My New Normal

When all of the planners, gadgets, and tools meant to help me keep track of important tasks, like paying bills, failed — I devised my own system, designed for the adult ADD/ADHD mind.

Palm Pilot. DayRunner. Post-it notes. Colored file folders. BlackBerry calendar. I tried each of these planners and gadgets, determined to organize my life, to live like a “normal” adult. I wanted to make sure that important tasks, like paying the phone or heating bill, are done on time. They are repetitive and horrendously boring tasks — must they send a phone bill every month? — but being an adult means doing horrendously boring things.

None of these tools worked. So I stopped looking for the holy grail of neat and developed a system that is like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) itself. First, I adjusted my expectations. I know I will forget things…sometimes. Second, I reduced boredom by using several different systems. On my computer screen is a clock with alarms that sound regularly — “Check bank balance,” “Pay phone bill.” On my desk, to the right of my keyboard, is a paper calendar. On the left is a vertical, metal tiered file holder. Adjacent to my keyboard is scrap paper. Below my computer monitor is loose-leaf paper with the day’s date on top.

To an outsider, this is chaos. But to an ADHDer, it feels like home. It keeps my attention. When capturing thoughts on scrap paper gets boring, I e-mail them to myself instead. I’ll tinker with the system to make it compelling to me. Some days I ignore it all and do what I feel like doing, because, after all, I have ADD/ADHD.

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