I am not what you would call a naturally organized person. I always joke that I didn’t get that gene. It seems to have skipped a generation in my case. My mother is insanely organized, as is my daughter, but my daughter didn’t get it from me, although she might have inherited it through me. Maybe genetic researchers will find that organization is a recessive gene—it definitely must be in my case!
I know plenty of people who seem to be born organized, many of whom are in my immediate family. I’ve envied them most of my life, and I even married one, but I definitely do not belong to THAT tribe! My tribe is comprised of the pile makers. The messies. The project starters. The paperwork haters. The detail overlookers. The scattered. We are also the well-intentioned, the creatives, and the fun-loving jacks of many trades. We have lots and lots of redeeming qualities, but a natural ability to be organized is generally not one of them!
As you probably know, I am a woman with ADD, mom to a teen with ADHD, and a professional ADD Coach. I struggled with organization most of my life. My room was always a disaster area, and my best friend in high school (yes, Deborah, you!) used to have to help me clean it so that I was allowed to leave the house. I didn’t want to be disorganized and messy, and I always had good intentions. I hated that I couldn’t find things I needed, and I felt like everyone else knew some secret that they weren’t letting me in on. I knew I was smart and capable in so many ways. Why couldn’t I keep it together?!
Of course, the answer now is very clear: my undiagnosed ADD was getting in the way. I was in my 30s before I realized that ADD was what was holding me back, but that still didn’t solve the problem.
Today, people often refer to me as “organized” and “together,” and I sometimes still feel like I need to look over my shoulder to make sure they’re not talking about someone else in the room. I joke, but it’s something I have worked hard to learn to be, and I am very proud when others recognize the effort.
My clients often ask me what is the one thing that has helped me the most to better manage my life and be more organized. I think they’re usually looking for some secret smart phone app or filing system, but the answer is simple: structure and routine. (I can almost feel the eye-rolls as I type those words!). For those of us with ADHD/ADD, structure and routines are something of a double-edged sword: we resist them and push back against them, but we crave them and flourish in their presence at the same time. It’s a tough dichotomy for many of us to find balance. To make it worse, most of us who are adults with ADD/ADHD also have kids with the same brain wiring. Of course, we’re told that giving structure/routine to our children is essential to helping them improve their functioning.
Herein lies the rub: Giving a child with ADHD who is craving structure/routine is impossible if you haven’t figured out how to give it to yourself!
We adults with ADD need the structure and routine as much as our children do. We tend to push back against it almost intuitively, but structure and routine are your friends! They actually free us up to do the bigger and better things that we are so capable of doing. Structure and routine can help you “get your own mind out of your way” so that you’re not fighting your ADD tendencies (like procrastination, poor follow-through, difficulty getting started on things, etc.) quite as much. Structure and routine can allow us to put so much of our lives on auto-pilot–especially that mundane, everyday minutia that we tend to struggle so much with!
Parents of kids with ADHD sometimes come to my practice feeling such guilt for investing the time and money in themselves for coaching. If this is where your head is, it’s time to shift your thinking! Taking care of yourself enables you to be your best for others. It’s not selfish to be your best; it enables you to give more to others. Moreover, it’s a great lesson for your children! Especially for our children with ADHD & ADD.
I often remind my adult clients with kids that there is no better gift you can give your children than to lead by example! What a great lesson it is when we parents show our children that we are willing to work hard and persevere in order to improve our own lives! Children learn what they live. When we can learn to live well WITH our ADD, what better example can we be setting for our kids?!
A well-trained ADD Coach can help you immensely with implementing structure and routine, and there are plenty of DIY resources out there that one can investigate (flylady.net comes to mind). Alarms, timers, and electronic calendars with recurring appointments are really a big help for me. Putting your life in a rhythm or routine helps you get more done with less internal resistance—it helps you get your own mind out of your way!
Developing routines & structure takes time, effort, and patience, but it’s so very well worth it in the end!
How can I help you help yourself to be the best you can be? Contact me for a complimentary consultation to find out.