If you want to get more organized in 2023, then you’re not alone. If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), however, it may seem like a monumental task. The good news is that whether you have ADHD or simply share some of the same struggles with organization, even small changes can have huge benefits.
Selected from a recent HomeAdvisor blog on organization hacks for people with ADHD, the following tools will help you improve your concentration, planning, and productivity—at work and at home.
1. Calendars and Planners
Whether you struggle with forgetfulness, distractibility, procrastination, time management, or all of the above, one productivity tool is indispensable: the calendar. Calendars serve as the home base for all of your tasks, allowing you to visualize, organize, and prioritize them in one place. You can input appointments instead of relying on your memory and even add electronic reminders for tasks to help minimize procrastination.
Since planners come in all sorts of shapes and forms, you can choose the one that works best for your brain and your lifestyle. If you like keeping track of everything on the phone in your pocket, then try a smartphone planning app.
If looking at your devices increases your distraction level, then consider an old-school paper calendar on your work desk or an erasable whiteboard calendar in your home. Just keep trying until you find the solution that works for you—the best planning tool is the one you use regularly.
2. To-Do Lists and Chore Charts
Calendars are ideal for time-sensitive tasks, while to-do lists work well for things without a specific date or time. You can even use the two tools together by blocking out periods on your calendar to tackle your to-do list. If you tend to make to-do lists or chore charts but then procrastinate on follow-through, a few simple suggestions can help with motivation.
To avoid getting overwhelmed, break down large tasks into smaller milestones or into smaller periods with time blocking. Setting a timer to work for 15 minutes and rest for 5 (or whatever pattern works for you) can prevent your mind from wandering and stay on task.
You might schedule weekly chores for a specific day, like organizing your desk on Thursdays or vacuuming on Sundays. Don’t forget to reward yourself with both smaller rewards, like crossing tasks off your list, and larger rewards, like treating yourself to ice cream when you reach a certain goal.
3. Sticky Notes
Because those with ADHD and ADD (attention deficit disorder) often struggle with forgetfulness, having items in plain sight can make things easier. Colored sticky notes provide visible reminders of the things we need to do or remember. Put a post-it on the fridge as a grocery list, on the front door to remember to bring your lunch, or on your computer monitor to keep frequently used information at hand.
If you need to organize your family’s chores, try combining sticky notes with color coding (described below) and give each family member a designated color.
4. Clear or Open Containers
While organizing your home and office can help reduce distraction, sometimes we lose track of things that are put away. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to tolerate clutter in your space. Thanks to clear plastic tubs and open bins, you can organize your belongings neatly in closets, on shelves, and in cabinets without forgetting where they are.
When everything has a home in a visible spot, you can rely less on memory to find items when you need them. Place your keys on a hook near the door, put seasonal clothes in a clear bin in your closet, and keep office supplies in an open basket on your desk. An added benefit: When you can see what you have, you won’t rush out to buy new items, thus saving you time, money, and further clutter.
5. Labels for Everything
If clear containers don’t always make sense, labels can be a lifesaver. Stacks of boxes in the storeroom don’t cause nearly as much stress if you know what each of them contains. You can eliminate paper clutter on your desk by having labeled folders for different document types: bills, banking, healthcare, invoices, etc.
Putting labels on dry goods like pasta, flour, and sugar (or using clear containers!) can help you keep track of what you have in your cabinets.
6. Color Coding Systems
Because distinctive colors tend to stand out in our brains, color coding can help us group items in an instant. If you work from home, buy different sets of colored folders for personal and work documents.
If you find yourself fumbling with your keys, then try tagging each with a different color to keep them straight. Color-code seasonal items by marking winter wear with blue tape and summer gear with yellow tape (or whatever colors will help you remember).
7. The Buddy System
Whether friends provide entertainment or accountability, working with another person can increase your productivity. You can chat on the phone with a friend while mopping your floors, study with a classmate who will keep you on track, or have a daily check-in with a coworker.
In a concept known as body doubling, the mere presence of another person often helps those with ADHD accomplish tasks. Having a buddy alongside you can reduce feelings of frustration, increase motivation, and even improve time management (if you schedule specific times to meet).
Sometimes, the hardest part about accomplishing a goal is simply getting started. While making a to-do list or getting a calendar is a great starting point for many people, feel free to try whichever of these productivity tools resonates with you.
If you need a little extra help in cleaning, organizing, or setting up your ADHD-friendly space, then consider hiring a professional.