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Essential Guide to Prioritizing and Scheduling

As an executive functions coach, I have seen firsthand how prioritizing and scheduling can have a significant impact on productivity and overall well-being. In a world that caters to neurotypical ways of thinking and functioning, neurodiverse women can face unique challenges when it comes to time management and organization.

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How many times have you been told to “just use a planner” or “set an alarm” and you’d be as “together” as everyone else? It’s BS.

This essential guide to prioritizing and scheduling aims to address these challenges and provide practical strategies tailored specifically for neurodivergent people to help them prioritize and schedule effectively.

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Understanding Neurodiversity and Time Management

Neurodiversity is the recognition that there is a vast spectrum of human neurological differences, which include conditions like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and others. People who are neurodiverse often have unique strengths and abilities. Often, these strengths are overlooked because of the challenges they face when it comes to executive functioning skills, such as time management, organization, and prioritization.

Time management can be particularly challenging for neurodiverse people because their brains may process information differently, leading to difficulties with focus, planning, and estimating time. Consequently, neurodiverse women may require different strategies and tools to effectively manage their time and prioritize tasks.

You’re still going to hear me talk about using planners and alarms and such, because they do work for many people, but the ultimate goal is for you to find the tools and strategies that work specifically for you.

Looking to learn more about executive functioning? Join my free Facebook group – Executive Function Support for Women

Benefits of Prioritizing and Scheduling

Prioritizing and scheduling offer numerous benefits. Often, when we talk about the importance of having a schedule, we don’t really explain why it’s important. And if someone struggles with executive dysfunction, they really don’t understand why. So here are some of the reasons:

Improved productivity:

By identifying what needs to be done and allocating specific time for tasks, you can accomplish more in less time. You waste a whole lot less time figuring out what to do next because you have a plan. You know what comes next.

Reduced stress:

Knowing what to focus on and having a plan in place can help alleviate anxiety and overwhelm. If you’ve always struggled with executive dysfunction, you probably spend a good portion of you day worrying about whether you have time to get everything done or stressing about not getting something right or forgetting something altogether. Having and sticking to a schedule will alleviate some of that.

Enhanced work-life balance:

Scheduling time for both work and personal activities can help create a more balanced and fulfilling life. You won’t be in a constant cycle of playing catch-up because things get out of control. You’ll have a plan that allows for work and play.

Greater sense of control:

Often, people who have executive dysfunction don’t feel like they have control over the things in their lives. Prioritizing and scheduling can provide a sense of control over your life and help you feel more empowered.

Essential guide to prioritizing and scheduling

Prioritization Techniques

There are tons of techniques that can help you learn to prioritize. Most are easy to implement, so I suggest you try a couple of them to see which ones click for you. They all accomplish the same thing, but if the technique doesn’t resonate with how you think, you won’t use it consistently (or at all).

The Eisenhower Matrix:

Create a graph of 4 quadrants (almost like you used in high school to graph lines). Then you look at each task and categorize it in one of the 4 quadrants based on urgency and importance. The top left quadrant is Urgent and Important. Top right is Important but No Urgent . Bottom left is Urgent but Not Important, and bottom right is Not Important and Not Urgent. Focus on completing tasks in the “urgent and important” quadrant first, followed by “important but not urgent” tasks.

Prioritizing - 4 quadrants: 1 important and urgent; 2 important and not urgent; 3 not important but urgent; 4 not important and not urgent

The ABCDE Method:

Assign a letter (A, B, C, D, or E) to each task based on its importance, with A being the most important and E being the least. How you decide what letter to assign will be based on things like the deadline or due date of the task, the complexity of the task, and how much energy or effort it will take. Complete tasks in the order of their assigned letter.

The 1-3-5 Method:

Each day, choose one large task, three medium tasks, and five small tasks to complete. This method can help you maintain a balance of task sizes and ensure that you're making progress on various projects. This method is very flexible. For example, if you’re having a low energy/bad mental health/high pain day, then you can change this from 1-3-5, to 1-2-3. You will still feel successful for the day because you still get your one big thing done, but you’re not overwhelming yourself by trying to do too much.

Time-sensitive prioritization:

For neurodiverse people who struggle estimating time, it can be helpful to prioritize tasks based on their deadlines. Tackle tasks with the nearest deadlines first, then move on to those with more distant deadlines.

Strategies for Effective Scheduling

Once you have your tasks prioritized, you know what order to do them in, but you still need to plan out a schedule to make sure they actually get done. Just like with prioritization techniques, you want to make sure you find a scheduling strategy that fits your life and how your brain works. Remember, it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. The important thing is that it makes sense and works for you.


Break large tasks into smaller, more manageable segments. Schedule time for each segment and set specific deadlines for completion. Chunking can also refer to putting similar tasks together. If you have a bunch of writing to do, schedule it in the same or back-to-back chunks of time. It might be easier for you to get in the zone for task completion if you stick with one type of task.


Allocate blocks of time for specific tasks or activities. This can help you focus on one task at a time and minimize distractions. The idea here is that you set up a schedule with specific blocks of time, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour – whatever block of time you can comfortably sustain focus to complete work. Then you create a schedule of these time blocks, making sure to use some blocks for scheduled breaks.

Visual Schedule:

For some people, they can create a schedule, whether it’s time blocks or just a to-do list, but they can’t remember to stick to it. A visual schedule might be a good plan here. You can color code different time blocks or tasks and seeing the colors will help keep you on task. But it doesn’t have to look like a calendar or schedule that you might find in a planner. Feel free to experiment with different types of visuals.


The most important part of scheduling is the follow-through. Your daily schedule might vary but there are things we all have to do on repeat—laundry dishes, bill paying, etc. Establish routines for these daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Put them in your planner and on your schedule. This can help create consistency and make it easier to stay organized.

Find the productivity method that works for you - line graph on a desk

Flexibility and Adaptability in Time Management

It's crucial to be flexible and adaptable when managing your time because unexpected events and changes are inevitable. Regularly reassess your priorities and adjust your schedule as needed. Don't be too rigid in your approach, and be willing to make changes when necessary. At the same time, you do need to protect your schedule so that people don’t think they can derail it and it’ll be fine.

It's a delicate balance of protecting and enforcing the schedule and allowing flexibility. Finding that balance is tough, though. When your schedule or routine is new, you might need to do more protecting, and that’s okay. Once it becomes a routine, you’ll be able to differentiate when you can move things around and handle those unexpected items.

Using Technology and Tools for Time Management

There are numerous apps and tools available that can help with prioritization and scheduling. As I’ve mentioned, the number of apps that promise to improve your productivity is astounding and overwhelming. For people who have been struggling with executive dysfunction their whole lives, they want to jump on anything that can “fix” them. So whenever they read an article or a comment on social media from a person extolling the virtues of an app, they download it and try it out.

I am a huge fan of trial and error. But I also believe in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What I mean by this is that you should try different tools that appeal to you. Nothing is a magic cure and it will usually take some time to see if it’s a good tool for you. But when you find something that works, you don’t need to abandon it for the next new thing.

When you come across a new app, you need to evaluate if it is really better than the system you are currently using. What makes it better? Are there other trade-offs for switching?

If you don’t currently have a system or apps you regularly use, here’s a list of popular time management apps along with their pros and cons:

1. Todoist


– User-friendly interface

– Integration with other apps and services

– Allows for setting priorities and due dates

– Offers both free and paid plans


– Limited features in the free version

– Advanced features like reminders and labels require a subscription

– No native time-tracking feature

2. Trello


– Highly visual, using boards, lists, and cards for organization

– Real-time collaboration features

– Flexible, allowing for various workflows

– Integration with other apps and services

– Offers both free and paid plans


– Limited features in the free version

– Can be overwhelming for new users

– No built-in time tracking or reporting features

3. Evernote


– Supports multiple content types, including text, images, and audio

– Powerful search functionality

– Integration with other apps and services

– Offers both free and paid plans


– Limited features in the free version

– Interface may feel cluttered

– No dedicated task management features

4. Google Calendar


– Free and easy to use

– Integration with other Google services

– Allows for sharing and collaboration

– Event reminders and notifications


– Limited customization options

– No native task management features

5. Asana


– Robust task and project management features

– Real-time collaboration and communication

– Customizable views and reporting

– Integration with other apps and services

– Offers both free and paid plans


– Limited features in the free version

– Steeper learning curve for new users

– Can be overwhelming for individual users

Many of these apps offer trial periods or free versions, so you can test them out to see which one works best for you. This is a basic list of pros and cons, so if something looks interesting, I suggest further investigating before jumping on. Experiment with different tools to find the ones that work best for you and your unique needs.

Effective prioritization and scheduling are key components of successful time management. By understanding your unique challenges as a neurodivergent person, assessing your values and goals, and implementing specific strategies, you can improve your productivity, reduce stress, and gain a greater sense of control over your life. Remember to be patient with yourself because as I always say, this is a process.

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