Time management…where what often happens is my time manages me.
That’s something I’m working on, but I’m neurodivergent (I haven’t been formally diagnosed with anything, but multiple medical/mental health professionals have said that I am almost definitely autistic, along with living with Complex PTSD which also affects how my brain functions). There are numerous factors that go into my relationship with time and accomplishing things, and some of those factors fluctuate day by day. For example, I have fibromyalgia. If it’s a higher-than-typical pain day, more of my mental bandwidth goes into just being capable of things like preparing a meal or walking to the bathroom; I don’t have anything left over to focus on writing a story or doing paperwork or whatever was on that day’s agenda. If it’s a day I’m scheduled to work at the daycare center where I’ve just taken on a one-day-a-week gig, I have to get up at 4am and probably won’t be able to concentrate on anything by the time I get home at 4pm. (To clarify: I’m not working a 12-hour shift. I get up at 4 because I prefer to have time to ease into the day rather than getting up and immediately rushing out of the house; I leave a little before 7 and have to fight city-area rush hour traffic to get to the center by 8. I leave work at 3 and then have to fight the beginning of afternoon rush-hour traffic to get home.)
In addition to the “do I have the bandwidth today” thing, I also have some issues with executive functioning. I might have a task in mind but not be able to sort out where to start (e.g. do I make the spreadsheet first, or look up the info that goes on the spreadsheet and write it down and then make the spreadsheet, or…), which isn’t a case of “just figuring it out” or “making a decision,” it’s literally my brain being unable to put multiple steps of a process into the most logical and efficient order. That difficulty also crops up when it comes to determining which task of the several on my list should be done first. I do have a daily “task list” (I hate calling it a “to-do list” because then I feel crappy if I don’t get everything done), but I’ve found that trying to schedule the tasks at certain times of day leads to a further break-down of brain cooperation because I start feeling trapped, which pings one of my CPTSD buttons and can even trigger a full-on PTSD flashback/panic attack. But *not* scheduling the tasks sometimes leads to me spending 5-10 minutes just staring at the day’s list trying to decide what to do first.
This is becoming more of an issue for me because I’ve added things to my figurative plate. I’m still trying to write, though my writing brain seems to be on a bit of a break (I’ve done a couple of short stories recently and hope to start working on another novel by the end of the month). I’m promoting the books I’ve already released. As noted, I’ve started working one day a week at a daycare, and that might not be the *same* day every week; they’ve said they’ll try to let me know the week before which day they’ll want me the following week. I’m looking into going back to school for a Master’s degree in social work or mental health counseling, and yes, I am aware that going back to school with my particular combination of mental and physical health issues along with the neurodivergence and associated executive dysfunction might be a recipe for frustration, if not disaster; meanwhile, I’m trying to organize myself and my time to allow for researching different schools and their requirements and then actually completing the application processes for the schools I choose. (I’ll worry about how to manage the program itself once I’ve applied and been accepted and figured out how to finance it…)
A lot of times when I talk about trying to organize my time and tasks, I get advice like “Use a planner!” or “Just figure it out!” or “If you really wanted to do these things, you wouldn’t be having such a hard time.” None of which is helpful, and none of which even remotely acknowledges that executive dysfunction and physical or mental health conditions are not a CHOICE. I didn’t choose to be repeatedly and relentlessly traumatized at home and in other settings from pretty much birth until my mid-30s. I didn’t choose to be born to two neurodivergent parents (neurodiversity often has a genetic component). I don’t choose to feel trapped and panicky when I try to follow an intensely structured schedule, and I don’t choose to have a messed-up memory that sometimes results in me not even remembering to write things in a planner, let alone look in the planner to follow the plans. I definitely don’t choose to be unable to figure out how to sequence the steps of a process or to take longer to sequence the steps than it ultimately takes to complete the task itself…
Over the years, I’ve learned some accommodations and routines that help, but none of the issues I deal with are choices. I’ve also learned to give myself compassion and make allowances for the things that are genuinely outside of my control.