Reasons to Plan and Organise
Due to our autism/Aspergers our lives need to be predictable. As change and unfamiliarity causes us stress and discomfort. In addition, our autism/Aspergers prevents us from seeing the ‘big picture’. So we can only focus on the small details. This often makes large tasks seem impossible.
With planning and organisation we can make our lives structured and consistent, and attempt those big jobs we naturally avoid.
Planning and Organising to Keep our Lives Predictable
Sometimes our daily jobs and chores become overwhelming. There are days when there doesn’t seem to be enough time to complete them all. Many of us autistics/Aspies have the mindset where we must get every job done, in order to relax. So we will work extremely hard to finish all our jobs in one go. Doing them in any random order and without a rest. Although this gets the work done, it causes lots of unnecessary stress, unhappiness and exhaustion.
Planning, prioritising, shared calendars and multitasking can really help to organise our hectic lives. Balancing out the workload, so it becomes more manageable.
Allocating a few hours each week to plan our hectic autistic/Aspie lives, is time well spent. The main benefit of this is to alleviate the pressure of making decisions in public and under time constraints. Instead of making on the spot choices, we can plan beforehand in the comfort of our home. Here we’ve got plenty of time and resources (such as the internet) to make the best choices. Even without the access to computers and spreadsheets, we can still plan effectively with a notepad and pen.
Good things to plan for include:
- Finances – working out what money needs to be spent and saved, a few months in advance.
- Holidays – which can include what to pack, which restaurants to visit, best hotel to stay in, places to visit (with costs and any discount vouchers) and places to park.
- Weekly meals and shopping list.
- Shopping trips – which shops we could visit, and what we intend to buy.
- To Do lists.
Prioritising is working out which jobs are the most important, and those that can be left until later. It’s really difficult for autistics/Aspies to prioritise, as every job feels like it’s equally important. But with a lot of effort and practise, prioritising can change our lives. Making them much less stressful.
As humans we tend to put off the jobs we hate, and do all the nicer and easier jobs first. Even though those simpler jobs can be done at a more convenient time. Prioritising, works out what really needs to be done on that day or week. Then we put all our focus on this task first. Afterwards, if we’ve got the time and energy, we can do a few none essential jobs. If not then leave them, until we’ve got the time. Or until they become priority tasks.
If prioritising is done correctly it can help us to have proper breaks, in-between jobs. We can gradually learn just how important resting is. Plus, we will realise that doing everything, all at once, is usually too traumatic for us.
Keeping and updating a shared calendar, with our household, is the best way to avoid those awful unexpected events. If everyone is good with computers or smart phones, then an online calendar is an amazing option. All the top tech companies such as Google, Microsoft (outlook) and Apple offer free shared calendars. Which can be accessed through websites or apps.
There are many people who cannot use an online calendar. In these situations a wall calendar still works really well.
Multitasking is when you do more than one job at once. With our autistic/Aspie brains we become very focussed on one job at a time. We get it done, then move onto the next. It is possible to teach ourselves to do more than one job at once. This really helps to reduce the overall time it takes to get our chores done. It’s a bit like the phrase killing two birds with one stone.
Examples of multitasking include:
- Whilst cooking and keeping an eye on boiling pans, we can load the dishwasher or make packed lunch for work the next day.
- Whenever making a trip into town, carefully thinking about other jobs that could be done at the same time. Such as visiting a relative.
- Whilst waiting at the dentist or doctors, plan weekly meals and write a shopping list.
- Whilst watching TV programmes, iron our clothes.
Turning an Impossible Big Job into Manageable Small Tasks
Some jobs seem so huge for our autistic/Aspie minds they seem impossible. Perhaps they would take weeks, months or even years to complete. But some of the largest and most difficult jobs, give us the most benefits. It may be decorating the whole house, saving for a deposit on a home or passing a university course.
The only way these bigger jobs are achievable for us, is to break them down into smaller jobs using planning. Once we do this we can see that these smaller jobs can be done, and are possible. Then we can truly decide if it’s worth the time, commitment and effort for the end result and reward.
Example of Breaking a Decorating Job Down
Decorating a whole house, in one go, is inconceivable for us. So we can make the job smaller by aiming to decorate one room. From this we can then list all the jobs we need to complete to achieve this aim. It might be to: buy supplies, remove pictures, fill any holes and cracks, sand the walls, wash the walls, paint the edges with a brush, paint the main areas of the walls and paint the skirting boards.
Each of these smaller jobs are much more manageable, and our brains realise this. Then, if it’s worth it, we can do a few jobs each day. Or, if other people are willing to help, we can give them specific tasks to do.
Keeping Our Living Space Tidy and Organised
In order to keep our minds clear we can keep our homes tidy and organised. This can be done in a great deal of ways such as:
- Organising a wardrobe into sections, such as: trousers, shirts, t-shirt and pullovers.
- Buying a filling cabinet and organising our paperwork into categories. Such as: bills, car documents, bank statements, important documents (like birth certificates), receipts and insurance.
- Storage box shelving (to keep living areas tidy).
- Key hooks
- Allocating cleaning roles to ourselves and others. Such as being responsible for cleaning the bathroom if someone else cleans the kitchen.
By planning, organising and keeping our homes tidy it enables us to work more productively. Which ultimately gives us more time to do the activities we enjoy, or go for big goals we want to achieve. It reduces our stress levels and worries, as it enables our lives to become more predictable.
There are a few negatives though. We can spend too much time planning, and not enough time putting the plan into action. So we have to try and strike the perfect balance between planning too much and not enough.
Another negative is the people who we live with might not like their lives planned too much, and prefer to be spontaneous. If this is the case, it’s worth putting other people’s needs before our own occasionally.