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ADHD ORGANIZING TIPS

How to Get Organized at Work With ADHD: 21 Helpful Tips

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Laura Coufal

About Laura

Who I am is a Southern California turned small-town, Midwest Mom. I am wife to Bruce and mom to my three girls. I am also dog mom to Ollie and Gracie, our quirky pups.

With a B.A. degree in Psychology, I have several years experience working with families and seniors. I believe in a holistic view to organizing. Clearing our minds of the clutter and chaos in our lives is just as important as clearing our physical clutter. By taking a holistic approach to organizing, we can make lasting change.

Back when I first started my professional organizing journey in 2013, I had what I thought of as a dirty little secret. I have ADHD and although I am organized, and enjoy the process of sorting, and tidying. I knew that there were many others with ADHD who really struggled with staying organized. I had a case of imposter syndrome and mostly kept the fact that I had ADHD to myself. That is until I learned that there are other successful professional organizers who have also learned to compensate for their ADHD the same way that I have.

I eventually realized that my need for order and simplicity actually stems from having ADHD as a way to compensate for my short attention span. So my gifts and my challenges are all ironically tied together to create who I am,  and I am able to relate to and help others as a result of this coping method that I have developed for myself.

I also help those without ADHD, who struggle with too much clutter.  Because simplicity and less clutter are always at the heart of staying organized, there is much overlap when it comes to finding solutions to clutter and disorganization.

I am dedicated to keeping my life as simple as possible and to helping others do the same by teaching them how to declutter their homes, simplify their lives, and manage their busy families better.

I have been helping others stay organized since 2013.

It is my deepest hope that you will find resources here that will bring you closer to living a simpler, more intentional, and more peaceful life. 

always have

something

beautiful 

in your space…

…but let it be

as simple

as a daisy

in a vase.

 

How to get organized at work with ADHD: 21 helpful tips 

I was asked to write a post on how to get organized at work with ADHD. Knowing that this is a struggle for so many, I decided to put my nose to the grindstone and gather several tips specifically for surviving and thriving at work with ADHD. 

In a fast-paced work environment, staying organized is essential for success. For individuals with ADHD, the challenges of maintaining order can be particularly daunting.  

As a professional organizer with ADHD, many of these are tried and true tips that have worked for me, but I also include several great tips from the experts.  

Organized at work

How to get organized at work with ADHD:

 

1. Put habits and routines to work for you.

Having worked with organizing clients for over 10 years, I have learned that it’s our habits that are at the core of why some of us stay more organized than others. That said, for those of us with ADHD, habit formation can be especially challenging.  

Our daily habits and routines hold an enormous amount of power to help or hinder us from day to day. If you can make yourself practice a new habit long enough, (yes this means longer than 5 minutes) something wonderful happens…you begin to perform that task automatically. 

If it is a helpful habit, then it starts serving you, rather than the other way around. But you do have to push past the practicing part before you get to this point. The practicing part is hard, but temporary and totally worth it!

2. Take the time to evaluate your daily schedule and see what helpful routines you can create for yourself.

There are so many things that we can teach ourselves to get in the habit of doing, like hanging up our car keys and purse in the same place every day so that we know where to find them when it’s time to leave for work. 

Other examples are clearing off your desk each night before you head home or emptying your car each night when you arrive home from work so that it stays clean.

Establishing a consistent daily routine can also provide a sense of predictability. Habits foster a sense of control and reduce the anxiety that often accompanies disorganization. 

3. Put it on paper so you can get it out of your head:

I LOVE to-do lists, they are honestly my #1 organizing tool. I could not stay organized without a to-do list. A to-do list provides a visual cue and allows your mind to relax because you don’t have to keep thinking about what not to forget.

Just make sure to have only one list and don’t put an unrealistic number of tasks on it ( a common mistake for those with ADHD). I get a little dopamine hit every time I get to cross something off my list. No doubt you will too.

The first thing I do each morning is sit down with my coffee and make a to-do list.  This helps me to plan my day, organize my thoughts and get them out of my head and into the world. This is a perfect example of a helpful habit I have created for myself.

4. 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 helpful tool 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 remind yourself that it’s time to stop checking emails and start making calls. You can also set the alarm on your phone as an alert to switch tasks. 

One of the best time management apps out there is Rescue Time, which helps you manage the amount of time you spend on each task you complete each day. You may want to check this out and see if it is a good fit for you. 

5. Use time blocking and task management to get things done:

Time blocking involves scheduling specific blocks of time for individual tasks or activities. This can help you allocate your time more effectively and avoid overcommitting yourself.  

Doing one task at a time rather than multitasking will also lower your stress level and help you make fewer mistakes. You can also use a visual task-tracking system like a daily planner made for those with ADHD or a white board calendar. You could also try a task management app. These tools can help you stay organized at work by keeping a record of your responsibilities, tracking progress, and prioritizing tasks effectively.

 

6. Get organized at work with ADHD by breaking bigger tasks into smaller steps:

Large projects can be overwhelming, leading to procrastination. Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This not only makes the workload seem less daunting but also provides a clear roadmap for completion. This can also help you stay focused and maintain your motivation as you check off each completed task as you make progress. 

7. Set realistic goals:

Those with ADHD tend to over-commit and overestimate how much they can get done in a day. Be mindful of this and establish realistic and achievable goals. Unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and a sense of failure, and this can immobilize you. Setting smaller, more attainable goals will help you to feel like you are making steady progress. This will keep you motivated and help build momentum.

8. Get organized at work with ADHD by seeing if you can minimize distractions:

The workplace is often filled with potential distractions. Those with ADHD struggle more with tuning out background noise than others. Create a dedicated, organized workspace that minimizes disruptions. This may involve noise-canceling headphones, physical barriers, or even flexible work hours to accommodate peak focus periods. 

Listening to music can also help you stay focused and less distracted. Try listening to instrumental or classical music. Focus@Will is a great music app specifically designed to increase your focus and attention. 

Brown noise has also been proven effective for helping those with ADHD concentrate. It is a lower-frequency sound that is associated with the roar of a river current or strong wind. Listening to brown noise can promote relaxation, and improved focus.  

Person meditating outside.

9. Try meditation to improve concentration: 

Studies have shown that Meditation can be very helpful for improving focus if you have ADHD. Especially the kind that helps you practice your concentration skills. According to Web MD, “Research now shows that mindfulness meditation, where you actively observe your moment-to-moment thoughts and feelings, may be an effective tool for calming your mind and improving your focus long term.” 

Daily meditation practiced outside of work hours can help you to become more aware of and in control of your thoughts when you are at work. This is a skill that can be helpful when you need your brain to cooperate so that you can get things done. 

This kind of meditation is more challenging for those of us with ADHD than for others, because we struggle with sitting still. That said, we also have the most to gain from practicing it. Even practicing meditation for just 10 minutes a day can be very helpful.

10. Stay focused by switching tasks as needed.

Take breaks as needed to keep your mental energy flowing. If you start to feel a little burned out, get up and walk around to get the blood flowing. This break gives your brain a moment to rest. You may also want to switch tasks to stay alert and focused.  

Take notes during a meeting that you find to be boring even if you are not required to. This will help to keep your mind occupied instead of drifting off into daydreamland and mentally checking out completely.

11. Prioritize self-care:

A well-rested and healthy individual is better equipped to manage the challenges of ADHD. Getting the proper amount of sleep, going to bed early, and eating a healthy breakfast will all go a long way in helping you stay alert, and focused.  

Regular exercise also has many benefits. In addition to improving mental functioning, it can also boost your overall energy level. Studies also show that exercise improves your mood and motivation to get things done by increasing dopamine production in the brain.

 

12. Decide if seeking professional support can be helpful:

The key to successfully navigating your own ADHD is knowing yourself and understanding your unique challenges. Dr. Russell Barkley is a clinical professor of psychiatry and author of “Taking Charge of Adult ADHD”. Dr. Barkley states in his book that “accepting that you have ADHD and owning up to this fact is the first step in adapting to them.” Then reaching out for help is the next step, especially if your ADHD symptoms are moderate to severe.

You may benefit from collaborating with therapists, coaches, or support groups specializing in ADHD. Professional guidance can provide additional tools and strategies tailored to your individual needs. Find a physician near you who specializes in ADHD to help you decide whether or not medication can benefit you. 

13. Simplify by reducing your office inventory:  

The less stuff you have in your office, and on your desk, the easier it will be to stay organized. Those with ADHD struggle more with having too many items to look at and deal with than a neurotypical person does. 

Get serious about not keeping anything in your office that is not serving you. Just simplifying your surroundings can make a huge impact on your day-to-day stress level, and overall productivity. Schedule regular decluttering sessions to clean and organize your workspace. A clutter-free environment can also contribute to a clearer mind and improved focus.

14. Reverse your routine: 

Sometimes, more interesting but less important tasks can distract you from getting bigger priority tasks done on time. To add to that challenge, those with ADHD tend to get so hyper-focused on what they are working on at the moment, that switching to a different task can be difficult.

If you tend to get over-absorbed and forget to do certain tasks, reverse your routine and get the boring but necessary tasks done first. Though you may have the urge to do the more interesting stuff first, it is helpful to become aware of this tendency and resist it. Don’t sit down and engage in more interesting attention-devouring activities until the more important tasks have been completed.

15. Find ways to make boring tasks more interesting:

Those with ADHD can struggle with task initiation. This is one of the 7 executive functions affected by ADHD. You know you need to get something done but just can’t muster the motivation to get started. Sound familiar? If this sounds like you, try temptation bundling. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits recommends using temptation bundling as a great way to get past this. This pairs a reward with a tedious task. 

Try creating an incentive system if you lack the motivation to either take action on certain tasks or to finish them once you start. In the book, Clear uses the example of utilizing a penny jar to record your progress as you go. For example, each marketing call you make equals one penny. Doing this creates more interest and stimulation as you are clearly able to measure your progress.  

17. If a task will take less than a minute – Do it now:

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. Unless of course, you are working on an important project with a deadline.

Don’t rely on your ADHD brain to automatically remember to do it later, because you might not. Another benefit to doing small tasks right away is that you are always prepping your environment to help out your future self.

Doing simple quick tasks throughout the day will prevent you from having an overwhelming amount of work to do at the end of the day. And it’s always easier to keep up than it is to catch up. This is true whether you are at work or at home.

sticky notes with reminders

18. Create visual ques for yourself:

If you can’t get something done right away, create a visual reminder. Use a sticky note to remind yourself to make an important phone call. Place the report you need to submit by the end of the day front and center on your desk. Put anything you need to remember to take home with you someplace where you will see it (and maybe even trip over it) when you leave. For me, if something is out of sight, it is also out of mind, and I never remember until it is too late.

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. 

19. Protecting your schedule is key for how to get organized at work with ADHD:

Because many individuals with ADHD tend to get overwhelmed and/or frustrated more easily than those without ADHD, over-commitment is a common problem. They also tend to impulsively jump on board with new shiny ideas without thinking it over first. This can get them into trouble at both home and work.

Guard your schedule and your peace of mind by being very selective about what you immediately 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. Use the excuse that you have to check your calendar and let them know you will get back to them later.  Doing this will give you time to think things over before committing. 

20. Prevent interruptions:

If you have an office, keep your office door closed when you need to focus or are up against a deadline. Consider scheduling intervals for leaving your door open as an alternative to having an open-door policy 100% of the time.  

Communicate with your co-workers and let them know that your door will always be open between certain hours of the day and closed so that you can concentrate, the rest of the time.

21. Consider whether or not your job is right for you in the first place.

 If you continuously struggle with staying productive at work because it does not stimulate you, consider whether or not you may be in the wrong profession altogether. 

Maybe you need a position in a field that you find more interesting or challenging. Perhaps a job that allows you to be more creative would inspire you and hold your interest. 

Or is it possible that would thrive in a highly stimulating profession, like entrepreneurship? That’s the one that worked for me. Studies show that people with ADHD are a whopping 500% more likely to be entrepreneurs! 

Though ADHD is often associated with an attention span issue, most of us don’t have any problem staying focused on the things we find interesting. It’s when our brains get bored that we get into trouble.

Conclusion:

By implementing the tips on this list that resonate with you, and work best for your unique ADHD brain, you can enhance your productivity and well-being in the workplace. Applying these tips can also empower you to navigate your work life with greater ease and success.

Succeeding at getting organized at work with ADHD is about figuring out which hacks work best for you and consistently using them to create a system that works for you.

Want Room-By-Room Guidance with Decluttering and Organizing Your Home?

My Complete Step-By-Step Home Makeover Tutorial for Those with ADHD is now available. Click below to learn more about how you can get support from me just as if I were working there with you in your home.

Step by Step Home Makeover Guide For Those with ADHD

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