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Go Paperless: Digital Organization Help for Adults with ADHD

How to separate the important sheets from the chaff.

How to separate the important sheets from the chaff.
How to separate the important sheets from the chaff.

Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are our own worst enemy when it comes to managing paper. We keep things because we tell ourselves we’ll need them — even if we haven’t looked at them in five years and don’t know where we’ve put them. There seems to be security in knowing they’re around somewhere.

What most of us need is someone to separate us emotionally from the paper we no longer need, which clutters our mind and living space. I’m that person:

1. Open your mail every day. Or make a weekly appointment with yourself — and don’t break it! — to open all of your mail and pay all your bills. Recycle junk mail immediately.

2. Put the ball in other people’s court. The big goal is to have no papers on your desk, counter, or chair. To achieve that, act on every piece of paper in your designated pile. Do your part and you won’t have to think about the project, task, or question — until others get back to you.

3. Get virtual. Convert any paper document into a file on your computer — then shred it. Don’t print out anything — unless you will need it outside your home or office. Back up important information on your computer or an external hard drive.

4. Fear not the shredder. If you run a business, shred all tax papers older than 11 years; individuals don’t need financial papers older than seven years. Keep birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, driver’s licenses and passports, along with the deed/title to your home, and homeowner’s insurance, in a fireproof lock box.

5. Box papers that you don’t know what to do with. Write a destroy date on top — about six months from now. If you need to go into the box to find a document — and you actually use it — put it with the items to keep. Anything left in the box on the destroy date should be thrown out.

6. Create digital to-do lists. Instead of keeping sticky notes all over the house, use a mobile device, tablet, or other digital app to prioritize items and assign everything a due date. If a task needs a follow-up, set a date to take further action.

Updated on May 31, 2017

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