How to Get Organized With Adult ADHD
There’s no two ways about it. If you have ADHD you’ll need a customized approach to getting organized. The same goes when it comes to achieving your goals. Are you forgetful? Do you spend half your day looking for your keys? Are you constantly postponing your bigger goals because you don’t know where to start?
Trust me, you’re not alone. Unlike non-ADHDers, you’re not a linear thinker. When you try to use a linear sequential approach to getting things done it’s like putting your head in a vice. Ideas, thoughts, dreams and images come to you from all angles but you can’t quite organize what’s rushing in.
You know that somewhere, in an alternate reality, there’s a perfectly organized YOU that gets things done right and feels as accomplished as you know you can be, right? But somehow you just can’t get a grip on things and actually BE that person.
Note: I’m aware that some tips are repeated throughout this section. This is simply because I wanted each page to function independently from the rest. This works in case you’re only reading the sections that draw your attention.
4 Basic Rules on How To Become Happily ‘Organized’
- Forget The Perfectly Organized You. Practice acceptance. So what? You’re not perfectly organized, but your still perfectly cool. Period. Continuing to dream of being perfectly organized is exactly what’s keeping you in a rut.
- Write It all Down. I make it a habit of having notepads available at all times. I write down lots of ideas and to-do’s. You may not follow up on all of your notes, but you’ll get them out of your head. These notes also come in handy when making your “Daily To-Do List” (more on that later).
- Use Your Imagination, All The Time. If you want to make a change in your life, no matter how big or small, imagine it taking place first. Author Penny Peirce calls this ‘changing your inner-blueprint’. Don’t just skip over this rule. Sit down, ‘see’ the new reality. Try to feel it. Make this a daily habit.
- Slow Down and Get More Done. You have a precious gift called intuition. Even if you don’t acknowledge it, it’s there. Your intuition has the ability to help you make smart choices, but it can’t help you when you put it in a straightjacket. If you want to use this gift, you have to find ways to relax. Intuition needs breathing space to do its thing. Give it what it needs and it will give you more than you can imagine. Make it a habit to slow down regularly. Breathe, relax, release all tension… try it now.
Take Small Bites and Chew Thoroughly!
Before you dig in, remember that there’s no such thing as a perfectly organized life. As you make small changes to your daily routine, take your time. You won’t be able to implement and remember all these tips at once – and you may not even need to. You can always come back and reread these suggestions. Do this as often as you like. Print out certain pages to remind yourself of “The ADHD Top Challenges” or “How to Tackle the Daily Grind”.
Allow the process to take its time
When you get lost or overwhelmed, take a break. Breathe and allow your mind to wander for a moment! You’ll have both good and bad days… and that’s ok.
Typical ADHD Pitfalls and How to Overcome Them!
Do you ever feel like you’re really trying to make things work but invariably end up disappointed or discouraged? This is because the ADHD brain does something very strange when forced to concentrate. Activity in the prefrontal cortex (a section of the brain that is normally activated during concentration) actually decreases.
This means that the more you try to concentrate the less you can actually focus. It doesn’t mean you can’t focus, but – and I know this sounds weird – it means you have to stop trying to focus. The first and best trick to overcome this problem is to let go of expectations. A challenge, especially in a society that emphasizes performance and achievement. Just have confidence that your ADHD symptoms will diminish the more you let go.
Care less and you’ll see how much easier things become. Yes, I said it. Care less. Give yourself the freedom to imagine – if only for a moment – that you have no obligations and you have nothing to prove to yourself or others. This thought alone often creates all the breathing space you need to move forward. Answers come faster and your path unfolds naturally.
If that doesn’t work, I’ve compiled a list of the most common ADHD pitfalls when it comes to organization and goal setting. Go ahead… Dig in!
List of ADHD Pitfalls
- ‘Seeing’ only the Big Picture – info overload
- Losing track of the Big Picture – lost in details
- Underestimating or Overestimating the goal, task or job
- Focusing on the goal vs. Enjoying the process
- ‘Black or white’ thinking
- Trouble setting boundaries & overcommitting
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Out of sight is out of mind aka forgetfulness
- Distractibility and impulsivity
- Time warping
- Difficulty adjusting to new situations or unexpected events
- Difficulty finding inner peace
- Difficulty verbalizing thoughts and feelings
- Difficulty making decisions
Crucial! Zoom In on Your Primary Goals
So how will you tackle that endless to-do list? Well, most of the things we have to get done on a daily basis fall under these 2 categories:
1. Primary Goals and Objectives: professional goals, long-term projects, learning new skills etc. – ideally no more than 4.
2. Maintenance Tasks: household tasks like cooking, cleaning, sorting mail, gardening etc.
Remember to divide all your tasks under these 2 categories. Why? Because this will help you decide where to focus. You need to figure out what your main objectives are. What matters to you most? What do you really want?
The ADHD brain tends to jump from one thought or activity to the next. If you don’t make a conscious decision about where to place your focus, life becomes an endless distraction. Once you’ve decided on your main goals, you can consciously choose which task to prioritize and – subsequently – which impulses to ignore.
You WILL get distracted.
That’s fine. Allow your mind to wander from time to time. Don’t fight it, but gently redirect yourself towards the task at hand.
Note: A maintenance task can temporarily become a primary objective and vice versa. Consider the following example. Say you feel out of shape and want to improve your overall physical health. Over a certain amount of time you may want to place extra focus on your physical routine and therefore make it a primary goal. Once you’re pleased with your fitness level, exercising can then be treated as one of your maintenance goals.
How To Actually Do Your To-Do’s
At the risk of making things a bit linear, I’ve comprised a step-by-step approach of how I tackle all my to-do’s. When you read these tips, don’t feel restricted by their linear fashion. Just read them through and see what you can implement. There’s no one-size fits all strategy so personalize if necessary.
The essence of my approach is that you allow yourself the time to relax and use your right brain skills (imagination, visualization, intuition) while creating somewhat of a flexible ‘to-do’ structure.
Whether you’re dealing with simple maintenance tasks or tackling long-term goals, make it a habit to center yourself before you dig in.
And – I can’t repeat this enough – always pre-visualize the outcome of your endeavors because it encourages events to unfold in that direction. When you do this regularly, everything will fall into place.
And now, here’s:
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