How to Organize Your Life When You Have ADHD

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Living with ADHD comes with some fantastic strengths and life-defining weaknesses. Symptoms such as impulsiveness, lack of ability to focus and short-term memory problems can wreak havoc on our lives, especially as parents.

organizing tips for ADHD

Over the last year, I have honed in on a few out-of-the-norm ways I overcome my ADHD symptoms and the lovely chaos they bring.

Breaking bad habits is hard for neurotypical people. Living with ADHD makes it damn near impossible.

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Not to worry though, I get through many days thriving and managing well enough to receive raises at my job, start a small business, schedule my children’s extracurricular events, drop them to school (mostly) on time, and even keep track of payment due dates. This is not without flexing brain muscle and doing things completely different than other’s, but it works most days.

Step One:

Get to know Google Calendar, very, very well.

google calendar desk calendar

It’s an understatement to say I rely on my phone. As an adult with ADHD, and two school-age children my phone is considered my external backup hard drive for my memory. What I can’t remember, it does for me. You can Download the Google Calendar App in the play store, or any calendar app honestly. Just be sure it is able to do the following two things: Alert you to reminders at different time intervals and sort events based on custom calendars.

Step Two:

Let go of Perfectionism.

Many financially savvy authors talk openly about Analysis Paralysis. I’ve also heard it phrased as perfectionism paralysis. Regardless what you call it, it means the same thing:

You spend so much time working on something, in an attempt to make it perfect that you fail to put it to use.

ADHD can mean hyperfocus, which is an amazing strength when we use it to complete tasks timely. It can also be a distraction when we hyperfocus too long on a small task that is really part of a bigger task. (You Can Read More about How to Embrace Failure Here!)

For Instance, as a mom: Just pack the lunch. Make sure it has protein, carbs and a veggie and that’s it.
Don’t worry about the note you forgot.
Don’t worry about crust not getting cut off.
It’s done, they’re fed.
As an ADHD mom, many days, your children being fed, bathed and loved is enough.

-But what about our house?

Your house will likely never be in the tidy state you seek. Unless you spend every waking moment running behind your children with a washcloth and pale of bleach-water.

My mom used to say:

“you don’t have to clean your room, just make sure it’s picked up.

That is enough. When guests come over, close doors! Worry about your main living areas. If your living room is picked up, but your bedroom is a mess, let it go (for now) and close the door!

(Struggling to make Decisions? Read the One Thing I Changed that helps me Make Decisions with ease, quickly and effectively!)

let it go mess house with ADHD

Step Three:

Stop reading self-help books in an attempt to change your habits; instead start reading about ADHD, Mental Health and How to Excercise for your Brain.

You don’t have a neurotypical brain, so why would books addressed to those who do help you?! They won’t!

You are wasting money and time reading them!

I know, it sucks. Many days I want a brain that I don’t have to fight with so much. But without this brain, I wouldn’t be able to write the way I do or help my child cope with having ADHD. (Read How I Naturally Combat ADHD Symptoms here!)

Pros and Cons people. Pros and Cons.

Step Four:

Make a Calendar for Bills/Deadlines and Set reminders:

Back in step one when I said get to know Google calendar; Here is why it’s crucial:

If you have ADHD, you have two things working against you in money and time management:  Impulsiveness (overspending) and poor working memory (forgetting a bill is due, permission slip, etc.).

It takes all of 3 minutes to input a deadline into your google calendar on your smartphone. Where Google really helps with this is the ability for you to create custom reminders!

Rule of Reminders : A reminder on the PAYDAY before the bill due date. A reminder 3 days before the bill is due, the day before and the day of!

Can you believe people who don’t have ADHD just remember that they have a bill coming due?!

They somehow know when it will come out and anticipate it for several days ahead of time?! That is mind-boggling to me. I struggle to remember where I set my car keys 5 minutes ago, let along remember every day of the month a bill is debited from my account or a permission slip for the kids is due.

Read my 9 Reasons being a Mom with ADHD is Unique

Step Five:

Set a reminder to look at your calendar.

Remember when I said the things I do to stay on track are entirely different than the things other people do?

That’s because ADHDers have to make up for the short circuits in our brain formatting. We aren’t less, trust me we are an incredibly talented group of people. We are wired differently, and that means looking at our calendar every day gives us anxiety. The moment we pop it open and see we have five things to do that day, our brain says to close it and ignore it.


Set a reminder to look!

Remind yourself of what I said in step two: Let go of perfectionism (Read as “Getting it all done perfectly and on time”). I think most people strive to complete most of their list.

ADHDers see a list as a challenge that we must be conquer right away, and if we can’t then, we just don’t. At all. We walk away and we–avoid.


Set a reminder to go off in the morning, afternoon, and evening to LOOK at your calendar. This way you are aware of what you are trying to accomplish today. At the end of the day use your evening check-in to move the things you were unable to complete. (I missed 7 Signs My Son Had ADHD right up to 3rd Grade, Don’t Be ME! Read This!)

Step Six:

Throw away the papers!

Purchase a basket [<<- Like this one from Amazon]. Preferably one that is long, rectangular and less than 6 inches high, to hold your papers. In our home, I have one basket labeled may need second look papers and the other basket, honestly, is the trash. You may need to add more. (Don’t over-do the baskets because that’s not the focus here.) The papers are the focus here. The basket for may need a second look is for permission slips, picture day forms, bills, bank statements, extra sentimental artwork from your child, or homework they need to complete.

The Trash: Everything ELSE!

We as parents think that every hand colored drawing our child made is adorable. If you have ADHD, you pile it to the side and tell yourself to put it somewhere. That means you’re going to move it three more times, to different areas of accumulated paper before you finally throw it away. Save yourself the time and throw it away now.

Go through your Second Look Basket once a week. Add due dates to your calendar and set reminders.

[SIDE NOTE: Super sentimental handprint drawings your kindergartner makes you can keep. Put them in a large paper filer (like this one) that you hold in your office or somewhere else.]

[WARNING: Sometimes you may accidentally throw away something important. Such as your tag renewal form for the Department of Motor Vehicles and not realize it until a police officer pulls you over for an expired license plate. It happens, take it in stride and do what other ordinary people do when they forget something. Apologize and then set another reminder to take care of it.]

Step Seven:

Harness the Pressure by Pre-Setting your Procrastination Hour.

The trick to this is:

Designate your last minute ahead of time.

You receive an assignment on Monday that is due Friday. You estimate the task will take you at least five combined hours to write. You know you have three hours available Wednesday and possible two hours open Thursday. Therefore the last possible minute to start writing the paper is the beginning of those three hours on Wednesday.

I think a lot of neurotypical brains operate on the idea of:

“get it done first then I can relax the rest of the week.”

That doesn’t work for those of us with ADHD. We are the king and queens of “Reward first, work late(r).” It’s completely ok as long as you have implemented step one and two and pre-set your procrastination hour. Starting the project on Wednesday will give you that high pressure that ADHDers need to tap into our hyperfocus super ability. Sometimes this allows us to create our best work! Plus, it doesn’t leave us much time for perfection paralysis. If we had started the paper on Monday, by golly, we might rewrite it three times before Friday and waste a lot of time and energy on one document. (You can read about my Friend and Fellow Blogger Tammy Bronfen’s Struggle with deadlines in University in her Guest Post here!)

Step Eight:

Aim for the moon, and be ok with landing among the stars.

Try your hardest, but as I said in step two; be ok with your best. Not every actor or actress wins an Oscar for every role they play. They do their best with the part they have, and they strive for progress. In the end, they get a lot of good-paying roles, some great new fans, and new experiences. It’s really a win. But if you are so busy trying to make every task you tend to perfect you’ll spend too much time on the small picture when life is really about the big picture.

LacyEstelle with Empowered Mom Life and Blogger Lacy Estelle

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