Free Time and Structured Time

We can totally relate to this idea of needing “free spirit” time.  We think anyone who is a “P” (Perceptive) on the Myers Briggs understands the need to have unstructured, free spirit time.  If you are a “P” your brain does not function in the same way that someone who is a “J” (judging) functions.  There are  times when we need to let our brain flow from thought to thought, unhindered by a schedule or a timeframe.  We think about the power often of the wilderness, particularly a “solo” time for many young people. On the one hand, they are not distracted by emails, snapchats, instagrams, facebook, twitter, or texts.  On the other hand, because they are quiet and not in a structured environment, they are free to experience the joy of surprises and adventures– seeing a heron or an owl fly over them, or seeing a beautiful sunset.

On the other hand, we believe our calendars, and those around us that help me stay on task, like our dear friend Hillary Kilgus, our intake specialist, help us put the structure necessary to be effective in our lives.  There are times for an unstructured flow of ideas and times for structure.  When we read this article below, it made us realize there are so many people in the world that feel that ADHD is a curse of sorts– it has made their lives miserable and painful because they have missed deadlines and been failures due to a lack of structure.  On the other hand, ADHD can be a gift.  So we need both structured time and free flow time!


Structure Supports Success

I recently had the privilege of presenting at the 10th anniversary of the ADHD Coaches Organization. I was struck by their devotion to learning and helping those struggling with the very real challenges of ADHD.

I sat in on a few of the sessions and soon realized that this is a group well-versed in executive functions and the brain. I began to wonder what value my presentation would have for them?

Those of you who have seen me present, or have taken a Seeing My Time course with me, know that I start with my own story, specifically sharing the picture I drew 21 years ago, clearly showing a mind out of control in terms of time awareness. While storytelling is a key component of my teaching, I only had sixty minutes with this group, which meant I had to keep my stories very short and strip things down to key concepts.
I closed with the acknowledgement that many of my ADHD clients, when they start SMT, are very skeptical, even resistant to the idea of using paper lists, calendars, and watches. They always have lots of reasons why such tools “can’t” or “won’t” work for them. For many, such things feel restrictive, like they are going to become a slave to what is written down, or a slave to a clock.

I explained that I understood that point of view. Thirty-three years ago I refused to wear a watch.  After all, at almost 62, I am on the tail end of the “hippy” generation of “free spirits” who did not want their lives restricted by conformity and adhering to other’s expectations. Being “free” and “spontaneous” was a key to who I was. With a lowered voice I told them that my clipboard, with its day sheets, and week sheets, is my VERY BEST FRIEND. It supports my brain. It enables me to accomplish my dreams, to plan a balanced life that aligns with my purpose and values.  Without my external time tools and supports my life falls apart. Without my day sheets I would never have written the Seeing My Time books, or built EFS, or started speaking around the country, or lost the thirty-plus pounds that I have now kept off for many years.  All of my creativity would have been littered around my house in random piles, notebooks, and file folders.

It wasn’t until I was done speaking that I had a hint of the true value of my talk. It wasn’t the facts or strategies or concepts. It was my story. Several of the coaches came up and thanked me for giving them hope. If I could get control of my brain, so might they.

A beautiful woman waited until everyone was gone and told me that she had to share how deeply my story about being a “free spirit” had moved her. She told me that she had always clung to her belief that being a free spirit would get her the life that she always wanted, but that didn’t happen. Her free spirit was getting in the way of the life she wanted to live. She ended up in my arms crying.

So my friends, with or without ADHD, don’t be afraid of structures, of external time supports, of routines. These things free up space in your brain so you have room to actually work on those dreams, that life connected to your values and purpose.

Time to fill in my day sheet for tomorrow.

Marydee Sklar

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