One of the hallmarks of an ADHD diagnosis, at least for many, is a lack of organization. What this looks like can vary, but in general, it includes having a hard time remembering things, understanding how to order and complete tasks, losing things frequently, and more. Developing organization strategies that help you keep things straight while living with ADHD can be beneficial in the long run, no matter how old you may be.
ADHD is commonly associated with both executive dysfunction and poor organizational skills. That means those with the disorder might have difficulty sitting still or concentrating, remembering things, understanding how to efficiently complete tasks, managing time, and more. The result of these challenges is often high levels of stress as those with ADHD attempt to balance their natural tendencies with societal expectations and demands.
To avoid creating excess stress, it can be beneficial to understand how your ADHD impacts your ability to stay organized. From there, you can develop ideas to make things easier for yourself. Below are a few tips on achieving organization, no matter your age.
Write down every errand you need to run and the chore you need to complete, then determine how long they will each take. Allot an appropriate amount of time to each and complete them at the times you have designated. It may also be a good idea to set reminders, whether they be alarms or something else, to let you know when it is time to work.
You can use this technique to help children, too. Helping your child complete these steps themselves or simply setting a timer for them can help them get started.
Work It Out
Being physically active is chock-full of benefits for both mental and physical health. But for those with ADHD, movement can strengthen more than just muscles. Evidence shows that even a single session of exercise can lead to improvement in ADHD symptoms and overall cognitive functioning.
Exercise can also act as an outlet for excess energy, which may help reduce feelings of restlessness or anxiety. Find an activity you or your child enjoy and try to implement it into your routine at least a few times a week.
Alternatively, looking for little ways to incorporate exercise into your day works too; going for a daily walk, taking the steps instead of an elevator, or even walking to the mailbox each day can be good places to start.
Keep It Simple And Enjoyable
Many adults and children alike find managing tasks with multiple parts – different steps, conditions, etc. – to be overwhelming, especially when they’re tasks that we’d rather not be doing. The executive dysfunction and poor organizational skills that ADHD can cause may make certain tasks especially daunting, so much so that you may procrastinate or avoid doing them entirely.
A great way to combat this phenomenon and the stress that tends to accompany it may be to simplify things. Remember that doing something less efficiently is often better than not doing it at all. If you struggle to stay on top of laundry, for instance, try removing some of the steps you typically consider to be standard. For example, you might hang your clothes up right away instead of folding them first.
Another way to push through challenging tasks is by adding something fun to the mix. Because the minds of those with ADHD don’t receive and process dopamine the same way as others, the rewards that should come from tasks don’t always manifest. So, it can help to find ways to supply dopamine yourself.
Try listening to your favorite music or a podcast while you do chores or munching on a snack while you study. Little things that help you complete your goals and stay on top of your schedule for the day can make a huge difference.
Rest And Relax
While it may seem counterintuitive to manage organizational shortcomings by relaxing, giving yourself some time to unwind and recharge can be an important part of managing your ADHD symptoms.
Rest may mean taking a nap or spending some time lounging in front of the TV, but for those with ADHD, it can also mean so much more. Rest and leisure time can be a great opportunity to do something genuinely fun and exciting. By scheduling time in your day to relax, you can grant yourself permission to pursue the things that might otherwise act as distractions – in their own time, of course.
Know Your Needs
Many adults and children with ADHD find that no matter what they do, there are simply some areas of life and behavior that are seemingly unavoidable. You may never be as organized as others, and that’s okay. Likewise, you might always struggle not to forget things or keep a tidy home.
No matter what challenges you experience, recognizing that your ADHD may have an impact can help you rid yourself of any feelings of guilt you might feel. It’s okay to function differently, and it’s okay to have different needs. What matters most is understanding what you need so that you can communicate it to others and recognize it yourself.
Consider Seeking Therapy
Living with ADHD is a lifelong experience for most, meaning long-term management of symptoms is likely on your mind. Working with a mental health professional, like a therapist, can be beneficial in terms of improving your organizational skills and addressing other ADHD-related symptoms.
Online therapy makes it easier than ever to access care. Because you can connect with your therapist nearly anywhere, you have control over when and where your sessions occur. That means you can choose an environment that makes sense for you.
Aside from being convenient, online therapy works, too. One 2022 study noted that online treatment options are effective at treating symptoms related to ADHD, including concerns related to focus and executive functioning. Online therapy can give you the tools you may need to feel more organized, more alert, and overall, more in control of how your symptoms affect your life.
How does ADHD impact organizational skills?
Adult ADHD commonly manifests as trouble getting or staying organized with work or school tasks or personal projects, whether the person is experiencing primarily hyperactive ADHD, primarily inattentive, or the combined presentation. Several symptoms may contribute to this tendency, including trouble focusing on details, being easily distracted, and challenges related to time management.
Are people with ADHD good at organising?
People with ADHD may or may not have trouble getting or staying organized, depending on how their symptoms manifest. Some have developed reliable methods for organizing their environment or their work because they find it helps them focus on tasks, while others may simply enjoy the act of organization and may be able to channel their powers of hyperfocus into this pursuit. On the other hand, some may find it difficult to get or stay organized due to symptoms of being easily distracted, having trouble focusing on details, or exhibiting a tendency to feel overwhelmed when it’s time to start tasks or new projects.
How do you stay organized and motivated with ADHD?
Finding coping mechanisms and strategies that work for you is typically an important factor in staying organized and motivated when living with ADHD. For example, some people find that keeping a neat, organized space and using tools like noise-canceling headphones can help them avoid distractions when working. Many also come to rely on healthy lifestyle habits like exercising regularly and getting enough sleep to help them manage symptoms like trouble with motivation and organization, and these may even improve abilities like working memory. Seeking the support of a therapist is another way to get support in staying organized and motivated with ADHD.
Do people with ADHD have difficulty with developing skills necessary to do tasks?
Part of the ‘ADHD struggle’ for many people with this form of neurodivergence is finding effective ways to complete important tasks. This is because it’s not uncommon that ADHD affects behavioral and cognitive factors related to motivation, organization, and focus. That’s why developing organization skills for ADHD that work for you can be so important, so you can manage these symptoms in order to complete tasks.
How do you get organized when you are overwhelmed?
The key to combating overwhelm is usually to try and break your task down into smaller chunks and focus on one at a time. For example, if the item at the top of your to-do list is cleaning your room, you could jump right into the first subtask you see and focus on that—such as picking up all dirty clothes and putting them in the hamper—without paying attention to any other items. Other examples of strategies that could help include taking a deep breath before approaching a task, taking a few minutes to write out any distracting thoughts to help clear your mind before you begin, and setting timers for subtasks to remind you when it’s time to move on.
How do I get motivated to organize?
Starting small can help you get motivated to become more organized. Instead of thinking about all the tasks you have to do, choosing one small piece or subtask to focus on first can help you get going. Thinking of the benefits you’ll enjoy from achieving each part of the task can promote motivation too. You can also meet with a therapist or behavioral specialist for support related to motivation and organization.
Can being organized help with anxiety?
Some people find that keeping organized helps them feel less anxious. For example, having one specific place—sometimes referred to as a ‘launch pad’—to always put their keys and wallet can help stave off anxiety about misplacing these important items. Keeping track of appointments and deadlines in Google Calendar or a similar app could help them avoid the anxiety related to missing an important date. Setting up email filters to route junk mail to the trash folder could help an inbox seem less cluttered and more approachable. Leaning on family members, friends, support groups, and/or a therapist can also be helpful in learning to become more organized to manage anxiety.
How does organizing help manage stress?
Using sticky notes, to-do lists, and all the stuff commonly recommended for improving organization can help manage stress. Being organized can help you stay on top of tasks and deadlines in order to avoid the stress of missing or forgetting something. The act of organizing your space or your project list can also help you feel more in control and mentally prepared to tackle the next task.
How does organization help mental health?
Keeping organized can help reduce stress and anxiety in many cases, which can contribute to improved mental health. It may also make you feel more positive and more in control of your life, your goals, your space, and the tasks in front of you. Staying organized may also make it easier to stick with treatment—such as taking medication or attending therapy—for any mental health conditions you may be experiencing.
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