manage executive functions with planning

Starting the Year with Purpose and a Tidy Planner

I sat down today to reorganize my planner binder for the new year. I am always trying to simplify what I carry around, so it’s getting lighter and lighter. Here is what is in my binder now:

1. My in/out folder — a place to temporarily store papers
2. A two-page monthly calendar for the year
3. A pocket divider for projects I work on away from home
4. A pocket for classes I am taking
5. A pocket for my planning forms
6. A pocket for travel information
7. A divider for contact addresses
8. A divider for lists

It’s the last one, lists, that caused me to pause and wonder if it was essential. I decided “yes,” because of the two lists I still want to keep close at hand. The first is my daughter’s sophomore honors English reading list. I have read some terrific books from that list. It’s a great reference for future reads. I use it when I’m on the road and needing a good book. Sure, I could scan it and make it digital, but I like checking them off with a pencil.

The second list is dated: May 11, 1996. It is titled:”The Purpose of My Life.” I’m not sure what prompted me to write that list but it dates back to the time when I was just beginning to understand how to support my brain to get things done. Because of my severe executive functioning deficits, I had been floundering, feeling deep inside that I was a procrastinating underachiever—a failure. I was struggling just to manage the mundane aspects of life, which often eluded me.

That day in May, seventeen years ago, I sat down and typed up twelve sentences, each beginning with the words “I want…” It was not a list of “things” I wanted. It was more a list of the person I wanted to be, what I wanted my time on earth to represent, how I wanted to act. It was how I wanted to remember living.

Life with purpose

Reading the list today, I am impressed with the clarity and boldness I expressed in those wants, especially considering my low levels of self-esteem at that time. When I wrote those sentences they were “dream” wants. I was not experiencing having those wants as a reality in my life.

I have kept that list in my planner all of those years. Perhaps just once a year I will stumble across it and read it again.  When I do, I’m always very very proud of myself because over those seventeen years I have become more and more the woman I so wanted to be. That’s why I keep this list close by me. It guides my daily choices whether I look at it or not. While not at 100% for every one of those wants, I live my purpose.

Here are my first three sentences:

I want my life to represent giving, service to my family, my friends, my community, the planet. I want to share my skills and gifts with others, to empower others to live life fully. I want to live my own life fully with joy and constant learning.

I really recommend that you too, pause, reflect, and write down the purpose of your life. There is such power in writing it down and keeping it close. Purpose guides my time management choices. And research tells us that living with purpose is a key to happiness.

About the Author Marydee Sklar

Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program® and the Set Up Success and Seeing My Time® planners. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.

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Mabahoako says April 2, 2013

This is exactly what we do! I never thhugot to use page protectors, though. That’s a great idea. I’m always sticking them in the front pocket, and then have to go through every now and then and punch holes and put them into the categories. My husband does all the cooking, but he prints most of his recipes off the internet, so the binder is a perfect way to keep them.

sharon.ness30 says December 13, 2014

I sat in a private “family” session with you and tears welled as you told the “E Train” story… when your young student connected the tracks from the L to the E Train. At that moment a knowing beamed into me that there was hope I could finally fulfill my potential. I have always considered myself to “effort” through life, but my fullest potential sit under “piles” that I feel hopeless about ever getting under control. I know if I follow your guidance, “little by little” i will unearth and declutter to more fully realize my “wishes”. Your classes are amazing and you are an inspiration! Thank you.

    Marydee Sklar says December 13, 2014

    It is my honor to spend time with you and your family. It is a joy to watch all of you “bloom” in your understanding of how to make different choices to change the day to day quality of your lives. And you are right, little by little… Life can be so much more as we unearth our potential and share it with the world! Go for it.

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