Introduction: The Neurodiversity Media team consists of Rachel Worsley (Founder and CEO), Carolyn Cage (Digital Content Producer) and Carly Godden (Journalist). Rachel is based in Sydney, Australia, while Carolyn and Carly are based in Melbourne, Australia. None of us have met in-person. All our work takes place remotely. Rachel is autistic and ADHD, Carolyn has ADHD and Carly is neurotypical.
In this case study, we held a team Q&A session to discuss how making lists can help us plan, track and keep on top of our busy schedules and day-to-day tasks. Here is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Carolyn, as an ADHD team member, I'm interested in how you create and use lists?
I have a big general list that encompasses all my tasks. But it’s broken down, with things allocated for every day of the week: Monday to Sunday. Then the tasks are divided into urgent and non-urgent. I also jot down stuff that I've got to do the following week.
Is this a tactic you’ve come up with as something that works for you?
Growing up, I've always had lists. But they have changed from being analogue to digital. I used to have post-it notes, pieces of paper and notepads everywhere. And then eventually, I would just spill coffee on them or lose them or get them mixed up!
Having lists on my phone and also on my computer—because they're interlinked—is definitely a lot better for me. Most of the time, I'd say 90%, my lists are digital. But then I still write some things down. Like my shopping list yesterday—or I will occasionally make a to-do list on a piece of paper.
That’s fascinating because I also tried to go purely digital. I had the same frustration of all those bits of paper everywhere. But then I found that, for me, when I log onto the computer there are a million other things that distract me, like the five or more browser tabs I might have open! So I wouldn’t end up creating to-do lists for everything I had to do.
I also realised that when I have to physically write something down in paper, I really will be better at remembering to do it. The messiness factor is worthwhile in the end, because it’s offset by the gain in being more organised and productive.
I still do use digital lists and calendars but I’ve learned to balance both types at the same time. What works for me is to first write everything down on paper. I then figure out the tasks I’ll be able to remember from paper-lists, and then the ones that need to be communicated to others, or are important or urgent enough, are transferred into a digital system.
I’m neurotypical and I also use a lot of lists and find them helpful. I still write physical lists. But I also rely heavily on automatic reminders that are built-into project management and team communication software. It can be tricky because if you're doing work for multiple people, each of the systems are going to be slightly different and you have to learn how to navigate them all. We use Trello at Neurodiversity Media, but then I also use Basecamp for other work. After a while though you do get used to jumping across between them all.
Like Carly, I also use automated reminders. Every day I've got at least 10 reminders. Some of them are scheduled for the same day, every week. For example, I'll remind myself that I've got work on Tuesday, on Monday evening. And that reminder will come up again next Monday evening.
It’s interesting that with the recent COVID restrictions and many people working long stretches from home, I think more neurotypicals might be more empathetic or clued on to what works for neurodivergents—in terms of needing to have lots of reminders and lists.
Without the weekly rhythm that comes from having an office routine, a lot of people have said they lose track of what day it is and what they have to do. They're needing a lot of those sorts of reminders themselves. So that’s an unexpected positive from COVID that will hopefully continue.