Effective Time Management

More than likely, when actively involved in addiction, a good chunk of your time was spent fantasizing about the addiction, planning how to get time for the addiction, figuring out how to get money for the addiction, actually engaging in the addiction, recuperating from the addiction, and hiding the addiction from others. Often even eating and sleeping may have been sacrificed to get all that done.

Once in recovery, time that was spent on addictions needs to be filled with healthy activities. A person may feel overwhelmed with how to fill the now empty spaces. However, time vacancies or time used unproductively may be triggers for slips and/or relapses. Successful recovery will require learning how to use one's time in a way that produces healthy growth.

The good news is that effective time management is a skill that can be learned. Here are some tips:

  • Get organized. Purchasing a day planner, a calendar, and other necessary supplies for planning and keeping track of important dates is a start.

  • Prioritize tasks and activities. Initially, brainstorming everything one can think of that must be done gets things out on the table. Then, go through the list and prioritize the items from most to least important.

  • Based on the identified priorities, set personal goals. There should be both short-term and long-term goals. Goals are essential for keeping a person focused on the future rather than dwelling on the past.

  • Make a “to do” list each day, either before one goes to bed in preparation for the next day or first thing in the morning. Prioritize the “to do” list.

  • If there are any tasks on your “to do” list that seem overwhelming, break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

  • Regularly evaluate how the time management plan is working. Especially at first, this should be done on a weekly basis.

  • Make adjustments if necessary to ensure success.

These suggestions will guarantee that the most important things in one's life get done first. Following these guidelines will also provide forward momentum that will increasingly build self-confidence and self-esteem. Remember that recovery must be at the top of the list!


Executive coaches, mentors, personal or career coaches are all people who may be of great help with getting time management back on track. These are individuals with varying levels of professional training. Their objective is to help a person become confident, organized, and goal directed. Check out credentials, references, and training before engaging their services.

Avoid Pitfalls

There are pitfalls that a person must avoid in order to succeed with effective time management. Perfectionism and lack of flexibility are prime culprits. Plans, lists, and goals are all guidelines. They provide a framework and structure to keep a person on track. No one can accurately predict the future.

Life's unexpected twists and turns require flexibility to navigate. Perfection will certainly never be reached in one's lifetime. Look for growth and forward progress to measure addiction recovery. Striving for perfection will only lead to feelings of failure and frustration.

Another pitfall is the excessive desire to please others. While it's nice to see others enjoy one's gifts and efforts, taking care of one's recovery first will be the best gift of all. What this means is that the recovering addict will need to learn how to say NO loud and clear when necessary.

Can someone become addicted to procrastination?

The adrenaline rush of waiting until the last minute to complete an assignment, waiting until the pressure is insurmountable, may resemble that of addiction. The recovering addict must ask herself if this could be a trigger or a substitute for the euphoria of addiction. If so, she should be honest and deal with the problem in recovery work.

A recovering addict may have to redefine his personal boundaries. This will also mean he has to communicate what those boundaries are to others. Respectfully saying no is a skill to be learned in establishing healthy boundaries.

Finally, procrastination is probably the biggest roadblock of all when it comes to preventing effective time management. The reasons why someone procrastinates will need exploration in order to break through and move forward.

Some of the causes of procrastination are:

  • Difficult and unpleasant tasks. Do these first and get them out of the way. This will eliminate the sense of dread that exists when they're left for later.

  • Work that seems overwhelming. Huge workloads or work that seems overwhelming because it requires new learning and is unfamiliar needs to be broken down into bite-size morsels.

  • Vague goals that are not clearly defined. Spending time clarifying one's goals will save time in the long run.

  • Overcommitting. This may occur out of a desire to please others. Learn to commit to only those things that can be realistically accomplished.

  • Waiting until the last minute. This may be a habit that develops from the other reasons for procrastination. Sometimes a person will mistakenly believe he can't get anything done without the adrenaline rush of last-minute pressure. This may be related to old addictive behaviors and needs to change.

  • Fear of failure. A person may believe that it's better not to try at all rather than to try and fail. This is NOT true. Trying itself is something to value.

  • Fear of change. This fear is based on the belief that change will be bad, difficult, and have disastrous consequences. Change will occur whether one wants it or not. It is far better to work on creating a change that is most likely to promote recovery.

Many of the causes of procrastination have fear at the root. These fears must be faced and seen for what they really are. Many times fears are based on assumptions and distortions, not reality. Effective time management will give the recovering addict the skill and confidence to take care of her “recovering business.”

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