Organizational strategies for the disorganized

phone in the fridge

Have you ever unloaded your groceries and deposited stuff in the fridge along with your cell phone?  I have, and the fridge is the first place I look when I misplace my phone.

I am chronically driven to distraction and have a sneaky suspicion that I have a touch of attention deficit disorder.  It renders me scattered and disorganized – always rummaging around in search of keys, camera, shoes, etc. The older I get, the worse the disorder gets. 

Heck. I should qualify for one of those great handicapped parking passes!  In the meantime I do what I can to stay on top of things and never, ever lay anything down in a store, or it is doomed to remain there in eternity. I believe I’ve lost a grand total of 28 pair of reading glasses over the past year – most left in restaurants or on the church pew.

If you find yourself growing increasingly forgetful here are a few tips strategies you can employ:

Make lists. Writing things down tends to go against the natural instinct of most people with ADD/ADHD — after all, making a list is a task that requires you to pay attention. But memory experts agree that the more senses you use to store something in your mind, the better your chances of recalling it later on. So instead of just making a mental note, actually write down the words, “Sign up for tuba lessons.” The additional tactile sense will help you “feel” it into your memory and increase your chance of actually completing the task.

Display schedules. Creating date-specific plans for getting projects done is a great idea, but schedules don’t help unless you can make yourself stay on them. Don’t stash your written plan away in some notebook or computer file where you’ll forget about it. Post it in a prominent place, suggests Grossberg — perhaps on a bulletin or dry-erase board in your office — and use bright colors to highlight key sections and important tasks.

Lean on electronics . “The boom in electronic devices has been helpful for people with ADD/ADHD,” says Grossberg. “PDAs [personal digital assistants, like the BlackBerry] and watches often have built-in alarm and reminder functions that can help you remember deadlines and meetings.” Take full advantages of all gadgets that will buzz, beep, vibrate, or automatically send you an e-mail or text message when you need it.

Designate places for things. Doing something as simple as designating a specific place for everything — from your car keys and checkbook to your grater and spatula — will alleviate the annoyance of always having to hunt for what you need. Try to develop good habits of placement. Install a hook specifically for your car keys. Instead of stashing all your kitchen utensils in a pile in the cabinet, buy a drawer organizer or put them in a piece of pottery on the counter. Small improvements in efficiency add up quickly.

piles Be a pile-buster. In their inspiring and practical book, Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder, Drs. Edward Hallowell and John Ratey warn against the ADD/ADHD tendency to “organize” by building piles of paper.

“Piles can become the stuff of nightmares in living with attention deficit,” they say. Instead, these experts suggest attacking the piles in your workspace as if they were adversaries that must be defeated. Once you reduce the piles, prevent their return by adopting the OHIO method for dealing with a piece of paper: Only Handle It Once.

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