Structure Your Time

Episode : . A Blue background with a yellow neuron with a body the shape of a star. Words say Ex-gifted podcast. Helping exceptional kids become functional adults. A Yellow stripe across the bottom reads With Raine Eliza from

Time management gets such a bad rap, but it doesn’t have to be stuffy and scary and inflexible. Learning how to manage your time in your way means more time for the things you love.


If you make a purchase through the links below I may be compensated at no cost to you. Thanks!

Planner: My beloved Kokuyo Jibun Techo isn’t widely available at the time of publishing due to this being mid-July, but this academic planner has a similar hourly layout for the week!

Smart watch: I use a Fitbit Versa 2, but there are many more affordable options

Update 2023

Since both my Fitbit and my spouse's died, we've both replaced our trackers. I now use an Apple Watch like the basic bitch I am, and my spouse uses an AmazFit band 7

Visual Timer: This is the one I use, but there’s a wide selection.

Dry Erase planner: I have this calendar but this also looks great

Trello: A digital tool for organizing your thoughts

If you want to learn more, check out my Ultimate Guide to Time Management, or sign up for my newsletter and a 5 day time management course.

Update 2023

My current system uses Obsidian (download free at for digital note-taking and Hobonichi paper products. I've become such a Hobonichi fan that I order straight from their shop in Japan, but you can also find them in the US at JetPens or at other shops around the world.


Time is a weird soup:

Hours and days pass you by without even noticing. You’re not always aware of the passage of time, you’re never sure about what you want to do or when. Building a flexible time management system can actually help give you more time to reach your goals and do the things you love.

For many of us, the issue of time management is a non-starter, because we have such a poor sense of time in the first place.

If you do not have a good concept of time. How can you possibly even begin to manage it? There’s basically two parts to this. You work to develop at least a little bit of a sense of time and at the same time you go forward with what you have, allowing technology to help you keep track of time when it eludes you.

What we can do about it:

  1. Start small, and start with the fundamentals.
  2. Use tools to outsource your time sense
  3. Use timers to keep track of the passage of time
  4. Try thinking about your time over a week, instead of a day.
  5. These systems are not fixed


Check out my Ko-Fi page! It's the best way to support this show.

The natural 1 membership is for normal people and only costs $1 a month, but still unlocks every single post that you can only get otherwise with a minimum of a $3 donation, as well as the challenges and on-demand content in the Members Hub.

Join the Natural 1 membership for only $1/month!

And all monthly subscribers at either level will get a shoutout at the end of each episode of Ex-Gifted! (please message me with the name I should use!)

My current goal is to reach a modest $20 every month. As I've redesigned and cut back, this is approximately my monthly budget for podcast hosting, web domains, email service, and all those other little things that add up. Once I reach that point – I’m having a party and will look forward to putting out some rewards and coming up with some kind of fun goal other than just breaking even.

You can also find me at on Instagram and for more executive dysfunction tips and commiseration.


Kawai Kitsune by Kevin MacLeod



About the Ex-Gifted Podcast:

If you are a former gifted kid who grew up to struggle with basic adulting, then you need the Ex-Gifted podcast.

Host Ren Eliza talks about gifted kid burnout, and the damage that lasts long into adulthood. Damage like battered self esteem, decimated internal motivation, and a continued failure to live up to expectations even while we were placed on pedestals and alienated from our peers.

Ex-Gifted will cover failure, procrastination, imposter syndrome, and chronic anxiety and depression, and a whole lot more.

Each episode also offers suggestions to deal with your executive dysfunction in adulthood so you can rebuild the systems that allowed you to shine so brightly in childhood.

We’re making exceptional children into functional adults.



If you were a gifted kid who needs help just being a functioning adult, then this is the show for you. Welcome to Ex-Gifted

Time. The true final frontier.

OK, time management. This is Ren Eliza and Let’s talk about time. What even is time? I don’t know some weird soup I guess. However, I’m still going to talk about it right now.

And don’t worry my babies I’m gonna try to be gentle for all you chaos bringers out there who are afraid I’m trying to dim your light. I don’t want to dim your light. I want you to glow brighter than ever before.

So, right off the bat, a confession. Difficulties with the perception and comprehension of time are among my absolute biggest executive dysfunction struggles. Yes, definitely in that I can get like hyper focused and then I don’t realize that time is passing. That’s certainly a thing, but also just even if I’m not in a hyperfocus state, I don’t know what 10 minutes feels like. Time is an abstract unknowable construct to me, but it moves on with or without my understanding. So if I have goals and dreams and things I want to do in my life, I have to make time an ally, even if a very confusing, mysterious one.

I remember I was at a store with my mom when I was a kid. I was probably like 12 or something, not a small child. She told me to go off and do whatever it was that I wanted to do at the store and to meet her back at the front in 10 minutes. And. Comes like 30 minutes later. And I hear a call over the loudspeaker for me to come to the front of the store. My mom was so mad. It had been so much longer than 10 minutes that she thought there was no possible way that I didn’t know. It didn’t even occur to her that 30 minutes could pass without me realizing it, and it was not that I was lost in thought or was hyper focusing on shopping. This time I was trying to pay very close attention to my internal clock, even to the point of hypervigilance. However turns out I don’t have one of those. I do have an internal metronome that is very good for keeping rhythm. Which means I am very good at timed tasks that exist on the like, second-to-second level and very, very bad at timed tasks that go over about 90 seconds. Because after that you know a minute feels like 5 minutes feels like 20 minutes. It’s not really a big difference to me in how that sense of time feels.

OK, so. If you do not have a good concept of time. How can you possibly even begin to manage it? There’s basically two parts to this. You work to develop at least a little bit of a sense of time and at the same time you go forward with what you have, allowing technology to help you keep track of time when it eludes you.

And with that, I want to set forth a few principles for structuring your time, just like I did with your stuff.

1. Start small with the fundamentals.

2. Use tools to outsource your time sense

3. Use timers to keep track of the passage of time

4. Try thinking about your time over a week, instead of a day.

5. These systems are not fixed

1. Start small, and start with the fundamentals.

First off, number one, just like with the stuff in your home, start with decluttering. Delegate tasks, and get comfortable saying no. Things that do not spark joy don’t belong in your day anymore than they belong in your home. And again, that includes things that support your goals and ideals. If your job is lousy and doesn’t spark joy directly, it probably still supports things that do bring you joy, like being able to eat. This isn’t some bullshit about being thankful that you even have a job or endorsement of the protestant work ethic – remember who’s talking here. I’m just saying that the things you DO – the way you spend your time- should support the things that are meaningful to you. It’s possible to have a lousy job that still supports your happiness, if only indirectly, same as how my toothbrush supports my happiness if only indirectly.

Once you’ve cleared some space, start small, and start building your foundation. That means working first on developing skills that will actually help you build more skills atop them. These are things like a planner, self-care, and sleep hygiene. Make taking your meds and developing a good sleep routine the cornerstones of your time management systems, along with your other favorite self-care rituals. Find time in your schedule to actually plan your days. (And psst make planning your days fun with markers and stickers and shit so you want to do it) You have to have a foundation before you can build more structure upon it.

One great way to build this foundation is by habit stacking – a term that just means adding on your new tasks to things you were already doing. So if you already make coffee every morning, perhaps you can use that time to look over your planner while it brews.

2. Use tools to outsource your time sense

So let’s talk about a few of the tools you can use. My horrendous perception of time is why I use an actual planner, because I do not have that concept of what the time of like an hour or a day feels like. So I have to have a visual representation in front of me. Which does not mean that I plan everything out to the hour – I don’t usually even plan things by the day except for appointments. But it DOES mean that I have to have an hourly planner if I want to be able to get the things done that I care about. I have to have an hourly planner in order to to SEE the physical representation of the time. Similarly, I wear a watch with a 24-hour analog clock (which is horrible, first off, for telling the time so I also have a small digital clock on my watch for that) But the 24-hr clock is excellent for me to be able to look at it and see how much time is left in the day. It gives me a visual representation for the time passing throughout the day.

The planner and 24-hr watch are really good for modeling the passage of time, and even if you’re not starting to feel it innately yet, those tools allow you to outsource that time sense you don’t necessarily have, because you can just look and SEE that the day is about half over even if you can’t feel it yet. So it will actually start helping immediately, and if it also helps you develop your own internal sense of time, that’s kind of a bonus.

3. Use timers to keep track of the passage of time

Don’t let time just pass you by. One thing that is really good for that on a smaller scale, is a visual timer. It’s just a kitchen timer that will allow you set to set a time generally up to one hour, but it highlights the time remaining on the timer as it counts down. So these are really good at helping you get a visual and tactile feel for what you know a minute or 10 minutes or 60 minutes means.

Another really popular use for a timer is for those tasks that you don’t really want to do, like, say, washing the dishes. You can set yourself a timer for 5 minutes. And then you get up and wash your dishes for five minutes. And even if you don’t get them all clean, you’ve got 5 minutes worth of them clean, which is better than none. And maybe you’ll keep on and finish them up, which is fine, but the timer is basically your promise to yourself that if you don’t want to, you don’t have to keep going. Because you already reached your goal.

Timers, just in general are so useful for time management when you aren’t great with the perception of time. One of the ways a timer can help with this is to avoid hyper focusing on things that you don’t want to focus that deeply on. Just to help you keep in mind that time is passing. So if I’m going to sit down and like play a video game or something it’s very likely that I will sit down at you know, 10:00 o’clock and say I’m going to play for an hour. And then the next time I look at the clock, it’s two in the morning and I’m like, well, I just have this one more thing to finish up. I’ll stop in another fifteen minutes and then I’ll look at the clock again and it’s 4:00 o’clock. And then my kids are going to be up in like 2 hours and I am not even tired because I’m too amped up from staying up all night playing. What timers can do is just remind you that the time is passing in the first place. This does not mean that you set a timer for that one hour and force yourself to stop then. Although you can, that’s an option and there’s nothing wrong with that, However a gentler method that will possibly be less likely for you to fight against, is to set the timer for say 45 minutes and when it goes off, then you realize that your one hour is almost done. And so you set it for another 15 minutes while you go ahead and wrap things up. Or – and here’s the big part, if you don’t want to finish up, then you keep playing, but you set another timer, and another, and another. Not because you’re trying to make yourself stop, just to remind yourself that time is still moving even while you’re focused on this game. What often happens to me is that the timer goes off. I go back to my game and then like 3 minutes later the timer goes off again and I realized it was not 3 minutes. It was actually 15 minutes. Because I am unable to feel that time passing, especially when I’m really focused on something else. So a timer is a great way for you to remember that time is still going. Even when you’re not paying attention to it.

Another thing. Is that a timer is a great way for you to add in some transition time because I know a lot of you forget about transition time. So if you want to actually stop in an hour, you have to set your original timer for earlier than that. If you need to leave for an appointment at 3, you actually need to remind yourself at 2 so that you have time to get ready – and then again at 2:45 so that you actually go out the door and get everything into the car and get on your way. Assume transitions will take twice as long as you think, and if you’re still late for things then double them again. If you’re always cutting things close and running late, planning long transition times will immediately reduce your stress in this area.

4. Try thinking about your time over a week, instead of a day.

I already said that I need to have that hourly layout but what I really like right now is to have a whole week showing the hourly breakdown, so I use a Japanese planner called the Jibun Techo by Kokuyo.  It is a weekly planner with a 24 hour hourly layout for each day. You can visualize your whole week and then on the side is a task list for the week so I can think about things on a weekly time scale rather than on a daily or hourly timescale. This means that I’m about to just look over the list and see what I want to do at any point in time.  It’s perfect for productive procrastinators who will do everything on their list to avoid the thing they think they should be doing. Or I can see what days I have free time. So I don’t fret about my productivity on a very small scale, but rather think about how much I get done over a whole week.

This is huge for my more chaotically aligned brethren out there who are terrified that a planner will eliminate all spontaneity and creativity in their days. On the contrary, having this kind of planner feeds creativity. It can help you release that guilty feeling that you’re supposed to be doing something else. It can give you whole days where you choose to fuck off and spend 14 hours playing video games without your timers. But it can also make sure that you know exactly what you want to do when that random high-energy day shows up.Your planner absolutely can ebb and flow WITH you instead of acting like chains weighing you down. If you’ve ever had a good day go to waste because you didn’t know what to do with the energy and you spent it all focusing on something you didn’t really care about and later regretted even spending time on, then we understand each other. For you, a planner is just a list of your most important ideas and goals to make sure you actually remember what you want to do when inspiration strikes – but we’ll talk more about that next time.

If you really don’t want to keep a written planner, look into a weekly or monthly dry erase board to view your week (using a month is actually cool because it allows you to divide each day into five blocks of time). That way you’ve got something in the open that is endlessly reusable.

5. These systems are not fixed

Okay some people might try that out and decide they want to have more space for each day and there are great options for that too. So think about if you want a daily or weekly planner. Think about if you want digital or analog. But remember that any of these decisions that you make can be flexible. We’re just playing around, seeing what we like and what works for us, this isn’t a lifelong commitment. I started digital and it worked great for me for a few months, but then I tried cling on to these digital tools long after they stopped working for me. I was completely ignoring all of the notifications like I was missing appointments because I had everything in my Google Calendar and so I couldn’t tell what was actually important versus what was not really important. You’re allowed to change your mind. You’re allowed to be analog sometimes and you’re allowed to be digital sometimes. You’re allowed to use a tool for a while and then switch to a different one. You should change it up as often as you need to to allow your brain to get that little dose of chaos. Just pick the thing that works for you and as long as it’s working, stick with it until it stops working or gets more and more painful to use.

That’s all I’ve got so let’s so over those principles one last time

1. Start small, and start with the fundamentals.

2. Use tools to outsource your time sense

3. Use timers to keep track of the passage of time

4. Try thinking about your time over a week, instead of a day.

5. These systems are not fixed

If you really want to go a lot deeper into all this, I have an enormous post on time management that you can check it out on my website Or you can sign up for my email list. I have a time management sequence on there that is like a five day course or something that will. Walk you through all of the content on the blog post, broken down just a little bit at a time.

One last thing about time and goal management is that if you’re of a more chaotic alignment, and haven’t liked keeping a planner in the past, then may I not so subtly offer for you to check out my new roleplanning system? It includes a flexible tracker and planner that allows you to choose how and when and how often you want to plan, and whether you want more structure or to be able to freestyle. There’s also a worksheet to help you figure out what your goals are and it helps you start to break down the steps to take toward towards those goals.  You’ve got just a few more weeks to get signed up. Go ahead & sign up to test the Roleplanning Game for free if you want to level up in real life.

There’s so so much stuff in the show notes this week so go and check that out, and hey if you want to make a small donation, visit my ko-fi page because every $3 is such a big help! And on that note thanks so much to my dear old friend and fellow gifted kid who donated recently and has made it possible for me to keep the show going! And even upgrade my microphone so hopefully things sound better this week.

Make sure to tune in two weeks from now so that we can dive into the unorganized mess that is the inside of your mind. Byeee…..

Support the show (

Privacy Policy - Disclaimers