Organizational Tips for Managing ADHD : Plan, Visualize, & Reward.

Inspired by the March issue of Health magazine
I never thought of my life in these terms until I was bored in a doctor’s waiting room and picked up the March 2012 edition of Health.com magazine. While reading through the brief descriptions of "Plan, Visualize, Reward," my thoughts turned to how I approach writing, deadlines, vacations, projects, and even upcoming social events.

Organization is a constant battle for those of us with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although our unique brain chemistries bestow us with plenty of “super powers,” structure is our kryptonite. Prior to coaching and therapy, ideas come to us in a scramble of words and images. Only when properly directed can these demonstrate the intelligence and creativity behind the chaos.

Long before I was diagnosed with ADHD, my mom and I would spend hours working on puzzles or other logic games to occupy my excess energy, but also to prepare me for the dreaded tests needed to apply to kindergarten in New York. Reflecting back on these early days, I believe that’s where we, together, began to develop both my creative and logical minds. As an adult, I often think of my thought processes in these terms. Taking writing as an example, I consciously recognize when I need to impose coherent structure upon a chapter or if it needs the imaginings (descriptions, metaphors/similes, characterizations etc…) of my playful monkey mind.

Although there are always days when my inner monkey refused to settle down, over the years and with much hard work I’ve developed the organizational skills that allow me to benefit from my ADHD. Often, when discussing my routine of waking up at 6am before the workday to write, friends and colleagues remark on my “work ethic.” However, I attribute the ability to maximize my time and productivity to the drive (and energy!) of ADHD combined with acquired organizational skills.

The exercise of “Plan, Visualize, Reward” is a great way to breakdown anything into manageable terms and then gain a sense of accomplishment from what you’ve achieved.
Once an idea strikes, it’s nearly impossible for me to shake it. Ill jot it down in my notebook, a Post It, or a square of toilet paper if that's all I have handy. From there, I begin to research that idea via the internet, the local library, or bookstore.
Often, making a list of priorities or keeping a planner helps to keep my goals in the forefront of my mind. You can even use your planner to break down your goals into smaller steps so that each day you make headway toward it.

I often write about my tendency to visualize. Whether listening to music to imagine a scene I’m about to write or picturing the outcome of an upcoming project, holding these images in my mind helps to solidify my goals.

When it comes to writing, a completed passage/chapter is usually reward enough for me. However, I am a big fan of recognizing achievements. This “reward” can take many forms. Get together with friends. Take a night off to go to the movies. Plan a weekend vacation. Leave the kids with your husband for an afternoon and get a massage. Treat yourself to a leisurely brunch. Any of those can further gratify your sense of accomplishment.

What techniques help you to organize the chaos of ADHD?

For a more detailed breakdown of how to organize your week, see: Better Productivity and Organization for ADD Adults.

ADDitude Magazine recently released a list of applications to help keep the average ADHD’r organized. Check it out here: Smartphones to Help ADD / ADHD Adults Get Organized.