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Adults With ADHD – 9 Ways to Organize Your Life and Time

If you’re an adult with ADHD, you know the effects of disorganization and lack of focus. These ways to organize your life and time can change how you live – and how you achieve goals!

Before the tips, a quip:

“I prefer to distinguish ADD as attention abundance disorder. Everything is just so interesting . . . remarkably at the same time.” ~ Frank Coppola, MA, ODC, ACG.

See? That’s an example of turning a “weakness” (finding everything so interesting) into a strength (being aware of the abundance of life). The good news is that the challenges of adult ADHD can be overcome. All you need is a little support and creativity to manage the symptoms of ADHD.

Better still — you can turn some of the weaknesses that come with adult ADHD into strengths!

ADHD Adults – 9 Ways to Organize Your Life and Time…

Life is full of challenges, and staying organized is the key to achieving goals. If you have noticed that you are habitually late for appointments, forgetful, distracted, or never seem to find things when you need them, chances are you have adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD/ADD.  The symptoms of adult ADHD can be very frustrating. Plus, the symptoms upset everything from personal relationships to your professional career.

To learn more, read Adult ADHD: What You Need to Know by David Gurevich. It’s one of the newer books on Amazon.

Adult ADHD often goes undiagnosed. Even in childhood, teachers and family tend to label the child with ADHD as dreamers, lazy or inattentive, or troublemakers. ADHD can cause more problems, as life’s responsibilities increase. There is a bigger demand on adults to be organized and stay focused. This is when the situation appears to look bleak.

But, take hope — here’s help!

Take small steps towards getting organized

With any goal, starting small makes more sense that trying to accomplish everything all at once. This is especially true when it comes to getting organized for adults with ADHD. One mistake they make is to allow their surroundings to become so messy that it seems almost impossible to get it all sorted out. Naturally, it is easy to find excuses to avoid tackling this!

The best way to organize your life and time is to choose one small area to clean up. For example, tackle one corner of the living room or a part of the kitchen cabinet. If this looks intimidating, then allocate ten or fifteen minutes. Set a timer, get started and get busy until the time goes off. This will remind you to move on to the next thing.

The main thing to remember here is to take up only a small area so you don’t get distracted or overwhelmed by it.

Use a family calendar – even if you’re the only adult with ADHD in the family!

Put up a family calendar in the kitchen or another high-traffic area at home so that everyone in the family can participate.  Color code it according to each member’s favorite color. This is to help you schedule appointments and other activities properly, and remind you about upcoming events. Another way to organize your life and time is to talk about the coming week’s activities at lunch or dinner on Sunday. This will help you process your life and set your calendar in your mind. Amazon has many useful family calendars, such as the Big Grid Family Organizer Wall Calendar.

Maintain a to-do list

Write down everything you need to do tomorrow before bedtime every night. Segregate your activities into simple categories such as phone calls, emails, errands, appointments and so on. The smaller your to-do list, the better your chances of achieving everything.  Whether or not you’re an adult with ADHD, a lengthy list will only make you end up shifting things around without actually accomplishing much!

Decide to organize your life and time regularly

You know how making a huge meal that lasts for a whole week is one of the best ways to save time? Well, organizing your life is similar. Adults with ADHD really benefit from taking time to organize their lives — even if they have to “force” themselves to do it! It’s time well invested as it will help you save time and find things quickly. Being organized also means less stress.

Declutter, and find ways to do more with less

As hard as it can be to let go of stuff, it must be done! Clutter is at the root of the problem for adults with ADHD, and it leads to chaos. Some people tend to attach the same emotional value to everything they own and end up feeling obliged to keep all of it. The less you own, the less you have to manage — so take one afternoon each month to organize and get rid of clutter.

Create spaces for everything, and label it all

After you have gotten rid of clutter, get organized. Begin by creating a specific place for essential items, such as your keys, your wallet and your mail. This will help you find everything you need when you need it. One way to organize your belongings is to use a bright colored wallet so that you can spot it quckly.

Follow a simple system for organizing your life

Create an organization system that works easily for you. One way to do this is to use folders with brightly colored labels to make it easier to locate things. If you deal with a lot of email at work or home, color code them based on sender to help you prioritize. Accumulating mail, in the physical and electronic form can sometimes get overwhelming when it piles up.  Use the “file-toss-do-delegate” system as soon as you receive mail.

For specific tips on organizing your office, read For a Paperless Office – 5 Free Online Organization Tools.

Minimize distractions

To organize without getting distracted, switch off the TV and your computer. Redirect phone calls to voicemail. Try and identify other distractions that are common to all (not just ADHD adults!) Avoid them.

Get help when you need it

Invite a friend to keep you company when you organize. It’s more fun and motivating! If you aren’t sure how to organize your life and time, ask your friends for help — especially organized adults with ADHD! You can also use professional organizational services, if you wish.

Coaches for adults with adult ADHD advise maintaining an activity log to track how time is spent. This helps determine when ADHD actually affects an adult’s life and helps them overcome it.  One way to track your time is to wear a watch that beeps every hour, reminding you to move to the next thing.

For more tips for adults with ADHD, read You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: The Classic Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder by Peggy Ramundo and Kate Kelly.

If you have any thoughts for adults with ADHD, we’d love to hear them in the comments section.

About the author: Vidya Sury is a full-time professional freelance content writer/Mom/blogger. She blogs at Your Medical Guide and Going A-Musing. She welcomes writing assignments at vidzworld@gmail.com.

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7 thoughts on “Adults With ADHD – 9 Ways to Organize Your Life and Time”

  1. Hello Vidya,

    I find that it’s really difficult for me to stick to maintaining my diabetic food and test log. Do you know of any logbook “app” (for phone or PC) that might be useful? Is there any CHADD research grou I could contact? Thanks!

  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Good question, Nate – thanks! I’ll email Vidya, who wrote this article for adults with ADHD, and see where she found her information. I hope she’ll respond here.

  3. “Clutter is at the root of the problem for adults with ADHD, and it leads to chaos. Some people tend to attach the same emotional value to everything they own and end up feeling obliged to keep all of it.”
    Is there research somewhere on the web to support this fact? I’ve seen it stated elsewhere and am not critical, just curious.


  4. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your tip, Katie!

    After I read Vidya’s article, I started thinking I have adult ADHD because I tend to work on several different tasks at once. Multitasking is what I’m most comfortable with, but I’ve read it’s not the best way to get things done.

  5. Another tip is to use an organizer application like the KitchenHub Family Organizer or use something like Google Calendar and Task List. These can really help to manage your life.