I need to do all the normal things that constitute life, but I sit on my butt!
April 12, 2007 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Please help me get my schedule organized...

or something, whatever you call it. I am extremely flighty or forgetful or spacey, whatever you want to call it. I very rarely remember to do things like take my medicine, pack work out clothes, etc.

For example I make lists like:
Brush teeth 3 minutes
Jump rope 5 minutes
Elliptical 15 minutes
Wash face 2 minutes
Retin A, Vitamins, Meds, 2 min
Get dressed 7 min
Drive to work 18 min

Now, I make these lists twice a week or more to try to get me on track and yet I never do these things, ever. I get up 10 minutes or less before I need to be at work, throw on clothes and put on my make up in the car. ALL THE TIME. So I make another list at work about going to the gym, cooking a healthy dinner, applying self tanner or whatever. I obsess at work about all the things I didn't do and all the things I am not doing, see cause I just sit and don't do anything at work too. Then I get home and sit on the couch. ALL THE TIME.

The weird thing is if I have to do something its not a problem. For example, I just hired a personal trainer, she shows up at my house twice a week at 5:45, we work out to 6:45, I take a shower and get to work by 7:30. Or on the weekends, I bartend and I do all the things that go along with it just fine, then I go home and sit.

I just wish I could be productive at home and at my "real job" like I am at bartending or what not. Bartending is easy because really their is no question what needs to be done next. I pick up after myself and my customers and serve with gusto, why am I so crippled at home?

I do a little better with Adderall, but I have a crazy high heart rate and just got a prescription for Beta Blockers, so no go on the stimulants right now. We'll see if that does anything at all.

I am looking for practical solutions like "tape the list to the mirror in the morning" to little rituals, or what worked for you, or whatever. I have talked to doctors about this, but since I am seen as "high functioning" or whatever they see it as more of a quirk than anything else and say things like "well, I'll make you a deal, if you go back to school, I will prescribe you adderall." I already have one master's and graduate certificate, I am not really in a place where I can go back to school at this point.

I know this is long and rambling. I am just feeling a little frenetic right now. I look forward to hearing your ideas.
posted by stormygrey to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you have no self-discipline, and need the guilt of wasting someone else's time to spur you on to do something. Some people can feel guilty towards themselves to get things done, but it sounds like you can't/don't.

One thing that can work (I was once similar to you) is being in a relationship, as you then start feeling guilty that your inaction is letting down your significant other / your potential future children, etc, and you build up some self discipline. That is not really a practical immediate solution though, but it might help you frame the problem somehow. My income has tripled being in a relationship, because I no longer do the bare minimum to survive.

As a corollary to this, perhaps the problem is not finding any meaning in your life? I'm not sure minor things like taping up lists, etc, will work (they didn't for me), but I'm thinking that once you find something to work for.. you will.
posted by wackybrit at 6:22 AM on April 12, 2007

This sounds similar to how I was/am - a combination of procrastination and then forgetting about things I'd put off until today. Making lists is always good, but you need to analyse why you don't follow through on them. Is it because you get home and know about the list but can't be bothered? Or is it because you forget you have the list at all?

If the former, try to figure out a reward you can give yourself for completing the list. e.g. I reward myself for getting up early enough to get to work on time by having breakfast at McDonald's. For things like going to the gym, eating a healthy dinner, try to imagine the good things that will result from this to motivate you. Also, I am more motivated to exercise and eat healthily when I enjoy doing them, so maybe exercise with friends or play a sport you enjoy, and find healthy meals that you really like and are quick/easy to prepare.

If it's the latter, then in the morning have your alarm really fucking loud with the list propped next to it so there's no way you can oversleep or forget about the list. In the evening, put the list you made at work with your door keys in your pocket so you find it when you get home (and include "set up morning list" on your evening list!).

Random thought: if you are working 6 or 7 days a week, are you getting enough sleep? If you're always knackered at the end of a work day and have trouble getting up in the morning, no wonder you just want to collapse in front of the TV and can't get up early enough to do everything you want to do.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:31 AM on April 12, 2007

Response by poster: Well, I am in a long term relationship and we have bought a nice house downtown and so on so forth, so its not like I am doing the bare minimum to survive. I make good money and when something is actually due I just whip it out and it looks as good or better that anything anyone else does, so I guess its just about motivation, as my boss would never say anythign to me because I am such a seeming "super star", except that if you walk by my desk 90% of the time I am playing on the internet or making lists upon lists of what I need to do. I think its partially self discipline, but partially a paralyzation by too many choices and just profound fatigue.

And you know, the American and pills thing is quite uncalled for. Medicine can be a really good thing that really improves peoples quality of life, much like air conditioning or transportation.
posted by stormygrey at 6:34 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I get up 10 minutes or less before I need to be at work, throw on clothes and put on my make up in the car. ALL THE TIME.

Set your alarm clock earlier. And put it across the room. Or disable the snooze.

Then I get home and sit on the couch. ALL THE TIME.

I know how this is. The only thing for it is to just stand up and do something. The rush you feel from actually accomplishing something will get you (or at least it gets me) standing up again for the next few days at least. A specific project I'm excited about can keep me going for several weeks.

Since you are fine at work, it doesn't sound like medication is the answer. Also, what is your personal trainer doing at your house from 5:45 to 6:45?
posted by DU at 6:49 AM on April 12, 2007

Start by doing one thing (I'd go with brushing your teeth if you're skipping that one, gross). Do it daily, and come up with a reward of some sort for doing it. If you're able to go a whole week, celebrate it in some way. The next week, add one more task with the same reward structure.

Have you thought about looking into a system like Getting Things Done? There are many AskMe posts that have led down that path. What you could benefit from is making these lists into a concrete plan to follow, which that organization method will give you. Instead of worrying about what task to do next, you put your trust in a system to know that what you are currently doing is important, and when it is done you will know what to do next. This is about self-discipline and, to an extent, self-confidence.

I have the same sort of problems, although I don't make itemized lists with times attached. What are the times for?
posted by mikeh at 6:51 AM on April 12, 2007

There is practically a religion basted around Getting Things Done (commonly short-handed as GTD) by David Allen. I haven't been able to make it work for me just yet but I know that a lot of people live by it. The basic idea is that you write everything down in a single place (thereby emptying your head of the stress and worry of having to remember) and make a habit of checking the list daily. I'm sure there are GTD-ers here, so maybe they could do a better job of summarizing.

Regarding waking up on time, you might try putting the alarm clock in the next room. I used to hit the snooze button as many as a dozen times. That's the trick that worked for me.
posted by JamesToast at 6:52 AM on April 12, 2007

Are you actually looking at these lists ever again? I find that I do the similar list-making thing (because I often remember things that I should do at moments when I can't do them, such as when I'm in class). However, if I actually look at the lists again, or end up putting the same item on the list over and over, I eventually remember that I have to do it without having to look at the list first.

American and pills thing is quite uncalled for

Yeah, seriously. At least most stereotypes have some truth to them.

posted by oaf at 6:55 AM on April 12, 2007

Response by poster: DU, we workout from 5:45-6:45, a little cardio and a lot of strength training and I don't use an alarm clock, I probably should, I just get up.

Mikeh: The times are for making sure there is time enough in the day to get every thing done and still sleep some and see my SO some.
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday
6:59 Bathroom 5
7:04 Wash Face 1
7:05 Brush Teeth 1
7:06 Take Meds 1
7:07 Get Dressed 3
7:10 Feed Cats 1
7:11 Feed Fish 1
7:12 Drive to work 18
7:30 Work 300
12:00 Take Meds 1
12:01 Lunch 29
12:30 Work 300
6:00 Drive to Gym 10
6:10 Get Dressed 3
6:13 Gym 90
7:43 Drive Home 20
8:05 Cook 30
8:35 eat 60
9:35 Do Dishes 10
9:45 House work 15
10:00 TV 60
11:05 Bathroom 5
11:10 Bath 15
11:25 Wash Face 1
11:26 Brush Teeth 1
11:27 Lay out clothes 10
11:37 Sleep
posted by stormygrey at 6:59 AM on April 12, 2007

Best answer: Ignore all the people saying, 'you just need more willpower/discipline/etc.' That's totally unhelpful advice and beating yourself up or just 'trying harder' is not going to break your pattern. On this type of thing, you need to change external factors to help yourself change internal ones.

First, recognize that you are dealing with two problems: remembering to do things and doing them in a timeframe that suits you.

For the first problem, and the appropriate solution is checklists. Make a list of everything that you need to do during a certain process (such as getting ready in the morning) and go down the list, checking things off as you complete them. A common way people use checklists is to pack, to make sure that they don't forget to pack anything important. I use a check list every morning, to make sure that I get done every morning everything I want to do, such as water my plants before he could work. This is something that I would otherwise easily forget.

IMPORTANT: checklists should not have any timing associated with them. They are for remembering only, not for scheduling.

The next problem is scheduling/motivation. This is something I wrestle with all the time also. The thing that is working for me is to make sure that I'm not trying to change everything about my life at once. That's too hard. what is working very well for me is setting VERY small goals and only setting one at a time.

For example, I have a desperately hard time keeping a regular sleep schedule. I wake up late, take naps during the day at all different times, often stay up until crazy hours in the morning playing video games or surfing the Internet, and being weirdly tired at different points in the day. I've tried many, many times to fix all these at once (at simultaneously to fix problems with my diet, exercise, remodeling my house, and taking on a hundred other projects). But recently, I've given myself permission to take small steps in to focus on only one change at a time. So now I'm concentrating ONLY on waking up at the same time every day. I'm still doing all the other bad things I shouldn't be, like staying up too late and taking naps, and that undermines my ultimate goal of regular sleep. But you know what? I've gotten up at the same time every day for the last two weeks. After another week, I think it will be an ingrained habit and I'll add something else to the mix.

So, quick summary: checklists help you to remember to do everything you need to do, and setting small goals and giving yourself permission to focus on only ONE small goal at a time can help you do all the other things you need to do.

There are a lot of other ideas I could give you, but I'll just recommend two books by Mark Forster: Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play and Do It Tomorrow. I've read a LOT of books on time management and I think these have been by far the most helpful.
posted by underwater at 7:00 AM on April 12, 2007 [7 favorites]

OK, just to follow up on my long post, it is insane to schedule things to the minute. Don't do that.You will never get things to the minute and then you will feel bad once you get off schedule. But do add these 2 things to your habits:

ALWAYS have a way to capture/write down your ideas as soon as you have them (no matter where you have them) and do it. Review daily.

Anything that you can do in 2 minutes, do it as soon as you think of it.

These are GTD principles.
posted by underwater at 7:05 AM on April 12, 2007


Really! it ain't just for cleaning.
posted by konolia at 7:09 AM on April 12, 2007

I don't use an alarm clock...

Then prepare yourself for an inflammatory armchair analysis: You aren't really trying. The lists you are making are so you can say to yourself that you are trying, but you aren't really. Even the most irresponsible, work-avoiding slackers have an alarm clock. Buy one. Without a snooze, if possible. Set it. Across the room.
posted by DU at 7:14 AM on April 12, 2007

Best answer: I have similar problems with self-discipline; trying to balance the various things I feel I need to do leaves me a little crazy, and I allow myself to forget things I deem unpleasant or overly taxing.

Things are getting a good deal better for me, though, and here are a few helpful things I've found.

[Warning: the following is idiosyncratic and rather more generalizing-from-my-peculiarities than would be allowable in, say, a doctor; but if you wanted a doctor and came to AskMe, then disorganization is the least of your worries!]

* You have to find one system or another to help you organize your day, of course; some people can do this intuitively or without obvious externalizing aids, but it sounds like you're not one of those people (our club is awesome but everyone forgets to come to the goddamn meetings). The key is: you have to enjoy whatever organizational scheme you employ, especially at first. i.e. You need to find pleasure in the organization itself. For instance, I'm convinced that the hokey Getting Things Done system has caught on so quickly among a certain organization-porn set because of its almost gamelike simplicity, the constantly-running clock (2-minute tasks are done immediately), etc.

Look, to-do lists are really hard for some people to take seriously, like psychotherapy - and with similarly delayed payoff. Find a more aesthetically appealing model, perhaps - something like the Printable CEO planning document series by David Seah. Seriously: they're dorky on face, but there's something so exciting about using comparatively dense planning materials.

Setting up a kind of rudimentary reward structure for yourself might help as well - do you watch the TV? Unplug it until the weekend. Force yourself to do something less immediately-gratifying. Your goal is (in part) to lengthen the time-horizons that you associate with pleasure.

* Do you track your progress at the gym? Track your progress at the gym. You'll see results, which you'll enjoy and be proud of, which will inspire you to seek better results, which you'll see in turn...exercise provides a really accessible framework for that kind of progress evaluation - the good things about it are easy to see and feel. Get your neurochemistry working in your favour.

* No seriously: turn off your fucking television and just never watch it. Download the shows you like. Use the extra time.

* Keep things small to mechanize them. 'Home' is an enormous system of ill-defined interrelated tasks; 'bartending' is a small set of small tasks. Generalize from there. Atomize large tasks. I mean this is popular advice but it's so easy. You gotta take pills? Prepping and taking 'em are two different tasks, and it's easier to routinize them separately. This might seem like a denial of pleasure but pleasure is getting out of your own way, in any case, and if you can't do that intuitively you're gonna have to find an artificial way.

* Don't be goddamn immature about getting up in the morning. You'll be happier, guaranteed, giving yourself more time to get things done and not getting dressed on the way to work. Anxiety isn't actionable: i.e. during the day you'll find it easier to get things going properly if you start the day in a familiar, relaxed way. Set the alarm clock 45 minutes earlier. Take your time.

* Eat breakfast daily. Eat. Breakfast. Daily.

* That's worth repeating (hey, you're the one on Adderall): EAT. BREAKFAST. DAILY.

* Don't scramble your brain with 'Things I must do today!' lists. Half the time that shit is just a way of reminding yourself of your failings. Keep yer scheduled items manageably small. Take regular breaks at work to plan, if you have to, and actually use that time. Go for a quick walk to clear your head every couple hours - even just around the floor of your office or whatnot. I found it hugely useful, when I was an office drone, to drink massive quantities of water, and here's why: refilling my Nalgene was a break from work. Pissing (every half-hour to an hour) was a break from work. Drinking was a fifteen-second break from work.

Then I started drinking Coke and quit. Well, it was more complicated than that.

* * *

The upshot of all this - which sounds a little jargon-riddled on rereading, sorry - is that you've got to find a way to enjoy organization itself, to see how pleasurable systematization can be. Some people can do that right off (lucky childhoods? Dunno), but some - like you and me, I suppose - need to fool themselves into seeing this stuff as pleasurable until they grow accustomed to these daily structural schemata and can take more 'natural' pleasure. Routine helps you anticipate actions; anticipation hopefully leads to release, which is gratifying; that release, repeated over time, amounts to training (positive reinforcement, specifically) for yer brain, hands, etc.

But you can't enjoy a daily structure without sticking to it, hard, which genuinely sucks. I started going to the gym daily back in January; while I was doing it, it was awesome. Then I fell off for a couple of weeks - search for the tag 'absoluteterror' here on AskMe for the reason why - and have had the hardest time getting back, in part because I'm resistant to the idea of pleasure that's not immediate. I fooled myself once quite capably in January, but I'm 'wiser' now to my own tricks. Does that make sense? The way back is simple, of course: just go. But not so simple. Of course.

This is cockamamie faux-cog-sci I'm slinging here, but the way I see it, your reptilian gratification mechanisms will do a lot of your this hard systematization work for you if you let them, by making you want organization and repetition. The bright side: well, it's all bright side, after the unpleasantness of change.

Best of luck in any case.
posted by waxbanks at 7:20 AM on April 12, 2007 [5 favorites]

Also: What DU said. Don't lie to yourself about your seriousness, it's embarrassing.
posted by waxbanks at 7:21 AM on April 12, 2007

Response by poster: Re: alarm clock. I wake up at 5:15 for my trainer, w/o one. I just find it harder to get up at 7 than I do at 5:15, its odd. I don't set the alarm for myself, but I often set it for my SO. He comes to bed around 4 or 5, so if I set it for 7, he wakes up with only a couple hours of sleep and that is no good for anyone.
posted by stormygrey at 7:26 AM on April 12, 2007

I just find it harder to get up at 7 than I do at 5:15, its odd.

lol, OK, you got me. IHL and I will HAND.
posted by DU at 7:33 AM on April 12, 2007

No offense, but: to hell with your SO. If you can't get up for work on time, then he's causing you problems and that's not a sustainable arrangement anyhow. Wake him up, jump out of bed, give him a kiss goodbye and apologise, and reset the goddamn alarm clock. It works for countless other people who're shacking up.
posted by waxbanks at 7:34 AM on April 12, 2007

Oh, are those both AM? Well, I still maintain that claiming your SO can't go back to sleep after 3 seconds of beeping is either trollering or so self-deceptive as to be effectively the same thing.
posted by DU at 7:40 AM on April 12, 2007

Response by poster: He has issues beyond this post, but yes, he went to bed this morning around 5 am and then got up at 7 am because "I was being loud" when I sneezed. He can't go back to sleep when he wakes up, primairly because he takes Adderall before he goes to bed ( at 4 or 5 am), so that he can wake up at a decent hour (like 10 am or so). Yes. I know this is crazy and really I shouldn't have to not set an alarm and tiptoe around the house in the morning, but it is just how it is right now.
posted by stormygrey at 7:49 AM on April 12, 2007

I agree with others who have said you need some sort of external motivation. I also agree with the checklist instead of a timed schedule.

Obviously putting your makeup on in the car is working or you wouldn't do it. You must not mind all that much. I do the same thing sometimes. I always feel rushed and flustered on these days. I set my alarm early and drag myself out of bed. My motivation is hair. I shower in the mornings and it takes forever to dry my hair. I like good hair days, not wet hair in ponytails or clips. Arriving to work on time doesn't hurt either.

If you want to eat healthfully and remember to bring workout clothes, etc., it's all about proper planning. Set your clothes out the night before. Put your pills on the counter next to a bottle of water.

Planning your day the night before will save you time and aggravation. The evening is when you should be taking dinner out of the freezer to thaw, press your work clothes, set out pills, apply self-tanner, etc.

The internet can be a serious time waster. Since you like timing things, how about setting a time limit surfing the internet? You could use a kitchen timer, or use leisure time on the computer as a reward. Log-on only after your nightly routine is finished.

You have to make the time to do things that are important to you. You deserve it.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:54 AM on April 12, 2007

Make daily/nightly routines. If you are having trouble following the routine, try putting your routine onto Outlook or on a PDA to set up automatic reminders.

Don't worry about what you haven't done, just focus on what you need to do NOW.

Personally, I find morning routines to be the hardest. If you feel the same, try to keep yours as short as possible or shift part of your routine to my desk at work. In your example I might make these changes:

Brush teeth 3 minutes
Jump rope 5 minutes
Elliptical 15 minutes
< --- take out the exercise and put this somewhere else in your day. better yet, bike to work if possible. two birds, stone!br> Wash face 2 minutes
Retin A, Vitamins, Meds, 2 min < --- do these at work if possible or the night before. if you need privacy, you might try the bathroom.br> Get dressed 7 min < --- lay out your outfit the night before.br> Drive to work 18 min
posted by catburger at 7:57 AM on April 12, 2007

I don't see it as an issue of scheduling or discipline. I see it as a question of your values. Why would you value getting up earlier, if you have tip-toe around, get less sleep, and miss out on the experience of makeup at the traffic light? No, I'm serious, what's in it for you? Is it just to make you conform to the norm? Because that's not a good enough reason to change your life. How can you want to do it, if you don't want to do it?

Because, you know, if you want to do it, you can do anything.

So find out what the payoff is in any of these things, and ta-da, there's your motivation.

Cleaning your teeth regularly? Feel guilty about not doing it, and that's not enough to get you to do it? How about not being aware that you've actually got bad breath, no-one's going to tell you, but people at work are trying to shift their cubicles so they can get away from you? Does this make you want to clean your teeth? How about some fear thrown in? Rotten teeth hurt. They really hurt. (Now some shame). How's your dentist going to look at you when you finally get an appointment to get that tooth ripped out, and she goes, ew, don't you ever clean your teeth? And you know you can't fake that in the three weeks leading up to the appointment. Brushing consistently for 3 weeks before is not going to undo months or years of damage.

Okay, other reasons to want to do this stuff. You want me to keep going, or can you come up with them yourself?

And having come up with a reason, just pick ONE thing to work on for six weeks. Just do the teeth or the cooking or whatever for six weeks. Then, when you have that down pat, do something else.
posted by b33j at 7:59 AM on April 12, 2007

Sorry, I think my arrows messed up my post a bit. "br>" what?
posted by catburger at 8:00 AM on April 12, 2007

After looking at your proposed schedule, stormygrey, I'm sort of horrified to see that it's absolutely nonstop from 6:59am to 11:37pm. Please remember that you're a human being, not a machine -- and you need occasional time to just chill out, do nothing, and have no obligations. Seriously, your brain needs this time to rest and recharge. Even if (miraculously) you were able to carry out your to-the-minute schedule for a few days in a row, I think it would leave you feeling drained, grumpy, and fuzzy-headed.

Just imagine that somebody else had given you this schedule -- let's say that you were a conference, and the conference organizers posted this schedule up for everyone to follow, and yelled at people for not doing it perfectly. Would you consider that a little fascist? A little abusive? A little obsessive?

You've got to find some way to build flexibility into your life. I think that's the mark of a truly "productive" person -- they're in a state of relaxed readiness, able to enjoy their life as it happens and also alert enough handle a crisis if it comes up. Your inner "discipline" should be that of the Zen master, not the army sergeant.

In terms of practical suggestions, here's what I've got:
- Try meditation (see this fine thread), nature hikes, or anything else that gets your brain into a state of "relaxed readiness". Even if you only do it once a week -- or once a month -- that's fine. This shouldn't become another burdensome obligation to check off a list.
- Schedule in larger blocks -- no smaller than a half-hour, say.
- Schedule in a generous amount of chill-out time -- maybe an hour or more every day. If this means that you can only wash dishes every other day, then so be it.

And, for the complete opposite approach: take the fast road to Hell. Try giving yourself permission to spend a week (or three days, or one day) just doing whatever you damn well please. If you want to sit on your butt watching TV, do it. If you want to skip your workout, do it. If you want to call in sick to work, do it. Just take a set amount time off and see what happens. Right now, you're constantly second-guessing your decisions -- you're in a constant anxious state of wanting to do one thing, doing something else, and chastising yourself for it. So just commit to doing whatever you want for a little while and turn the self-chastising off. You may figure some things out, including: what are the things I really want to do? What are the things I feel anxious about doing? Does taking some time off help me to be more productive when I do come back to my daily routine? How much of my brain-power is actually taken up with yelling at myself all the time? After taking your week (or day) off, try again to make your schedule, taking into account the things that you've figured out about yourself.

It's a counter-intutitive approach, but I think it could be enlightening. The goal is not to make yourself perfect, but to know yourself better -- to discover how you work, so you can start to work with your strengths instead of constantly pushing against yourself.
posted by ourobouros at 8:00 AM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Counterintuitive thought: completely stop trying to follow any of these lists and systems for one week, or two. Give yourself a total pass - no obligation to do anything except get to work roughly on time. See what you end up doing when you're not mentally yelling at yourself to do anything.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:03 AM on April 12, 2007

Response by poster: I just want to say I brush my teeth. ;) Its more of a quick swishy, swishy that most people do rather than my preferred fancy electric toothbruch three minutes.

Thanks for all the well reasonsed answers. I have been like this my whole life,( they threatened to fail me in 3rd and 6th grade even though I had near perfect grades in everything because I was so messy and disorganized) it was fine through graduate school, but really, you are all right, I just need to make myself get up and do the stuff I need to do.
posted by stormygrey at 8:07 AM on April 12, 2007

(Hmm, not so counterintuitive that ourobouros didn't get there first...)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:07 AM on April 12, 2007

Stormygrey, please don't try harder to "make yourself" -- you're already expending a lot of energy doing that, and it's not working the way you want it to.

Why should you have been threatened with failure in grade school (grade school!) if you were doing a good job? Give yourself some credit -- you don't need to fit other people's ideas of organization if you are getting good results.

Hey, game warden -- let's start a counter-intutive soccer team. We can just sit in the grass behind the goal-posts and consider the inner nature of the ball. I think it would be fun.
posted by ourobouros at 8:11 AM on April 12, 2007

I'll keep this one short, just something to think about: A lack of motivation is one symptom of depression. (q.v.)

I've written about my own experience in that regard, and this response from a friend helped me fit the pieces together to figure out what was up.
posted by mendel at 8:19 AM on April 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

It won't make sense, to you (perhaps subconsciously), to follow this schedule if it's not got time for fun/aimless thinking in it. You'll rebel unless you schedule enough time for doing new, unplanned things. Life is rather pointless if you really know what you'll be doing every minute. You need a schedule with nice blocks of unscheduled time -- then you might follow it.
posted by amtho at 8:38 AM on April 12, 2007

What are the actual important things in this schedule, and which ones are time-sensitive? Breaking things down by the minute is not a sustainable strategy. Repeat that to yourself a few times. Run through your morning routine sometime, from showering to taking the full time to brush your teeth to putting makeup on in the bathroom. You could do this in the evening and time it to determine a reasonable amount of time. This is your "getting ready for work" routine. Wake up early enough to do it before work every day.

What does "house work" entail? Set up a chore schedule, and only watch television when your chore for the day is done. Maybe doing the dishes is actually part of cooking dinner, so you do that when you're done eating. Tuesdays could be your day to clean the bathroom. Some chores are longer than others, so you'll have more time for television or whatever after it.

You're a productive, working person who deserves some unscheduled free time. That just means that you need to figure out what tasks are important, and set aside some time to do them, whether it's daily or weekly. Once you have those building blocks in place, things might flow more freely.

Use this mantra: "Life is simpler than this." Keep the easy things easy, and the harder ones will be manageable.
posted by mikeh at 9:29 AM on April 12, 2007

The self-help aisles in the bookstore are full of volumes on exactly this topic, so it's by no means a unique or even unusual condition. I'm pretty much a poster-boy for it, but I few tricks I use to cope:

I recommend GTD as a really efficient system for managing your lists, prioritizing, and freeing your mind to focus on one task at a time which helps keep you from feeling overwhelmed, exacerbating the problem.

The easiest way to change your behavior is change the perceptions which drive that behavior.
I repeat this all the time, and it is pretty much what beej was talking about. For example, if you want to stop overeating candy you need to focus on the sickly feeling that occurs later and the disatisfaction with your physique and associate them in your mind with the source, the candy itself. It may sound trite, but our perceptions are much more malleable than we generally suppose and I've found it to be an all-purpose tool for any change I am trying to self-impose.

Remove temptation
Once you've trained yourself to despise that couch as a symbol for all the things you aren't doing that you'd like to, Maybe a great next step is to get rid of it or whatever it is you're doing on the couch (boob tube). I find that if there is some extra act of volition like going to a friends house or the store between me and a vice that there is a worlds difference in ease resisting it. Lots of people don't have couches or TVs in their living room and are happy about it.

I reward myself after accomplishing tasks with little treats, and also listen to NPR podcasts on my mp3 player while doing menial stuff.

Lastly, if I understand you right you are working a full-time job plus bartending on the weekend? That's a pretty damn full schedule and its not surprising you have trouble fitting other things in. We all need a little downtime and I wouldn't beat yourself up about it too much.
posted by Manjusri at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Didn't read all the comments, so I may be way off where the group is by now, but I'm hoping someone mentioned Flylady.com. Check it out. Ah yes, someone mentioned it. I second it. It's the first thing I ever found that helped me get less disorganized and procrastinatorial.
posted by salvia at 5:35 PM on April 12, 2007

I don't have too much on the problem you asked, other than the fact that I find when I micromanage the day like that, I feel great when I have the list and schedule, but the minute something doesn't happen or gets off track, I get frustrated and give up. Try being a little looser, you don't need to budget time for teeth brushing, just figure out that you probably need aprox X minutes to accomplish everything you'd like to do each morning and wake up accordingly (see below for how!).

re: your alarm clock - I bought one of those clocks with a vibrating pad instead of an alarm (this one but there are others). I've had it for almost a year and my roommates STILL talk about how awesome it is compared to my old (loud) alarm clock. And when my SO is there, he barely notices it. Might be worth looking into.

Also, it's nice that you are trying to be accommodating and not wake him, but he can meet you halfway and wear earplugs if he's such a light sleeper.
posted by ml98tu at 10:08 PM on April 12, 2007

The method I use for keeping track of tasks is twofold.

First of all, I never schedule out a day, just the important stuff like classes or work gigs. I forget dates easily, so I write them in a dayplanner.

The other thing I do is flexible tasks. My list of chores are on sticky notes stuck to the wall over my desk, and I add or remove stickies whenever I get around to doing them. I use heart shaped post-its, but any old sticky note will do.

I also use this sort of system for exams. For me, a chapter in my textbook takes about an hour to absorb properly (while taking notes) and then a bit more to test myself later. So I write a checklist like this: Psychology (6hrs), English (1hr), Political Science (2.5hrs).

Then I do this in blocks of time ranging from fifteen minutes to an hour using a clock or timer. This helps, and of course includes pacing, grabbing a snack and throwing the book across the room. I find the timer keeps me fixated enough to focus, but not enough to make me too anxious to work.

The key to the sticky not system is that I don't have to do these things with any degree of alacrity. It's okay for a sticky note saying 'Write to friend in Alaska' to wait a month.

As for forming daily habits, try the flylady method. She sets you up to learn one habit at a time. If you can do this habit for three months, you can do it for life.
posted by Phalene at 5:41 PM on June 10, 2007

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