ADHD and Getting Organized.
> 12/13/2005 4:19:44 PM


One of the three first steps that an individual can take towards managing their ADHD seems very simple, but is often very difficult to do: get organized. 

Getting and staying organized can be a challenge for many people with ADHD due to their tendencies towards inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.  However, a person can benefit from being organized through:

  • Spending less time finding things
  • Reducing feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Becoming more productive
  • Improving their relationships with the people they are living with

Starting to organize can to some seem like a daunting task and it may be easy to begin feeling overwhelmed, but by breaking the task down into smaller steps and taking them one at a time, you can begin to see that the task can and will be completed.

Before starting on the actual organizing, one should make a list of all the areas that need organizing.  The areas should be broken down to small, reasonable spaces, i.e., “living room” and “kitchen” as opposed to “home” and “office.”  Then, next to each area, write a number from 1 to 10 of how difficult each would be.  It may be a good idea after giving each area a number to go back over the list once (but only once!) to see if the feeling of each area’s difficulty level has changed once you’ve ranked all of them. 

Then, starting with the easiest on the list, make a reasonable estimate of how long it might take to organize it.  Take into account your maximum optimum work session, which is the maximum span of time you can spend at a “boring” task before becoming frustrated or tired, or begin to wander off to do other things.  If you are unsure as to how long your maximum work session is start at an interval of 30 to 60 minutes, and if you find that is too long for you, shorten the session up to 10 to 15 minutes.  Then, schedule work sessions over the next few weeks to complete the task, setting a deadline based upon your estimates (and use a calendar and write it down, being as precise as possible, don’t just say “sometime Mondays”).  Break down the area to be organized even further into mini-areas and assign work sessions for each mini-area. 

Make sure you gather any and all supplies you might need to get the job done, such as markers, labels, tape, and cleaning supplies.  You will also need a large trash can, and four bins/boxes for your “Keep,” things that belong in the area being organized, “Not here” for things that belong in another area, and “Donate” for those items which you do not want to trash but not longer have use for. 

Once you begin organizing, pick up one item at a time and use the “one touch rule,” meaning once you pick it up you must decide what to do with it and not just put it off.  Be practical and determine how useful each item is (if you haven’t used it in a year or two, you’re not likely to in the near future!).  Place no longer useful items in the trash or in the “Donate” box.  All other items should go into one of the other two boxes.  Don't take a lot of time with each item.

Once all the items in the area have been sorted or the amount of time scheduled has elapsed, make sure you clean up.  Get rid of the trash, take the items in the "Not here" box and put them where they belong, or if they belong in areas yet to be organized place them about where they belong.  At the end of each work session, reward yourself with something from your reinforcement list (see behavioral strategies).

Keep going and repeat with each area until each area on your list is complete.  This may take time but it is important to keep ion mind the progress you are making with each step.  It is also important to stay organized, implementing the “one touch rule” with each new item that you come into contact with, i.e. mail, paperwork, gifts, new purchases.

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