ADHD ORGANIZING TIPS
Best ADHD Organizing Hacks to Help You Stay Organized
Before we get into discussing ADHD organizing hacks that can help you stay on track, if you are an adult with ADHD, let’s talk about how the ADHD brain works.
Positive Attributes of Those with ADHD
Those with ADHD are not lazy, unmotivated, or unintelligent. On the contrary, experts describe those having ADHD to have more energy than the average person. They are often highly creative, intelligent, and imaginative. They are also excellent problem solvers. When they are absorbed in something they are interested in, they can often to achieve a goal with great speed and accuracy.
Boredom & The ADHD Brain
It’s when they are not highly engaged that those with ADHD get into trouble. According to Additudemag.com, “Dopamine is diffused differently in the brain of someone with ADHD”, so they do not get the same degree of satisfaction from doing ordinary tasks as a person without ADHD.” That lack of satisfaction is felt as boredom. So, thoughts tend to wander off in other directions, onto more interesting things, at the wrong time.
While ADHD manifests differently for each person, it is safe to say that having a short attention span seems to be a universal characteristic of most everyone with ADHD.
If you have ADHD, the following list of ADHD organizing hacks offers helpful tips and tricks for getting things done and taking control of your life.
As a Professional Organizer, and a person with ADHD, many of these suggestions are tried and true tips that I practice often. I manage my own ADHD and stay organized much more consistently today than I did in my early 20s. That’s because I know myself better than I did back then. Success comes partly through understanding yourself and figuring out what works best for your unique tendencies and behavior patterns.
But it is also pretty darn helpful to have some ADHD organizing hacks up your sleeve to help you be productive.
Most Helpful ADHD Organizing Hacks to Make Your Life Easier:
1. Do It Now or Forget it Later.
For many, having a short attention span means living in a constant state of “do it now or forget it later.” Therefore, when you think of something that needs to get done, if you can act on it right away, it is best to do it while you are thinking of it. If you can’t do the task immediately, then be sure to do something that will jog your memory later.
Don’t rely on your ADHD brain to automatically remember to do it later, because you might not. For example, if you remember that you need to return a library book and can’t drop everything to do it now, do one of the following: immediately put the book in the car so that you will see it later, or add the task to a to-do list.
2. The Alarm on Your Phone Can Be Your Best Friend.
Smartphones today are so smart, that they can help you remember things. You can set a one-time alarm to remember to stop at the store on the way home, a weekly alarm to remember to take out the trash on Thursday nights, or a daily alarm to remember to get the mail every day. This is especially helpful for those tasks that need to get done, but that your ADHD brain may conveniently forget because you are not that enthused about doing them.
3. Use a Timer to Assist With Time Management.
Those with ADHD can get so hyper-focused on something, that they lose track of time. If you struggle with time management issues like getting to work or other appointments on time, set an alarm or timer that goes off every morning 30 minutes before you have to leave the house for work.
A timer is a great ADHD life hack because it can let you know it’s time to stop doing one task and move on to the next one. Use a Timer Cube to make remembering tasks super simple. It allows you to simply set the cube on the side displaying the correct time.
4. Reverse Your Routine.
Things like the internet, social media, and television can distract you from getting things done on time. If you tend to get over-absorbed, forget to do other tasks, or end up late for important appointments, prioritize your time by getting 100% ready to go first. Don’t sit down and engage in one of these more attention-devouring activities until more important tasks have been completed.
5. Provide Yourself with a Visual Que.
Individuals with ADHD are visually oriented. They often have to see it, to remember to do it. Out of sight, means out of mind. In his book “Atomic Habits” author James Clear suggests using “Habit Stacking” as an aid to remembering to do things that you struggle with. This is done by pairing one already established habit with one that you want to establish. By placing an often-forgotten item next to another one that you never forget, you greatly increase your chances of remembering both. For example, put your vitamins right next to your toothbrush as a visual cue to remember to take your vitamins every day.
Matthew Crawford, author of “The World Beyond Your Head” also suggests externalizing what you need to remember. He uses the example of the bartender who gets an order for a Martini, Margarita, Mojito, and a Manhattan. Since each of these drinks is served in a distinct glass, he immediately sets all four glasses out in front of them on the counter. The bartender then knows what drinks to make by seeing each glass.
Be on the lookout for visual cues you can create in your world to help you remember to do things. The more you can get out of your head and make physical, the less you will forget.
6. Establish a Launching Pad.
By putting things where you have to trip over them to get out the door, you are much less likely to leave home without them. Designate a spot right next to the exit door to be your launching pad. Then, the night before, place everything needed for the next day there. As you walk out the door each morning, you will see it, grab it, and go.
This helps eliminate morning chaos because there is no last-minute scrambling for things, and there is also less thought needed as you walk out the door. A launching pad is not just an ADHD life hack, but a helpful organizing routine for every member of the family.
7. Designate a Specific Landing Place For Easily Lost Items.
If you are prone to losing important, items like your keys, phone, purse, wallet, or other things, assign a place to put them so that you always know where to find them. Use a hook, tray, basket, or bin and establish the habit of placing them there. This is a super helpful ADHD organizing habit that you can develop to help yourself stop losing things.
8. Put it on Paper So You Can Get It Out of Your Head.
To-do lists, grocery lists, and packing lists can also be extremely helpful aids for remembering things and for staying organized. They provide a visual cue and allow your mind to relax because you don’t have to keep thinking about what not to forget.
Just make sure to have only one To-Do, packing or grocery list at a time. Also, use caution not to put an unrealistic number of tasks on your To-Do-List. Place the top 3 priorities at the top of the list, then list the more flexible items below.
9. Make SIMPLE Your #1 ADHD Organizing Hack.
Keep your organizing systems super simple so that they are easy to maintain. It is a misconception that to be organized, you have to have an elaborate system. In fact, often the opposite is true. For example, don’t micro-organize your underwear drawer. Having 48 little compartments for each pair of perfectly folded underwear is only going to take more time and patience than most people with ADHD have.
Toss all of your underwear together into a shoebox-sized bin inside your drawer. No folding necessary. Place your bras into another bin to keep them separated from your underwear. Use two more bins to separate white and colored socks. Congratulations, you’re done. You have created a simple system that is efficient and easy to maintain. It may not be Pinterest-worthy, but it will keep you organized.
Make sure you are not making more compartments or files for something than what’s necessary. What matters most, is being able to find, grab, and put items away quickly with little effort. By storing things where you use them, and keeping systems simple, you will stay organized when you get busy and don’t have the time or patience to fuss with it.
10. Name Your Containers & Name Your Days.
Susan Pinsky, the author of “Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD” suggests that as you organize, it is helpful to name your bins, cabinets, and drawers. For example, you might have a tea and cocoa shelf, water bottle drawer, or a snack bin. This will help you avoid tossing random items together, creating what I call hodge-podge bins. It is better to store only one or at most, two related categories of items in a given space. Just naming your containers, will help you keep things in order.
Susan also suggests naming your household chore days to stay on task; designate a laundry day, bill paying day, food prep day, etc. What this does, is create a routine, which makes getting things done on certain days, automatic.
11. Avoid Stocking Up.
Bulk food stores capitalize on shoppers who think they need to stock up and end up going overboard buying large quantities of household products. Unless you have a very large family or live a great distance from a grocery store, only buy what you will need soon. By stocking up, you risk losing control of your inventory at home. Once that happens, you can’t find things, and you forget what you already have. Before you know it, you are out of pantry space and have expired food on your hands. This is a risk for everyone but is especially dangerous for those with ADHD because many of us possess a lower threshold for getting overwhelmed
12. Learn to Say No.
Because many individuals with ADHD tend to get overwhelmed and/or frustrated more easily than those without ADHD, over-commitment is also a common problem. Guard your schedule and your peace of mind by being very selective about what you say “yes” to. Leave extra time in your schedule as a cushion in case anything pops up unexpectedly. Never commit to anything on the spot. Always let the person know you will get back to them later. Use the excuse that you have to check your calendar or discuss it with a spouse or family member. This will give you time to think it through before you commit.
13. Reduce Your Inventory.
This one is last, but definitely not least in order of important ADHD organizing hacks. Susan Pinsky also suggests that if you have ADHD, the biggest, most important step that you can take to make your life less chaotic, is to reduce your inventory as much as possible. The less stuff you have in your home, or at your office, the easier it will be to keep it all organized. Those with ADHD struggle more with having too many items to deal with than the average person does. She recommends really getting serious about not keeping anything that is not serving you in some way. Just simplifying your surroundings can make a big impact on how in control you feel overall, from day to day.
14. Get into the helpful habit of doing a 5 or 10-minute tidying session each day.
Create the daily habit of taking a few minutes each day to tidy up the areas of your home that you spend the most time in. This will go a long way in helping you feel more organized from day to day and it only takes a few minutes to complete. It will also reduce your visual clutter and help you feel more in control and more peaceful at home. You can even set a timer so that when the timer goes off, you’re done.
15. Push past the inability to get started.
Task initiation is one of several executive functions that can be affected if you have ADHD. That might mean that while doing interesting tasks are not a problem for you, you just can’t muster the energy to get started on things you don’t enjoy.
One way to get past this is to see if you can make the task more interesting for yourself. Can you inspire creative problem-solving or make the job more fun or challenging somehow? For example, if you need to clean your house, you could use earbuds to listen to a podcast or some music while you work. I do this myself, it makes cleaning go faster and the job gets done.
To learn more about getting hands-on help with ADHD-related organizing issues learn how to get one-on-one help from me by visiting my Virtual Organizing page.
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Do you have any tips for workplace organization?
Hi Mel, Thanks for you comment. I don’t have anything on workplace organization for those with ADHD yet, but appreciate your question a will consider researching and posting a blog on this topic in the future.