Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Cleaning? ADHD? No Problem!

Eight Tips for Getting Those Projects Done

guest post by Leslie Rouder, LCSW

It’s time to consider those spring cleaning projects. Are your closets overflowing? Does your garage or attic need an overhaul? Have all those dresser or kitchen drawers accumulated mounds of clutter? Where does all that stuff in your night table come from, anyway?

Spring cleaning might seem like the biggest nightmare for someone with ADHD. But it doesn’t have to be. You can successfully tackle spring cleaning projects despite your ADHD. Let’s explore some ways to be consistently more productive and get those projects done.

1. Get motivated. Without motivation, many projects or tasks seem difficult even to start, no less finish. Get clear about the value of completing these projects, how they will positively affect your life, and keep those reasons in mind. Consider making a list of all the benefits and posting it near the project location so you will be reminded of them.

2. Know your engagement threshold and use it to your advantage. This is the longest amount of time you can consistently work while staying focused on a particular project, without being distracted or losing interest. Then evaluate how long you will actually need to accomplish the project. Try adding a cushion of about fifty percent more time. If the task takes less time than you think, you may be delighted to find you have a bit of unexpected extra time for yourself.

3. Make an action plan. How will you accomplish this goal? What are your specific action steps? For example, if you are cleaning out your closet, it might look like this:
  • Empty the entire closet (30 minutes)
  • Separate items by type of clothing (1 hour)
  • Have four boxes ready to sort all items
    •    One box for shoes and bags
    •    One box for donating to charity
    •    One box for clothing
    •    One box for items that you may want to discard
  • Re-hang all remaining clothing items by type and color (1 hour)
  • Re-fold and place clothing on shelves (1 hour)
  • Organize placement of shoes and hand bags on shelves  (30 minutes)

4. Schedule the time to do the project. Many adults with ADHD think that the only way to get something done is to break it down into small action steps. But every time you transition in and out of a particular activity, you lose a lot of time, which means you lose a lot of productivity. That's why it's important to know your uppermost threshold and set aside the time that most reflects it.

Keeping your engagement threshold in mind, set aside an appropriate amount of time to get a good chunk of the project completed. Consider those times when you have the greatest energy and ability to focus. If you know that your medication wears off at 6 PM, don’t start that project at 5 PM just because that’s when you get home from work. If you are a morning person, don’t start that project in the afternoon. Work with your schedule and block it off on your calendar.

5. Don’t be a perfectionist. Many people with ADHD get caught up in doing such a perfect job that they lose sight of the big picture. Avoid getting stuck in the minutiae. Do as much as you can as quickly as possible until the job is complete. You can always go back after it is finished to make it even better.

6. Work with a body double or professional organizer. Many adults with ADHD find it extremely helpful to have someone there to work with them while keeping them on track. Find a friend or family member who would be willing to assist. Or hire a professional organizer to work with you if you want and can afford their services.

7. Avoid distractions. Turn off the phone, television, or any other distraction that could interfere with completing your project. Once you get started, place a DO NOT DISTURB sign outside the door of the room where you are working. Tell your family not to disturb you during your allotted amount of time unless there’s an emergency. Take this commitment seriously and others will, too.

8. Make the project fun and interesting. Play fun and lively music. Invite your friends to come over and help. Use timers and create some kind of challenge to make it more engaging. Promise yourself a special reward for completing the task. Bet your partner or friend that you will finish by a certain time or else. You get the idea.

AFTER YOU READ THIS, don’t just consider the ideas. Take the time to actually plan your spring cleaning project on paper, following each step above. Imagine that it is already completed and visualize yourself having completed the task. Imagine and enjoy the feeling of having accomplished your goal. Then, take action and do it exactly as you planned and envisioned!

Want to receive more information like this? Join CHADD and receive every issue of
Attention magazine. A longer version of this post appeared in the April 2013 issue. 

Leslie Rouder, LCSW, is an ADHD coach and therapist in South Florida.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Make Peace with Paper

guest blog by Kacy Paide

As a professional office organizer, three words make me cringe: “File, don’t pile.” This is certainly a good idea, but it’s just that: an idea, not to be mistaken for solid, specific advice. How many times have you read those words and screamed inside, “I know I should file, I just don’t know how!”

Organizing advice should motivate and inspire, leaving you anxious to try something new, not feeling guilty that you haven’t yet been able to execute something so seemingly simple. An organized space cannot arise from feelings of inadequacy or a list of shoulds. The best of intentions gets buried when you don’t know how to do something, and paper organizing is no exception.

Look around your office. Do you see piles, stashes, overflowing in boxes, bags of paper, half-executed systems and remnants of good ideas? If so, you are not alone. My clients are sometimes surprised (and always relieved) that I encourage them to ditch the filing cabinet and think way outside of the box.

Your goal needn’t be to keep a clear desk. In fact, it should be the opposite: Cover your surfaces, just cover them with systems, not clutter. How do you file when you hate file folders and filing cabinets? How do you keep a clear desk when you lose anything that is in a cabinet or drawer? Here's how.

1. Use clipboards for active projects. These are especially helpful in organizing writing projects, upcoming trips and events, bills to pay, and more. Use them also as idea buckets, assigning one per project, collecting all related media—be it note scraps, stickies, tear-outs, or printouts. An added benefit is that clipboards are mobile, not married to the wall. Carry them to another room or take them to work--just remember to return them to their station on the wall.

2. Fill the desk with file boxes.  I’d rather see empty file drawers and a desk full of file boxes than orderly drawers that are useless and forgotten. This works especially well for paper-heavy current projects that you pull from or add to frequently.

3. Turn your bookcase into an open filing system.
Fill the bookshelves with file boxes. Boxes encourage you to create tight categories, drawing lines in the sand in a way that a deep file drawer can’t do. Shelves allow you to see all categories at quick glance, taking the mystery out of “what lurks in my file drawers.”

4. File on the wall. Use wall pockets just as you would file boxes. If one works, five or ten might work even better.

5. Ditch folders for magazine boxes. Convert your bookshelf into a tower of magazine files, each assigned a category.

An organized office should be a reflection of your best version of you. Sure, you may feel unfocused and scattered at times. This is not a complete picture though. At your best, you are creative, fast-thinking and expressive. Any of these suggestions, multiplied across the surfaces in your office will allow you to simultaneously thrive and live outside the lines.

Life will inevitably shake itself out all over your desk, but everything now has a home. You can see these places without opening a drawer or recalling a complicated file index. Revisiting order will take minutes, not months, and peace of mind will return just as quickly.

A longer version of this post appeared in the October 2014 issue of
Attention. The magazine is available through our free app, which you can download on the App store! Current CHADD members can access it through the app at no extra cost.

Kacy Paide (theinspiredoffice.com) is a professional organizer specializing in offices and paper. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, and consults and speaks nationally.