The PAR Method is a productivity system specifically designed for people who are neurodivergent (or think they might be).
This structured but flexible approach to productivity will help you prioritise your wellbeing, create boundaries around your time, and ultimately get things done.
Here is a step-to-step guide to using The PAR Method.
Before You Start
Assemble Your Minimum Viable Productivity Toolkit (MVPT)
Before diving into The PAR Method, choose your MVPT.
You will need a:
- To-do list
- Note-taking tool
Resist the urge to overthink this step; it's just procrastination. You can adjust your MVPT at any time. However, if you need help figuring out where to start, Google Calendar, Todoist, and a notepad reliable options.
Schedule Daily Planning and Weekly Review Sessions
Consistency is key. Schedule a 10-minute daily planning session (ideally at the end of each day to plan the coming day) and a 30-minute weekly review session to review your week and plan the coming week. Add these events to your calendar.
You are now ready to use The PAR Model in your next 10-minute daily planning session.
Step 1: Pull Everything Out of Your Head
According to productivity expert David Allen:
Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.
That's why you need to pull everything (ideas, events, tasks) out of your head and get them down on paper or in an app.
While the Pull process would typically happen in your 10-minute daily planning session, you can pull things out of your head whenever needed.
Your Pull tool should always be with you, for example, your mobile device, smartwatch, or pocket notepad.
Drafts app is a good choice for those in the Apple ecosystem because it has an Apple Watch version that makes dictating particularly easy. Other options include adding items to your notepad or directly to your to-do list (this is especially easy in Todoist, which has a quick capture feature).
Step 2: Process Your Thoughts and Tasks
During your daily planning session, review the items you've pulled out of your head and decide whether to add them to your to-do list, calendar, or notepad - this is processing.
Any quick and dirty approach to tagging, highlighting, or colour coding works for the process step in The PAR Method.
Step 3: Prioritise Your Tasks
You should now have events and key dates on your calendar and notes in your note-taking tool (you will review your notes at the end of the week - if they are required sooner than that, class them as a task).
The next step is to prioritise your tasks. There are various ways to approach prioritisation - some examples are below. When selecting a prioritisation method, please consider your needs and neurotype.
Prioritisation methods worth exploring further include:
- The ABCDE Method: A, B, and C indicate high, medium, and low priorities. D stands for delegate, and E is eliminate.
- The Eisenhower Matrix: the matrix has four quadrants which are important and urgent, not important and urgent, important and not urgent, and not important and not urgent.
- The MoSCcoW Method: this method has four categories, these are must, should, could, and won't.
- The Ivy Lee Method: a to-do list of only six carefully prioritised items.
Step 4: Plan Your Day
Now you have prioritised your tasks; you can plan your day using time blocking.
Time blocking is scheduling every part of your day - everything goes on the calendar (this includes time to work on specific tasks and attend meetings).
It is also essential to schedule breaks (and take them). Research tells us that breaks benefit your health and make you more productive. Schedule those breaks and take them.
Use tools like Morgen (get 10% off using the code martine10), Microsoft Outlook, or Google Calendar to help you effectively time block your day.
Step 5: Take Action
Now that you've prioritised and planned, it's time to take action.
Various tools and techniques can help you block distractions and quickly get into a state of flow or focus. Some are listed below and include links to further information:
Step 6: Adjust as Needed
Being neurodivergent in a world designed for neurotypicals is exhausting and requires constant adjustment (often in response to personal energy levels, executive dysfunction, and the pursuit of dopamine).
As you go through your day, remain flexible and adjust your plans as needed. Productivity is a continuous process, and adapting to changes is crucial for success. Keep a note in your note-taking tool of anything you need to adjust in your next daily planning session.
Step 7: Review the Week
The weekly review is the cornerstone of The PAR Method. It is an opportunity to look back (review the week) and look forward (plan the coming week). It must be a recurring event in your calendar and will take approximately 30 minutes.
Devise a checklist to structure this process in your note-taking or to-do list tool. The example below could form the basis of a checklist and includes prompt questions to encourage journalling, as well as some actions to complete:
- What went well?
- Even better if?
- Review the contents of your Pull tool - does it require further processing?
- Review your email inbox: add any tasks to your to-do list and archive everything else.
- Review your to-do list: does anything need amending/carrying forward?
- Review your note-taking tool and add any events to your calendar and actions to your to-do list.
- What's coming up next week?
- What progress am I making against my goals?
Your checklist and Weekly Review process will develop over time.
The PAR Method offers a comprehensive and adaptable productivity framework that is particularly effective for people who are neurodivergent (or think they might be). These steps will establish an efficient workflow and enhance your time management skills while always prioritising your wellbeing. Embrace The PAR Method today and experience the difference it can make.