Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Organization Tips for Autism and ADHD

In my previous post I talked about some of my issues with getting organized.  I have some tips, as wells as the rough diagram of my to-do list I've been using for awhile.

First, let's talk a little bit about why someone might have issues with being organized.  Executive Functioning is a term that is defined by the ability to organize information and stimuli, while regulating one's own emotions, and thoughts, as well as prioritizing what needs attention. That's a very basic definition, anyway.  Executive functioning is impaired/different in people with neurological disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and ADHD.  In my family, all 5 of us have an issue with one of these two conditions.  While the reasons why I struggle to be organized differs from my husband's the results often look the same.  The only difference is that I can figure a way out of it, where I honestly don't think he'll ever have the skills, as well as he really doesn't care if things are messy, disorganized and off schedule.  I care a great deal.  My basic to do list is divided in 4 quarters:

DAILY TASKS :                          

  In the upper hand corner here I have my  daily tasks.  These things generally need done everyday, like dishes, laundry, exercise ect... If you find you don't have to do the task that day, then cross it out. These are your basic tasks. These are in the Have To Do category.      


 On the right side I have things I Need  done that aren't daily activities.Such as,  important phone calls, errands, appointments.  Also, other things that are weekly like washing sheets.


  On the lower left hand side is where I put tasks and projects that are more long term, so that I still have them in my  mind and can plan on moving them to my Need list.  I also put stuff that I want to get  done, but may not have a chance. I try to resist  the urge to clutter up the Need area with things that aren't urgent. Prioritizing is key. If I can just get my daily tasks and Need tasks done, then I feel  I've accomplished enough.


On the lower right hand side is where I put daily reminders, and messages. I even keep phone messages here. This reduces clutter by using one sheet of paper for everything.  At the end of the day, I put any important info or phone messages in my notebook, or wherever it may need to go.  The list goes in the trash.                                                                                               

To-do Lists Revisited

In some previous posts I have spoken about not taking a to-do list too seriously.  I am trying to find the happy medium that lies between rigid schedules that leave no room for flexibility, and being human... and the other end, which leaves me feeling like anxious and irritable at the end of the day due to a messy house, tasks not getting done, or getting done last minute out of necessity. 

I've tried many methods to organize my time and get things done.  When I was a teenager I used to use a notebook with a daily agenda grouped into categories of things to do.  Many of these things were daily activities that most would never forget to do.  It's not that I would forget, necessarily.  It's more along the lines that I would feel overwhelmed at the prospect of things to do, not know where to begin, and then not do it.  If I list out the tasks I feel in control of a visual cue that I can now use as a tool to organize my thoughts, and put myself into action. 

As I got older, I have tried many different strategies, but many have looked similar to the one I devised as a teen.  The latest one that I have been using for a couple years (and need to get back to) is one that I have a master copy of, and I print 30 or so sheets at a time. I'll see if I can type up a rough visual of it in the next post, as well as some tips for keeping organized with ADHD and ASD.

I guess my biggest issue is that I struggle with keeping up with doing what I know works.  It's like the previous post where I discussed slip sliding back into bad habits, and ineffective ways of coping.  I know that I am happier when I am on schedule, but sometimes I can't get myself to get moving. I need to keep myself involved and committed.  I know the results I want, and now I need to put in the effort to achieve them. 

So, for today... I am going to write out my schedule, since it has changed since the kids have gone back to school.  I don't handle routine changes well, so that might be part of my 'I don't know what to do' feeling.  That's why I get so upset when my routine changes.  I can't automatically reroute a new schedule in my head.  I wish my brain saw the big picture, and could easily do that, but it can't.  I am always swallowed up by details to a point of being frozen, which is how I've been feeling.  Analyzing to the point of paralyzing.  After writing out my schedule I am going to make a few new rules about how I spend my time and stick to it, hopefully.