Approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to parent report from 2011-12. The number of young children (ages 2-5) with ADHD increased by more than 50% from the 2007-2008 survey (www.cdc.gov). This condition is prevalent and growing. I’m guessing, like me, you know several people affected by it. If you’re one of those dealing with ADHD it affects everything in your life – time management, productivity, your home, your work, relationships and so on.
Challenges in getting organized for the ADHDer are:
1) They have trouble with working memory which is used for temporarily holding information available for processing.
2) Their brains are under-aroused so they are always seeking stimulation.
3) They are linear sequential thinkers that often skip tasks. So they go from A-B-F without performing C-D-E. Therefore they miss important steps.
4) They tend to be pleasure-centered thinkers which can cause them to make quick choices that are not in their long term best interest. In ADHD, there is “now” and “not now” so they put off many tasks to “not now”.
5) They have a lot of intentions and try to get the perfect system then get overwhelmed. They tend to beat themselves up 10x worse than anyone who may criticize them.
Organizing tips for success:
1) When starting to organize, start with a room that is important to them or they’re most interested in to keep them engaged.
2) Group all incomplete projects together so they can see the amount of things they think they’re going to get to.
3) They need their organizing and maintenance to be fun in some way or they’ll avoid it. Turn the music on. Loud.
4) Be there with them. Even if you’re not helping in the organizing or task at hand, just be nearby or in the room to ground them to the space and tasks to be done.
5) They tend not to estimate time well. Use a timer to time tasks so they know how long it takes. If they know the dishwasher only takes 5 minutes to empty they’ll be more likely to do it next time.
6) Use color wherever possible – labels, folders, bins.
7) Self care is important: Plenty of sleep, eat protein, take medication, take breaks for a fun activity after say 20 minutes.
8) Have a plan B with the system. They like to mix it up or they get bored and lose interest and quit doing the system.
ADHD folks (and many others) need help in processing their items. They need questions to be asked so they can accurately assess if the item has value to them. Sometimes a simple question of “keep or toss” is too much and they don’t know how to decide.
Questions to ask them about their stuff that might help move them along:
1) If this were broken, would you immediately replace it? If they answer, “No I haven’t used that in a year.” Tell them that’s a pretty good indication that they can get rid of it.
2) If someone offered you money for this, would you accept it?
3) Did you remember having this?
4) Do you remember using this in the last year?
On the bright side, there are some really positive characteristics of folks with ADHD too. They are some of my favorite people!
1) Hyper-focus. An awesome thing to have if you can effectively channel all that attention and energy into work that makes a difference.
2) Resilience. They adapt and push forward with new strategies.
3) Ingenuity. They’ve had to overcome hurdles and think outside the box to live life functionally counter-culturally.
4) Spontaneous. Sometimes acting on impulse results in wonderful things!
5) High energy. This can be contagious and motivating for others to get things done.
Most of the time I can relate with my clients challenges more than see our differences. My clients aren't perfect and I'm far from it as well. We're all unique, we need to help each other reach our full potential.