Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Relaxing Instead of Hurrying In Today's ADD World

            This morning I was talking to my friend Heidi about harnessing time.  We were actually doing a check-in, where we said what happened to us yesterday – what we did and didn’t do that was on the plans we made yesterday – and told each other our plans for today.  This check-in process is something I do every day.
I really love checking in with my time partner every day.  It’s become part of my daily routine and it helps me in many, many ways.  It’s a simple easy thing you can do to change your life and your relationship to time enormously – to stop hurrying and start relaxing, no matter how busy you are -- and I recommend it to anyone.  (For more about how I do check-ins, see
My regular check-in partner, Kathy, is on vacation right now, the kind of vacation where she doesn’t need to think about harnessing time. Heidi, on the other hand, is having the kind of vacation where harnessing time is practically an urgent necessity– i.e., she’s taken a week off work and is mostly at home trying to get stuff accomplished. 
            So I’ve been coaching Heidi to plan her days a la harnessing time and she and I have been checking in with each other this week.  This morning she told me that she’s been learning a lot from doing that.  Mostly what she’s learned is how hard it was to figure out what she wanted and needed to do when it came time to make a plan for the day -- there was just so much to do around her house and she felt overwhelmed when she even thought about where to start, which made her want to just forget about it all and sit on the couch and watch TV.  Also, once she did make a plan, she said, she couldn’t stick to it, because of all the other things that were constantly coming along needing to be taken care of.  She has three kids, a dog, and a husband, and she also has ADD and ADHD.  She feels like she spends her days putting out little fires all the time – stopping what she’s doing and dealing with some little mess or crisis or urgent need related to one of the kids or the dog or her husband, and never getting anything done on her plan.  She said she feels like a failure at harnessing time, like she just can’t do it.   I said I didn’t think so at all.
            I went first during the check-in and I started off, like I always do, saying what I didn’t get done that was on my plan yesterday.   I love to do this; for some reason it gives me pleasure and relief to say what I didn’t do; I even find it a little bit funny to say, I did not do this, I did not do that.  Heidi said hearing that helped her enormously right off the bat, because it made her realize she wasn’t a failure at harnessing time just because she didn’t get some of things that she’d plan to do, done.  Then she told me what she did and didn’t do that she had planned to do yesterday, plus all the things she did that she hadn’t planned, and that made her realize she actually got a lot more done than she thought she did.
            Then we started talking about the issues she mentioned before we did our check-in, starting with the putting-out-little-fires-all-the-time problem – i.e., never making any headway with the things on her plan because she was always having to take care of some immediate issue, problem, or need related to her kids, her dog, or her husband.   Right away we figured out that at least part of the solution there was getting the kids to clean up their own messes instead of jumping in and doing it for them.  Also, figuring out how to tolerate messes, at least for a while, until the kids cleaned them up or, in the absence of that, until time could be harnessed by Heidi to clean them up herself.  Harnessing time to clean them up herself might also mean finding another spot in the day or the week to do whatever got tossed aside when she had to deal with the mess.
Plus, working on boundaries:  Boundaries around messes, so who made it gets to clean it up, even if Heidi has to harness some time to meditate, breathe deeply, go to a shrink, or do whatever needs to be done so she can tolerate waiting for them to do it.  Boundaries around time, so when one of the kids/the dog/the husband needs/wants something, Heidi can look at her plan and say, Not now, but … three o’clock, or tonight before you go to bed, or … some other time later.   (Or never – there’s always that option too.) 
The important thing is remembering there are options, remembering that we/she get to make our own decisions about what we do and how we use our time.  We can always change our mind.  But things really get out of control when we’re just reacting instead of deciding what we want to do and finding time to do it.  (See
            The solution to the feeling-too-overwhelmed-to-know-where-to start-and- giving-up problem was easy:  We were engaging in it right now.  I reminded Heidi that things can only be done one day, one step, one action at a time, and all we have to do – all we can do -- is start somewhere.  We can do that by picking something – at least one thing – and looking at where we can fit it into the time we have today.  We can write that thing down on our plan and then do the best we can to carry out our plan – i.e., do the thing, plus the other things on our plan -- to the best of our ability today, remembering that being flexible about our plan is almost as important as having a plan.  (See on the power of being flexible.)
That works for the ADD thing too.  Heidi told me that when she starts doing one thing, she sees something else she should do instead, drops the first thing and starts the second thing, then sees a third thing… and so forth.  I told her that I used to do that too and that as far as I know I don’t have ADD – but maybe we all have a little bit of ADD in today's world.  I said that now that I’m harnessing time I don’t do that any more, and Heidi said she’s looking forward to harnessing time so she doesn’t do it either.
                                                -- Mary Allen