5 Practical Ways to Organize your ADHD Life

When I first began to realize that I had ADHD, I came across an invaluable list of 50 tips for managing Attention Deficit from Drs. Ed Hallowell and John Ratey.  I still have my original copy of the list printed off from AOL! In today’s blog, I am sharing not only their life-changing advice on managing your tasks but also my personal experience with Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity disorder and how I used these suggestions to transform my life.

 Set up your Environment to Reward Rather than Deflate.

“To understand what a deflating environment is, all most adult ADD’ers need do is think back to school. Now that you have the freedom of adulthood, try to set things up so that you will not constantly be reminded of your limitations.”

During the last 3 decades since graduating from High School, I have dabbled in many different professions with the best fits being the careers with task versatility and work from home capabilities. Not coincidentally, these are also the choices where I am essentially my own boss. The downside, these come with the most responsibility to create a work environment that promotes sustained focus necessary for completing tasks.  It also meant moving from the desk I had built in our kitchen  (file that under “what the heck was I thinking”) to a standing desk near a window in our living room. I also make use of a cozy place on couch, though some days it can be just a wee bit too comfy!

Keeping my limitations in mind.  I also adhere to a pretty strict no television during the day placing the remote control far from my reach.  To re-energize I will force myself outside for a prayer walk (as opposed to the kitchen for a snack).  Lastly, I maintain set work hours however I love what I do so much I know that I put in far more than I probably should.  That also might be due to the extra time I need some days to get rolling on a task!

Additionally, I have recognized that certain background noises aide significantly in helping me to focus.  An ideal working environment takes into account location, temperature, distractions and yes even sound.  While flying, I discovered white noise had a profoundly positive effect on my ability to keep sustained mental effort, especially when writing.  Since I can not afford to jet across the country every day, I sought out more reasonable solutions.  I have evolved from static on the radio, to the Coffivity App; to now using “Sleep Sounds” on my Amazon Echo.  As luck would have it, one of the sound options is AIRPLANE!

Embrace Challenges

“ADD people thrive with many challenges. As long as you know they won’t all pan out, as long as you don’t get too perfectionistic and fussy, you’ll get a lot done and stay out of trouble.”

This was one of  my favorite suggestions on this list. Hallowell and Ratey put words to behaviors I did but didn’t always recognize, as well as showing me I was not the only one! I have to fight a seemingly instinctual defeatist attitude.  In moments of almost manic energy, exciting and interesting ideas will come to me. They feel so urgent sometimes I can barely write as fast as my thoughts flood in. My journals are filled with them; many I have actually attempted though most have failed. It wasn’t until recently I began to see those failures as just steps towards the plans God has for me.

I am grateful for God’s promise in Romans 8:28 to order all for good for those who love him. When I see my efforts in that light, all that I do especially those that I have done with truly the best of intentions regardless of how the world would view my success, is indeed successful.  It doesn’t mean I don’t give it my all, but I worry less about when that all isn’t good enough for the outcome I had hoped.

Romans 8

Break down large tasks into small ones and Make Deadlines

 “Attach deadlines to the small parts. Then, like magic, the large task will get done. This is one of the simplest and most powerful of all structuring devices. Often a large task will feel overwhelming to the person with ADD. The mere thought of trying to perform the task makes one turn away. On the other hand, if the large task is broken down into small parts, each component may feel quite manageable.”

Deadlines are my total nemesis, however without them I have seen projects linger in the ‘to-do’ lane for months, even YEARS! This is equally true for large projects, like my taxes!  Self-employed people with ADHD should be at least successful enough to hire a bookkeeper (Just Sayin’).   Which for the record are still not complete for this year, thank goodness for extensions.

One way I’ve discovered for accomplishing this suggestion is by creating a page in my Bullet Journal dedicated to the project.  I can then make a list of all the moving pieces to the project, numbering them (see prioritizing below) and crossing them off as I complete them.  There is just such satisfaction in ticking items off your list!

So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom
~ Psalm 90:12

Prioritize

“Avoid procrastination. When things get busy, the adult ADD person loses perspective: paying an unpaid parking ticket can feel as pressing as putting out the fire that just got started in the wastebasket. Prioritize. Take a deep breath. Put first things first. Procrastination is one of the hallmarks of adult ADD. You have to really discipline yourself to watch out for it and avoid it.”

Procrastination is probably my greatest struggle in my life. Sustained mental effort is exhausting for me.  If something is even the least bit laborious I tend to put it off.  Often convincing myself that all the tasks I am putting before the bigger one (ie: checking my email, posting on social media, getting another cup of coffee and a snack!) is actually helping me be better prepared to complete the writing, cleaning, paperwork, etc. that I am avoiding!

My experience has shown that is rarely the case except perhaps the coffee break. 

The best results have come when I push through whatever block I have placed mentally from moving on the project and start!  Sometimes I set a timer forcing myself to stay on task for at least the next 10 minutes; remarkably when the timer sounds I am usually fully engaged and can continue working.  Other times, I need to break the project into mini-projects.  Likewise,it has been my experience that once I start that boulder rolling, it just keeps gathering steam!

Organize your ADHD Life

External structure

“Structure is the hallmark of the non-pharmacological treatment of the ADD child. It can be equally useful with adults. Tedious to set up, once in place structure works like the walls of the bobsled slide, keeping the speedball sled from careening off the track.”

Hallowell and Ratey, also suggest making frequent use of:

  • lists
  • color-coding
  • reminders
  • notes to self
  • rituals
  • files  “


More on these and other organizational strategies in Part II posting on Thursday! 

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