Today we welcome guest post author Ryan McRae, who is the founder of the website TheADHDnerd (a blog dedicated to helping people with ADHD be more productive). If you’re interested in learning more, he has a free book for download, Conquering Your Calendar and Getting More Done.
I’ve had ADHD all of my life and I never had the natural ability to organize; I distinctly remember my third grade teacher dumping my desk out when I couldn’t find something. I remember misplacing my wallet constantly and having clutter surrounding me most of my days.
The amount of time I have wasted letting my ADHD run my organizational life could have earned me a Ph.D.
No more. The following are the strategies I use to get my ADHD to cooperate with my need to have my life in order.
Pick your battles
If you are looking to clean your house, your ADHD mind will quickly attempt to deter you from this enormous project. You have to break it down into manageable pieces and if your ADHD still pressures you to catch up on your Netflix queue, break it down into smaller bits and pieces.
Instead of “cleaning the bathroom” decide to simply tidy up the sink and throw out old, empty containers. Once you do that, you’ll find one more task to do and then do that. Set that strategy on “repeat” and you’ll find you cleaned the entire place without firing up “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
One task I absolutely detest doing is laundry. The entire spectrum of the task from loading the washer to putting away the folded t-shirts puts me into a fit.
So what I do is put on a movie I’ve seen before or a podcast and listen to it while I do this abhorrent task. If there is ever a Kickstarter project that eliminates this task, I’ll put a lot of money behind it.
If you can couple something you love with something you don’t quite enjoy, you’ll be much better off. As Mary Poppins said, “A little This American Life makes the laundry get put away…”
When I used to get home from work, I’d change out of my work clothes, flop down on the couch, and think about what dinner was going to be. Many times I didn’t get up from the couch. I noticed that the next day I couldn’t remember what I did with my keys and where my shoes were. My mornings didn’t start off great and left me no time for coffee. And who has two thumbs and loves coffee? This guy.
So I had to develop a routine that I would launch into as soon as I went home so I knew where my stuff was as well as leave me room for my beloved nectar, my best friend, coffee.
When I get home now, I simply do the following:
- Grab the mail and go through it and only take in the house what I need to process. Throw out the rest.
- Empty my pockets in the container by my front door immediately.
- Change out of work shirt and evaluate if it can be worn again: hamper or hang it.
- Wash hands
- Fix Dinner
I do this every time. This way I know where everything goes and I don’t have to sweat getting my evening going. I’ve built a great morning routine and before-bed routine as well. This minimizes my stress and headaches searching and wondering what I’m doing next.
I stole this idea from Chris Bailey in The Productivity Project. Having one day, a maintenance day, to do all of your low energy tasks is much wiser than alternating between something that takes a lot of time (cleaning out the garage) and then trying to do something simple (dusting the living room). Batch all of your simple tasks together.
He calls these “low-return” tasks. Instead of doing them throughout the week, depleting some willpower throughout the week, just knock them out all in one day.
- Grocery shopping
- Clean house and office
- Do laundry
- Water plants
- Clear out the inboxes
Since my Thursday is my maintenance day, I will get up early, and attempt to get all these little tasks done before 1:00 p.m. It’s my own personal competition — this way they are cleared out for the week and I can set my mind on other larger projects.
ADHD can trick me into being collectors of all kinds of things. My weakness is t-shirts. My t-shirt collection grows due to sales and convention swag every year. I can’t get enough t-shirts.
It becomes a storage issue quite quickly. So I have my own personal Hunger Games when it comes to my t-shirts. Once I can’t fit the folded shirts in the drawer, it’s elimination time.
I use my ADHD to quickly assess which t-shirts will remain and which will be donated to the local thrift store. I simply sort them and if they don’t grab my attention, they must go. If I try it on and it’s a bit of a stretch, it is soon eliminated.
Scan, store, or shred
Paperwork can grow like this overwhelming kudzu, filling the desk and creeping into every bare surface in the house. When it comes to paperwork, there are only three choices.
Paperwork I know that I need in a moment’s notice, I’ll scan using my smartphone. I save everything on Evernote and make sure it’s secure. Examples of what I scan are: travel itineraries, passport information, and my car insurance card.
When I need to store something larger, I have a file folder system — this is for manuals, workbooks, etc.
Otherwise, I shred it and don’t look back.