Managing ADHD: It's All About Having the Right Tools
When I was younger, I couldn’t understand why everyone else could absorb information when I needed it to be repeated over and over. It seemed like I couldn’t remember anything, as hard as I tried to focus. Eventually, I was diagnosed with ADHD, which is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. There are three types of ADHD: Inattention, hyperactivity, and a combination of both. I mainly fall into the inattention category.
Symptoms of inattention are:
- Not paying attention to detail
- Making careless mistakes
- Failing to pay attention and keep on task
- Not listening
- Being unable to follow or understand instructions Avoiding tasks that involve effort
- Being distracted or forgetful
- Losing things that are needed to complete tasks
The first time I saw that list, I couldn’t believe that my problems could be identified so clearly. But identifying them was just the first step. Dealing with them and overcoming them was a whole different struggle.
I realized I needed to develop specific tools to deal with these issues. I needed to get organized and learn how to be more efficient with my time and effort. Over the last ten years or so, I’ve developed tools and strategies that help me stay on track and succeed. I can’t imagine my life without these tricks, and I think everyone with ADHD (or anyone who’s got too much going on) should consider implementing these in their everyday lives.
Organization: I HAVE to stay organized. I can’t trust my brain to remember where something is or why it’s important, so I need my organizational system to do that for me. I bought a file cabinet and plenty of folders, and I make sure that every document I’ve ever received is organized into these folders alphabetically. Now that I’m working full-time, most of my important documents are on my computer, so I make sure my “Documents” folder is categorized so I can find anything I need quickly. I’ve learned that I need to put any new document away as soon as I get home, so there’s no chance that it’ll get lost in my apartment or in my bag. I go through all my files every six months or so, to get rid of stuff I no longer need, and also to refresh my mind about where things are and why I have them. It’s so gratifying to know that all my important documents are in one place, and that I can find them quickly and easily.
My favorite digital tool to use is called Evernote. It’s basically just a notebook application, but it’s unique in that it syncs automatically on my computer, my smartphone, and I can access it on the Evernote website. It’s free, and it’s a relief to know that wherever I am, I’ll have access to anything I need. I also use Google Docs for the same purpose, but I’ve found that Evernote is more reliable.
I’m cautious with all my daily items, too. I have a hook on the door for my keys and I make sure that I leave them there as soon as I get home. I have one spot where I keep my phone and another for my camera, and when I arrive home, I put them back immediately.
Memory: My memory always causes me problems, so I try to do whatever I can to absorb as much information as possible. I keep a journal and I write in it almost every night. I’ll go into detail about what I did that day, my interactions, how I felt and what I learned. Even if I’m too tired, I’ll write down a quick list of what I did that day. I find that recapping my day helps me to absorb my experiences and keep track of what’s happening when. My journals also serve as great references when I need to figure out when, where or how something happened. I win a lot of arguments because I have it all in writing!
Communication: I had to re-teach myself how to listen to others once I recognized that I don’t process information like everyone else. I make sure I always have a pen and paper or my smartphone so I can write down anything I need to remember. Whenever I get instructions, I write them down; it’s unlikely that I’ll remember and it’s inconvenient for me and the other person if I have to ask them over and over. Most importantly, I’ve learned to be assertive, and ask if I don’t understand. People want you to do something right the first time, and no one will mind if you ask them to clarify if you’re unsure of what they’re talking about. It’s so much better to ask and get it right the first time than to be confused, worry about it, attempt a task without knowing exactly how to do it, and then finally go back and ask for clarification. It wastes time and adds unnecessary stress to everyone’s lives.
Managing ADHD is doable, and I’ve found that I’m better off than many people because of the techniques I’ve learned to overcome it. I get frustrated sometimes when I get tired of having to work harder than everyone else, but really, these are skills that anyone can use to ensure that their lives go more smoothly. Because I have these tools in my toolbox, I never feel burdened by my ADHD, and that’s the most important thing to work toward.
Allie Lemco is a production assistant for ShareWIK Media Group where she not only keeps herself organized but the rest of ShareWIK's staff, as well. She lives in Atlanta.