Episode 36: Time Management & Executive Functioning
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Time Management and Executive Functioning
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- The Checklist Manifesto - https://tinyurl.com/3p6bzxvd
- Tony Buzan - https://tonybuzan.com/
- Dan Sullivan - Strategic coach: www.StrategicCoach.com
- Kanban Method: https://kanbanize.com/
- Google Keep: https://keep.google.com/
- Google Calendar: https://calendar.google.com/
- The Right Brain Time Manager: https://tinyurl.com/3cj9mbec
- Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: https://tinyurl.com/ydx7vazp
- EF activities: https://tinyurl.com/yeytwn7v
- EF and Study Skills Course: https://tinyurl.com/3brpf52j
- Executive Functioning Assessment: https://tinyurl.com/48ywprbx
- Time Management Assessment: https://tinyurl.com/5yvtzdyf
- Toggl Track
- Executive functions and Study Skills Course: https://tinyurl.com/n86mf2b
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Darius : Welcome to the personal brain trainer podcast. Join us on an executive function adventure to translate the research into practical strategies. I'm Darius Nomdaron.
Erica: And I'm Dr. Erica Warren. And we are your hosts. The sponsors of this episode are Learningspecialscourses.com and Dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com. Learningspecialistcourses.com offers teacher training courses as well as, um, remedial resources that can be used with students in online sessions. Come check out my newest course on executive functioning and study strategies.
Darius : Dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com helps you overcome organization and time management challenges. Come harness your creativity on um, your Apple devices with a system of speech to text, AI, mind mapping and more. For coaching with me, book a complimentary call. You can find all the links in our show notes.
Erica: Hey, Darius, it's nice to see you today. I'm excited because we're going to be talking about time management and executive functioning.
Darius : Yeah, I'm looking forward to it, too.
Erica: Excellent. Well, I think the best way to start is just to define what time management is. And it refers to a broad set of, uh, skills that are related to the understanding of and effectively utilizing time. And it is actually one of the higher level executive functioning skills. And it allows us to estimate time allocate time and stay within time limits and deadlines.
Darius : Yeah. And if you got some difficulties with executive function skills, that can be pretty hard. Yeah. Time management is such a big topic for everyone in every industry because time is our most valuable commodity, as they say.
Erica: Right. And I think let's talk about what it looks like. So what it looks like for me, if somebody doesn't have a good sense of time management is they're often late. They may have difficulty planning out long term assignments, so then they may not get their work done in time. What are some other ways that we could define what it looks like?
Darius : Well, you're describing what it looks like if it's not working. So let's define that. If it's not working if it's not working, you often feel you're letting people down or you feel let down because the person hasn't done what they're going to say. It can lose you trust and credibility because people think that you're not good to your word, even though your heart was in the right place.
Darius : It can come across as disrespect. If you turn up late, you're disrespecting the other person's time. So those are loads of the downsides of when you've not got, uh, time management working, but when you do, it's another matter. Well, I mean, there's the internal aspect of not having time management working. It's just anxiety. Huge amounts of anxiety. You're waking up in the middle of the night worrying like, oh my goodness, am I going to be late for an early appointment in the morning? Or something like that. You don't have that confidence in yourself to turn up on time or get things done on time. So the whole anxiety level side of things, and I know a lot of people from working with my clients is that, uh, a lot of them there's shame as well, a sense of shame. They feel embarrassed that they're maybe 30, 40 years old and they're, like, still rocking up to things at the last minute, but they're probably not late. They're probably arriving just in time, but they feel unprepared. So that's another aspect. Time managing the preparation side, et cetera.
Erica: It's really an issue of, um, being able to make sense of what time is. And I know of students that will say, okay, I'll be there in ten minutes. And they think they're there in ten minutes, but it's actually 45 minutes. So they just really can't really accurately estimate how much time has passed. I know that I'm really good at that. I can often kind of guess what time it is, and I'm sometimes right on or within a minute or two. Although there are times where I do lose track of time when I get in a flow yes. Or when I'm in a deep concentration or I'm in a really interesting conversation, and I can be like, oh, my gosh, where did the time go? It's like there is that sense of just getting lost in time, and that.
Darius : Brings up this aspect of what does time feel like? And, um, we look at a clock, and the clock is consistently moving at the same pace, but our internal clock doesn't move at a consistent pace. It changes. So the rate we experience time changes. I was reading this fascinating book called The Checklist Manifesto, and the guy who wrote it is the guy who wrote the 1 minute checklists that surgeons have to do before a surgery. And it saved, like, millions of people's lives, at least a million people's lives, this 1 minute checklist. That is before surgery and after surgery. And one of the things he talked about is surgeons often when they have a bleed happening in the surgery, they go in and they start correcting it. And the people round about them are all very well aware of how crucial it is that it gets dealt with within quickly. But what often happens is they can spend ten minutes doing on something that ends up killing the patient. And when they reflect back on this and they mark the timings and so on, the surgeon can often say, look, there was no way I was doing that for ten minutes. That was 1 minute, two minutes max. And what they've learned in surgery is the importance of the individual feeling of time and the objective marking of time. And so the surgeon often goes into this space where time starts to become slower for them, and so they think a minute has gone by, whereas on the outside, four minutes has gone by. So the surgical team have all been told that when a doctor does certain things, even though that the doctor their role is to say, that's been two minutes, that's been three minutes. And they wake up and they're like, hold on a minute. You just said three minutes, and it feels like 30 seconds. But it calibrates them to the actual moving of time. And that's just a real life and death example of this dynamic happening.
Erica: Yeah, it's really interesting, isn't it? So I think there are a lot of tools out there and a lot of things that we can do to manage time. And there are those individuals that never really get time. They live in their own time and it's very variable. But the good news is there are things that we can do to accommodate any difficulty with time or time management skills.
Darius : And some of those individuals are those people with unusually designed brains. They're very specialized brains, people like with ADHD or people with Dyslexia. These are often markers of a very specialized makeup of their mind. They're very, very good at certain abilities and skills and really not so great at others. Whereas other people are maybe average at most things. They're very good at certain things and very bad at other things. And one of the hallmarks of that is often they're very bad at times. We can learn so much for individuals who have this mental, this extreme scenario where much looser calibration to the actual reality of time. So, uh, really this is kind of a calibration question, if you know what I mean by calibrating. You can calibrate a tool and you measure this tool is meant to measure this amount at this level and you go away. And occasionally, if it's a high precision tool, you have to calibrate it to something else that is exactly 10 mm big or so many grams heavy and you calibrate it because if you don't get it accurate, then you keep repeating a measurement so many times it can cause a huge amount of problems. So what I've noticed is that often people with Dyslexia or ADHD, normally this is associated with ADHD, but it's surprising how many people with Dyslexia have difficulty with time. Too often, if you show them their calendar, for example, marked out as blocks of half an hour, 15 minutes, 2 hours, and you say, right, you're going to the meeting. How long is it going to take to get you there? Well, 35 minutes, okay, we'll put in 35 minutes, five minutes to get settled, so let's block in 45 minutes. And then your meeting is 2 hours long and then you've got to come back. So there it is visually, and they can see the blocking visually. And then you said You've got to do this. And then you said, you got to pick up your kids. And then you said, you've got to do this report. And how many hours you look at? And they go, oh my goodness, it's.
Erica: Not going to work.
Darius : And you're like, but it's got to work. And it's like, well, actually, yes, it's got to work, but does it all have to work today, or does it all and that's when the real conversation is happening. And often the person has to see it, not just feel it.
Erica: Right. And I think one of the most important things to start with when considering time management is the evaluation of am I good at time management? And even if I am, I would say I'm really good at time management well, but I also need to be very aware of the times where I'm not, because there are going to be times where you're not very good at time management skills. Uh, largely if you are under an enormous amount of stress, your amygdala could get triggered, you could get distracted. But there are times where we all lose track of time. So in order to evaluate, you can just do it qualitatively. You can ask yourself questions like, can I complete tasks on time? Are there particular situations where it's more challenging? Are tasks fully completed? Am I meeting deadlines? There are all sorts of questions that you can ask yourself, and you can really just write about your answers to that. Or you can take online tests. There are all sorts of online tests. I did a search on Google, and there were many of them. One of the ones that I did myself was on Psychology Today, and it kind of puts you on a scale of how good you are with time management. But if you want to get a more detailed analysis of your time management skills, I think they have a small fee that you can pay and they'll give you a whole report. But I think there are a lot of tools. There are some free tools, there are some paid for tools. But I see a lot of value in assessing time management if you're struggling with any of the classic symptoms, because having that awareness is the first step to getting better.
Darius : Well, Erica, let's do a reality check here. Okay? First of all, I'm not very good at time management, naturally not very good at it, but then I have to put in lots of intentional techniques and tools to make myself half decent at it. Now, there may be people who are thinking, what's the point of measuring it if at the end of the day, nothing's going to change? And, uh, I think that's sometimes the internal barrier, like often people don't want to be honest with themselves at different aspects of their life if they think the reality is that nothing's really going to change. So what's the point in quantifying it and going to town and understanding it all if nothing's going to change? And so I think we kind of need to meet that sort of mental blocker first before people listen to anything more. What would your take beyond that?
Erica: Yeah, I think anybody can improve their skills. I'm a firm believer of that. It's just a matter of making the decision that you want to do that assessing what the particular areas of difficulty are and then really exploring what are some compensatory strategies that you can use, whether they are strategies that you can utilize yourself or whether you reach out to other professionals that can support you or perhaps have a, um, personal assistant or even technology. So there are a lot of tools out there that can make a profound difference.
Darius : Or an executive functioning coach, which is what I am and you are too. But we're not kind of promoting us. But it's really useful to find someone, an executive function coach to help you with time management and wherever, um, you find one. But because the payoff of being able to get things done because executive function is about getting things done, getting what you want done in life rather than being pushed around by the waves and the weather of life. You set your course, like we said in the previous one. You're the captain of your ship and you're setting your course and responding to life's circumstances and you get to your destination with the cognitive flexibility. The ability to get things done repeatedly, small things done repeatedly faster and more effectively is really very important. I want to throw a little interesting spanner in the works here. Maybe, uh, it's this book called The Right Brain Time Manager by Dr. Harry Alder. And it's a really old book that's out of print now. Now, the days of the difference between the right brain and the left brain and everything creative is in the left, is in the right brain, and everything logical is in the left brain. Those days are gone. We've realized that there's a mix of them in both sides of the hemisphere, but there is still a real predominance of the creative in the right brain versus the logical and systematic in the left. And, um, Dr. Harry Alder put forward the right brain time management approach compared to the left brain time management approach. Now, the left brain time management approach would be right. We've got to measure it, we've got to be systematic, we've got to start being efficient and so forth. Whereas the right brain time management approach would be let's not focus on being efficient. Let's focus on being effective. And being effective is being very much goal orientated and trying to navigate the most effective route towards that goal rather than the most efficient route to the wrong goal. So there's a lot of people very efficient at what they're doing, but they're not necessarily hitting the goals that they're meant to be doing or wanting to be doing in life. Whereas there are some people who are incredibly inefficient, but they're highly effective because they keep their eye on the price. And so I think it's quite helpful because I think quite a lot of neurodiverse people might be listening to this people who think they might be a little bit dyslexic, they might be a little bit ADHD, they might be a little bit autistic, they might be a little bit, uh, creative, more creative than other people. They might be a little bit this or that. They just feel just a little bit different, thinking a little bit differently than other people. And so sometimes there's hope even for the people who feel like, oh, I've tried so many different things, and it doesn't work because, uh, a lot of time management approaches are set up for the typical way of thinking and the typical way of working. But there are other approaches that we will be sharing today that appeal to more visual thinkers, more verbal thinkers, more dynamic, more practical thinkers, et cetera. And I think it's really useful to bear that in mind. For example, the Kanban approach that we're going to talk about later, that touches on some of these, a lot of creative people use that and programmers and so on, and it's spilled over into everyday marketplace. So there are different ways of doing time management is what I'm saying.
Erica: Yeah, I completely agree. There's a huge menu of options out there, for sure. And I think that a lot of it has to do with tapping into the different senses and figuring out what are your best ways of processing. And that's where the compensatory learning comes in. So compensatory learning means we utilize your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses. So let's jump in and talk about some ways that we can manage our time. I think we'll start with the first one here we've got, which is creating a schedule. And there's so many ways that we can create a schedule, whether it is by doing it by hand, doing it on your computer, utilizing apps and resources. And that is, again, being very mindful of what works best for you because everybody's different. They're going to be those people that say, you must do it this way. That's not true. You must do it the way that's best for you. And so, uh, being exposed to many of these different ways of scheduling and then testing them out and saying, oh, wow, that one doesn't work, but this one really does.
Darius : Yeah, I think I've been pondering on this a lot, Erica. Uh, like, what are the musts when it comes to executive function? What are the musts? And I think note taking is a must. We need to learn how to take notes. We need to learn how to take notes of important ideas, important thoughts, dreams, goals, hopes, things you want to do, people you're going to meet when you're going to meet them. That basic thing of that concept of I'll take a note of that. Now, how you take a note of that is different. It could be a note on a Post it note. It could be in your file fax. It could be in a paper diary, it could be on Apple notes, it could be a notion, it could be an Obsidian, it could be in Microsoft Excel, whatever it is. You could have your own way of taking a note. But fundamentally, I think so much comes down to take a note of it. And, uh, I think even with time, taking a note of time and I'm stating the most obvious thing, and it's a bit embarrassing sometimes, but I meet me included. People with Dyslexia and I know I keep talking about dyslexia because it's a big part of my life and my clients that we often don't take a note of crucial bits of information, and we just rely on our memory, which can be patchy depending on how good our working memory is working at that particular point in time. A lot of people have got great memories. But if that moment, your working memory, is filled up with too many thoughts, too many ideas, too many tasks, some stress or whatever, what is so weird is that you have acknowledged it's come into your mind, into your awareness, but then it's not been stored because it's dropped off your working memory because it's too full. It's not been stored in your long term memory or in your memory. And then you feel really weird, you're like, hold on a minute, what's going on here? And that's where notetaking comes in. And in effect, tons of these suggestions are foundational around. Will you take a note of what you're going to do, what you want to do, how you're going to do it, et cetera.
Erica: Right? So part of creating a schedule is taking a note, is writing things down, is documenting things and then the next thing that's most important is then to prioritize those things.
Darius : I'd like to concentrate on schedule just a little bit longer. The idea of a calendar is just so important. You've made that assumption, Erica, that schedule means calendar and we've talked about that before, but calendar, I know people have calendars, but there's some people think, myself included, found I could go a day or two without looking at my calendar. And there's some jobs you can get away with doing that really repetitive job where it's the same thing every day you go into your work, someone tells you what to do. You don't really need a calendar, maybe a bit of a social calendar in the evening, but once you get into your thirty s and you've got family, you've got more responsibility and often you're the one who's setting the schedule, uh, in your workplace and so on, you can find yourself, oh, I didn't look at my calendar. And someone says, oh, Darius, you're not meant to be in a meeting like you did with me and for this one, and you didn't look at your calendar. I did look at my calendar today. But looking at your calendar is so important and a lot of people have this kind of love hate relationship with a calendar. They just don't want to look at it because it just totally mortifies them that they look at it and they unconsciously can see psychologically, they're not going to manage to do this or this is too much or whatever. And so m often their calendar doesn't become their friend.
Erica: Well, I think there are different types of calendars. I think there are calendars that block time, and they're just calendars that really don't bring time into it very much. They're more like lists, I suppose. So I'm thinking of Google Keep. I love keep and it helps me with time management, but it wouldn't help a lot of people with time management because it doesn't have allocated blocks. Whereas something like the calendar that comes on your iPhone or Google calendar has time allocated very specifically to the minute of when you're going to start and gives you reminders about time. So I think we have to be mindful that we pick a scheduling device that accommodates what we need. So, yeah, Google Keep works great for me because I'm pretty good with time management and you can throw in reminders in Google Keep. And, in fact, I like it better because I feel overwhelmed by all the numbers in a calendar every 15 minutes, and it feels too dense and too much, whereas I like something that's less visually dense. But I think we just have to be very mindful of what works for us because there are those people that really need to see time. And one of my favorite features of Google Calendar is that it actually shows you time in real time in your calendar, and you can see the line of time moving through your appointments. And when it does, it changes the color of your appointments to a lighter shade so that you can really see where you are in the day. And for somebody that really struggles with time management, that could be an incredible tool where you just kind of keep your Google Calendar open, perhaps in the corner of your screen, and you're really able to see time in real time.
Darius : How on earth do you use Google Keep for time management? That's fascinating. Tell me more.
Erica: Well, uh, because I don't really have an issue with time. It just creates blocks of things that I need to do, and I put them in a sequence, and then I know that I'm going to do that in time sequence, and I get everything done. And I don't necessarily have to have a calendar there or a specific time for me because I just am able to keep track of time really well. But it does have that feature in it where you can give yourselves reminders based on time or location, which is very interesting because with Google Keep, if I'm going, maybe I'm going to work, and I'm going past the grocery store. It'll give me a pop up when I get close to the grocery store and say, oh, don't forget to pick up the apples. So it's interesting. It doesn't really remind you based on time, but it does on location, yet it is a way a time saver and helps you with time management because it lets you know, well, this is the most efficient time to go to the grocery store because you're really close. I think that's what's so interesting is that if you go to an expert, I mean, some people are very stuck on very specific ways of doing things. And my way of working with individuals is really helping them to find the tool that works best for them. And I think that's what's most important. So really doing a, uh, thorough evaluation of all the tools and apps, and we're going to be going over quite a few of them or making some suggestions and trying them. And techniques like time blocking, the Pomodoro technique, the flow time technique, the tunnel technique. There are lots of different techniques. Some people might be like, oh, I love the Pomodoro technique because it breaks things down into 25 minutes increments. Whereas the flow time technique enables you to evaluate, wait a minute. Okay, it's been 25 minutes. Am I in a flow? If I'm in a flow, let me continue to go. Whereas if I'm not in a flow and this is a good time to break, I can break. So it has more flexibility. And then Andrew Huberman's tunnel technique, he really talks about how he looks at the physiology of the brain and that, uh, like, we have circadian rhythms. We also I forget what he calls them. There's another type of rhythm within the day of how long is the optimal time to focus, which is 90 minutes. So he suggests 90 minutes sessions, although he does suggest that flexibility of if 90 minutes isn't working for you, what does work for you? And adjust to that? But the flow time is interesting because you're really evaluating in the moment you set a time. Am I in a state of flow? I am. Keep going. And if I'm not, okay, I'll take that break. But it's interesting because I find that even when my brain and my body is saying it's time to take a break, I get into such intense flows that I don't and it's really important to have something that interrupts you sometimes, if that works for you, just to say, okay, should you take a break? Because sometimes my eyes are hurting, um, I'm thirsty. I might even need to go to the restroom, and I'm ignoring all those physiological signs. And when you do that, you're not as productive. And just to stop for a moment or a minute to look away or address some of the needs that your body is communicating to you will actually help you to be more productive and you can get through your work faster. So a lot of my students, for example, need brain breaks, and just a 32nd brain break is enough to bring them back online. And you can often see when the kids can't focus, they're fiddling around or doodling, or they just can't get it together, or they themselves can learn how to self monitor and say, like, wow, I'm really not focusing, I'm really distracted. I guess I need a brain break. And getting comfortable, advocating for themselves and saying, can I have a brain break? I find that the teachers that use that have the most successful classes, and I can remember one of my students coming to me, and she said, oh, my goodness, we didn't have a regular teacher today, and they didn't know about brain breaks, and the class was a mess. And she said, it's such a profound difference. She didn't use that word, but she described a very profound difference between when the teacher gave them brain breaks and when the teacher didn't, that the class was much more unruly, less focused. And they even say, just looking at the wall HUBERMAN says that even looking at the wall and having these micro mini breaks of 10 seconds, where you just give your brain a moment to digest or relax or whatever really helps to maximize your efficiency.
Darius : Well, there's been a lot of research done on memory, and, um, memory decay, and the memory decay cycles, and that's a perfect example of the importance of time and focus and so on. So if you look at a 1 hour period of attention, and we were to draw a graph, your attention and memory is close to 95%, right at the beginning of a session of something, and then round about 25 minutes in it's at about 75% attention and retention. But then just at about 25 minutes, just falls off a cliff, and you're really falling down to nothing. At about an hour, you're at about 15% retention, 20% retention. So I remember reading this in tony bouzan's book, use your head in the he showed this as a graph. And if you interrupt at 25 minutes and take a five minute break and then go back up to 95% attention and recall and then keep going back down and then interrupt it at the 75% retention level, 25 minutes. Later and then do it again. The amount over the 90 minutes you retain with two breaks is 50% more than if you didn't take those two breaks. So it's more enjoyable and you remember more. Now, that's just when it comes to studying and memory, let alone productivity and so forth, uh, that's a really easy measurement to make. So there's a lot of evidence for the importance of refreshing your mind every 25 minutes and taking these brain breaks. So let's wind back and just pull some of this together. Executive function is about working memory, working with your inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility to create this meta level of understanding of. Time management. So working memory, taking notes to empty working memory. The inhibitory control is really important in this because sometimes if your brain thinks, oh, gosh, I'm going to be working on this for hours, it just relaxes, uh, too much, or fades out too much because it just feels overwhelming and daunting and hopeless. Oh, I just give up straight away. So sometimes it can feel that with a task. Whereas if it's like, right, 25 minutes. I can do this for 25 minutes, then you've got most of your attention. I can listen to this for 25 minutes. I can learn this, or I can do this. And so this Italian guy created the pomodoro technique for exactly that. And the pomodoro comes from, uh, it's called tomato, the tomato technique. Pomodoro is the Italian name for tomato. He had a tomato timer and he just turned it to 25 minutes, and it went off every 25 minutes. And I'm very fond of the pomodoro technique, but the discipline is this before you start your 25 minutes, you have to come to an agreement with yourself that there's something you could achieve and finish within those 25 minutes. And for people who have difficulty estimating time, this is a really good calibration exercise because some my clients will go, right, I'm going to write that report. And you're like, can you write a report in 25 minutes? No, of course it's going to take hours, 10 hours. You're like, well, why are you saying write the report? Are you going to say, write the description within 25 minutes? Oh, yeah, I'll get that done in about ten minutes. All right, write the description and a little bit of the, uh, location of, um, the project you're doing. Yeah, okay, write description and location. And so you're chunking it down into more manageable tasks. And that principle of chunking things down to manage tasks is essential. So you need to know what your goal is, what your tasks are, prioritize them, but then also chunk them down to manageable sizes. And a manageable size is often something less than 25 minutes. The moment you give yourself a task that you say, I'm going to spend a couple of hours on this, and M, you've not chunked it down, you probably are going to be inefficient at it. Whereas if you said, I'm going to spend a couple of hours on this, and let's say we're going to spend 90 minutes on this, and we're going to break it down to 325 minutes chunks and do this hybrid of kubraman and pomodoro. You can say to yourself, the alarm goes up for 25 minutes, and you're like, oh gosh, I got distracted. And the wonderful thing about that is you've not wasted an hour and a half getting distracted of, uh, thinking, oh, gosh, I better get back to that. You've only wasted maybe 1015 minutes getting distracted, and you can remake that time and stay back on track and so I think that whole principle of writing everything that's on your mind down organizing it and reprioritizing it and then choosing some of the top things and then saying, how long is that going to take? That's going to take an hour. That's going to take a couple of hours. Then you break down the couple of hours and you say, could I chunk this down into something more? And then you set yourself a timer to do it. You put it into your calendar, you time block those 2 hours. You might even time block in advance and saying, I know I've got to write this and it's going to take a couple of hours. Where's my 2 hours going to go? Oh, I'll find it somewhere. And that somewhere will probably be late at night. When your kids want your attention, your wife wants your attention or whatever. And, um, you're basically robbing them because you've not put it into the place it should have gone. And what I noticed a lot of people do is if they don't time block and if they don't time manage, a friend comes along at the workplace and they go, hey Bob, can you help me with this project? And you're like, yeah, okay, I can help you with that project. But you're helping them for an hour in that project. You're going to have to spend an hour in the evening when you should have been putting your kids to bed or reading them a story or something. You're like, I'm sorry, I've got to finish this project. I didn't get it done at work because you were helping Bob for the hour. Now that was nice help, Bob. But if you had on your calendar and you said, Bob, I'd love to. I've got something scheduled right now, I could help you tomorrow at 12:00. And Bob's like, no. I want this done now. And you're like, well, if you want this done now, you should have planned for that rather than getting me to make up for you not planning for it. So there's this cascade effect of people not managing their time so you can create this inhibitory control is basically I uh, am going to stay focused on this and get this done at this period of time. And if someone comes and tests that boundary, you can still help Bob. And you can open your diary and you say, Bob, I was going to work on this project right now. And Bob's like, Well, I'll tell you what, if you could help me just now, I could really help you with that project tomorrow at 10:00. I find them really easy to do. Bob, that would be fantastic. Great, let's do it. And then you're starting to work to your strengths and so on. So that can be a way to actually help you with all of other difficulties and, um, using unique abilities with one another. But scheduling it in can be such a gift to you and your colleagues and your family and so on.
Erica: Yeah, I totally agree. And talking about the time blocking just to spin off of that. And this does have something to do with time management, which is spaced repetition. The research shows that the best way to learn things is to repeat your review of the information that you're learning at Increments. So, for example, instead of waiting until the day before a test and studying everything, actually reviewing your notes the next day and then perhaps putting some of that information on Quizlet or some other platform the following day, and then a few days later doing a little quiz on Quizlet or reviewing what you looked at again because over time, memory diminishes. But every time you just look at something, even if it's just five minutes of just reviewing your notes, it brings it back because it's all about establishing neural pathways. And if you learn the information and then you don't study it for a month, that pathway is very weak. However, if you've revisited that information and that pathway ten times, and even if it was just for a very short moment, when you have to review it 30 days later, it's probably going to be there. So it's another way of being efficient with time and can really help you to learn things on a deeper level.
Darius : I was just going to talk about creativity. A lot of creative people have difficulty with time management. The linear people, they kind of get there. A lot of linear thinkers, they've got time management nailed by the time they're 16, 1718 years old. School really relate to school and so on. But then a lot of creative people, they're still struggling with time management in their twenty s and thirty s, and then the responsibilities start really hitting and ramping up. Uh, uh, in the think, I've thought a lot about creativity and time management, and sometimes creativity takes time. And I think sometimes, like the Hooperman 90 minutes thing, some people need a whole day to work on something. Like if you're creative or something, you can say, it's okay to say, I am going to spend 8 hours and I'm just going to get so immersed in this, so focused on this, and just work on this exclusively with nothing else. I mean, I love doing that when I'm doing a DIY job and I'm putting a stove into my house or whatever, and I'm like, no, I'm doing nothing else. I'm just concentrating on this. And I become so efficient, so effective, because I'm singularly focused. And I know Dan Sullivan. He's a really great guy and he has this, uh, big executive program. But his approach to time management is as an executive, he allocates one whole day to one function in the week. So he divides the five days of the week into three types of day, admin days, development days, and productive days. And he says, well, there are some days where you just have to do grinding admin. And, uh, you just put that all into one day and your goal is to limit that as much as possible. Instead of it being four grinding admin days and one productive day, let's get it down to one grinding day and two productive days and two development days. So your goal is to really get to the point where you're developing the future of your company. You've also got the productive days, which might involve some high level sales or networking or staff development, et cetera. And then you've maybe got accounts and things like that to do on another day. So even chunks it into days. And for some people that's really helpful too. And a final thing that blew my mind 15 years ago when I read this Bright Brain time management book is the ability to use your subconscious mind for time management. And this is a bit off the wall, but just bear with me, okay? So we've got two minds. We've got our conscious mind and our subconscious mind. And they're always at play. And, um, there's an aspect of creative people where they will really intensively work on a project and if they're very high functioning, like Edison or Einstein and so on, they often followed this technique. They would work on a really intensive problem for a day or two and then they would say to themselves, I am not going to think about this until five days time or ten days time or whatever. And they put it in their diary, I am going to rethink about this in five days time, or whatever, a good length of time. So they could sleep on it and they could sleep on it for at least three nights. So that they're basically saying to their subconscious mind, I'm going to let go of this and I'm going to drop this down to you and I want you just to work away at it in the back of my mind. And what often happens is that you basically got two brains working at the same time on different subjects. Rather than only concentrating one thing and having to bring it to the end, you've got to give your subconscious mind obstin time to work on it and then bring back some solutions. So what will happen is, uh, invariably what tends to happen is and the important thing is you set a deadline. You don't just say, I'll get back to this at some point. The important thing is you say to your subconscious mind, I'm going to think about this a week today. On Friday, I've scheduled an hour on it. And you're saying to yourself, I really want to come up with some thoughts on this in the meantime from the back of my mind. Then a couple of days before you have a dream, you have an idea, you have an inspiration, something drops into your mind there's a conversation you have your reticular activating system is starting to think about bringing certain things to your attention because you programmed it to pay attention to certain things relevant to that problem. And at that point you start taking notes. You write them down and that's where notetaking is so important. You take a note of it in your Apple notes or whatever, or your notebook or whatever. You're using Google keep. And then when it comes to the Friday, you say, right, I'm going to think about this, and the whole of you is ready. Not just your conscious mind, your subconscious has been ready for this. And often what you end up with in terms of time management is you maybe spent 3 hours intensively focused on it. 1 hour a week later, 4 hours altogether. But you've got the benefit of like 10 hours of working on it. But you've actually only been working on it for those four conscious hours. You've allowed your unconscious to work away at it. So if you're thinking about time management, what Dr. Harry Alder really proposes in this right Brain Time Manager book is that you have a bit more of a holistic approach to time management that you give your brain time to sleep on certain things.
Erica: That really works for me. I know that I'm writing a book right now on executive functioning games in the classroom. And I would say that over half of the games happened at about 05:00 in the morning. I'd be half awake and I'd get this amazing idea and then I would kind of lie in bed for half an hour, mulling it over and solidifying it, and then I'd run downstairs and add it. So there's definitely something to allowing the subconscious to work. That's a really interesting thing for us to talk about. So Darius, let's talk a little bit more about a few more strategies. I think that you talked a little bit about delegating tasks, for example, when you said you can do this for me and I can do this for you. But I think there are times where there are those people like myself where I have great difficulty delegating tasks and so I try to do it all myself. And learning how to do that is really important. And I think another thing that's really important is getting comfortable making deadlines. I find that there are those students that do, for example, really well when there's a deadline, but they leave everything to the last minute. And for those people you have to create these micro deadlines. So instead of the teacher assigning, for example, a 15 page paper, they would assign maybe three five page papers or five, three page papers. And having those micro deadlines for some people is really, really important. What are your thoughts on that?
Darius : Yeah, I think deadlines are really important. I agree. I have to say I feel hard talking about all of this because it sounds like I'm really good at all of this, but I'm not really good at all of this. Naturally, my wife is naturally good at all of this. And I bring my wife into this because she's really good at deadlines. Because we all say, can we do this by such and such a time? And estimating deadlines is really important. Like, can it realistically be done within that time? And often it's one thing, a teacher setting a deadline, okay? But uh, once you become an adult, you have to start setting your own deadlines often and in work. And you start making commitments to people and they say, oh, can you do this report? And um, you're like, yeah, I can do that report. And you're like, yes, you can do this report. But can you do this report within the four days that person is expecting you to do when you've got four other reports too? I've got a client who's like that at the moment. They're great surveyor, but they often over promise, uh, because they haven't got the schedule in. And so I'm working with him and when someone says, can you do the report? They'll say, uh, yeah, I can, but let's look at when I'm able to do it for you. And they open up their calendar and they can see they've got 2 hours blocked tomorrow for the next sections of such and such report, uh, another couple of hours for comparables and this, and these dog going out onto site there and he looks at it and he goes, look, I'll be honest with you. I'm looking at my schedule and the time it's going to take to do your report, I would have it in ten days time. And they're like, oh gosh, ten days? Really? For my evaluation. They might go with someone else. But it's a hard dynamic and you might say, well, I'll just say yes and somehow make it work. But often you end up getting it to them for the ten days and they feel frustrated and annoyed because they expect it to be sooner. So the deadlines, they're a very dynamic thing and they depend often on estimating the amount of time it will do. But huh, what you can do with the person is if you're being honest with yourself and your schedule and that person, it builds up huge amounts of trust because you're kind of like, oh, well, when Darius says he's going to do something, I know it's fire and forget he's going to do something. But then if Philippa says she's going to do something, I don't know, it's 50 50, whether it'll get done lady chaser up and so on. Will I go with Darius or will I go with Philippa? I'm going to go with Darius because I just want it done and I don't want to think about it. And so the point here is if you said to the person, look, it'll be ten days before I give you the written report. But I'm looking at my schedule. I can go out tomorrow, and I can give you a verbal report in three days time. How would that work for you? Like, well, great, I'll have a price, but you'll be able to back it up. The verbal will be set in stone, will it? Yes, it will be set in stone. It'll just take me time to do all the paperwork in the background and so on. Great. Then I can do my thing. And so you can work around these things. But, um, having it scheduled realistically means you can commit to deadlines, because a lot of people set deadlines that are artificial unrealistic and demoralizing.
Erica: Yeah. And what this allows us to do is manage our distractions. And what's really important is to avoid multitasking, because when we multitask, we're not efficient. So it's really important not to multitask and to really manage everything else around you so that you can give your full attention to things. So there's a lot of research that talks about how important it is to unit ask. And then even when we're doing that, we also have to leave time between tasks, because that's one of my biggest mistakes, is that I usually schedule to the minute, and if something goes over a few minutes, then I can be a little bit late. So it's really important for me to schedule five minutes between appointments or say, my sessions are 55 minutes. They're not 60 minutes, because you need to have that kind of cush so that you can honor other people's times. And then, of course, there are those moments where you're in the middle of something you can't really afford to leave. In this second, you have that little bit of elbow room. But anyway, I also wanted just to quickly talk a little bit about a resource that I have, which is called Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success. And this is a product that I put together, uh, for my students. And I really took all of my time management and executive functioning tools and tips and put it into one publication. And that's something that you can find at good Sensory learning. So I don't typically promote things, but it is a really good tool that offers a plethora of time management skills and actually has an editable scheduler or planner that you can use as well with it. But otherwise, I think before we wrap up, I also want to talk a little bit about how there are a lot of time tracking apps that are out there. And we have a little list that we'll put into the show notes for you, but a few of them that come to mind are just to list them off are Forest Rise, Serene, Habitica, toggle Track Hourstack, Timely Tracking Time, and Rescue Time. Which is your favorite?
Darius : None of them. I actually found that my current favorite is Apple Notes apple reminders and Apple calendar. So I've realized that one of the biggest pitfalls in all of this time management stuff is complexity and confusion. And the moment you start making it a little bit too complex and a little bit confusing and you can just get kind of caught up in the sort of, oh, I'm going to get organized, I'm going to do this, I want to do that, I'm going to do this. And then all of a sudden you're like, oh my goodness, it's not strong enough to take the weight of my actual life on it. I've been living in this fantasy that could get everything organized with the right apps and write this and write that, and so on. So what I've settled in on is I have this process where I only want to take notes of what's important. Not a note of everything that I'm going to do, but only what's important. So important notes, important tasks, and important activities, events, okay? And if I can become really reliable on the important things, then the rest will take care of itself. So on my phone, I've got Apple notes at the bottom, and then I've got reminders, and then I've got calendar. The way I teach my clients is I say, look, first thing is put it in a note, uh, have a note on it. If it's important and you actually need to do something on it, then turn the note into a reminder. Make a quick reminder for yourself saying, remind me tomorrow to do such and such. And then if it's something that's important for you to do and you're going to do it with someone or it's in the diary, then put it in your calendar. So I have this kind of order of priority. It goes into notes, then maybe it gets upgraded to a reminder. Then it gets maybe upgraded to, uh, calendar. So that's basically what I do to track my time.
Erica: Well, I think the nice thing is that there's so many options out there. So if you're very visual, like, forest might be really fun for you because it's motivating. And, uh, if you get tasks done, you grow a tree. And then if you bail on the task, then you have a dead tree. But it kind of gamifies it. There are few apps that gamify, uh, time management Habitica is another one.
Darius : It's really good for that.
Erica: That gamifies it. And if motivation is an issue for you, sometimes these apps that gamify, and some of them are highly visual and others are good for reducing distractions. But I think what's most important is to explore what works for you. But I do really like the idea that you said, which is, don't have too many of these things in different places. And if you're going to really try to overcome time management issues, you want to have apps or platforms that communicate with each other so that you're not having too many things open in different places. I think that's a really important point that you said.
Darius : Yeah, I also think executive function coaching is really great if time management is your thing. It's just such a quick bang for your buck in terms of quick return on investment of your attention and time, because I see so many. And if you want to get some coaching from me, I've got some slots. But get in touch with me. But find someone who's good at executive function stuff. So it might be a formal executive function coach, or it might be someone who is organized in the way that you work. And it is quite surprising to get another set of eyes on the way you do it. They might share some small little thing that because you do it repeatedly, it could save you tons of time. So I highly recommend sort of not doing this on your own. Maybe your wife is super organized, or your husband's partner, friends speak to them and just say, how do you do this? And often they're very open and they would love they're just waiting. They don't want to, uh, give unsolicited advice. But it can be so enlightening having someone else's eyes on what you do well.
Erica: And a good executive functioning coach will have a huge menu of resources so that you can say, well, I kind of need this, and I need this and this. And they can say, Well, I know of three apps that might be appropriate. Let's talk a little bit more. And they can really guide you towards the right tools because it's completely overwhelming right now. There's so much out there, and it's like finding a needle in a haystack. So when you're working with an expert, uh, hopefully they will guide you to what you need. And on that note, I'll have to say goodbye and it was really great to see you today, Darius, and I hope this conversation was helpful. I have two websites available for therapists, educators, and parents that support all learners. My first website is Goodsensorylearning.com, where you can access digital downloads that bring delight to learning. It offers multisensory educational lessons, assessments, games, and cognitive remedial tools for preschool through college. For example, there are working memory activities or fun reading materials for learners with Dyslexia. My second website, Learningspecialistcourses.com, offers teacher training courses and additional remedial tools that can be completed on a computer. For online sessions, come check out my newest course on executive functioning and study strategies.
Darius : Dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com helps you overcome organization and time management challenges. Tell me, do you know what you want to achieve in the workplace, but you're struggling with how to achieve it? Maybe you suspect some traits of Dyslexia are getting in the way. Well, that's where Dyslexia productivity coaching comes in. Because we give you a simple productivity system for your Apple devices that harnesses the creativity that comes with your Dyslexia. It includes proven methods like notetaking or minders speech to text, mind mapping and more, all tailored to your needs. It'll free up your time and help you achieve outstanding results. Book a complimentary call to discuss it with me, and if you do it soon, I may also be available to coach you personally via Zoom. So don't be shy. Go to dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com or swipe up and book it now.