them into where they belong. He has the whole 43 folders motif, which does not work for ADHD in my experience. Review them. The reviews are good, and then engage. That’s the do the work part.

Nikki Kinzer: Sometimes the weekly review is way too extensive.

Pete Wright: Sometimes it is, certainly. The only things I really keep around in my own workflow from GTD are the reviews, the daily, weekly, monthly. I really appreciate those reviews. It keeps things-

Nikki Kinzer: But I bet they’re shortened.

Pete Wright: They’re really short. They’re really, really short.

Nikki Kinzer: Because I totally agree with you. I love the concept. And this is where I learned it was from him of having be these weekly and daily reviews and monthly. I don’t really do the monthly as much, but I can see the value in it for sure. But it’s shortening them down because if you look at his process, I mean, it can take so long and no one has the time to do that.

Pete Wright: Hours. His weekly review can be hours of your… He says, well, I’ll sit down with my shredder and my letter opener and all these for two hours on a Sunday afternoon. No.

Nikki Kinzer: No, not going to happen. Yeah. But the concept of reviewing and taking a temperature check of where you’re at on everything, brilliant.

Pete Wright: Yeah, I think so too. I think so too. And important, really important to make sure that you keep the stuff that you collect in your system fresh. My weekly review tends to consist of going through tasks that are not dated and not prioritized and making sure that they’re still relevant. And more often than not, I’m checking things off that I’m not going to do anymore, right? Because they’re no longer relevant. So that’s GTD. So I come to GTD with a bit of, I think, healthy and evolving skepticism. And that was the same thing with my client here. He was already ablely collecting. That was a great piece of capture. The system is always with him, it’s always there. He is really savvy about adding new tasks, whether it’s scanning a bill and making sure it goes into Todoist. He’s really savvy about getting stuff into the system. So that wasn’t a problem. And it was certainly what his primary takeaway was from GTD, was smart capture. So if we take one piece out of this system, smart capture is it. I mentioned earlier the Moscow approach, right? The must have, should have, could have, would have. And this is really an evolution of a classic way of thinking about prioritization, which is the Eisenhower Matrix, right? This is the urgent important matrix. So if it’s urgent and important, it means do it now, right? And if it is important, but not urgent, it is queue it, like schedule it. Make sure you know when you’re going to do it, what sort of time you’re going to invest in it later. If it’s urgent, but not important, can you delegate it to someone else. If it’s not important for you, but it is an urgent thing that needs to be done, do you have another resource you can have do this thing? And if it’s not urgent and not important, do it later. And you can kind of imagine the four squares on the urgent and important, not urgent, not important scale. And that’s that. So problem. So he really likes this methodology, right? Thinking about urgency and importance. It’s something that he’s really attuned to, but if you don’t have a clear definition of what it means to be urgent and important, if you haven’t defined that for yourself, you’re not prioritizing well, right?

Nikki Kinzer: Not at all. Oh, I have so much to say.

Pete Wright: Tell me.

Nikki Kinzer: Okay. So in GPS, my planning workshop, guided planning sessions, and we’ll talk about that in a little bit, I actually took this metrics and I adapted it to what I would say is more of an ADHD friendly because you are right on, what is the definition of urgent compared to important? Aren’t they both the same thing? What could possibly be important, but not urgent? It makes no sense in an ADHDer’s mind. And how is something urgent, but not important? So I took that completely out, right? Because that just doesn’t make sense. Although I understand what you’re saying with it, delegating to someone else, but-

Pete Wright: Especially because if important is the relative importance of you to do this thing, that’s what important is the measure of. Is it important me to be the one to do it and is it urgent that it gets done, right? Whether it has to be done versus me doing.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. And that’s exactly it, is you have to be really clear on what important means, what urgent means, what these things mean. And I kind of took it into a different direction and I do it by color code. I have red, green and blue. So I think that this can work, but I think you’re right on in the sense that you have to be really clear what these mean to you and have very specific examples of what would be important in urgent, like what does that mean? Is it a deadline that’s due today? Is it impact? Is it because your rent is due today? You’ve really got to be clear of what that is.

Pete Wright: And so can we talk just a bit about that because I know we’ve talked about that before in terms of prioritizing. I think that deadlines can be a little bit fudgy, right? Just because it’s, quote, due today might not actually make it a high priority item. There are other conditions that you have to consider when trying to determine if something is a truly high priority urgent item. What are those things for you? How do you walk people through that? And then I’ll tell you what we talked about.

Nikki Kinzer: Well, I think when I talk about deadline, I do mean like hard deadlines. So if something is due today, I would say that is a priority. You need to get it on your schedule.

Pete Wright: What is it that makes it due?

Nikki Kinzer: Well, I think it would be the impact, like is somebody telling you that it’s due? So if your boss is saying, "At the end of the day, I need a draft of this email so I can send it out tonight." That to me is a high impact, strong deadline. You’ve got to get it done. You have to put it into your schedule. Now, I think this is where it gets really tricky. If you have two things that are due on Friday and they’re both due, like somebody is waiting for you to do them, then you have to dig a little deeper like, okay, which one is more complex? Which one is going to take you longer? Which one do you need to get more information around? You really have to kind of dig into what you’re going to do and how you’re going to spend your time. And it may mean going a little bit back and forth, because it doesn’t mean that you have to do one project from beginning to end, but you’re going to have to balance your time to figure out how to get both of them done, but one may still need more of your attention than the other. So I think it’s digging deeper than just saying what’s the priority. You’ve got to really peel the layer.

Pete Wright: I have a number of tasks on my list that are marked due today, but they don’t involve two conditions. One, people or money, right? Those are two that I think are really important. Even at work, there are two tasks that are competing. If I don’t do one, one of them was a thing that my boss said, you have to do today because this marketing campaign isn’t going to go out without this one thing and if it fails, it could cost you some of your livelihood, right? You’ll lose some reputational credit and it’ll cost us delays in terms of printing, in terms of manufacturing, in terms of whatever. There are cost considerations. If the other task is, hey, I need you to design this thing for an email that is going to be sent later on today, well, yeah, it’s important and it might have been important for you to do, but there’s more at stake with the other task and it has to be prioritized over the first one, right? Even if you have a close relationship with the person who’s asking you for this thing, you have to be able to be clear about where you’re positioning time and attention. Now, in our case, we did go down that road. We talked about, what does it mean to be urgent and what does it mean to be important? And what I advise is write it out, print it out on a piece of paper that gives an example of something that is urgent and something that is important so you have the matrix of these things. You need to know, and I think it’s really important to have it printed out and stuck to the wall in front of you so you can internalize it. Otherwise, you’re rebuilding your rule set every single time you have a conflict. Having a chart is helpful.

Nikki Kinzer: Totally. And I got to add something here because I think this is so important and this is something that I teach in GPS. Something else that has high impact that is urgent and important, but people never put into their schedule is their self care.

Pete Wright: Yeah, right.

Nikki Kinzer: So-

Pete Wright: That is important because no one else can do it.

Nikki Kinzer: No. And so one of the examples that I have when we look at red tasks is, when is your yoga class? When is the exercise class? When do you do the meditation? You need to put that into your schedule. It is just as important as that campaign that’s due at the end of the week. But it’s so hard to wrap our heads around that being an important task of putting ourselves first. But I really want people to think that that also goes in there and you protect that time.

Pete Wright: I think we see it as an act of generosity, right? That it’s generosity if I sacrifice something that I would normally do in order to get something done for someone else, but really the sacrifice comes at a cost too, a cost that may not pay today, but it will get you later. You’ll have to pay that back. So anyway, that’s not Eisenhower Matrix. We have a little digression there. Now, the next one I want to just bring up is Kanban. This is an interesting solution that moves us a little bit closer toward our goal of reclaiming some of these tasks, right? Kanban, it means like a visual board in Japanese and I think it was a Toyota conceit that was helping them in their manufacturing process and it was very, very, very straightforward, right? It had three columns and one major column below those three. And the three columns across from the left to the right are requested, the middle one in progress or work in progress with a limit, and then done. And then the one across the bottom was expedite. So requested was just the collected list of all the card, each card contained a specific and well noted task, job that needed to be done. Someone would grab a card, do the work by moving it into the in progress column, and then when they finished the work, they would move it into the done column. If something was broken or urgent that was blocking other work from being done, they would take that task and move it into expedite, which means that thing just moves straight through. That is an urgent thing, that’s like a red flag task that has to just get done.

Nikki Kinzer: Right. Okay.

Pete Wright: Okay. Now here’s the thing about Kanban, people love Kanban and Trello kind of took over the Kanban approach

Nikki Kinzer: And Todoist has a view of it that [crosstalk 00:27:02].

Pete Wright: Todoist has a view of it, absolutely. And so if you like Kanban, there are lots of different ways to do it. But the problem with Kanban has always been that people start a lot of stuff by thinking, okay, I’m just going to move this task into the work in progress because I’m working on it, but they don’t set the limit, right? That limit is crucial. It is crucial because you only have a certain amount of bandwidth for a certain number of in-progress tasks at any given time. If you are a single person, you have one, right? There’s one thing that you can be working on right now to completion to move it into the done column. When you’re a small team, you have to consider how many people you have and what their limit is, and that’s the fixed limit of that work in progress thing. So you see a lot of this for people who love Trello and they start, they say, okay, I’ve got like 15 things that are in progress because in their head they’re thinking, oh sure, I’m keeping all these things noodling around in my head and eventually I’ll move them through. But that is an ineffective way to use Kanban and it’s not the intention of Kanban. You have to be aware of what your limit is and how you are defining that limit in order to make it useful. That limit is the thing we can take forward from Kanban into this system that we’re kind of machining for my client, right? Is that limit. Clear tasks, work in progress with a limit, done, right? Super useful for projects, especially with small teams. But I think that this is the thing that we can take out of this for our personal tool. Let’s talk then about scrum. Have you ever heard of scrum?

Nikki Kinzer: Yes. I don’t like that name.

Pete Wright: Well, it comes from rugby, right?

Nikki Kinzer: Oh, is that what it is? Okay. Maybe because I don’t know the [crosstalk 00:28:56].

Pete Wright: Yeah. It’s a rugby term. Well, it is an agile methodology. And now we’re talking about industrial project management, but often you’ll hear people talk about scrum. Used in software development, used for all kinds of industries now, but it’s a whole bunch of people working on a whole bunch of stuff and moving them forward, kind of an evolution of the Kanban. And the thing that is so beautiful about scrum is this idea of sprints, right? A sprint creates a project cycle that you’re working on. So these cycles usually span one to two weeks at a time and they’re organized with teams of 10 or less. So what you end up doing is like Kanban, you come and you take up a card to take up a job that needs to be done and you work on that thing. And then at the end of the week or the end of two weeks, you come back and everybody gets together and has a review and a retrospective and you see, what did we get done? What did we get done? We’re we’re only focusing on this narrow set of responsibilities right now for this one week or this two weeks and then we report how’d we do, then we iterate and we try it again and we do the next major milestone. We just really focus on these few things and we get to the other side of it and then we review and we iterate and we keep moving through that cycle. This idea of sprints, I think, is really useful to take out of our project cycle or for our personal tools, to take out of the business project management tool and move into our own, which says, I have a thing, a project that I need to work on and it needs to be done in a certain period and I’m going to work on it exclusive of everything else because I have to. In this case, my client was also working on literally splitting a property that his house is on so that they can sell the back half of it. He happens to have a super large backyard and he wants to split it and they’re going to sell it so somebody can put another house on the backyard. That involves inspections and working with the city and getting the mortgages worked out and the loans and all those things. And there are a lot of different tasks in there that can be overwhelming, but when you put it in the perspective of a sprint that says over these two weeks on my personal side, my only red flag tasks are going to be related to this project, which has clear terms and a clear end date, it starts to make more sense. Does that make sense to you? You’re looking at me like it doesn’t.

Nikki Kinzer: Well, no, no, no, it does. In fact, I’m going through my mind how this is so relevant in certain situations that I’ve dealt with with clients and in GPS too, because sprints, when I think of sprints, I think of when we would talk about you’re doing a project, but you’re doing a small piece of it and you’re working up towards it.

Pete Wright: [inaudible 00:32:03], something like that.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. Yeah. And there’s a couple of clients in my mind that this is so relevant to and I just want to quickly give the examples because I think other people will relate to him. One is that I have a client who has three major projects, right? He’s a contractor. And one of the things that we’ve done is we have said, okay, let’s make sure that you look at each project every day for at least 15 minutes so that every day you touch on it. So there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t do anything with it or you don’t see it, right? But then you’re also choosing from that 15 minute for each project, which one you’re going to focus on. So you’re also looking at the priority and what is due and everything. So it’s kind of the same concept, a little bit different because it’s not hyper focused on just one project, but it’s still giving you that time day to say, I’m going to be looking at this. I need to put my hands in it.

Pete Wright: That’s the daily review.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. Yeah. But then the other thing that I see that is really more relevant to what you’re saying is I have a person who is looking for a job. And one of the things that I think got in their way was, okay, I have to get my resume and then I have to apply and then I have to interview. Oh my God, interviewing. And then what if I get the job. And so they’re looking at everything all at once. And so in our session, what we did is we pulled her back to what is one job you want to apply for? And just looking at, okay, what are the requirements? Can you get that done by Friday? And that I think is more of what you’re saying here is like really pulling back and just hyper focusing on this one piece of it rather than all of it.

Pete Wright: Yeah. Right. So for a week or two weeks, you might say, all right, instead of include in here trying to find a gym to join, I would put all those things aside and say, for the next two weeks, all I’m going to do is send resumes out, and those are the tasks that are going to be… And so I’m not even going to choose from my list of tasks that could go on and on and on. The only thing that will get my direct daily scheduling attention is going to be these things after all my other. Of course, if you have work, if you have other clients you’re seeing, whatever it is. Those things come first, but then for the task you’re trying to fit in, you’re selecting from those things. That would be your sort of sprint focus for a week or two weeks. And give yourself permission to let some other things go for a while. And that comes with costs too. There are opportunity costs in there, you have to be aware of. But if you really need to move the ball down the field, if you really need to get a job, a sprint might be a very helpful mental metaphor to help get you there. Finally, this one is both my bittersweet, this one. It’s called Agile Results. This is a project manager at Microsoft. His name’s JD Meier, and came up with Agile Results. It really is for software development teams, but so many people are talking about Agile Results now as a way of integrating personal project management into your life and that includes the very, very high level, 30,000 feet sort of journaling activity to the very, very minute project focused triaging task list kind of a thing. I just want to run through the core practices of Agile Results with you very quickly and I’d like you to just react to them once I get through all of them, because I think you’ll have something to say.

Nikki Kinzer: Okay.

Pete Wright: Rule of three; the three most important tasks for your most important timeframes could be daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, et cetera. Those are the things you’re focusing on at any given time, rule of three. Cycles and iterations. Try something, see if it works. Update it, try it again. Scanable outcomes. Review your outcomes in threes. See rule of three. Heavy loading or strong weeks. Skew your workload toward having work weeks first. Frog eating. Four, time boxing or hyper scheduling; assign specific work to specific time on your calendar. Triage, GTD processing, right? Done, queued for work, delegated, scheduled. So triage. Those are the four steps; done, queued for works, delegated and scheduled. Sprints. Pick one thing every month and improve upon it. Complete it. Iterate, do it again. Action list. Those are your to-do list that fit inside of each project. And then reference collection; some place to store your materials. And then fresh starts. Every time interval is a fresh start. You make a mistake one day, you have the opportunity to correct the next day. Okay. I know I went through that very quickly. Nikki, you have the benefit of being able to see the list. Do you have a response to any of those points?

Nikki Kinzer: Well, I mean-

Pete Wright: Because boy, I do.

Nikki Kinzer: I mean, my first response is that I think there’s a lot of great things in here, but then I also think it’s a lot of things all at once, which is really confusing and overwhelming because… Yeah. It’s so hard because some of these things, again, like try something, see if it works, update and try again, I love that. Practice what you have and see if it works or not. The frog eating thing, I’m not exactly sure I understand. Skew your work-

Pete Wright: I was ready. I was ready for you to respond to that, the frog eating.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. Skew your workload toward having heavy work weeks first. I don’t think that’s a very ADHD friendly way of doing things.

Pete Wright: No, we’ve talked about that a bunch. Eating the frog is something that’s like, oh, I’m going to sacrifice myself by doing the hardest thing first, but that’s not how the ADHD brain works. It’s not good.

Nikki Kinzer: No, no. You’re just going to avoid and avoid. So that doesn’t really work for me. Let’s see. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s a lot. It’s like everything you’ve talked about all in one system.

Pete Wright: And that’s what Agile Results says. And these are really just sort of core practices. This isn’t even like steps. It is a massive undertaking to create your own system. It’s like bullet journal at large. You are developing your own system and your way of thinking about things with these core principles or practices in place that kind of help provide a framework, but it’s a lot of work. I don’t think Agile Results is great for ADHD. I really, really don’t. I think if you’re an engineer, software developer and you do this at work, you might have an easier entry point to do this in your personal life, that’s awesome. But generally for ADHDers, I’m not advising you to go do this, but I do think there are a couple of important things I want to pull out. Number one, the rule of three. The three most important tasks for your most important timeframes, right? That’s huge because of the latter point first. You get to define how long your most important timeframe is. It’s not telling you do this every day. It’s not telling you do this every week. Maybe your schedule is such that you work eight days on and have four days off. I don’t know what your schedule is, but you get to define how long it’s going to take you to apply these principles and get things done. And you don’t have to give yourself that sort of daily review shame of, oh, I didn’t do that again. Kick it to tomorrow. You get to say every four and a half days, I’m going to complete this thing, and that’s really important to me. You define that, nobody else defines that, and that’s big. The rule of three is handy because people think in threes, right? I don’t necessarily think you need to think in threes, I think you can think in ones. You know what? We’re also pretty good at thinking in ones. So I don’t necessarily think about that, but I really like the idea of thinking in your most important timeframes. For my client, he’s sitting here thinking, I don’t have a given day that has more than 15 minutes available at lunch, but I do have weekends. Maybe my most important timeframe is weekends. Maybe I don’t even look at extra tasks until I get to Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. So obviously I’m a fan of time boxing or hyper scheduling so I like that, and notice this one actually pulls in sprints, but finally the sort of overarching aesthetic of Agile Results is this fresh starts concept, is the end of any time period, forgive yourself the grief of any misses in the previous time period and start over. You get to start over every day, every week, every four and a half days, every six days. So the rule of three and important timeframes, I want to pull forward to our personal system, and fresh starts, we want to keep that in our mind.

Nikki Kinzer: Absolutely. I agree.

Pete Wright: To get started for this, what we ended up doing in my client’s Todoist is we just selected all of the red overdue tasks and we removed the dates and times associated with them. And so now what we have is this list of undated, untimed tasks. Then we went through and we applied the thinking that we pulled out of all of these extra systems, right? The core dump, the scrum, the rule of threes, the date free prioritizing, and we started adding Todoist flags. The red flags are the very top, most important, so important for him to do and urgent, the important to get done. So he’s the only one responsible for those things. He’s the only one who can do those things. His signature needs to be on them. There’s money at stake, there’s some sort of accountability at stake. Those are for him. Those are the first tasks that he chooses from on any given day. And so he’ll look at his task list or look at his schedule and he’ll say, okay, I have 30 minutes at lunch. I know I have a task on this red list that will take me about 15 minutes. I’m going to schedule that task for that time window at lunch, and only schedule that task for the day. If he can’t get that done, he’ll schedule it for tomorrow at the same window and he’ll break the task down into smaller pieces.

Nikki Kinzer: So I just want to-

Pete Wright: But he’s only picking from that list one task at a time for each available slot. If there’s only one available slot-

Nikki Kinzer: He only gets one task.

Pete Wright: … the tasks are undated. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer: Yeah. So that’s the thing that I think is really interesting and a very different way of doing it is that then you’re looking at the red flags. You’re not looking at the date, you’re just saying, okay, I need to pull out what my priorities are and then from there, choosing it. So really removing the date really does take away that shame of it’s not done today, I didn’t do it today. I also think it makes you really realize and think about what true deadlines are too, right? Because, I mean, taking that away does relieve that extra stress that you’re putting on yourself.

Pete Wright: Completely. Because look at the counter. What are we repairing here? What we’re repairing is the same set of tasks that still have to get done and were not getting done anyway, right? And that, I think, is the fear. When you start talking about this, I’m just going to remove all my dates, right? Is, oh my God, but how will I know when to get these things done, but you’re actively not doing those things now, right?

Nikki Kinzer: Okay. So with that being-

Pete Wright: They’re just unfinished tasks.

Nikki Kinzer: With that being said though, then I think it’s important that we also point out that there has to be some habit around doing a review of your list, right? Because-

Pete Wright: And that’s the daily review. And so at the end of every day, after all the clients are done, you go through and say, did I get that task done? Check it off. Did I not get it done? Why not? Let’s break it down into the things that need to be done instead and schedule those for the next day. Are there any other of those urgent and important tasks that we have to do? Flag them, make sure they’re flagged. And if really honestly, they’re urgent and important, they stay with you and you get them done when you have time available to do it. If they’re not urgent, this forces you to say, look, I know I have to actually get this thing done, but maybe I’m not the one to do it, and then you can delegate it and you can make that a blue flag. And that’s how we ended up doing the flags, sort of doing a combination of the urgent important Eisenhower Matrix and his very familiar Moscow must have, should have, would have into that red, blue, yellow and no flag at all. And his daily review takes about five minutes. He doesn’t have time to do any of this stuff, right? It’s not like sitting there and thinking about all of the tasks that he has to do is going to serve him at all tomorrow when he has exactly 15 minutes to do one thing that is beyond his current clients. And so I’m not advocating that everybody just stop using dates all together and stop planning and just do this because it won’t work for everybody, but I do think if you are stuck in a place where your to-do system is a hot mess, this is a great way to reset, right? To reset your thinking. Just select all, remove all the dates. If it’s a mess, they’re probably not relevant anyway, and start using flags and assigning times to determine the work that you actually really have to get done. Try it for three weeks and see what happens.

Nikki Kinzer: I want to end on something that a client and I came up with. This was years ago and I still have the same piece of paper that I wrote it on because I wanted to capture it because I thought it was so awesome. And it has nothing to do with time or anything like that, but when we were talking earlier about the I must, I should, I could have, I would have, one of the things that we talked about in our session, and I don’t even really remember exactly how this came up, it was that long ago, but we wrote down, I need whatever, I can whatever the thing is, I will whatever the thing is, I am whatever the thing is. So I need, I can, I will, I am. You fill in the blank. And it was such a positive way of looking at what you need to do, what you can do, what you will do and what you are. And anyway, I wanted to leave that with you guys because when I first read the notes here and I saw the would, should, could have, that’s immediately what came in my mind.

Pete Wright: I love it.

Nikki Kinzer: So the other thing I want to talk about really quick, and then I know this has been a longer show, is please check out the GPS workshop, the guided planning sessions. This is what we do. This is what we talk about. This is what we hash out. Pete, I love it. I love everything that you talked about today. And it’s so important because planning and figuring out how to fill your time and how to organize your tasks, it’s so difficult for people with ADHD and they are so hard on themselves thinking, why? Why? Why is it so hard? And it is. There’s a lot of executive functions that are going on. There’s a lot of decisions that have to be made. There’s a lot of looking into the future that time for ADHD is now or later, and so not a whole lot of in between. So please check out GPS. It’s on my website. We’re starting a membership program, a monthly membership program for GPS. It’s going to start in April. And if you have questions about it, make sure you let me know and we would love you to join. There you go.

Pete Wright: I think it’s great. And I will say, just because for my client, we used Todoist and Todoist, it’s one of my favorite tools, I know that sometimes filters can be a little bit tricky for people. There’s a little bit of arcana that goes into creating your own filter. And it’s just text so I will copy into the show notes and see how that works. Copy into the show notes the actual text that you could copy and past into your filter and create the review that my client ended up with. And you can see how it looks, just applying it to your system might make it easy to pick red, blue, green task.

Nikki Kinzer: And on a side note too, I think your task manager system doesn’t have to be Todoist or things or Trello, it can be anything. I have students who work on a whiteboard. I’ve had people who work on clipboards. I have people that do do Todoist and Trello and Notion and all of those things. It’s all in what works for you, what you need. I’ve seen people do a combination. A lot of people like to bullet journal along with a task manager system. So that’s the thing is just be really open minded about what is out there and try not to get into that hole of looking at too many things or spending, I mean, too much time because I think one of the things you’ve said, Pete, is get the trial, check it out, keep moving on. What is your advice on that? I know people like new shiny things, but it can also very much get in the way.

Pete Wright: That is a great question. And I’m going to tease it there because I think we need to talk a little bit longer about it. Let’s do that for the after show for this podcast. So we’ll hang it up right now. Interested in the after show? You should become a member and get this right in your handy Patreon personal podcast feed. But for everybody, we appreciate you downloading and listening to the show. We really do. Thanks for hanging in there with my long-winded task review story. I love this stuff too much. What can I say? Thanks for your time and attention. Don’t forget, if you have something to contribute to the conversation, head over to the show talk channel on our discord server. You can join us right there by becoming a supporting member at the deluxe level or better. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright, and we’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.