I got my first homework planner when I was 11. It was life-changing, but another year passed before I began to apply the same concept to personal goals.
In the meantime – the year leading up to my first to-do list – I made an epic mistake. A list could have saved me, and it also might have saved a future adventurer who I’ll never meet.
It started when my family decided to move. My parents wanted to lay new carpet in one room, to help the house sell. I asked if I could hide a treasure map between the new carpet and the floor, and they said yes.
I hoped that the next time the carpet was replaced, someone would discover my map, and have a storybookish time following it to a spot in the backyard where I planned to bury about $20 worth of coins.
I created the map, marking the treasure’s location with a big red X. I placed it under the carpet before the edges were sealed.
And then, in the flurry of moving, I forgot to bury the coins.
It was a lapse of “executive functioning,” or the mental skills needed to get things done. It’s my most entertaining example of such a lapse, but I’ve had many, especially in childhood.
They’ve decreased over time, in direct proportion to the systems I’ve adopted to support my brain, like planners and to-do lists. I’ve learned to delegate the mental skills I’m weakest at – not to people, but to paper, and eventually screens.
In one of the earliest autism quizzes I took, I had to rate how much I “overcome procrastination through excessive systemization.” I haven’t overcome procrastination a hundred percent, but I still chose the maximum rating, since I depend on external systems a thousand percent.