Like many people with ADHD, I’m constantly searching to find something that will keep me effectively organized and time-managed. After I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2000, I realized that during much of my life, I had spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to organize myself, without knowing precisely why it was so difficult.
In the 1980s, fresh out of college, I was working at a management consulting firm. They paid for all kinds of trendy courses for us - even for receptionist positions like mine. They included the DISC personality profile, some kind of positive thinking guru who I’ve successfully blocked the memory of, and of course, the FranklinQuest organizational system, including lovely Leatherette binder and starter pack.
I don’t think I can accurately say that I became a convert to the FranklinQuest system. Let’s just say that I tried really, really hard to make it work. I carried the binder everywhere with me and dutifully recorded my appointments and reminders. After six months, I stopped carrying the binder. The thing was damn heavy, and I wasn’t using it. I can’t remember exactly why I wasn’t, although it may have had something to do with the fact that my handwriting is so bad that I couldn’t decipher my own scribbles.
Since that time, I have tried (note the word “tried”) several other systems, with varying degrees of success. In the early nineties, I worked as an administrative assistant at Waldenbooks corporate headquarters for a woman who (gasp) expected me to be organized, and to keep her organized. I wandered into the book room one day (publishers sent us books to review, and the buyers put them in the book room when they were done) and found If You Haven’t Got the Time to Do it Right, When Will You Find the Time to Do It?, from which I cherry-picked some ideas that I implemented. Ultimately, I did become more organized overall, and especially at work.
The most recent organizational foray that didn’t work was organizing my email at work. I read a book that recommended that you create sub-folders of your inbox for Keep and Hold. The point was to keep your inbox empty. So I dutifully created my Hold/Follow-Up and Keep folders. I did, and still do, use my Keep folder to file email away that I am done with, but may need at some point. I finally gave up on the Hold/Follow-Up folder. I kept forgetting to look in there, and a few important things slipped through the cracks. Ultimately, I realized that the full inbox actually works for me. Since I do so much of my work by email, it functions almost as a To Do list. Sure, some things sit in there for a while. But I’m never in danger of forgetting about them entirely.
The conclusion that I’ve finally come to is that the most effective organization system is one that works for you. Trying to shoehorn your personality and habits into a system that someone else came up with is rarely going to be successful.
The systems I’ve set up that have worked the best are the ones I’ve come up with on my own. They’re generally simple. But you may find that you prefer systems that are detailed. I think that the best thing to do is read some of the more popular books about organization and time management like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Getting Things Done and The 4-Hour Workweek, regularly visit sites like LifeHacker, try things out and cobble together a system of organization that works for you.