Long post – the first 5 numbered items are good habits I’ve trained into myself to make day-to-day functioning easier. The second list of numbered items is my intensive system for Crazy Days, not for the faint of heart.
Developing routines is often very difficult for me, and many of the systems I’ve developed for the crazy days (especially when I have to be out and about) require so much energy that I can’t do them every day. That said, here are the simple habits I’ve gotten into that help me a lot:
(1) Make your commonly-misplaced items noisy. For instance, my keys have attachments that jingle. I have a dish in my bedroom for them and a hook on the wall by the door, and the sound helps me remember where they ended up – CLINK means the dish, JINGLE means the hook. (I also hook them to my belt loop and leave them there at all times while I’m out — they jingle when I walk, so I know I have them.)
(2) Break the habit of setting things down. I always need to wear something with pockets — I wear a sweatshirt or a robe at home if my outfit doesn’t have pockets already — so that when I need my hands free, I’m not tempted to put my phone in the fridge, on a tower of papers, next to the fish tank, in my laundry basket, on an unmade bed…it helps a lot. Phone goes in the pocket, not on the coffee table.
(3) As quietlylost said, narrate everything you do out loud. “I’m picking up this mug to put it in the kitchen. I’m going to the kitchen to put the mug in the sink. I’m putting the mug in the sink. The mug is in the sink.” / “I’m getting my keys out of my pocket to lock the door. I have my keys in my hand because I’m locking the door. I’m locking the door. The door is locked. I’m putting my keys back on my belt because the door is locked.” This helps me a) remember what I was doing so I don’t wipe my working memory every time I go through a doorway and b) recall when I’ve finished something.
(4) Keep pens and something to write on everywhere — car, kitchen, bedroom, purse. Shoot, clip a little notebook to your keychain or keep post-it notes in your wallet. Every time you think to yourself, “I’ll remember that,” write it down anyway. (On paper, in a Word Document called “reminders,” in the Notes app on your phone, on your arm — use what’s on hand.) Appointments, things you suddenly remember you’ll need to eventually get from the grocery store, an email you promised to send someone, a birthday. The MOST IMPORTANT HABIT, though, is to COMPILE the second you have a few minutes to spare. Take all your post-its, scribbles on your skin, bullet points in your notes, etc. and put it in your calendar/planner/what-have-you as soon as you get the chance, or this will get very frustrating very quickly as you find yourself losing your notes. (If you remember to carry a planner with you everywhere, you’ll eliminate the middle man and streamline the process — but I know I’m very bad about remembering my planner, hence the many notes-to-self on my arm.)
(5) Have a go-pack, and tailor it to what works for you. Personally, I can’t carry a purse — things go in and out too often so I can’t remember if my phone/keys/wallet/etc. are in there, and then I tend to leave my bag places. My go-pack is a jacket with a lot of pockets containing the usual purse-clutter: wallet, headphones, chapstick, business cards, keys (if they’re not on the hook, in the dish, or clipped to me), phone (if I’m not holding it), etc. so that once the jacket is on, I have it all with me, and I can pat my pockets as I go through my front-door mantra — if a pocket is empty, I know I don’t have that item and can take a second to look for it. “Phone,” breast pocket, “keys,” right hip, “wallet,” left hip. (“I’m locking the front door now. The door is locked. I’m putting the keys back in my pocket because the door is locked.”)
Again, these are habits. They take time to develop. Hanging my keys is automatic for me, now. Putting my phone in my pocket instead of setting it down isn’t something I think about anymore, but it took weeks to get there. Never setting down the milk jug (“I’m getting the milk out to put it in my tea, and then I’m gonna put it away. I’m pouring milk in my tea, and then I’m putting it away. I’ve poured the milk, now it’s going back in the fridge. It’s in the fridge. Now I can enjoy my tea.”) took about a month. Brushing my teeth is linked to turning on the shower, even when I’m half asleep. (“Shower’s on, brush your teeth. Shower’s on, brush your teeth.”) I still haven’t figured out how to boil water, steep tea, add cream and sugar, and then finish the cup without forgetting about it somewhere along the way, so I might have to switch back to a stove-top kettle and get a little chess timer that I tap when I pour the water.
Alright. Buckle up. For my crazy busy days, my process is as follows. (It’s exhausting so I can’t do this every day, but it helps me pretend to be A Functional Adult for 12 hours when I have 12 hours’ worth of responsibilities to get done on a time limit. Then I can recover.)
(0) In the weeks leading up, I’ve been doing my best to make note of my obligations for Crazy Day. The night before, I block out one to three hours for prep time.
(1) Sit down with my planner and notes (see no. 4 above). List out all obligations, categorize them, and order them. Some (like appointments) have times built-in — I write these out. Some (like commutes) have set durations. I add time buffers to these. Some (like cooking or getting ready in the morning) have smaller steps — I list these out, too. Write down how much time I think each will take. Add time buffers.
(2) Write up a final schedule. If I need to be the next town over at 1:00 and it’s a 45-minute drive, I add a buffer and decide I need to leave the house at noon. That’s lunchtime, so I’ll need to eat something in the car on the way. Chores will take two and a half hours (and I have planned, down to the minute, which I will be doing at what time), and I need to run to the store (an hour), so that begins at 8:30. Dog needs to be walked (an hour) and then I need to get ready (35 minutes). Wake up time? 6:45.
(3) What items will I need to accomplish each of these tasks? Write them down. As I continue prepping through the evening, I write down more as they come to me. Steps 1-3 usually take me over an hour — I’m working my impaired executive functions to the breaking point, so I’ve got to take my time.
(4) The magic step. I become my own life coach, my own mom, my own butler. I collect up all the items I need for each task and put them in the places I know I’ll be. For instance: dog leash and harness on the floor in front of the door. The clothes I will wear to walk the dog on a chair I leave next to my bed. The dog’s breakfast (already measured and in the bowl) on top of my bath towel and clothes for the day so that I don’t forget to feed her before I shower. Stuff I need for my appointment goes in the car with a post-it note listing off what they are. All ingredients for dinner are sitting on the counter with every bowl and spoon and measuring cup I’ll need, along with a step-by-step ADHD-friendly rewrite of the recipe. I need to wrap this birthday gift before I leave for my appointment at noon but after I buy wrapping paper at the store — tape and scissors inside my cup next to the kettle so I remember to do it while I make tea once I’m back from the store. Make a sandwich to eat in the car on the way to the appointment and put it in the fridge — with my car keys.
(5) The magic continues — alarms, alarms, alarms. Every task on my schedule gets its own alarm. Any task that’s going to take some transition time — for example, grabbing my sandwich, my jacket, and my keys and getting into the car to drive to my appointment — gets a warning alarm, too. Put descriptions in the alarm. “6:45 – Wake up — you have an hour to walk the dog.” “7:55 – Get in the shower now.” “8:20 – Leave for store in five minutes. Green beans, wrapping paper, dozen eggs.” “8:25 – Leave for store now. Bags already in car.” “11:55 – Don’t forget your sandwich; keys in fridge.” These alarms become my brain for the day.
(6) Stick to the plan. I carry the schedule with me everywhere. If I forget it, that’s okay — I have my alarms. As soon as they go off, I’m on to the next thing.
The prep work the night before takes every ounce of my willpower and a huge amount of time, because if I miss something during prep time, it won’t happen the next day. If you take short-acting medication, take it then. This prep night is what makes the whole system work, but it’s very, very taxing, so I can only pull it off a few times a month.
Thanks for bearing with me. Hope this is helpful!
- This reply was modified 1 year ago by hvhwitaker. Reason: hard to read