Getting your life in order is a key step toward reaching your goals. No secret there. So why do we put up with chronic disorder at home, at work, and in our personal lives?
Judith Kolberg suggests it's a matter of perfectionism: We're unable to do what it takes to get even a bit more organized because we worry that we won't become perfectly organized. And as Kolberg, author of Conquering Chronic Disorganization, points out, there is no such thing as perfect organization. Life is capricious, and get-it-done strategies that work well today may prove useless tomorrow.
The good news, says Kolberg, who's now president of FileHeads Professional Organizers (www.fileheads.net), is that seemingly small changes can bring big improvements in your life--less clutter, fewer hassles, and greater tranquility.
The Big Picture
1. Set time limits for decision-making.
ADDers can spend days agonizing over decisions that others make in minutes. Speed the process by setting a time frame or a budget cap. If you're choosing a summer camp for your child, for example, set a deadline, and make the best choice you can by that date. If you're deciding which new cell phone to buy, pick a price cap and ignore more costly phones.
Always identify the most important factor to consider in making any decision, whether it's price, convenience, aesthetics, practicality, or something else. Focus solely on that factor when considering your decision.
2. Fight the tendency to over-commit.
For each new commitment you make, give up an old one. If you agree to join the school fund-raising committee, for instance, give up the neighborhood watch committee. ADDers tend to spread themselves too thin.
3. Keep your to-do lists brief.
Using big, bold letters, make a list of no more than five tasks on an index card. (List any additional items on the back of the card.) Once you have done those five things, refer to the back of the card to create a new to-do list--and discard the old one. You'll accomplish more, feel less frustrated, and manage your time better. (For a high-tech approach to to-do lists, turn to page 27.)
4. Fight hyperfocus.
Set an alarm clock, kitchen timer, or computer alert--or arrange for someone reliable to call you at a specified time or times. If you tend to lose yourself on eBay for hours at a time, you need this kind of help.
5. Use a "body double."
This is a friend or family member who sits with you as you tackle mundane chores, like balancing a checkbook, filling out a job application, or reviewing financial statements. Your body double will create a productive atmosphere by sitting quietly and doing an unobtrusive task, like affixing stamps to envelopes or clipping recipes from a magazine.
6. Keep extra medication on hand.
Each time you fill a prescription, write in your planner the date on which you'll need to renew it (or set your computer to issue an alert or generate an e-mail reminder on that date). Ask your pharmacist if he can call to remind you when it's time to refill. Your "renew date" should be at least one week before the date on which you'll run out of medication.
7. Build socializing into your schedule.
That way, your desires to meet new people, have interesting conversations, and keep up with friends are taken care of automatically. Take a class, join a book club or a lecture series, or start a dinner club.
8. Join an ADD support group.
Support groups provide more than emotional support. For example, the members can get together online when it's time to tackle boring tasks, like filling out tax returns or filing: One at a time, each person leaves the computer, dedicates 15 minutes to the task at hand, then returns to instant messaging--to joke, commiserate, and congratulate one another.
Find out more about online and in-person support groups at (addconnect.com).
9. Carry a colorful wallet.
It's harder to misplace a red wallet than an ordinary black or brown one. The same goes for your checkbook.
10. Buy experiences, not objects.
There's nothing wrong with a little "retail therapy" to reward yourself for your accomplishments. But think twice before buying some new object (which may become just another bit of clutter in your home). Instead, use your money to buy a pleasant experience, such as a massage or a night out with friends.
11. Stop agonizing over insignificant items.
What to do with greeting cards you've received, batteries of dubious power, unidentified CDs and cassette tapes, orphaned screws, and so on? Toss them into a "ripening drawer." Once the drawer is full, quickly sort through it. Use what you can, and discard the rest. Then start the process anew.
12. Get a "clutter companion."
This is a (nonjudgmental) friend or family member who will help you get rid of all the stuff that's cluttering up your house. A few times a year, you and your companion should sort your clutter into four piles: "keep," "toss," "donate," and "age." Discard the "toss" items at once--before you have a chance to change your mind. Place "donate" items in heavy-duty garbage bags, and drive them to the nearest donation bin. Place "age" items in a cardboard box marked with a date three months hence. In your calendar, mark the same date as the time to "review age items." When that date rolls around, give those items another look. If you feel comfortable discarding them, do so. If not, renew the date for another three months.
13. Fight financial-statement overload.
Do you really need to keep monthly account statements? Ask your accountant if you can get by with keeping only quarterly or annual statements--and toss the rest.
14. Don't let unread magazines pile up.
If the next issue arrives before you've read the last one, place the last one in a small basket (measuring no more than six inches high and two magazine-widths across). Once the basket fills up, sift through the magazines. Read what you can, and discard or recycle the rest. (You might drop off the best magazines at a hospital or women's shelter.)
If you are habitually unable to keep up with the issues of a particular magazine, cancel the subscription.
YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
15. Make use of "wasted" minutes.
Don't wait to find long blocks of uninterrupted time to tackle organizational chores. In one minute, you can sort mail, remove lint from the dryer, or water the plants. In five minutes, you can empty the dishwasher or write an e-mail. While you wait for your laundry to dry, you can mate socks and gather clothes for dry cleaning.
16. Create a "launch pad" near the front door.
This is the place to stash things that family members need each time they leave the house--umbrellas, school backpacks, briefcases, pocketbooks, keys, scarves, and so on. The launch pad might have cubbies, pegs, hooks, containers--anything that makes it easy to find and grab things as you head out the door.
17. Ditch those receipts.
Each evening, empty your pockets, wallet, purse, and briefcase of all ATM slips and receipts. Put them in with your stack of bills to be paid and financial statements to review.
Too much loose change? If coins pile up on your dresser, get a jar to put them in. At the end of the month, you'll have an extra $15 or so to spend--a reward for keeping your pockets free of clutter.
18. Simplify your wardrobe.
The more clothes you have, the harder it is to decide what to wear each morning. So continually winnow out extra clothing. If you get a new shirt, for instance, consider getting rid of an old one. In spring and summer, coordinate all your clothing around only two colors, plus white. In fall and winter, coordinate all your clothing around two other colors, plus black. You'll feel liberated by having fewer outfits to choose from--and you'll save money on clothes.
19. Pre-assemble your clothes into complete outfits.
Hang them on sturdy hangers in your closet. You'll get dressed faster each morning, with less confusion and second-guessing. This strategy works for men and women alike, and is especially helpful for organizing business attire. Women can slip a baggie with matching jewelry onto the hanger. For items to help organize children's clothes and toys, take a look at Days of the Week Closet Organizer on Amazon.com.
This article appears in the Winter issue of ADDitude.
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To share your ADHD organization strategies, visit the ADHD Adults support group on ADDConnect.