Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often struggle with prioritization and organization. Items get lost, bills go unpaid, and projects go unfinished. Creative, smart, and loving individuals suffer from chronic feelings of “not being good enough”. Relationships flounder and lives can spin out of control. People with ADHD can tell you that they simply feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
Fortunately, it is possible to manage ADHD symptoms. There are many extremely effective strategies for coping with difficulties in these areas. In fact, you can become organized and an effective prioritizer if you learn to utilize some of the techniques below. The first step is to be aware of your weaknesses and take action to address them. The realistic goal is not to become perfect, but to make daily life less stressful. The way you prioritize should depend on your individual needs and problems. Below, we’ll take a look at useful tips that can get you started:
- Use a planner – probably one of the best ways to manage your time is to plan ahead. If you have ADHD, you will likely find this to be dramatically more successful if you can do it visually (such as in a planner) rather than trying to rely on mentally planning ahead. A digital planner with a calendar feature or a paper planner is essential for better time management. Every important activity such as social events, meetings, and deadlines should go into the planner. There’s no need to plan every hour of your day because it is counterproductive.
- Give yourself leeway – make it a point to schedule tasks and events with some time in-between events. Don’t put yourself under pressured deadlines all the time and be aware of Hofstadter's Law – try saying that one five times fast... Basically it just means that everything takes longer than you think. So if you think you'll be able to do something in 30 minutes, give yourself an hour!
- Check your planner regularly – the key to the success of time management is to check your planner regularly. The frequency depends on what you need, but make it a point to go through it at least three times a day.
- Don’t overcommit – there are a number of ADDers who tend to overcommit because they lose track of the amount of work they still need to do. Don’t be afraid to say “No” or “I’ll have to go through my schedule first” if you are not sure. Beware of the impulse to get really excited about new projects over what you are currently working on. That is a quick destination to complete overwhelm.
- Address procrastination – draw up a plan and stick to it, otherwise nothing will get done. Whether it is a half-completed project you need to finish or doing the laundry, practice resisting that temptation to avoid getting started on tasks. Just close your eyes and get started somewhere!
- Improve consistency – lack of consistency is a problem that people with ADHD suffer from. Nothing becomes “routine” because of distractions. One way to make certain chores more routine is to do the same tasks, at the same time, every day. Your planner can be vital in beginning this process.
- Use open containers for easy storage – keys, wallets, watches, and other frequently used items should go into an open container that is placed at an obvious spot, preferably near the front door. This simple strategy will save you countless hours of aggravation of running around asking “Where did I put that?!”
- Store or purge – important items can easily hide under piles of clutter and this is a situation you want to avoid. So it is recommended that you either store items that are not frequently used in dedicated storage room or, even better, just get rid of it. Getting rid of the nonessentials in life can be somewhat intimidating before you do it, but it is extremely freeing once you do it. In reality, we don't need half of the things most of us own, and we become happier without all the distraction.
If you are reading this article, you probably already recognize that you need to find a better way to prioritize. Rest assured that you absolutely can improve at it, however expect some struggles along the way because ADHD is a condition that needs to be managed over time. Adhering to a set schedule and routines will inevitably feel somewhat unpleasant at first, but after that initial resistance to forming these new habits, they will come easily and will improve your life dramatically.
Grant Weherley is the founder of Control My ADHD which provides interactive training modules to help get adults with ADHD in control of their symptoms and their lives.
Check it out at www.controlmyadhd.com