Structure: The Cure for Chaos

Routines and planning are the glue that keeps your ADHD life from falling apart. Six simple tips show you how to embrace structure — and take back control.

This ADHD woman is an expert mutitasker. She's doing 6 things at once.

You won't get it 100 percent right every time. But you'll be better off than you were before.

If you want to live successfully with ADHD, you must add structure to your life. Otherwise you'll go flitting through life forgetting this, neglecting that, and procrastinating on everything else. Structure allows things to flow smoothly and keeps things under control when life hits a bumpy patch.

Last week, during a coaching call, Ann, one of my clients, told me how structure helped her fend off disorganization. Ann came to coaching six months ago. She was distracted, disorganized, and discouraged. ADHD was taking its toll on Ann's business and her personal life.

When I first coached Ann to add structure, such as planning and routines, to her day, she was afraid it would take away her creativity and flexibility. Ann finds that using structure does the opposite. As the details of her life are handled routinely, Ann can devote more time to being creative and growing her business.

If you go about adding structure to your chaotic, disorganized life in the wrong way, you will fail. What's the wrong way? Making it too big, too complicated, or tackling too much at one time. In other words, the typical way ADHD adults do most things -- all or nothing.

If you add structure the easy way, you won't get it 100 percent right every time either. But you'll be better off than you were before.

Here's how to do it:

1) First, pick one small thing that, if done regularly, will make your life easier -- making the bed or sorting the mail.

2) Next, figure out an easy way to do it. Avoid the ADHD trap of making things too complicated or too perfect.

3) Decide how often you'll do the task and when you'll do it.

4) Create reminders to keep you on track. This step is important. Avoid it at your own risk.

5) If you have a hard time doing one thing, don't give up. Try a different approach. Often a small adjustment is all you need. For example, one client couldn't seem to do his weekly planning on Friday afternoons as he had intended. We adjusted his schedule, so he'd do it the first thing Friday mornings. He has been able to follow through consistently.

6) When you can do that one thing consistently for two weeks, you're ready to add another small thing.

DANA RAYBURN is a senior ADHD coach and author of the ADD Success newsletter.

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This article appears in the Fall issue of ADDitude.
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