Busy Days Ahead
Organization: Creating Harmony, Inside and Out
Attention-deficit disorder affects the brain's executive functions - time management, short-term memory, and organization. In high school, these are the skills you need most to keep up with increasingly complex classes, extracurricular activities, an after-school job, and, if you're lucky, a thriving social life. To juggle these demands, you must find ways to organize your home and school environments, and prioritize your life.
The following strategies can help you think clearly, become more efficient, and get things done. If you need guidance, consult a coach, mentor, or a professional organizer. As with putting performance tires on your car, you'll go farther if you start off right.
- Carve out a work space. Use the "suitcase rule" to de-clutter your room. What would you pack if you were going away for a week? Put everything else away in a closet or another room. Still can't see your desktop? Stash anything you don't use every day in a box near your desk.
- Assign everything a home. Get file holders, trays, desk caddies, shelves - whatever you need to organize your work space. Label each container with colored index cards, stickers, or pens. Do the same with your car and school locker. To keep your locker organized, bring everything home at the end of each week and before every school break. Return only the things you really need - lightening your load will cut your transit time between classes.
- Be bag-specific. Keep a separate bag for books and schoolwork, sports equipment, band paraphernalia, after-school clothes. Assign pockets in each bag for specific items - you don't have time to go digging.
- Keep a calendar at hand. Always carry an appointment book or electronic calendar, such as a PDA, cellphone with organizer, or one of the dozens of other electronic devices that have a sophisticated calendar function. (See "Guidance and Gizmos"). Just as you've assigned a place for your physical possessions, you'll need to designate a time for each of your commitments and deadlines.
- Prioritize and schedule. Use a small chart or spreadsheet to visualize everything you need to do. Color-code each listing: Is it a high priority (homework due tomorrow) or a medium one (a report that can be started tomorrow)? Plan to do the most important work first, and do it at the time of day when you're freshest.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
Your child will probably need help in bringing order to his life. Without criticizing, work with him to set up routines and de-clutter his space, or get him professional help. Keeping the rest of your home in order will set a good example.
- Post a family calendar in the kitchen. Include all family events and obligations so your child can add them to his personal schedule. If you both work from electronic calendars, set aside time each evening to update and synchronize.
- Keep a to-do chart. Does your child have responsibility for housekeeping chores? Post a checklist as a nag-free reminder.
- Establish a ready-to-go place. Reserve a shelf or cabinet by the front door, where your child can park what she needs for school. Label it with colored stickers, so that keys, wallets, and meds can be easily found. Hang a hook underneath for a backpack or sports bag.
- Structure your weekends. Many ADDers panic on Sunday evening because they didn't accomplish everything they should have. Creating a weekend routine with scheduled free time and study time helps prevent a meltdown.