Making and Using a Timeline

A timeline might not sound like a very exciting thing, but trust me, you need this. It will make your life so much easier!

I know you have probably seen timelines in places like museums or in books, often related to events in history. Sometimes you will see them in the newspaper when a big event has happened to explain how things came about.

This is not that kind of timeline; those are usually about past events.

The timeline I am talking about is for future planning. Not usually too far in the future; in fact I made one tonight to help me get through all the cooking I will be doing for Thanksgiving.

Task 1

My timeline covered all of the things that I need to do to get everything on the table tomorrow.

So tonight, I have to make cornbread for the dressing, 2 pies, a cheesecake, cranberry sauce, and the berry topping for the cheesecake.

I took things into account like the fact that the oven will be in heavy use and the cream cheese needs to soften.

So I started with something simple, like making the cornbread. And while it’s in the oven, I can use the stovetop for the cranberry sauce.

I also made notes as to what equipment I would need for preparing and serving. The cornbread, for instance, gets baked in 2 square cake pans; the dressing I make from it will go in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

I didn’t do an actual line; I wrote everything down in a list and ordered them according to when I was going to do them.

Doing something like this requires a linear kind of thinking, which is not our best way of thinking. In fact, it’s entirely contrary to the way our brains work.

But it can be done without too much difficulty and of course you will get better with practice.

You can also approach this in a manner that is more familiar to our brains. It’s called mind mapping.

In my example, I would draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper and label it “Wednesday night” for that night’s prep work.

Then I would draw a series of lines radiating from that circle; one for each thing I need to make. Think of a child’s drawing of the sun.

At the end of each ray of the sun, write one of your tasks. Make cornbread would be one of mine.

Now, using the ray itself, draw some small lines coming from it, like branches on a tree. You need a branch for each thing connected to that task.

My cornbread ray would have 2 branches; one for the baking pan and one for the casserole dish I will use.

Here is an example:

Wednesday Night

This kind of exercise helps us plan out projects and big jobs. It helps us remember what we need and put things in order by priority. You may need some practice before you get the hang of it, but it can be very useful.

Now let’s look at tomorrow.

On Wednesday night, all I had to do was to prepare the things on my list. There was no timeline; I just had to get them done, even if it took all night.

But on Thanksgiving, just like on other days throughout the year, we have a time frame to work with.

If I plan dinner for 4:00 o’clock and the turkey takes 6 hours, I need to have it in the oven by 10:00 am. That means I need to start doing what it takes to get it oven ready before then; maybe 9:30 am.

So in these cases, you work backwards.

  • What is your deadline?
  • How long will things take?
  • It there prep work beforehand?
  • Can you do one thing while for waiting for something else to finish? (Like cooking the berries while the cornbread is baking.)

A timeline will also help you with something else we struggle with: time management.

You can learn to estimate how long things take (very important) and improve as you continue to practice.

You will learn to add extra time in, just in case.

Seriously, start using this, in every way you can.

It can really make your life so much easier.

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About Brenda Nicholson

I am an ADHD Expert, Coach, and Consultant. I want you to learn how to celebrate your life with ADHD too.

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