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Got Adult ADHD? Get Organized!

One of the hallmarks of adult ADHD is disorganization. These five tips help you track dates, tasks, and paperwork.
WebMD Magazine

Some of the hallmarks of adult ADHD include forgetfulness, distractibility, chronic lateness, and general disorganization. This can make life miserable for you -- and the people who live and work with you.

But ADHD coach Nancy Ratey, EdM, author of The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents, offers adults living with ADHD five tips to help them organize their lives.

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1. Create a family calendar. Put the calendar in the kitchen and make everyone take part, even those who don’t have ADHD. A simple color-coded calendar -- each person can pick his or her favorite color -- can help you avoid overbooking, and family members can offer friendly reminders when an appointment is looming. Talk about the week’s schedule on Sunday evening during dinner, so you have a reasonable time frame that you have to process -- instead of larger chunks of time that are too much to bite off at once.

2. Clean out the clutter. If you have ADHD, chances are that at the core of your disorder is clutter. Everything you own -- from a 10-year-old magazine to your wedding album -- holds the same level of emotional value, and you feel you need to keep it all. Once a month, mark a Saturday afternoon on your calendar and dedicate three hours to chipping away at the mess. That’s just enough time to make a difference without overwhelming you.

3. Label your life. Once you’ve decluttered, it’s time to get organized. Ratey suggests you assign all your important “life items”-- like your keys, your wallet, and your mail -- a home. With a good organizing system, you’ll be able to put your hands on something fast when you need it. Color-coding is also key to being organized. Use color-coded labels in your filing cabinet, for instance.

4. Use to-do lists. Write your to-do list for the next day before you go to bed at night. Use four simple “buckets” to keep your to-dos manageable: calls, emails, tasks, and errands. The hallmark of any good to-do list is length: the shorter the better, says Ratey. People who compile lists with dozens of projects tend to jump from one to the next without finishing anything.

5. Take time. Time every aspect of your day for one week, suggests Ratey. An activity log can help you realize when your ADHD takes over and where you need to make improvements. A simple trick like wearing a watch that beeps on the hour keeps you aware of time and moving in the right direction.

Reviewed on May 21, 2009

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