Why ADD People Are Disorganized—And How to Help
Watching a person with ADD attempt to get organized may at first look like someone with OCD—starting multiple organization projects with great enthusiasm. The trouble is, after the storage boxes, paint, and shelving are bought, they lay unopened and unused. That’s because ADD people often head “EAST” (trying to do Everything At the Same Time). And just like people without ADD, it doesn’t work. The burst of enthusiasm wanes after a short time and nothing gets accomplished. It’s much better to choose one task and get it done.
One very effective way is the sprint we talked about last week. That is, doing one task as fast as possible to get it done. That’s because ADD brains are reactive, reacting to everything that comes into focus, however insignificant it is. The focus is fragmented, so the task gets fragmented as well.
Another way to stay on track is by setting a timer for ten minute intervals and checking to see if you’re on track when the timer goes off. Is you are, congratulations! If not, reset the timer and get back on track.
A third way is to have someone commit to helping you by being present in the room, letting you know when you’re off track. That’s a lot to ask of an acquaintance, so be sure you ask a good friend or a family member who understands your issues.
ADD People and Micro Focusing
ADD people can easily slip into micro focus when trying to get organized, getting caught up in the details of the project instead of keeping the whole task in mind. For instance, decluttering the kitchen can become a micro focused task of organizing recipes in a recipe file instead of seeing the macro task of cleaning the kitchen. Micro focusing allows an adult with ADD to avoid the overwhelming feeling attached to facing the whole, cluttered room. Here’s where your friend or family member can be of great service to help you stay out of the tempting trap of micro focusing.
Underestimating Time Needs
A poor sense of time is typical of ADD. Often, ADD people grossly underestimate the amount of time a task will take. This can cause a domino effect to happen to other commitments in your life, causing each one to fall as the previous one fails.
An ADD-friendly approach to this problem is to set time goals instead of task goals. For instance, instead of saying “My goal is to clean my bedroom,” set the timer for ten minute intervals and stop after a set number of them.
Underdoing and Overdoing
Underdoing occurs when you abandon a task you’ve begun before it’s done, and overdoing is resisting moving on to another task. Both affect the ADD challenged person. Both situations can be helped by setting time goals instead of task goals.
Rube Goldberg must have been ADD. He’s the guy who draws simple tasks in the most complicated way possible, creating impossible to complete undertakings. By making things overly complicated, you never get around to actually completing the task. So in addition to working fast for ten minutes at a time, keep it simple.
Many adults with ADD add things to their lives without subtracting the necessary components to make it all work. So too many unread books, too many commitments to fulfill, to many unworn clothes all add up to too much in your life. Remember to subtract something when you add something to keep your life manageable. Make a rule for yourself that for every one thing added, at least one thing must be subtracted. Finish one thing before committing to a new one.
Next Week: Structure and Support
These ideas and strategies are based upon the book ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolberg & Kathleen Nadeau, PH.D.