TIME Mapping Your Universe

Structuring the Time of your Life Part 1

© by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In the TaskMaster™ and Time Management Series

Lost in Time?

Phillip Martin: artist/educator

Phillip Martin: artist/educator

When we’re lost, if we’re smart, we check the map.  A map of the territory provides the structure we need to reorient, even if we’ve been driving in circles for some time.

When life itself feels like it is spiraling out of control, nothing is more helpful than structure.

NO, not the hateful kind of structure imposed from the outside — an inside look at how you want to be spending your time that you can hold up as a shield against life’s slings and arrows: a TimeMap.

Creating a TimeMap provides an organizational structure for your “impossible to schedule” life — reserving slots for broad categories representing the various activities that make up the tasks that together create each of the days of our lives.

It can be adapted to your very own personal style — even if you prefer spontaneity and variety — and it even works for those of us who have less than complete control over our days.

Time Mapping

In Time Management from the Inside Out, author Julie Morgenstern explains the time mapping concept beautifully:

“The Time Map is simply a visual diagram of your daily, weekly, and monthly schedule

. . . as well as . . .

a powerful tool for helping you be proactive amid the swirl of demands that come your way.”

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Source: clipsahoy.com

NOT a To-DO List

It’s more like a when-do list, set by you to reflect your functional temperature, your sleep/wake schedule, and how you choose to spend the minutes of YOUR life.  You’ll still need your calendar for specific appointments, but scheduling them will be much easier.

Like a coach on paper, your TimeMap
reminds you what you’ve decided – broadly.

You can shuffle things around any way you like in the moment, but your TimeMap provides a structure to help you make those shuffling decisions — without having to use a whole lot of cognitive bandwidth figuring out what you might be dropping out if you say yes to a sudden request for time and attention.

Down and Dirty

  • An effective TimeMap is not a minute-by-minute accounting of your time.
  • You paint with broad strokes – guestimates, really – broad categories that fit the way you do things best at the times you are best suited to do them.
  • Get the deciding out of the way early!

Start and end your day at the time that fits your schedule

If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that I have a bodacious sleep disorder [DSPS-N-24], skewed to the dark-time — and that keeping my wake-up time rock-solid-stable is the only way to manage the non-24 hour portion.

  • I’m not always able to DO it, but setting the structure assures that I will at least attempt to do it!  Noon turns out to be the best wake-up time for me.
  • If I’m going to get eight hours of sleep, I need to be in bed and starting to doze before four A.M., or my goose is cooked!
  • In order to stand a prayer of a chance, I need a reminder for transition and wind-down time at the end of my day.  So from 2-4 AM is transition time on my TimeMap.
  • I also have what I refer to as a “long, slow boot-window.”  So I mark out the hour from noon to 1 PM for “wake-up and transition” time — and I start my working day with a computer task that is fairly brain-free at around one.  The alerting blue-spectrum light from my monitor helps me to wake-up (along with my meds and the world’s biggest cup of coffee).

adventure-mapMy current TimeMap

I know you aren’t all that interested in how I schedule my time, but I want to make sure you understand the organizational principles of TimeMapping so that you can schedule YOURs. We need an example.

So, rather than make up an imaginary week for an imaginary stranger, I’m going to share my own current TimeMap with you, as well as what I was thinking when I set it up — to help you figure out what you need to think about when you make your own.

There is no right or wrong way to TimeMap

There’s simply YOUR way (or, in this case, my way).  So I want you to understand what I was trying to accomplish when I set my schedule and created my current Map.

Think about what you need before you follow my lead wholesale. My functional needs may or may not be close enough to your own for it to make sense to adopt my particular strategies.

Think CONCEPTS as you read my explanations.

My TimeMap helps me focus with intentionality.

Color Coding

I like to direct my attention with color-coding, for example. Putting different chunks of time in different blocks of color helps my brain to understand my intentions at-a-glance, without having to read details that might lead my mind in another direction.

Color coding may work for some of you, others may find it distracting, and still others may want one particular category to stand out in color, while the rest of your map is in greyscale.

Batching similar tasks with a reminder to transition

Since I use hyperfocus as a tool, I need help with the transitions from one type of activity to the next. My need to transition is clearly delineated for me in yellow on my TimeMap — so it’s a no-brainer to know when I need to set timers and alarms, and it is immediately clear how much longer I need to keep getting back on which particular horse when I fall off or wander off.

Prompts in WORDS

I use a word or two as a category label to remind me what kind of task I had planned for any particular chunk of time, but you’ll notice below that I also give myself a few “hints” (for those days when my functional temperature is really low!).  They help me get back on track more quickly whenever I’m distracted or interrupted.



Allocating Time

Since I live alone and am currently on a push to finish quite a bit of writing in various venues, the TimeMap I’m using right now has very little “social” time scheduled in.

Content creation is a big chunk of my schedule these days,  divided into a number of categories on my TimeMap – because that’s what works for me at this time.

Note that I do have SOME no-color “mgh” time scheduled, for non-work activities. Although I love coaching, training, writing and curriculum creation, those items fall clearly under the “work” category for me, whether I’m getting paid for my time or not.

Everybody needs a little time off, right?

ESPECIALLY if you love what you do, you need to schedule non-work time or you’ll quickly notice that there isn’t any.  Even if your long hot soak in the tub (or thirty minutes or so with your favorite book or magazine) can’t be accomplished without family interruptions, it’s still more “you” time than not.  Schedule it!

Marking off your Time-Chunks

  • YOU will create your TimeMap any way that works best for you, but I have learned that I create best in hyperfocused, longer spates of time.  Even if I preferred to flit from task to task, determining the “bin” my flights of fancy fit into best would go a long way toward keeping me on track and moving forward.
  • The TimeMapping technique is the opposite of how we usually think of “chunking”  – less detail, not more. You will parse the details of those do-able chunks of your time and tasks into pre-decided segments of your calendars or datebooks, not on your TimeMap.
  • The goal of the TimeMap is simply to pre-determine WHEN those segments will occur throughout your day or week.
  • A TimeMap is a PLAN rather than a schedule.  A young student’s TimeMap, for example, might have large segments representing school, homework, chores, and band practice, perhaps – but there may be no need to know much about the details in advance – or to note them.

Breaks and Meals

Don’t bother to schedule anything you do “on autopilot” unless it represents a chunk of time you need to schedule to fit everything in. For example, when you look at my Down-and-Dirty TimeMap (below), you’ll notice that I have scheduled lunch, but not breakfast or dinner. That’s me!

  • My appetite takes forever to wake up, so I have to be reminded to eat –  a specific time for lunch helps me to further stabilize my chronorhythms.
  • Breakfast is protein, of course, but about all I can manage on awakening is a refrigerated hard-boiled egg (or a big dollop of peanut butter or a bit of left-over chicken, for mornings when peeling is beyond me).
  • Since I am now forcing water (great for my brain!), my bladder makes sure I take frequent breaks, and I will always be in the mood for dinner some time between eight-ish and eleven.

I don’t need to schedule a reminder, and my coaching/training schedule varies day to day, so I don’t bother to put dinner on my map.

For anyone who’s worried about my “late” dinner time, remember that my hours are not standard.  Even if I finish dinner at midnight, I still have four hours before I need to fall asleep.  A quick glance at the far left column will remind you that what looks like morning is actually one o’clock in the afternoon, the beginning of my “day.”

Madelyn’s Down-and-Dirty TimeMap


Other things to Note about my TimeMap

Like I said, I know you aren’t all that interested in how I schedule my time these days. My detailed explanations are intended to serve as illustrations to help you understand how to use this tool to schedule YOURs!

Because you build it around your current priorities and preferences, your current TimeMap is a graphic representation of who you are and what is important to you. It can help you focus your energy in a manner that provides a “home” for all of the activities that keep your life on track and worth living.

On my TimeMap, for example, I currently reserve ten hours a week for coaching (in aqua) — on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from five to eight, and an additional hour on Friday.

  • I’ve also reserved nine hours for classes or groups (green), at a time when both the East and West Coasts of the United States can attend, as well as some “only if I absolutely need to”  time on Monday, my day to handle Life Maintenance primarily (which is why those classes are followed by a question mark).

My life tends to falls apart rather quickly if I don’t have a day for “personal to-dos” undotted by the needs of others. 

These “reserved” class-time hours are simply to offer me options if I need them. In that case, I would move things around to have my Personal Errand Day somewhere else.

  • I have VERY rarely had more than four to six classes or groups going at once, so I can use open hours for clients — but I put those evening class hours in a green rather than client-aqua to remind me to make sure any client I schedule during those hours realizes they may have to reschedule when a new class begins.

Those “green” blocks of time can also be used for any classes I want to take myself – but my color-coding reminds me to double-check my calendar for start and stop days, so I don’t accidentally double-book.

Maintaining Flexibility

© Phillip Martin, artist/educatorWhile it looks like I coach or train back-to-back-to-back, in reality, there are frequently “open” hours during that time that I can use any way I’d like. 

However, when a new client arrives,
I already know my business hours, right? 

This system avoids frantic last minute thumbing through my datebook to find “an open slot,” praying that I’ve written everything in my DayTimer™ so that I don’t inadvertently double book!  That would probably make me look unprofessional (rather than like the ADD Poster Girl).

I’ve written client names on the “boxes” for their weekly appointments on the copy I print out and keep clearly visible above my monitor.  When I need to schedule new client appointments, I can quickly see my openings BEFORE I pop up my electronic calendar.

Otherwise, I’m likely to give a client an ongoing appointment time that doesn’t really work with the rest of my schedule, simply because there is nothing else scheduled on a particular electronic square that month. 

A quick glance at my color-coded TimeMap reminds me of my current goals and intentions.

  • Before I began to use this system, I ended up scheduling clients all over the map, which didn’t serve my transitional style at ALL! 
  • I don’t manage very well if I have to take my coaching/training hat on and off all the time.  I get frazzled, get much less accomplished otherwise, and nobody gets my best efforts.

My color-coded TimeMap helps my ADDled, scheduling-impaired brain decide quickly.

Since my brain doesn’t track time well AT ALL, without my TimeMap I’m likely to fracture my plan.  With a color-coded graphical representation to look at, I can immediately see where I’ve already boundaried time for what purpose. 

I can also quickly see what I would have to have to forgo, postpone or reschedule were I to impulsively schedule a client appointment outside my structure.

Avoiding Entrapment!

Entrepreneurs, service-professionals in particular, frequently get caught in The Flexibility TRAP, inadvertently flying stand-by in our own lives in service to our businesses and the needs of others.

Those of us with alphabet disorders are some of the worst offenders, since many of us struggle with time and transition management.  In the blink of an eye, it seems, our lives are no longer OUR lives.

  • Just because a certain hour is not already taken by another client,
    doesn’t mean it’s time we can book.
  • My TimeMap is my reminder that certain hours are “booked solid” already.

Other ideas for you to consider

Notice that I have built in time for phone calls of other types, which I also use to handle email correspondence or to visit my FaceBook friends or LinkedIn contacts.  I keep that chunk small on purpose.

  • “Social networking” is a black hole for intentionality – at least it is for me.
  • Unless I’m careful, a quick check of FaceBook turns into a hour or more of webtime, and I don’t stand a prayer of a chance of staying on track with my current goals for my life.

Falling Asleep Time

I also have a number of podcasts I want to follow regularly. One of my favorites is Dr. Ginger Campbell’s really amazing BrainSciencePodcast.

But I’ve discovered that listening to them in the background during my my fall-asleep transition time works just fine to lull myself to sleep.

Sometimes I make it through an entire interview or discussion before I drift off to dreamland, and sometimes I can’t recall much about it — so I’m pretty sure I fell asleep as the voices kept my mind just busy enough to avoid ruminating over current glitches or problems.

That’s okay – I can listen again another night. Eventually the content “sticks,” and nothing I listen to as I fall asleep is controversial, or anything startling enough to keep me from falling asleep.

  • I have been doing this long enough now that it functions in my life like a bedtime story helps a little kid wind down at bedtime.
  • I generally drift right off to sleep relatively easily during or after my bedtime “story hour.”

CondoConceptThe Condo Concept

Organizer and time-management guru Julie Morgenstern, quoted above, cautions against scheduling every waking hour and minute of every day, but I personally find it works best to ignore that advice on my TimeMap and to remain flexible in my LIFE.

For a shorter, less detailed article that explains what I do instead (and why it tends to work better for those of us with Alphabet Disorders), click the link to The Condo Concept of Time Management.

Bottom Line: A TimeMap is a pretty darned good tool to help you “see” your time and figure out how you want to spend it. When life changes or you make new choices, that’s the time to redraw your TimeMap to reflect your NEW priorities.

It’s a powerful tool for remaining proactive amid the swirl of demands that come your way.  As I continue to say, if you’ve been spinning your wheels, struggling to get it all done, or watching your long-term goals drift into a longer term than you ever thought possible, give TimeMapping a try.

In the next article, I’ll give you some additional tips and ideas to help you put together a TimeMap that will work for YOU.  Meanwhile, take a look at a few sample TimeMaps in the Related Content links below, for more information from others who use this technique to stay on track.

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the TaskMaster™ Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy.

HOWEVER YOU DO IT, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come.
Get it now, while it’s still free for the taking.

If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article (either for your own life, that of a loved one, or as coaching skills development), click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Related articles right here on ADDandSoMuchMore.com

(Lists of article links each open in a new window/tab – don’t forget to close them when you’re done)

Other Related Articles on ADDandSoMuchMore.com
(in case you missed the links above)

Other sites with Time Map Examples

Time-management related articles ’round the ‘net

BY THE WAY: Since ADDandSoMuchMore.com is an Evergreen Site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.


About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

2 Responses to TIME Mapping Your Universe

  1. Pingback: ADD/ADHD and TIME: will ANYthing work? | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: The Condo Concept of Time Management | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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