How to Prioritize

10 Ways to Bring Calm and Organization Back Into Your Daily Life

You’re always running late. Your house is a mess. And you’re up late catching up on work again. When it all feels overwhelming, try these helpful strategies for restoring peace and organization.

An organized bookshelf to help an adult with ADHD feel less overwhelmed
A bookshelf with a lot of different binders and other writing equipment which can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
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Steps to an Organized Life

As most adults with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) have learned, moments of forgetfulness and disorganization can have major consequences. Just one morning of misplaced keys can set your whole day off kilter, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and struggling to catch up. But, just as one episode of forgetfulness can trigger a series of negative events, one small step forward can lead to giant leaps of improvement in the organization of one's life. Here are some solutions that could start you down a new path.

Wallet, phone, sunglasses, etc, all in a row to help a disorganized person feel less overwhelmed
Money wallet glasses phone in a row on wood desk
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Get Ready for Lift-Off

Create a launch pad for your daily essentials — a place where you always put your keys, wallet, glasses, cell phone, etc. You'll know that's the place they're always going to be and every morning that's where you'll launch your day. The launch pad is a simple solution, but its effects go far beyond knowing where your keys are. You will be less stressed before you leave the house in the morning and you’ll enter a new environment more relaxed and thinking more clearly.

A hand writing a schedule to avoid feeling overwhelmed
A hand writing in a notebook
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Be Mindful of Absentmindedness

When we lose our mindfulness — meaning our complete presence and attention to the task at hand — it feels like we're losing our minds. For example, when we set down our keys, we're already on to the next task and don't notice where we left them. The first step on the path to regaining mindfulness is to build awareness. Notice when you are mindful or when you've lost mindfulness and write it down to analyze later.

[Free Handout: Clean Up and Get Organized In One Weekend]

A woman putting her key in her purse to avoid feeling overwhelmed later
Woman putting key into yellow purse
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Practice Being Mindful

Analyze your notes and think about what percent of the time you are mindful and present in the moment. Perhaps you're at 50 percent. Where do you want to get to and by when? Set a goal and practice being mindful. For example, "This week I will be mindful about where I put my cell phone. I will take a few seconds to consider where to store it in my briefcase or pocket and to notice when I'm placing it. Next week, I'll work on my keys.”

Person feeling overwhelmed and using phone while driving
Someone using phone while driving hands on wheel
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Overcoming Distractibility

To overcome distractibility, you need to develop a two-step brain pattern: 1) Evaluate the incoming information. 2) Shift back to the present if the information isn't urgent, or jump off and focus on the new information if you judge it to be a high priority. A helpful way to do this is to rate the urgency and importance of each new message or input. Give it a rating of 1-10. Anything seven and over demands immediate attention. Anything four or below can probably be ignored for the time being.

Teen girl waking up in the morning with hand on alarm clock
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Beat the Clock

Always running late may be a sign that your commitments are beyond your personal bandwidth. If so, consider the following suggestions to conquer habitual lateness: Write down a list of your commitments — daily, weekly, monthly. Determine if some can be jettisoned, delegated, or reduced. Prevent over-scheduling by learning to say no. Reduce your list of regular commitments by at least 10 percent.

A woman doing yoga to avoid feeling overwhelmed
Woman doing yoga with arms outstretched
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Give Yourself Daily Downtime

Lateness and forgetfulness may be signs that you need some downtime to restore calm and balance and to increase brain function. Try 10 to 15 minutes a day of a repetitive, mindful activity (deep breathing, meditation, yoga). You can do it in the morning to start the day on a calm footing or in late afternoon. Use this time to adjust your emotional balance, and check negative thoughts at the door.

[Learning How to Say "No"]

Businessman feeling overwhelmed as employees shove papers and phones in his face
Upset man holding hands on head as people shove papers and phones at him
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Multitasking Myth

Don’t fret about your inability to multitask; research shows it isn't effective. Each task, brief or otherwise, is best done with your full attention. Bring your entire consciousness to each task and make a clear break — a mental transition — between tasks. Don't let the previous task or a future task infect the current one. When you bring your full presence to a task, time slows down and expands, and much can get done in small moments.

Clocks showing different times, representing people feeling overwhelmed by deadlines
Clocks with different times
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Schedule Interruption-Free Zones

If you feel like you can't get ahead because of the constant demands on your time, schedule interruption-free zones during the most productive times each day. Start with 15 minutes, then build up over time. Practice not looking at texts, e-mails, or calls when you're in an interruption-free zone. Then, when you need a break, schedule a 20-minute zone to deal with these interruptions. Enjoy the sense of control that comes from not responding in knee-jerk fashion.

Woman with ADHD stretches
Woman with ADHD stretches
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Practice Positive Thinking

Stress caused by distraction and disorganization can lead to an overall deterioration of physical and mental health. Turn priorities upside down and take care of your health first, which will give you more energy, balance, and calm to get things done. To reduce stress, take a few moments each week to review the good things in your life. This may sound trite, but it will help you shift to a more positive footing.

A man at the top of a mountain, no longer feeling overwhelmed by life
Man at the top of a mountain, with sun in front of him
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Shift Your Mental Picture

Ever have a nagging sense that you are teetering on the edge and all it will take is one more task to send you plummeting into chaos? Change that pattern of thinking by saying "I'm doing a good job; I'm keeping my cool and balance in spite of the risk of going over the edge." Shift your mental picture from one of you trembling on the precipice to you confidently walking along the edge, filled with the promise of discovery. Yes, that's you, on your way to great new things. Enjoy the view!

[Repeat After Me: I Can, and I Will]