How does ADD/ADHD affect organization? Well, if you’re a parent, sibling, co-worker, employee, spouse, child, or teacher of someone with ADD, ADHD, or tendencies towards those, you already know the answer.
Children and adults with ADD, ADHD, or tendencies towards those diagnoses can struggle to:
- Begin a task.
- Attend to the task long enough to make headway.
- Complete the task.
- Maintain the result once the task is finished.
At home, this is the bedroom that is NEVER picked up no matter how many times you insist on it. The child works for hours, but little progress is made. At work, this is the cubicle that you purposely avoid. Because you’ve nicknamed it the “black hole”, you often make copies of your paperwork before submitting it to the owner of the cubicle out of fear your documents may never come back.
However, there is organizational hope!
Clients with ADD, ADHD, or tendencies towards those require special, individualized methods for every step of the way. These methods take into consideration the impulsivity, distractibility, hyper-focus, and perfectionism that often derail attempts to get (and stay) organized.
Here are 5 tips to help you, or someone you know, get started:
- Manage Your Time Better with a Calendar. Task analyze each project on a calendar by working backwards. Start with the due date and then identify the key pieces that must be completed for that project. Space those out into mini-deadlines working back all the way to TODAY. It may seem tedious, but breaking your project, even if it’s rather small, into smaller parts will make the job easier to complete over time. No more frustration over imperfect results because, this time, you’ve allowed time for revisions.
- Have One Place to Record Random Ideas. Select a notebook or notepad to jot down random thoughts and to-do’s. Although some might find multiple notebooks or notepads more helpful, the ADD/ADHD client is better off trying to keep track of just ONE pad that’s always kept in the same location. Using this method will help you keep track of your notes because less is more in the ADD/ADHD world. To organize your notes within your notebook, select no more than 4 classifications and use corresponding highlighters. For example, to-do’s are pink and fun facts are green, gift ideas are blue and favorite restaurants are yellow. Finally, keep this ONE notepad in ONE location.
- Store Items at Their Point Of Use. It may not be glamorous, but your bathroom’s storage might need to transition to sparsely decorated open shelving. It’s easy to get distracted when opening up the cabinet under the sink. Instead of fetching the toilet paper, you’re thinking about the dangerously low supply of cotton balls and wondering how that hairspray got all the way back there. Avoid that scenario entirely by keeping your supplies where they are easily seen. It won’t look like Pottery Barn, but it will help you find what you need when you need it without the distractions and time loss.
- Do Smaller Jobs More Often. Retailers have sold us the lie that if we have more clothes, we’ll have to do less laundry. This is a brazen twist of truth, but our minds seem to go with it because it sounds nice to have to do less work. In reality, more clothing means more laundry that you’ll do less frequently. Closing the loop and completing tasks is already hard enough. When you have LARGE loads of laundry, you’re even more likely to abandon the job. The result? Your closet spills out over the floor, laundry permeates the hallways, and you feel as if you have nothing to wear despite the abundance. Do yourself a favor and purge the excess clothing. Keep 7-15 of your favorite tops, and launder them as necessary. You only need one pair of painting clothes, and those pants you never hemmed need to go. You’ll do laundry more frequently, but it will be MUCH easier to get it loaded, laundered, folded, and put away!
- Use A Spyglass to Help You Focus. Now, I’m not talking about a real spyglass from Captain Hook’s ship, but rolling a piece of paper or using your hands will do just as well. When you’re overwhelmed by the variety of tasks at hand, help yourself identify a small area to work in by “spying” around the room. Whatever you spy, work there and only there. This is incredibly helpful when tackling piles or collections of items.
I love partnering with parents and children as they learn to use these organizational skills in their own homes. The kids feel empowered to make changes and the parents are grateful for the changes. It's amazing how much better a teen will listen to an outside source versus their own flesh and blood, but that's real life. I've found the same to be true with spouses, siblings, and coworkers. Sometimes it's the words of an expert that make all the difference.