[Disclaimer: I am dyspraxic, but planning and organisation can be issues for people with dyspraxia and dyslexia.]
Planning ahead is difficult for me – there, I’ve said it! Some people might be surprised to hear me say this, as they’d say that I’m quite an organised person. However, it is something that I have to work very hard at and I have many strategies in place to help me.
I have a previous work colleague to thank for some of the strategies that I use today. She was a very organised PA to a Director and sat down with me to try to help me with some strategies, as I was feeling very overwhelmed with my workload at that time. These strategies included:
using coloured folders with the days of the week and ‘week commencing…’ folders. So, rather than feeling overwhelmed with all my workload, using the folders to put upcoming tasks into. These would release me from the anxiety that I had so much to do and didn’t know where to start – I didn’t need to worry about these tasks until that day/week.
using my outlook calendar to plan my ongoing work and development tasks;
to only use my Outlook calendar rather than a paper diary and Outlook. Using both had meant that I kept forgetting to update one or the other and double-booking or missing meetings.
These strategies seem to have worked for me for the past few years. However, the best laid plans don’t always work, as real life gets in the way. I get quite anxious when an unexpected task or project lands on my desk. If it’s an urgent task like information for a report, then I need to stop my planned work to do the urgent task, which I know many people would understand in the circumstances. However, the difficulty for me is getting back on track with the outstanding task, after completing the urgent task.
I analysed my actions in a similar situation that occurred recently. I had a couple of big development tasks to do that week where I needed to analyse and make decisions, as they impacted on upcoming work and meetings. However, I was asked to provide some information for a report that had a quick deadline. After procrastinating with a recycling task (why?!), I managed to complete the task before the deadline (much to my surprise). However, I then found it difficult to get my head back into the mindspace to analyse the collated information and make decisions. I think that the cartoon below (by Erin Human) illustrates this situation exactly:
When you have planning difficulties, I feel that it’s very important to have an understanding and supportive manager. I’ve been fairly lucky in my working life as most of my managers have been very supportive. I did have one manager in the past who micro-managed me and my planning and organisation difficulties made working with her very difficult. She and I were very similar in a lot of ways, but she couldn’t understand what I was doing with my time. I spent a lot of time in her office, justifying the time that I’d taken to complete a task or report. To be fair, though, at that time neither of us knew that I was dyspraxic.
I only discovered that I was dyspraxic in 2015, so I’m still learning about the way that it impacts on my planning and organisation. I’m lucky now that I have a very supportive and understanding manager. I do still find planning and organisation tricky, but the difference now is that I can be kinder to myself when plans do go awry.
Helen (Volunteers Manager)