- What are we doing today?
- What are we doing now/next?
- What's on the Agenda?
- What's the Plan?
They're obviously annoying to Neurotypicals, but they're part of a well developed aspie defence mechanism for change control.
I'll be talking more about change and resistance to change in Aspergers in another post. Right now, I want to focus on what daily planning organisation means to Aspies.
What is Change Resistance?
Aspies are quite resistant to change.
It's funny, because when I first read that, I thought... "no I'm not, I'm always one of the first people to upgrade to new software etc...".
That's not what the line means.
It means that aspies resist changes in their lifestyles and daily routines.
In my software example; sure, I'll upgrade my software but I'll still use it to do the same things, and do things mostly the same way and in the same order.
Aspies are more likely to resist changes which;
a. Impact on the long term (eg: Moving house)
b. Impact their immediate plans for the day.
The long term changes should be fairly obvious, so I want to concentrate on the impact of changes to daily plans.
Daily Changes which are irritating...
Weekdays have long been a favourite for me. I know that I get to do more enjoyable things on the weekend, but the great thing about weekdays is that they're almost auto-pilot.
Years ago it was breakfast-transport-school-transport-homework-dinner-tv-bed
These days, school has been replaced by work and the homework and TV bits have been replaced by less stable activities revolving around my wife and children and household chores.
So, what are the worst things that can happen in this pattern (what stresses me out the most)?
- Very delayed transport
- Work issues affecting the way I work
- Unexpected meetings and last minute projects
- Problems when I arrive home (Family issues etc)
I'm often praised at work for the way I handle difficult people, constant interruptions and unexpected system outages. Those sorts of things don't cause me stress because they're not "changes" to my routine. They're my job.
It should be obvious why the weekends and especially holidays, with their unstable routines are a major causes of aspie change-stress (at least for me).
Getting organized is certainly a good solution to the weekend problems. The plan being that you block out weekends on the calendar so that you can see well in advance of time what's going on.
The same would apply to meetings at work.
Ideally, that means that aspies should be the most organized people in the world - Right??
For some reason, calendars and diaries don't work for me at all. I will occasionally remember to put things in them but I never remember to look at them. I don't know if this is just me or if it's an aspie trait.
Funnily enough though, since I got my Blackberry phone (which synchronizes with my calendar at work), things are changing and I'm at least getting 30 minutes warning for things I've entered. Of course, I only remember to enter about 10% of my family things (work things are up to about 60% because other people add them to my calendar).
The Daily Plan Method
Because planning doesn't work for me, I need my plans served on a daily basis. Hence my frequent question of "what's the plan".
I tend to ask this every morning when I'm either on holiday or on a weekend. I only ask it in the middle of the day if some part of the plan seems to have changed.
The Aspie Short-Term Memory
My kids have routine activities on Saturday, including Swimming but do you think I could remember the time? Nope. My poor wife needs to tell me every week. It's getting to a standard arrangement that I can at least remember that Swimming Lessons are every Saturday just after lunch... but the time keeps on eluding me. I'm sure I'll learn eventually.
This is quite bizarre really since aspies are well known for their memory abilities... but that's long term, not short term.
So, What's the Answer?
I read somewhere quite recently that in order to be organized, the aspie needs an executive secretary and that the secretary is usually mum. I'll add to that... "grown aspies often require executive secretaries called spouses".
Certainly a beeping/buzzing/vibrating reminder mechanism will help the aspie but someone has to put those dates and times in first. The other job the secretary will probably have well into the future is the answering of the big question...
... so, what's the plan?