4 Ways to Stay Organized with ADHD

By Greenfield, Paige

Don’t let ADHD stand in your way of completing tasks, being on time, and remembering where you put your wallet.

Do you frequently lose your car keys or cell phone? Do you sometimes forget about meetings and appointments? These are common experiences for adults with ADHD. Staying organized is challenging. But you can do it. You just need to know what strategies work best when you have ADHD. These four tips will help you keep your home, office, and life in order.

Problem #1: You can’t find your eyeglasses. Or slippers. 

Why it happens: People with ADHD tend to forget.

Get organized: Designate a place for all your stuff. Keys hang on a hook. Wallet goes in a drawer. Cell phone stays on a charger when you’re not using it. As soon as you walk in the door, put your belongings in their designated locations so you won’t misplace them.

Problem #2: Your home or office is a mess.

Why it happens: ADHD makes it hard for you to pay close attention to details. Being organized requires this skill.

Get organized: Clear away clutter every day. Sift through your mail, and put bills by your computer and junk in the recycling bin. You may need to pick up your room or tidy the kitchen. The longer you wait to clear clutter, the larger piles become. Cleaning for just a few minutes each day prevents this from happening. The same goes for your office. Keep only what you’re working on in front of you. File away everything else. Bonus: You’re less likely to get distracted when there are fewer things to fiddle with.

Problem #3: You sometimes lose track of appointments.

Why it happens: Because you’re easily distracted, you may get involved with an unimportant task without realizing how much time has passed.

Get organized: Use Outlook, Entourage, or another scheduling program to enter all your appointments. It will alert you before you need to be somewhere. Another tip? Set aside five to 10 minutes each evening to schedule your next day. If necessary, make an hour-by-hour list outlining tomorrow’s schedule and stick to it.

Problem #4: You have trouble finishing things on time. 

Why it happens: You tend to jump quickly from one activity to the next. This can leave too many tasks unfinished or take you longer than expected to finish something.

Get organized: Break big tasks down into smaller ones. Since it’s difficult to focus for a long time, big projects can be intimidating. So try to work on one small part of the project at a time. Maybe you’ll work on a part for half an hour. Or if you have to write something, do it one page at a time. Then reward yourself. Take a short break when you finish each segment. For instance, take a walk. Have some tea. Talk to a coworker. Keep the reward to a set amount of time and then start the next portion.

Medical Reviewer: [Correll, Christoph MD, Mukamal, Kenneth MD] Last Annual Review Date: 2009-10-27T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: 2000-2010 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Reference: ADHD section on Better Medicine