How to Get Organized When You Have Adult ADHD

Time management is important for people to stay focused and cope with stress

Self-organizational skills, controlling your temper and developing problem-solving skills are important for everyone, but they’re essential for people with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Here, Raul Seballos, M.D., vice chair of preventive medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, who treats adults with ADHD, offers these 13 valuable tips.

Find one schedule manager that works for you. It could be your smartphone, your computer calendar or an old-fashioned paper appointment book. “Don’t have one in your computer and another schedule in a binder,” says Dr. Seballos. “Use just one to get you through the day.”

Make a launchpad. To make it easier to get up and out in the morning, establish a "launchpad" -- a single for your keys, watch, phone and wallet or purse. Get into the habit of always putting your essentials in that spot when you come in.

Set daily goals. Write down your daily tasks. “As you get things done, cross them off your list,” says Seballos. “At night, look back at your priority list and if something didn’t get done, put it on the list for the next day.”

Set longer-term goals, too. Write down what you want or need to accomplish in the coming week and month. Then work on it slowly until you get it done.

Be realistic. Is your to-do list 20 items long? That’s a recipe for failure. Make it five or six. Then you can accomplish something and feel good about it.

Make a schedule. For example, Mondays are for laundry, Thursdays are for food shopping and so on. Whether it’s for responsibilities at home or work, try to schedule the tasks you can usually anticipate. That way, you won’t scramble to get them all done the same day.

Make molehills out of mountains. Big projects can be daunting, but they become less so when you break them up into smaller pieces. Get one task done at a time, and if you have time, do another.

Get a timer. Been putting off a big project? Tell yourself you’ll spend just 15 minutes to get started and then set your timer. If you want to continue, great. If you have to stop at 15 minutes, fine. At least you’ll have gotten started.

Minimize distractions. Get the clutter off your desk -- only papers for the project at hand should be in front of you. On your computer, keep only one or two applications open.

Take a break from email and social media. Turn off your computer, phone and other devices and just tune out for 30 or 45 minutes or even an hour. It’s okay. Really. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and all the rest will still be there when you return.

Verify what someone is saying by repeating it back. People with ADHD often find it hard to pay attention to everything that’s said to them, especially multistep instructions. Repeating things back reinforces the learning. For friends and family, it’s a good way to show that you are truly listening.

Do just one thing at a time. This is the most important tip of all. Multitasking may seem efficient, but studies show that it actually slows us down. All of us.

Reward yourself. Plan to treat yourself to something special once you complete a project.

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Article written by Robert A. Barnett, for Cleveland Clinic Wellness

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