Ask the Experts

Dear Organizing Coach: I Need Systems to Tackle My Lingering To-Do Lists

You have no trouble creating to-do lists. Actually tackling them is another thing altogether. You can never find the time, or you always prioritize something else first, or you just forget. Learn better to-do list strategies here.

Q: “I feel lost and completely disorganized. I try to do the whole to-do list thing. Writing it down is not a problem, but the follow through is a HUGE problem. Setting up routines and following through with them for the morning and evening never seem to stick. What are your suggestions? I was just recently diagnosed and trying to figure out how to function.” —Adhdbaglady

Hi Adhdbaglady:

We’ve all been there. Setting up routines that stick is hard! Here are a few tips to get you started.

Build On Your Success

Before we dive in, I need to ask you a question: What systems do you have in place right now that are working for you? Perhaps you always charge your phone in the kitchen and never forget since you pass through the kitchen often. Or, you always leave your bag by the front door so you literally have to trip over it to leave.

[Self-Test: Is Your Procrastination Out of Control?]

My point is that, if you have a system in place that is already working for you, then pairing another task to it might be the best way to put an additional routine in place. For example, I had a client who never forgot her homemade lunch since she saw it immediately when she opened the refrigerator door in the morning. So to ensure that she didn’t forget other items, she would place them in the refrigerator right next to her lunch!

Use Visual Cues

Perhaps visual prompts work better for you than written to-do lists? As I say to my coaching clients, “You need to see what you need to do — coming AND going.” And, after a while, we stop seeing to-do lists. They just add to the clutter. So try this out-of-the box idea: Have someone take photos of you moving through your morning and evening routines. These should be “action shots” of you taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth, feeding the dog. You get the picture! Post the photos in the most heavily trafficked areas of your home. Research shows that we remember images faster than we do text, which our brain have to work a lot harder to process.

It might seem unconventional, but I’m hopeful it will get the job done!

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions here!