You can have ADHD and Look Organized

Mastering ADHD Organization: Effective Coping Strategies

Effective coping with ADHD involves developing personalized organizational systems and routines, utilizing tools like planners and apps designed to enhance time management and reduce clutter in both physical and mental spaces.

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Written by

Tayler Hackett

Mental Health Writer and ADHD Expert
In this Article
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Adult ADHD and Struggles with Organization

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can affect different facets of our daily lives. Someone diagnosed with this neurodivergent condition can have difficulties managing emotions, have a hard time facing people because of hyperactivity, or can be inattentive when focus is needed the most 🙁. These ADHD traits can disrupt the way we live and can have a negative impact on other people. Likewise, there are ADHD traits that we struggle with on our own, and people may not notice quickly.

One of the lesser-known ADHD symptoms an adult can experience is our difficulty to prioritize and organize. According to research, ADHD affects a person's executive functions, which include our organizational skills and ability to plan things. There are moments when we cannot determine the most important tasks to do first or where we'll get the motivation to finish something right away. The result? We might procrastinate our way through the deadline 😭.

That's why there are moments when we forget most of the essential items we need to buy, or we're unable to meet a specific goal because we've been putting it off for too long. It can be extremely frustrating, not only for the person with ADHD but also for the people around them. But do you wonder, what can be the reason for the organizational skills problems we tend to experience 🤔?

ADHD Brains are Wired Differently

An ADHD brain processes information differently from neurotypical people. This means that some people with ADHD can have an overly active brain, where too much information flows 💫 and causes problems with focus. They tend to create different scenarios and strategies to meet goals, but the problem lies with their execution or how they implement their plans.

Aside from the hyperactive ADHD brain, there are also inattention symptoms that can contribute to our lack of organizational abilities. There are moments we spend our time daydreaming or having our minds wander off instead of focusing on the task at hand. We can be easily distracted by anything and anyone around us, making it difficult to complete tasks we started 😅.

Another thing about ADHD is its effect on our working memory. This part of our brain allows us to remember and process information so we can use it later. If we feel overwhelmed with what we are supposed to do, we tend to forget the most important details needed to put everything in order.

Do Adults with ADHD Always Struggle with Their Organizational Skills?

You might ask yourself, does being disorganized and messy automatically qualify me for an ADHD diagnosis? The answer is NO. Because adult ADHD can be experienced differently, what can be true for me might not apply to other individuals with ADHD 👌. So, some get to manage important documents well and neatly organize them in order, and some - like me - cannot compile my bank statements in one place.

When we try our best to get organized, there are instances when we can be messier and cannot track the things that we have. I, for one, am a living testament to that. Everything I own - when you ask me - I can quickly pinpoint their location. However, the chaos usually starts to happen when things get out of hand and I really need to organize all the stuff in my room.

Of course, there are people who have the most pristine organizational skills there are. They have sticky notes neatly lined up for their reminders and to-do lists 📝 that are done with ease. On top of that, they also have the extra energy to do the things they like most. I envy those people with ADHD that appear to have no problems managing their tasks and enjoy their hobbies and activities at the same time. Can they have ADHD but have better processes in organizing their thoughts and ideas?

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Masking ADHD Traits: Organizational Skills

Some people with ADHD can be great at organizing tasks and have already figured out how they'll run their day. It's as if they have no problems: they already have addressed their issues well and developed strategies to keep up with their work 😯. However, when you look closely, they are still like us: they struggled a lot with putting things in priority. They only learned how to mask their ADHD traits to appear more presentable and acceptable because their nature needs them to be.

I have a friend who also has been diagnosed late. Before his ADHD diagnosis, I always admired that he often set his to-do list at the start of the day, ticked off one task at a time, and his weekly schedule was all written down 📅. I thought it was amazing how he managed to do all of these until I learned about his ADHD, and we talked more about it. My friend also has the same problem as me when it comes to organizing everything that's going on in his mind. The difference is that he has already developed a system that helps him cope and diligently follows everything in routine to get things done.

He told me his ADHD story and opened up about his struggles with his family members. He was judged by his family and was often told that he was not doing enough because he couldn't seem to put things in place. They would get mad at him for not being able to do the most straightforward household chore, and often, they would compare him to other people who don't have ADHD. It made him feel terrible about himself 😭. He didn't understand his low motivation back then, so he decided that he had to do something about it.

That's when he decided to open up to a mental health doctor who started to help him with his ADHD journey. After that, he initiated everything on his own and developed strategies to improve his organizational skills. That's why for me, having the right support groups around you can make ADHD life more bearable and more worthy 🧑‍🤝‍🧑.

Getting Excited with a New Project

Have you ever been assigned to a new project and excitedly come up with different ideas and plans on what to do to have a perfect outcome? I know I have 🙋‍♀️ . Ideas would start rushing in, and suddenly you feel like you're on top of the world because you believe you can do this, and it'll be great! When an interest kicks in, no matter what happens, we'll do everything we can to get it done and make it work. We become so consumed with the thought of finally having something worth our time that reality hits us 💗.

Most people with ADHD are driven by their interests and can be motivated easily when they get dopamine in return. When these neurotransmitters are released inside our ADHD brain, all tasks connected to what we are doing can easily be done, our focus is at maximum, and we may have a week full of productivity. But the production of these brain chemicals isn't infinite 🙁, so most likely, everything will wear down after a few days.

When there are executive function deficits, we might have a hard time maintaining the organization and structure of the project, This is where most adults with ADHD may start to struggle. We can be great at starting things but not finishing them because we get bored quickly or we might've moved on to a new interest 🥱. Our focus will shift to something else, and we will fail to manage our time wisely, resulting in an unfinished project.

Improving our ADHD Organization Abilities

An adult ADHD brain has too many things to think about. There's the struggle to maintain attention and organizing thoughts, the hyperactive symptoms and social anxieties, and the constant need for dopamine fixes. It can be tough to live with ADHD, but it's not impossible. Here are some of the tips that we can try to do to make a habit and improve our organizational skills:

  • Set a specific goal for the day or week and make sure that it's realistic - Having too many goals in mind will only add up to the already long to-do lists, leading to more anxiety and stress. Develop strategies or game plans to make it more exciting 👌.
  • Have a planner or calendar ready to cater to your needs - This will serve as your brain's reminder. You can also try using a whiteboard or post-its to help you organize your thoughts and ideas. One important factor to consider is to ensure that it's placed in an area where you can see it easily 📆.
  • Start small and gradually increase the task's difficulty - When we try to do too much, it'll be more difficult for us to focus on what's important. Start with one relatively easy task, then reward yourself when you accomplish it. Continue the same step until it becomes a habit 👍.
  • Create a conducive space or time to make your things organized - This can be your room, your office desk, or anywhere that you feel relaxed. Once you have a place to focus on, it'll be easier to think and organize your thoughts. Make sure to remove anything that can serve as a distraction. If you also prefer working at night, try to establish a night routine that can help you wind down and relax before sleep 🖥️.
  • Seek professional help - when organizing your thoughts, things, and ideas seem impossible, it might be best to seek professional help. They can provide you with different strategies and self-help guides on how you can better manage your ADHD. They can also create a more personalized approach for you to make sure that the plan will work for your needs 🧑‍⚕️.

Our lack of organizational capabilities can be constant, but it doesn't mean that we can't do anything about it. These tips can help us start somewhere and hopefully make a habit out of it. With enough practice and patience, we can slowly see improvements in our ability to organize thoughts and ideas. Also, remember that having the right support can make a huge difference in our life. Join different ADHD groups and forums to feel understood and motivated. Be patient with yourself, and don't forget to celebrate the small victories that you accomplish. After all, we all need that extra push to keep going ❣️.

ADHD and Organization Struggles: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Why is organization so hard for some people with ADHD?

Although not all people with ADHD struggle with being organized, some really do. One reason for this is because ADHD sometimes affects our executive functions, which is highly involved in our organizational and planning skills.

Why is it important to develop organizational skills?

It’s important to develop organizational skills because they are crucial for many things, at school, work, and personal affairs. When you’re organized, you can get things done with less stress, which greatly helps your mental health.

How can you stay on top of everything even with this neurodivergent disorder?

One essential tip is to set a realistic goal so that things won’t get overwhelming. Creating a space and setting time to get organized also helps. When things don’t work as planned, consulting a mental health professional should be a priority.

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