ADHD and Getting Organized.
> 6/27/2005 11:07:56 PM

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

Gettingand staying organized can be a challenge for many people with ADHD dueto 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

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

Before starting on the actual organizing, one should make a list of all the areas that need organizing.  Theareas should be broken down to small, reasonable spaces, i.e., “livingroom” 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.  Itmay be a good idea after giving each area a number to go back over thelist once (but only once!) to see if the feeling of each area’sdifficulty 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.  Takeinto account your maximum optimum work session, which is the maximumspan of time you can spend at a “boring” task before becomingfrustrated or tired, or begin to wander off to do other things.  Ifyou are unsure as to how long your maximum work session is start at aninterval 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 andwrite it down, being as precise as possible, don’t just say “sometimeMondays”).  Break down the area to be organized even further into mini-areas and assign work sessions for each mini-area. 

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

Onceyou begin organizing, pick up one item at a time and use the “one touchrule,” meaning once you pick it up you must decide what to do with itand not just put it off.  Be practical anddetermine how useful each item is (if you haven’t used it in a year ortwo, 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.  Getrid of the trash, take the items in the "Not here" box and put themwhere they belong, or if they belong in areas yet to be organized placethem 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.  Itis 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.

Lily Hung Ph.D.

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