ADHDoers Guest Spot: Productivity & Time Management

I was recently interviewed by Maurice on the ADHDoers podcast about time management and productivity. Some of the topics we covered include:

  • How to use timers as mindfulness triggers, and why the alarm tone you choose matters
  • How to level up (and down) your productivity system using The Stoplight Method
  • Why trade-off prioritization can be more effective than assigning 1-5 stars to tasks
  • What jump-starts are and how to use them to shift your energy throughout your day

Listen to the episode or read the transcript below. Or subscribe to the ADHDoers podcast.

Maurice: Hello and welcome everyone to the next episode of our ADHDoers podcast. Today I’m here with Trevor Lohrbeer, a serial entrepreneur currently active in the time management business with a project called, Day Optimizer. Trevor, tell us a little bit about yourself and your job at the moment.

Trevor: Thanks for having me. I have been working on an app called Day Optimizer. I’m trying to help people get better with time management. Let me just tell you a little of the history of that. I’ve been into personal development for a long time and coming up with different systems for myself. About 8 or 10 years ago, I developed this way of creating a daily schedule that helped me improve that process. It’s a three-step process, and I would do it on paper, for years.

I would just have two index cards where I’d be writing down everything I needed to do that day, including allocating the time and creating a schedule. Two years ago, I decided to make that into an app to make it a lot easier. Now I’ve started doing a deep dive into time management and all of the science around how to be more productive, how to beat procrastination, how to increase focus, all those sort of things that you need, to have a more productive day. Ultimately the goal is to have more free time, since if you’re more productive during your workday, you have more time for play.

Maurice: Very nice. I think that’s perfect, perfect, like a footfall podcast, because these things are exactly one of the main things people with ADHD struggle with, self-regulation, and with that, what comes with the planning of your day. You wrote a nice, fulfilling of your potential. It is a quite common theme, because we focus on high performing editorials, and so very often, it’s that they get some things done, but still there’s such a big amount of time that’s just wasted on activities, such as transitioning on social media, or whatever, since they maybe never needed to schedule a day, and many people just hated that with ADHD. So that’s very fitting. Can you tell us a little bit, how does that work? Start where you want to focus, say whatever.

Trevor: Yeah, totally. So, let me describe the process first.

Maurice: Yeah, that’s a great idea.

Trevor: And then I can talk about some other concepts that help people with time management. Let me back up first and tell you why a daily schedule works. I think that’s probably important since a lot of people will resist the structure of it.

Maurice: ADHD especially, with structure. (laughs)

Trevor: Yeah. The first thing I will say is that it is key to know, that the planning process is just as important as the plan itself. When I create my daily schedule, most days I don’t follow it exactly. I almost never actually follow it exactly. It is not the plan that is important, it’s the process. That is the first thing. The second thing is if we talk about a daily schedule, what we are doing is we are setting times for when we are going to do different tasks. We are figuring out when our appointments are in the day and kind of blocking things around that. We may be putting in, since we are doing time management, not task management.  We’re kind of saying, okay, well when am I going to eat lunch? – all those sorts of things, the things that take up time in your day. The process of creating that schedule, helps us understand how much time we have in our day and how much time we don’t have.

In that way we can focus on the key, important things, right? Most of us put way too much on our to do list. And if we’re working from the to do list, every time we look at it, we just grab the next shiny item and start working on it. By blocking out your day, you can reduce that list and say, okay, this is what I can realistically accomplish or attempt to accomplish today. Then when we’re creating a schedule, we are creating what the researchers call, implementation intentions. This is an if-then statement, if these conditions occur, then I will do that. And what the research says is that people who create these statements, these implementation intentions, are far more likely to follow through with them, and do their goals much more so, then if they just say, Oh, I intend to do this task.

If you say, I intend to do this task currently, at this place, you’re just much more likely to do it, so you can think of a schedule as just the series of implementation intentions. And so, by consciously creating that schedule, you are setting those intentions again. Even if you never look at the schedule for the rest of the day, it’s there, but the schedule helps you ensure you’re going to get those things done. It is nice to look at the schedule, since one of the things, the start time does, like when I create a start time, I’m creating an objective trigger, for when to start that task. If it’s 10 o’clock and I decided that at 10 o’clock, I’m going to start working on my taxes. It’s really hard to tell yourself, well, now I’m going to procrastinate.

I’m going to go on Facebook. You yourself just said at 10 o’clock I’m going to work on my taxes. So you’re going against yourself to do that. People will procrastinate in those situations, but it makes it much harder. It’s not a perfect solution, but it nudges you toward actually getting started because you’ve got this objective trigger. And then the other thing people will do is they go down rabbit holes, right? So, you start a task, and especially with things like research, you may say, okay, I’m going to spend an hour on this, and three hours later, you’re there realizing, oh where did the time go?

Maurice: Right, story of my life.

Trevor: Yeah. You get lost in things, even if it’s something that you like. Maybe you need to get your tax returns done, but that’s not the only thing you can do today. You’ve got a bunch of other stuff. If you wound up spending four hours on your taxes, you won’t get the other important things done. You still have to limit yourself. By setting this end time, we’re setting a duration that determines the end time. You’re creating this moment of mindfulness that then says, okay, should I keep working on this task? The answer is, it depends, right? If this is the most important task for your day that you know, and say it’s Tax Day, well then yes, you keep working on that task. However, if it’s not the most important task, you need to kind of wrap it up and move onto your next task, but it gives you that conscious decision, versus if you’re not setting an end time, you haven’t created any trigger, any trip wire, to help you evaluate whether you should keep working on it or not.

Maurice: Yeah. I love that concept. Could you elaborate a little bit more on the mindfulness aspect? I really liked that one since I think that’s a great example, how meditation can even help with planning your day, because then you can become mindful of this transition points. Can you talk a little bit more about how people can start noticing when they are overdue, so they can get what that means?

Trevor: Yeah, I think it is developing a little bit of that practice of poking your head up occasionally, while you’re working and check in on where you’re at. If you have the schedule open, and for me, I will often have it on the other screen. If my vision just moves over, I say, oh okay, yes, I’ve got something new happening.

Maurice: They have triggers.

Trevor: They have triggers and you can print it out, put it on your desk or something like that. Another thing that helps is setting timers to go off and I’ll often set a timer, There’s this little thing called a time cube where I can just turn it over and set it for 30 minutes, or 60 minutes, or whatever you like.

Maurice: And then it beeps, ah great!

Trevor: Yeah, it just beeps at the end of that. So, especially in the beginning, I think it’s useful to set a timer and even set timers in the middle of the task. If you’re going to work on something for an hour, or an hour and a half, and I personally never tend to schedule things for more than 90 minutes because that is the kind of the max amount of time I can concentrate, but I will set half an hour timers in there. Sometimes I’ll leave it at 15-minute timers, just to kind of set that pacing for myself and remind myself to check in with where I’m at, during that. Certainly, if you’re at the beginning of creating those external check-ins, the external rhythm is really nice. You can do that on your phone, just set a 30-minute timer, and then usually the phones will let you snooze it. I have an iPhone, so I could set a 30-minute timer, and when that goes off. I just click reset, and it resets another 30 minutes. That kind of creates this nice pacing and a reminder to check in.

Maurice: Right? Yeah, and with time also I have a little bit of a love-hate relationship. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the term that exists with ADHD which is hyper-focused. In general, ADHD is a problem, not with attention itself, but with regulating attention. If we have something that really interests us, then we can get super deep. Maybe we can call it a flow state, where you have such an intense focus and then a timer can throw you off and get you out of that place, and it can be super hard to reenter it, but at the same time, it’s also needed sometimes to have this time period. You’re a not at a hundred percent if you can’t get into that state, you have these transitioning periods, which is just the shifting of attention. If you get too confused, you really need that extra break. Russell Barkley, PhD., has the talk, about how people with ADHD need more breaks than the neurotypical people, then basically your frontal lobe and your frontal cortex is, the energy there is gone if you’re switching tasks all the time and can’t focus. So that’s the dichotomy because in one hand, timers can be useful, at the other time, when you finally become or get into a focused state, it can also throw you out of it.

Trevor: Yeah, and then use it to make that conscious decision though, at the beginning and identify, is this a task that is the most important test for your day, it’s probably fine if you’re not paying attention to the time, in which case you don’t set a timer and just go and get into those hyper-focused States and run with it. However, if you’re getting into a hyper focused state on a non-important task, then you actually probably want that interruption anyway, since you do want to get out of that task. The other thing I would say that I found is that it’s very important to set that timer tone. I do prefer most of the time, my phone over the time cube. It depends upon what energy I want from the timer, right? The time cube we’ll give this Beepbeep Beepbeep, Beepbeep sound, and that’s a kind of very jarring, and it pops you right back out again. Right? For my iPhone, I have this nice, gentle kind of gong going on. I think it’s about being conscious. You can even set different tones for different sort of timers. I think being very conscious about what tone you’re using for that can really help, because if you do like a gentle gong, that won’t pull you out as much as that kind of jarring timer.

Maurice: Definitely, I can see that being true. Usually when I use timers, I always have these super annoying beep timers, but that’s another variable that you can play with. That is really interesting and great. ADHD is an over-sized dichotomy. I like to use this term since people in the one hand hate structure, but they also need structure to gain flexibility. If you have no structure at all, your environment dictates your behavior, you just do whatever you see and then you scan. Maybe you waste time on social media. Do you have any thoughts on structure verses flexibility? If so, how much planning of specific tasks? Do you have any recommendations or thoughts on that topic?

Trevor: So I’ve always said that productivity is personal and everyone’s brains work differently. What works for one person may not work for another person. The first thing I always say is constantly experiment, try out different methods to see what works for you. Some people like the Pomodoro technique and it works well, and for some people, it doesn’t. I was just writing, this responsiveness email, talking about how people organize their Workday. There are some people who like to have strict work and personal separation, so they like to work… Okay, I’m working nine to five and then I’m not working… And there’s other people who like to interweave work and personal together. They like to go to the store. They like to go for a run in the middle of their day and kind of weave it together, and both are valid.

The key though is, that a lot of times people will get stressed out when they think they should be one way or the other way. Figuring out what worked for you and accepting that is key, trying out quite different techniques, and then understanding that structure. Like you said, structure can create freedom. They often say constraints, create creativity. In the same way, if you’re blocking out your day and saying, I’m not going to do this specific thing at this time, but I’m going to do this type of task. So, if you’re a freelancer, running your own business, you have to do some networking, just marketing, and you need to do some actual work. Maybe you just need some strategy time, and just blocking those out and saying, okay, this time I’m doing marketing. Then I’ll figure it out at that point.

For example, from one to three, I’m doing marketing at one, and then I’ll figure out what I’m actually doing. So that can give you some structure while also retaining your freedom. The final point to go back to is exactly creating the structure, which alters your mind, even if you don’t follow the structure, it’s a way to make you more productive. So again, you know I’m a big fan of the scheduling your day. Not everyone is doing that, but the fact that you go through a process and you schedule your day changes, you’ve primed your mind in a certain way that is going to alter how you then execute that day, even if you never look at the schedule again.

Maurice: Yeah, that makes total sense, very interesting. I never thought about that in these terms. Like your story, my story with time management since being at the university, is that I had that typical ADHD thing. Again, trying one system and then it works for a month and then it doesn’t work at all, because it becomes overwhelming, and I just start another different thing. What what really helped me the most was one journal, which we also use in our coaching. Basically, you start as simple as possible, maybe in the evening, just prioritizing one task. Then from that, you can, if it doesn’t work for you, just try something new, but you stick to that kind of system and modify it so that you have something that really fits to you, and what kind of tools you need. As you also mentioned, everyone is different. And with ADHD, our brains are much different than neurotypical brains. And so it can be hard, a pre-made journal, a pre-made planning system, where there are all these modules you have, realization and maybe gratitude, another aspect that you have to do to plan your day. It becomes overwhelming.

Trevor: I think it’s useful to think in terms that you shouldn’t be implementing any productivity system full blown right away as there’s just too much to learn. You tend to level up, right? You start small, like you said. Maybe just determine one priority first, and then kind of layer on things as we go. As I learned the system, I got better at it. There are two things I think people miss though. One, they try to level up too quickly and, they hit that overwhelm point, and then the system doesn’t work, and it comes crashing down. The other point is that people feel that once they have gone up a level, they can’t go back down.

That’s a key mistake, because then, if you say okay, now that I’m doing this, this and this, now that I’m in my system, you’re going to commit to what you’re going to do today. Okay, You could just commit, and take your total master to do list, and create a daily to do list. That could be it. Then you level up to say, okay, now I’m going to start allocating time to everything. You could do that and then you could create a schedule. So basically, you’re kind of leveling up. People don’t think that they can actually go backwards. We can go say, it’s too overwhelming for me right now to create a whole schedule, let me just create my daily to do list.

Let me take my master list and create my daily to do list. It’s fine to go back down. That retains the momentum with a system, so that when you’re ready, you can level back up. However, if you come to a full stop, it’s really hard to get started again. The idea is, and I often talk about it, the system is like a stoplight system. When you’re really using your productivity systems, you’re at green-light, figure out. Then if you fall off the wagon, you’re at a red-light. Figure out what your yellow-light looks like, figure out what I am slowing down, yet I am still moving forward. And then you can speed back up to a green-light system later but give yourself permission to go to a yellow light, and state when you need it.

Maurice: That makes a lot of sense and is a very nice thought. Consistency is so important in every aspect in life and it’s remembering that you can also go back into your steps, that way it will stay consistent, which definitely will help my thing. This is definitely good. Okay, let’s maybe get a little bit more practical coming back also to a process. Could you walk us through like an example of how would you schedule a date? Would you do it in the evening and the morning? Which specific actions are involved if you are planning?

Trevor: On the timing, what I recommend depends upon the type of person you are before. People who are mostly in control of their time and where their time has high leverage, and what they spend their time on, determines their success. While you’re constantly learning something, you’re not doing the same task day in and day out. I recommend to only schedule like one day at a time or maybe two days ahead, because too much changes. You don’t know what you’re going to accomplish today or not accomplish today. So how can you plan tomorrow? If you don’t accomplish something today, well then you have to do it tomorrow. I like to plan one day at a time, whether you do that the night before or in the morning is kind of up to you. I’m a morning person.

I wake up in the morning and schedule my day, sometimes even when I’m in bed, since I’ve got the mobile app, I’ll just schedule in bed. Usually when I wake up, I go to sit down at my computer, and I’ll spend five or 10 minutes planning out my day. We have customers who planned the night before, so that’s why I don’t really see too much benefit. If you’re one of those people who needs the schedule already prepared to kind of get that motivation in the morning, do it the night before, but otherwise it doesn’t matter. As for the process itself, I’ll explain it on paper, so your guests can do it on paper. Then, of course, Day Optimizer adds additional functionality around that. But the core thing is, create a daily to do list first.

I used to do this with two index cards. I take one index card and write down everything I’m going to do today. And that’s all of my tasks, appointments, and daily activities. This would be everything that takes up time in your day. Eating lunch, exercising, meditation, anything like that should be included, and that may not be on your task list, but it’s going to take up time during your day, so it should be. You want to write that down, then look at the list, brainstorm, try to think… Is there anything else missing? Often, I’ll go through my email to see if there is any critical email that’s may trigger a big task today. Once you have that list, that’s your commitment list for today. That’s what you’re going to attempt to do.

Next, you go, and you allocate. So, what you do is, assign how much time you want to spend working on it. One of the key things about the system is you’re not focused on time estimation. Time estimation is figuring out how long a task takes to get done, which for any sort of complex task is hard, right? Something could take four hours or 40 hours. It just depends upon what problems you run into and all sorts of different things, but it’s hard to control the estimated time for a task. It’s easier to control how much time you’re spending on things. For your important tasks, you can say, I’m going to spend two hours on this today. Go through and allocate how much time you’re going to spend. I recommend just doing it in 15-minute blocks. If it takes a little bit less than 15 minutes. That’s okay.

That just gives you a little bit of buffer time to do everything else. If you’re trying to schedule things to add too fine of a granularity, then you almost certainly will get off schedule and it causes too much stress. I recommend just 15-minute blocks. I’ll just go through and say, oh, this will be 15-minutes. This is 30 minutes, blah, blah, blah, write that out though. So now, you’ve kind of allocated everything. The third step is to schedule, so the other index card you write the start time of your day. Let’s say you’re starting at nine o’clock you’re at 9:00 AM and you go pick one of the tasks from your list that you want to do at 9:00 AM. Write that next to 9:00 AM slot. And then you know on that task you have committed to doing an hour and a half of work.

The next time I write is 10 30 AM, so now I pick the next task and write it down, and just kind of keep working through your day doing it. If you’re using a paper day planner, it might even have all those blocks for you, and you can just kind of fill things out and mark it down. That way works as well. Go through the separate step of first creating your daily task list, your list of commitments for today, and allocating, before you do that schedule step, because otherwise what happens is that people tend to cheat themselves. If you’re just working from a master list and scheduling each one, you may fool yourself into thinking that the task that normally should take an hour, you can do it in a half an hour, because you’ll see the time shrinking and we tend to cheat ourselves that way. I think it’s really important to make sure that you allocate everything before you even look at your schedule.

Then you just go through and you schedule out your day. I recommend people schedule buffer and breaks in there too, to handle when things aren’t necessarily going to plan. Oftentimes when people do this for the first time, they find that they committed to way too much. And then this becomes a kind of trade off implicit prioritization process where you may think, I added something to my schedule, it’s something that I haven’t scheduled yet but is more important. Okay if so, then let me take that one off and replace it with the more important item. That kind of helps you ensure you’re focusing on your priorities, the things that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Maurice: Yes, priorities, that’s what I was going to ask about. (laughing)

Trevor: This a different process of prioritization then doing it upfront from a list, right? A lot of it’s very hard to rank order something. A lot of times people think, oh, is this a three star? You know, one to five stars system. Yes, you can do that and it can be useful. However, if you have scheduled everything in your day and you have no more time, it’s simple. It’s a paired comparison prioritization process. Which item should I do, A or B, but I could only do one of them. You know you can’t do more and you’ve just scheduled out your day, so which one? That type of prioritization where you must pick A or B is a highly effective way for prioritization, since you can’t rank both the same. You can’t say, oh, they’re both five stars in importance, you must pick one or the other. It forces you to prioritize in a way that, just kind of like ranking your stuff doesn’t as much, or rather like assigning ratings to each one, doesn’t as much. So yeah, that becomes this kind of implicit prioritization process where you create your priorities by what you decide to schedule. If you didn’t schedule it, it’s obviously not a priority, and if it is, you should have scheduled it. Does that make sense?

Maurice: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Interesting. We’ll definitely try some of these with my current time planning, and since what I’m doing is journaling, and mostly prioritization is a big part, which I am also highlighting. I was going to ask about that because it’s another common problem with ADHD people, they just have all these things and then they are all equally important. They actual important stuff is what gets procrastinated on, what kind of falls off the band wagon. It’s like having some sort of system to keep you focused to the end, on this important task, so you don’t lose track and not finish. One slang word for it, procrastivity, something like that. (laughing). It’s explaining that you’re doing things, but you’re not actually doing what you should be doing.

Trevor: Yeah, and regardless, many good prioritization systems limit you in some way and force you to make choices, so you’ll have your top three most important tasks, and while you can only have three, you can’t have five, so that’s a way of doing it. However, when you are struggling with the “everything’s important”,  matching things off, pairing and thinking, which is better A or B, there’s actually a whole technique called, “the paired comparison technique”, which your listeners can look up. It’s a great technique. It’s a little bit gnarly to use, but in this scenario that I’m looking at, I’ve got something on my schedule, I’ve got something that hasn’t been scheduled yet, in which one task wins, then it’s a forced prioritization process, because you’ve created this constraint, that is based on the idea that I only have a limited amount of time in my day, so I must create the constraint. That is true, that you always have limited time in your day, and this goes back to the creating of the schedule. Even if you never look at your schedule, you have now identified your priorities for the day based upon your time, and that’s my list of things I can work on today. Everything else I’m not allowed to work on until those are done.

Maurice: Yeah, it makes sense. I especially like the thing about comparison. A random side fact that I remembered in the automotive industry; if big car companies want to establish pricing and how they should try certain futures, for example: how to create another door, or how should we present the new Hi-Fi system price? They also have a similar thing where they give two price options to consumers with two different costs. For example, one with Hi-Fi in red, one in red with Hi-Fi and other doors, they give different pricing opportunities. The consumer just must choose what they prefer, and they have 10 varieties, so they must choose. The company gives the customer different costs and that’s where they compute. They must think of how they can price these things. If you ask consumers, how much would you pay for a Hi-Fi, they can’t answer that. However, if they have different options to choose from, that’s okay for them. Such as, pay $20,000 with this combination. That’s a way to use that principle in science.

Trevor: That’s a variation in the pair comparison technique, exactly. You need the computer system to do all the math around that, but yeah.

Maurice: That could be suitable for home usage if you put some effort into it. I have another question for you. Since we talked a lot about time management and the productivity aspect, do you have any hacks besides scheduling, for improved focus? Is that something you consider or for the starting part?

Trevor: Well, the last thing related to improve focus that will tie into the scheduling is the fact that even if you don’t schedule, setting a limited time, such as a time block, that will help you focus more. The idea there is that you’re creating artificial time scarcity and when resources are scarce, whether that’s time, money, whatever we focus upon, we pay more attention to them. We use them more judiciously. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between artificial scarcity and real scarcity. Let’s say you only have an hour and a half to work on this task, or I only have an hour to work on this task, our brains will treat the task as if there is scarcity, and so it goes more into a focus state. That’s one kind of little quick brain hack you can do to help with improved focus.

Expanding outside from that, I’ll touch on one or two other things that we’ve kind of implemented into Day Optimizer that you can also do on paper, and then kind of expand out past that. The one thing that will help increase your motivation, which then also increases your focus, is to increase your dopamine levels. One strategy that we use with Day Optimizer is letting people check things off, and obviously, all task management lists have things to check off. However, the key is when you’ve got a multi-day task that you’re working on, (and you can’t check it off on a task management because once you check it off, it’s done and it disappears), so we introduced the idea of, done today versus done forever. The idea is that once I’ve spent the time on it today, I check it off as done today.

That gives me my dopamine hit. Later on, when I look at my list throughout the day, I’m not distracted by the fact that that’s undone, it’s actually crossed off my list. I can only look at the things are not crossed off. That gives me this kind of sense of accomplishment and reduces distraction the next day. It reappears as an option to schedule once it’s finally done, and then you mark it done forever. However, if you’re using a paper-based system, this is when you scratch something off, mark one scratch for done today and two scratches for done forever. The next day, when you’re creating your commitment list for the day, copy over everything that doesn’t have any scratches, since you didn’t do it at all, and anything that only has one scratch.  Now this can help you get those dopamine hits throughout the day that help kind of maintain your motivation. Does that make sense?

Maurice: That makes sense, yeah. Dopamine is an essential topic in the wellness of ADHD, so that’s also something I talk a lot about. The task list is a great way, checking things off, that’s when we use a lot of habits around improving, and then that is the exact same thing, having something to check a habit of, which gives you that dopamine boost and really keeps you on track. Another thing about dopamine that I always recommend is having exercise inventory. I think that for ADHD, we have some tasks, and then in the middle of the day, some exercise, and this really can kick start your next work session. This has been essential for me to really be productive.

Trevor: I agree. In fact, that goes into a broader concept, like almost any physical activity, but I also have this concept of a jump-start, so often what happens when we want to do a task is, we try to start doing the task right away, and we’re still in the mindset of what we were previously working on. So, the idea of a jump-start is to identify, an intermediate activity that jump-starts you for the next activity. That could be exercise. It could be like, let me get up and do 50 jumping jacks, that’s going to get my blood pumping and now I’m ready to go. It’s going to let me give my brain a rest so I can disconnect from the previous task, so I can start the next task.

It can be lots of different things that are jump-starts. It is basically anything that you do either internally or to your environment to bias you toward the next task. One of the classic ones is if you want to go out for a run and you tend to resist going out for a run. Tell yourself to put on your running clothes, but you don’t have to go out for a run yet. I’m going to go out for a run in an hour, and a half an hour before I go for a run, I’m going to go put on my running clothes. You’re much more likely to go out for a run because you’ve primed yourself for it. It’s like a priming process, identifying what those jump-starts are that work for you, and that help you transition into an intermediate state, and that will help you get to your final state. Don’t try to jump-states, sometimes it’s fine to jump from one state to another, but if you’re having trouble jumping from one state to another, try to identify the intermediate state, that then makes it easier to get to your end state, and use that as your jump-start.

Maurice: Yeah, brilliant. I find it funny in this conversation because when we are visiting our coaching, we also do quite a lot with planning your day, but the concept lacks implementation intentions and checking off tasks. I’ve mostly related to those when I’m talking about building habits and habits as an essential thing to long-term self-improvement, yet they are tying so closely together, so that you can also use these implementation intentions for your scheduled stuff. Funny, I’ve never thought about using those in such contexts, but yeah, they are so great. Just to remind everyone, you mentioned very briefly in the beginning, that it’s just having a certain time and location where you do things, writing them down, and it makes it so much more likely that you actually do these things. So simple, but so powerful. Talking about these simple and powerful and prioritization tools, maybe one of the last questions since it’s slowly coming to an end. What would be the number one most important productivity, scheduling, focus, or whatever, or one of the most important pieces of advice you would give anyone, who wants to become more focused, productive and what have you?

Trevor: The thing that I often say to people who aren’t yet scheduling their tasks is, just schedule a task. You know you don’t have to schedule your whole day, just decide  at some point in the future, not right now, whether I’m going to start this task at this time and I’m going to work for this amount of time, and then I’ll end at that point. Even if you just do one of those per day at the beginning, just to kind of get used to this idea of scheduling your tasks, that’s going to make you more productive. Again, the fixed duration is going to create artificial time. Scarcity increase your focus. The start time is going to help you avoid procrastination, and the task and the end time is going to create mindfulness.

Those three things right there, and just by scheduling the task, you certainly get more value as you start, like scheduling more tasks, but just scheduling one, is the thing I do. Now, if someone’s already creating a schedule, I recommend that they try out my three-step process on that, just because it will help them avoid some of the psychological biases around cheating ourselves. There’s stuff we haven’t talked about by keeping you in the same brain mode. The commit step is a brainstorming mode. It’s a divergent thinking mode, whereas allocating is a convergent, it’s an analytical mode, and just like switching between different tasks, multitasking is bad for our brains, switching between different brain modes makes us more inefficient. If you’re going from a brainstorming mode into an analytical mode and then back to a brainstorming, and you’re constantly doing that, it’s going to make it harder to kind of build that schedule. So the more you can just stay in brainstorming mode and come up with all your to do’s for the day, and then switch into that analytical mode to then do the allocation, then switching to the scheduling mode, you’re going to be a lot more efficient and effective with what your end result is.

Maurice: Yeah, it just makes sense. I think with most ADHD brains, that 90% is in the brainstorming mode, so it always will be hard to get used to it. If you tie it down to a process and chunk it, and we really must transition to those kinds of modes, that definitely makes sense. Great, I laughed how again, there was this constant, slow, but steady improvement in many of your answers designed in that way, that you’re taking steps forward, tiny steps, but make sure you keep moving forward to keep improving your scheduling, improving your productivity. And if it’s necessary, you also mentioned taking a step back, let’s take a step back, great. I think we’ve covered quite a lot. Is there anything before telling people where we can find yourself? Any other topic or thing you feel is missing that you’d like to add?

Trevor: I guess, just knowing that everyone struggles with productivity in some way, and everyone requires just continually, like you said, improving and getting better. So, not beating yourself up for where you are, but retaining the, desire to continually improve.

Maurice: Yeah, I think that’s a great one, and especially with ADHD, I’m not striving for that perfection vision, but being contented and self-aware, of where you are, and just aim to be in the upward process. Since every time you make a decision, it’s like you keep improving or you’ll keep getting worse.

Trevor: Actually, there’s one other thing related. I talked about what productivity system works for you. It’s also what productivity system works for you, at what points in your life, or what parts of your cycles. If something doesn’t work for me now, it might work for me later. If it’s working for me now, we don’t need to do something different. For instance, I will schedule my day. I usually don’t schedule my weekend days. I use a different process. If I’m doing house chores, I’ll use a different process, or I’ll go through different periods where I often will create an annual plan that talks about like what I want to achieve in the year. However, sometimes I use resolutions instead. You can vary your systems depending upon where you’re at and recognize that you can come back to a system, and that it’s not like the system was a failure, but maybe it wasn’t appropriate for the challenges and what you needed to do in your life right now.

Maurice: Great, very nice, very nice. I think we’ve covered quite a lot on this discussion in this podcast episode. So yeah, what is left is, where can people find you? Of course, I will put the link in the show and of course would love to hear closing words from Trevor.

Trevor: If people are interested in trying Day Optimizer, which is the app version of this process, then adds some other things. They can do a seven-day trial at They can always email me questions, feedback, and all that at: trevor (at) day And then we are on the different social networks; on Facebook it’s Day Optimizer, on Twitter it’s @DayOptimizerApp, at LinkedIn it’s Day Optimizer, and then me personally on Twitter, I’m @FastFedora. So those are the places people can reach me.

Maurice: Thank you so much for the information. Thank you for being here and answering my questions. Have a great day.

Trevor: Thanks so much, thanks so much for having me.

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