Organizational Tips from Someone with ADD

April 19, 2010

When I tell people that I both have ADD and teach courses on how to get and stay organized, they look at me like I am in need of therapy. But think about it: Who has to worry about organization more than someone who can be distracted by the wind or humming? Here are some effective tricks to stay organized. As you would expect from someone with ADD, they are in no particular order.

1. Standardize your Morning: Because just about anything can get me headed on a tangent, my mornings are critical. If I get off on the wrong foot, I can never find the track again until it is too late. Here is what I do. I have exactly the same routine every morning. The same way to shower, shave, take my pills, do my exercises and write in my journal. There are no variations until all the essential stuff is done. And because I have done this so many times, I don’t have to think about what comes next.

2. Learn the TRAF method of dealing with clutter: My mother taught me this and she learned it from someone else all the way back to Jesus. I think. Regardless, this works wonders with things like mail, email, files, etc. TRAF stands for: Toss, Refer, Act or File. Let’s apply it to mail.  When you get your mail, do not put it on a desk. Deal with it right away. Toss everything and anything that you don’t absolutely need. That will be most of it. Then give mail to whomever it belongs. Don’t hold onto it yourself. Act on whatever needs your attention. If you don’t have time to act, have an “action” file that you look at three times a week. Whatever has to be saved for your records gets immediately filed. See, no clutter.

3. Whatever you leave for later will not get done until it has to. For instance, if you are tired and take your shoes off to relax, never assume you will put the shoes away later. Later almost never happens. Take ten seconds to do now what needs to be done and you will never have to do it at a less convenient time.

4. Assume every to-do list has too many items on it. We all place too much on a to-do list. I split my to-do list into morning, afternoon and evening. I only put a couple of things on for each time period. This way, I can better gauge how many things I can actually get done.

5. Realize that if you have been putting something off it is because you don’t want to do it. There are several options with this. Get an attitude change if you are putting off something that is absolutely your responsibility. Find someone better qualified. Find some way of not doing this onerous task. Find a different way of approaching it.

6. Break all huge tasks into many smaller ones. This is an old piece of advice, but it works. Most people with ADD cannot see big  pictures. With our son, we would only give him one thing to do at a time. Then when he was done that, we would give him the next thing. Instead of “clean your bedroom”, we would say “make your bed”. Instead of “do your homework”, we would say, “make an outline of five points for your history paper”.

7. When you take a break from a project, set a short time limit…use an alarm if possible. I can take a five minute break and stretch it into an hour if I’m not careful. Most people aren’t that extreme, but we do waste a lot of time. That said, don’t neglect taking breaks to let your mind rest when you’re working hard.

8. Do one thing you love and one thing you have been dreading every day. Get into the habit of both stretching yourself and rewarding yourself for a day well lived.

9. Respect people by being early. How many times have I had people say to me “why are you never late?” You would think that someone with ADD would be perpetually late. I learned years ago that being early for an appointment implies you count their time as valuable.  I arrive early by always assuming something will go wrong on my way there and giving myself extra time to get there.

10. Clean your work space every evening. Positive things are mentally  triggered when your work area is clean before ending the day.

11. Have a journal where you note the following at the end of every day: what you accomplished, what you want to change, what matters to you, what God has said to you that day.



  1. Great advice Mike. I don’t have ADD but some of those tips would help anyone. I like your journal questions. I am going to add them to my journal writing.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Tim. I find my journal is my lifeline to examining my life. I try and keep it lo-tech so nothing can break down to get in the way (pencils never need to be rebooted).

  3. Fantastic advice and really great timing. God answers.
    God’s blessings on you Mike.
    (thought:references to ADD sound like me….should I go find out if I’m ADD now? No, I’ll stay on task this time.)

  4. Thank you Mike. Over the past year & a half I’ve come to realize that I have had ADD for most of my life. Since recognizing this (actually, the Lord planted the term “ADD” in my brain one morning in the prayer room and I had to research it to know what it was about)I’ve taken steps to help me make it through each day…. without almost losing my mind!!!! 🙂 I’m much happier, more content with life, and much much easier to be around! These steps are going to help even more!!! Bless you, bro.


  5. Thanks Julie. I love the books of Dr. Daniel Amen, who makes it clear that ADD is not a disease, a disorder or a mental illness. It is just a different type of brain, that uses more of the limbic system and less of the frontal cortex. We ADD just see the world differently. And the world doesn’t always like that. The Apostle Peter, Simon the Zealot and Mary Magdalene were all probably ADD.

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