Attention Deficit Disorder and Disorganization
While not everyone who is chronically disorganized has ADD, many people who are ADD find themselves challenged by disorganization of the chronic variety. Here’s why:
- Distractibility, the hallmark ADD symptom, means that you turn your attention away from the task at hand towards stimuli that are extraneous to the task at hand. Extraneous stimuli can be sounds, voices, and noises such as a barking dog, an incoming cell call, or folks laughing down the hall. Visual stimuli might be a TV show or a pretty magazines cover. Extraneous stimuli can also be internal such as random thoughts, ideas, or worries. People without ADD can filter out extraneous stimuli and concentrate on the task at hand. ADDers cannot, or at least not consistently. So there is often a trail of unfinished projects and tasks all over the office or the home as ADDers jump from task to task without completing most of them.
- Impulsivity, another ADD symptom, is a kind of acting without thinking through consequences. The ‘executive function’ it takes to weigh options, make decisions, and figure out their impact is weak. Impulsive, snap decisions can relieve this stress, but results in over-commitment; frequently saying Yes to too many projects and obligations. Every commitment involves time and tasks and often “stuff” which can wreak havoc on getting and staying organized.
- Complicating the picture is that tasks with a heavy organizing component such as filing, paying bills, and putting away the laundry are especially boring. ADDers have a stimulation-seeking brain. It seeks to be engaged. Tasks that are not inherently engaging tend to be neglected which can contribute to disorganization.
- Common ADD traits are time management related and include underestimating how long it takes to do things, and lack of execution and follow through. This tends to undermine even a well-planned day resulting in frustration rather than productivity.
- ADDers tend to see opportunity, possibility and potential in ways that others do not see. For instance, they tend to save more paper, crafts items, clippings, and information because it may be useful in the future. While this may be true, this practice does lend itself to clutter.
- Because ADDers can easily become distracted, it is common to leave visual cues and prompts out as reminders to things to do. This can be interpreted by others as clutter, and when it piles up too high, loses its meaning even to the ADDer.
For all these reasons, and more ADD can be on a collision course with organization.
Innovative ADD-friendly organizing techniques and services include:
- Reduce visual clutter
- Streamline and simplify
- Decision-making strategies
- Organizing systems that are stimulating, not boring
- Outsourcing referrals for filing, simple bookkeeping, housecleaning, clerical and other support service
- Time management skill building like ADD-friendly ways to prioritize, plan and schedule, and promptness
- Combatting OOSOOM (out of sight, out of mind) and fear of filing
- Financial organizing
- Body doubling
- Crew-based organizing
- On-going and/or period maintenance organizing
- De-acquisition services/ resources like recycling, charitable donation, E-bay selling, CraigsList, yard sales, and shredding
For books about chronic disorganization and ADD go to http://www.squallpress.net/