Adults with ADHD: Tackling Paperwork

Health Writer

We live in an increasingly digital world. You would think that would equate to minimizing the paper in our lives but everyday more and more paper comes into our homes in the form of bills, insurance policies, tax documentation and junk mail. Mountains of papers can quickly grow on tabletops and desks. For many adults with ADHD, this paperwork seems insurmountable; the organizational skills to quickly handle and dispense our papers is often lacking. But that doesn’t mean this is an impossible task.

Even though disorganization is a common trait in adults with ADHD, not everyone finds the same solutions work. The following are different ways of organizing incoming mail and paperwork. Use the ideas that work best in your life.

Set aside a specific area in your house to accumulate mail and papers. When you get the mail, immediately throw away any junk mail and place the rest in your designated area to sort through at another time.

Create an efficient paperwork area. You might want to purchase (or move from another area in your house) organizational tools such as: stapler, pens, stackable trays, low baskets wide enough to hold a business envelope, file bin or cabinet, shredder, trash can.

Plan for one hour a week to go through and organize papers. Choose a time that is most likely to be open every week and put it on your calendar. Leaving this open to “when I have time” mostly assures that the time will never come, or come so infrequently that sorting through papers will seem insurmountable and likely put off yet again.

Divide your papers into three piles: action needed, file and trash. Some people prefer more categories, such as immediate action needed, action needed but not right now and save to look at later. Others feel extra categories make it much more confusing, streamlining everything into a few categories work best. Be sure to throw all items in your trash file away immediately. You decide which process works best for you.

On each paper that is in your action needed pile, write the date you need to complete it on the front of the envelope and place it in a bin filed with earliest date in front. When you start working, you can take envelopes out one by one, complete and then move to your to be filed pile. Some people find it helpful to also write down one or two words about the next action needed, such as pay bill or sign and return.

Distribute other mail to the appropriate places. If there is mail for other household members, place in a place they will readily see it. If you have magazines or catalogues have a designated area in your living room where you keep these.

In the early months of the year, keep a manilla envelope marked tax documents** on your desk.** All tax information, including W2s, 1099s, retirement account information, tax information from your mortgage company and work related expenses should immediately go into this envelope. When you sit down to do your taxes or meet with your accountant, you have all of the information in one place. If you have ongoing receipts or tax information throughout the year, set up a bin to keep paperwork throughout the year that is used specifically for taxes.

Keep a plastic bin for all the documents to be filed. This includes retirement account statements, insurance policies, bank statements, credit card statements, tax returns, paid bills and other important documents. Set aside a time once a month to file all these papers in your bin or file cabinet. Some people find it beneficial to hire their older children or a high-school age neighbor to spend one hour a month filing paperwork (Note: if you don’t want them to see any financial information, you will need to file these yourself.)

Paperwork can also start cluttering your computer. You might download monthly bank statements or receive your credit card statements via email. You can place these in folders as well. Create a main file named “Financial information” and then create subfolders, one for each institution you receive information from, and place each downloaded statement or bill in those folders. When you are searching for a specific statement, you can easily locate it.

For more information on living with ADHD as an adult:

Simplify to Finally Succeed in Being Organized

Adults with ADHD: Preparing for Next Year's Taxes

Decluttering My Desk: How Did the Mess Get Here?

Fifteen Ideas for Organizing Your Home

Everyday Organizational Tips