Whether you were diagnosed as a child or as an adult, recently diagnosed or known for a few years now – it’s always good to have reminders or a refresher on ways you can better structure your life to live alongside your ADHD. In this blog I am going to share 6 ways that have worked for me at some point in my journey of learning to live with this disorder and I hope you will find value in them too!
(1) What has worked so far and keep doing it.
At some point in your life you would have naturally developed coping mechanism’s to deal with your ADHD. These may be actions you are aware that you do or maybe some thing you haven’t thought of as a coping mechanism till now. These particular strategies you do adds structure to your ADHD life and gels nicely with how you live.
An example of this for me is wearing a watch. Because we suffer from time blindness, having a watch allows me to quickly monitor how much time I have no matter what I am doing. This is something I have always done, even in the times we live in now where you could just simply look at your phone to check the time – I find this isn’t always convenient and a watch has seen me through.
(2) Fix your environment!
This is probably the most important and maybe even the toughest one to work on to give yourself structure, but once you have mastered it, you can thrive in the right type of environment. You also need to consider all the different environments you exist in day to day. These environments will vary for everyone but most commonly they are your home environment, your work environment and learning environment. But then there are smaller ones which can come down to your bedroom, your bathroom, your kitchen, your car. And you can break it down smaller than that too – Your closet, your food cupboard and fridge, your glove box compartment, your desk at work etc.
Thinking in this way will allow you to see which environments you have control over and which ones you will need to compensate, compromise or accommodate. If it is an environment where you need to compensate, it may take the form of needing to employ a professional organizer or a cleaner for example, this is to help make up for what you cannot do alone or do not have time to do – or ultimately really struggle at fixing. Compromise might happen in shared environments, some things will need to be a certain way because you need to consider other people. And then accommodate, this is often in places of work where you don’t really have control of the environment at all and will need allowances from others in order to work with your ADHD better.
(3) Keep it simple.
Following on from tip 2, down sizing your environment helps to keep it simple. Easier to clean and less clutter. This can transcend into many parts of your life. Because living with ADHD means you need to compensate for what your brain doesn’t do internally, with external solutions – keeping those things easy to master is important. A lot of this will draw from the world around you. The less mental load you have, the more in control you will feel. What has worked for me with this is embracing minimalism. And that doesn’t mean you need to be extreme about it and live with nothing to reduce your burdens, but letting go of what you don’t need and hold on and manage what adds value to your life and makes it easier. That is where minimalism helped me at least in using what I already have and discarding what was not being used at all.
Keeping it simple could also mean downsizing your activities and projects. Obligations and responsibilities if possible. Or even how we write our to do lists. The point of this is to lighten the load we carry where we are often weighed down and struggle to keep up with it all.
Keeping it simple could also take the form of delegating out some of the responsibilities we struggle with or need help with. It’s OK to ask for help. My other suggestion is breaking tasks down into more manageable components. Got dishes to do, a mountain of washing? Just do the plates for now or wash all the socks. Do a smaller simplified version of the task – often it will lead us into doing more, the key here is to do what you can. Small wins are still wins!
Because we suffer from time blindness, having an alarm or multiple alarms throughout the day is basically going to have to be a reality in order to make up for it. The first type of alarm I would start off with is waking and sleeping. Sleep is super important for our brains, we need it to rest, heal, process and renew. Without a good night’s sleep our whole next day can be harder.
The second type of alarm is probably going to be for medication. And having a third alarm for it 10 minutes later in case you get distracted between your alarm going off and you actually taking your medication (a legitimate problem suffered by many including myself).
Other useful type of alarms may be in the form of task management. Ensuring you dedicate a certain amount of time only to certain tasks especially if it is something you are prone to hyper focus on without stopping for breaks. Or to help with your productivity towards a goal. A common way of doing this is in the form of egg timers, or similar timers that go off after a set amount of time. This pulls us back into time awareness or away from distractions that have stolen our attention.
Alarms for other parts of your life to manage might be eating food and drinking water at specific times especially if you live quite a busy life already, this way you are making sure you are looking after your nutrition and hydration too – which are also important for your mental health.
(5) Everything has a place.
Having a home for our belongings that we need to keep organized or track can be the difference between spending half an hour looking for your house keys in the morning. First you need to make a home for these articles, then create the habit of making sure they live in those spaces. Visual cues are a great way to remember what is where – for example I have a key holder next to my door. Everyone in my house keeps their house and car keys in this place. It never leaves that space and I make sure to take my keys out of my handbag every day (because not every time I go out I take my handbag) so I know exactly where they are.
Another tip for this is having a charging station for my phone, if it is not in the charging station it’s probably on my person or in my hand. Another trick with this which isn’t related to everything having a home but is useful towards visual cues is having a bright coloured phone cover – I also do this for bags, key chains etc. Anything that can get lost amongst the room. Keeping up with clutter and having surfaces clear also means that if I put something down on one of those spaces then I will easily see it if I have not put it back in it’s home.
This methodology can flow through all aspects on your life and can make keeping on top of clutter easy. Putting everything back once you have used it is another habit to try get into, I understand it’s not as simple as that. It may take a while to implement these types of things into your life especially in shared environments, not everyone will get on board with what you do, so it’s also important to express with your family or house mates that you need these accommodations in your home. At the end of the day it’s up to you to manage these things for yourself and to adapt to the environment you are in as part of self management in these situations.
(6) Go with your flow.
Your natural rhythms may be something you need to observe and measure. Even record. What time of the day do you feel most productive or at your best? Are you a morning person or night person. You might find it easier to tackle the ‘have to do’ stuff in the morning in order to have a more structured day, that way you have done all the things you had to do and the rest of the day is yours. Or you might be the sort of person who likes to come home after work or school and finish off everything for the day and have your mornings free to relax, wake up and find your pace for the rest of the day. How ever you go about it, figure out what works best for you and implement your routine around it.
For example my flow is I have more energy in the morning, so I fit in my wellness walk first (after I have taken my medication). Then I come home freshen up and get myself ready for the day. After that I take a look at my to do list (if I have one for the day) and action those, especially the things I dislike the most, I try to get those done first. Not every day is a good day too so I forgive myself for that – that’s when I check in with myself and make sure I figure out what is working or not.