Organizing Your Life

A place for everything, and everything in its place


Avoiding the one more thing is a critical daily mantra, simplifying your life overall is fundamental to sanity. One of the beautiful aspects of ADD is the big picture, big dream worldview we often have. But having those big dreams without a strong foundation for achievement makes your life more like a game of roulette than the game of Life.

The beauty of structure

image of a hand holding a clock pointing to various daily activitiesFor me, the basics of that are to have structure. When I was in high school, I was a high achiever in great part because I had an externally imposed structure. I began my mornings delivering papers, requiring me to be up as early as 4:30am during swim season. And after school and sports practice were over, dinner and homework. Weekends were filled with athletic meets, working concessions at a movie theater, and church. Rather than hampering my creativity, having specific pockets for photography, poetry, reading, reflection gave turbocharged that time.

In college, while I survived academically, the lack of structure made me feel as if I was always teetering on the brink of disaster. Senior year, I had 12 credits tied into a senior honors thesis. The eve of an undergrad political science conference I’d planned to present at, I realized there was no way I would complete the 50 to 60 pages in time for submission. Fortunately, I had enough credits from 20 and 21 credit semesters (which helped force me into structure – just by the sheer volume of work) that I managed to graduate. But I never successfully learned to structure my time on my own.

In my own career, the only real success I had working on my own was when I had no employees, just a handful of contractors, walked to small office space I rented for a 9 to 5 work day, and tracked my time meticulously. I even had a reward structure for non-work time – attaching odd monetary values such as $1.22 for meditating. I would use any odd amounts to determine if I’d “earned” enough to buy myself a coffee at the downstairs coffee shop. As soon as I hired employees and especially as I tried to manage my business remotely, the company became a burden and I a stress ball.

I also know highly successful ADD entrepreneurs and self-employed people. My experience is that they have either kept the work piece simple – just doing work for hire. Or grown big enough that other people do the important but boring parts of running a business.

In day-to-day life, the more you can establish routines for yourself the more worry free time you’ll have to yourself. Routines do not need to be as rigid as they need to be predicable. In fact, if a prescribed schedule is too ambitious and too strictured, chances are great that you may implode trying to follow it, either because it’s simply impossible and you end up cycling into failure. Or, even if you made it up yourself, you may rebel against it.

Moving in with the single mom I fell in love with (and eventually married) and her three kids after a brief stint as a free wheeling post divorce bachelor seemed to many of my friends family a crazy descent into chaos. The reality is that going from my free wheeling bachelorhood into the routines of family gave me rhythm and structure to my life that makes me happier and more ordered.

My work life is also much more stress free working for someone else. I go to work in the morning. I leave work in the evening. My 9-5 is structured around the work that needs to be done. But after and before, I’m free. I also choose to make less money in exchange for a much shorter commute.

I also try to keep some of the more mundane aspects of day to day life simple. Like Steve Jobs, I largely wear the same “uniform” to work – khakis, button down iron-free shirt, and a bow tie. One less thing to think about leaves more time for my own thoughts. I bought a wireless router that includes a backup disk so I don’t have to ever worry about actively backing up, or about losing information on my computer.

All this means that I have many less points of failure. And more time to wonder and wander.

This part of the site provides some hints and tips for simplifying and organizing your life.

This section is broken into five different areas:

  • Overcoming shame – which deals with some of the important ways you can overcome the self-limiting factors often at play in our ADHD minds.
  • Bags, Boxes & Binders – which covers some tips for keeping track of your things.
  • Labels – which covers how to use labels in real and virtual life to make your life easier.
  • Lists – which covers how to use lists to keep track of the stuff you need to do.
  • Time – which covers some of the latest findings on nutrition and the brain.

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