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How to Stay on Schedule When You Have ADHD/ADD

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Understanding Your ADD/ADHD

When you have Attention Deficit Disorder as an adult it is almost impossible to stay on schedule. The reason that people with ADHD/ADD (from now on will just be called ADD for ease of reading) have a hard time creating a schedule and sticking with it is that they are so very easily distracted - everything is a priority so their entire focus switches from one thing to another rapidly.

As an example: a woman who is cleaning her house who has ADD will begin to clean a kitchen drawer, find a DVD that belongs in another room and take it into that room. She will then wonder if the disc actually works or if it is too scratched. So, she will put it into the DVD player. As it begins to play she realizes it is her favorite movie, calls the kids in to watch it, sends one to the kitchen to make popcorn, and totally forgets that she had planned to clean the kitchen at all. After the movie is over two hours later she realizes that her husband will be home from work any minute, there is no supper on the table and the house is a mess.

Frustrated with herself she berates her inability to be organized until eventually she is so beaten down that she is depressed and it is even harder to do anything. Meanwhile the people around her, her husband, parents, friends, co-workers, just cannot understand why she does not have the self discipline to do what needs to be done.

Sound familiar?

A Word about Depression

Depression can look a lot like ADD. If you don't have a history of concentration problems or ADD and you suddenly find that you are having trouble concentrating and staying on task you should get an appointment with your doctor to talk about the possibility of depression. Rule that out before assuming you have developed ADD.

When you have ADD it's easier to maintain your schedule when things are uncluttered and serene.
When you have ADD it's easier to maintain your schedule when things are uncluttered and serene. | Source

I Have Personal Experience with ADD

People think I am organized but really I am not. I only look organized because I know how to get around my ADD and work within my limits. It is really easy once you know how.

I have 8 children, a son in law, and two grandchildren. My husband and I own a small 2 acre "farm" that we are trying to homestead on and be as self sustainable as possible. We are restoring a 4300 sq ft house using "green" methods and I write for a living, sometimes spending hours on the computer. Some of the writing I do is about food and that requires cooking and baking, as well as photography and the use of photoshop. I homeschool the six kids still living at home. We have goats to milk, chickens that must be cared for and horses that need to be exercised. And I do have ADD. Can you imagine if I did NOT stay on track?

You need to first accept your limitations. Everyone has them. Yours happen to be that you cannot stick to a task without help. Admit it, get it out in the open, help those around you understand it. In the long run it will be helpful. Accept the fact that your kids may need to respectfully remind you that you need to do laundry. Accept that you will need help. Accept that no one is superwoman (or superman). Ready?

Take time to relax - you'll think much more clearly afterwards.
Take time to relax - you'll think much more clearly afterwards. | Source
Remember what is most important
Remember what is most important | Source

Rule One: Write It Down

Whether you use 3x5 cards, an electronic diary, a notebook, or scratch paper you need to have a list of the things you need to do. Every night before you go to sleep review your list for the next day. Every morning look over your list so you know what to expect for that day. Keep it with you. When you are finished with one thing cross it off and go on to the next. As soon as you find that you have drifted and become distracted, check your list for what you need to be doing.

An excellent book, and the one I use myself, is Sidetracked Home Executives. I have used this method for fifteen years with excellent results. It does help me stay on track. It also shows you what needs to be done in your home and how often.

The method could be easily translated to the workplace.

Take time to do the things you enjoy - keep life in balance.
Take time to do the things you enjoy - keep life in balance. | Source

Rule Two: Get Back On Track

Whenever you find yourself standing in the middle of the room, or knitting because you found some really cool yarn while you were cleaning the toybox, stop immediately, check your list, and go back to what you were doing. In this way you are the one in control of your time rather than your time being in control of you.

Don't see these distractions as failures but understand that they are a normal part of your life and accept that they will happen. By accepting them you allow yourself to be imperfect, and many of us with ADD are perfectionists. Seeing them as distractions rather than failures will allow you to move past them and not kick yourself for the rest of the day because of them.

Organizing Your Home

Rule Three: Throw It Away

Clutter is your number one enemy. While anyone can easily clean a clutter-free house, someone with ADD will get lost and overwhelmed in a cluttered space. Choose to throw things away, give them away, or just store them away. The less you have laying around the easier it is going to be.

If you have not used it in 6 months you probably don't need it unless it is holiday related. Stuff is not valuable, the memories associated with the stuff are. You can throw the clutter away and keep the memory.

Decluttering is energizing and empowering. You will realize that you have been held an emotional slave to things. It is very freeing to get rid of them.

Eat right - as many fresh foods as possible.
Eat right - as many fresh foods as possible. | Source

Rule Four:Organize Your Week

Plan your week on Sunday. Have a day in which you do certain things. For example;


Monday- cleaning upstairs

Tuesday -cleaning downstairs

Wednesday- errands

Thursday -file papers, pay bills

Friday- laundry

Saturday- family time

By doing it this way you know where each chore goes and on which day it will get done.

Life Skills

Accept Yourself

Accept the things about yourself you can't change. Everyone has them. Do the best you can do every day and try to do better the next day but don't look back with remorse on the things that you didn't get done. Focus on the things you do well, make a list if you need to, and build yourself up daily.

Each day try to do something to feed yourself spiritually/emotionally. Reach out to someone else in need, encourage someone, be a blessing. Whatever your religion, or lack thereof those are tangible things that we all can do to build ourselves up. Take some time for yourself, to read, to relax, to do something you find enjoyable, and then get back to what needs to be done.

Small, baby steps are to be celebrated! You can do this. Yard by yard the task is hard but inch by inch it's a cinch!

Slideshow: You Can Overcome ADD Frustration

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Hang around people who love and encourage you.Enjoy the beauty in life.Accept who you are and be the best at it you can be.Organize, declutter, and don't let things get overwhelming.Don't give up.
Hang around people who love and encourage you.
Hang around people who love and encourage you. | Source
Enjoy the beauty in life.
Enjoy the beauty in life. | Source
Accept who you are and be the best at it you can be.
Accept who you are and be the best at it you can be. | Source
Organize, declutter, and don't let things get overwhelming.
Organize, declutter, and don't let things get overwhelming. | Source
Don't give up.
Don't give up. | Source


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    • WAHmom profile image

      Zee Mercado 6 years ago

      I know what ADHD and ADD stand for but it would be nice if you included this info in your article. Pls educate your readers what those letters mean exactly. Not all of them know what ADHD and ADD mean. Thanks.

    • profile image

      Ashley Coker 6 years ago

      That thing about the CD sounds just like me!

    • Jeffrey Neal profile image

      Jeffrey Neal 8 years ago from Tennessee

      Obviously this hub was written just for me. I am so bad and the end of your first section about beating yourself down for it is where I am at the moment. I recognized ADD as a problem I have a while ago, and now that I'm working from home it's even worse. You are right about letting everyone know because I've found that sometimes the nagging (gentle reminding) is what I need from my wife to finish certain things. I'm appointing her to CEO so that she can keep me on point while I'm working as well, lol.

      Thanks, though, these are all good tips and I haven't heard of the books although I am currently working on the Getting Things Done method in David Allen's book of the same name.

    • profile image

      trose 8 years ago

      Very nice! I don't have ADD but I sure get sidetracked! I have read many books including Sidetracked Home Executives, FlyLady, Sandra Felton books, etc. but I have not found a simple system for me to use yet. The systems in these books seem very complex to me and geared for those who are home all day. I work outside the home so time is limited in getting things done at home. Thanks for the information.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 9 years ago from Wisconsin

      I cannot wait for my husband to read this. He is ADHD and to be honest I'm not sure how I haven't killed him or divorced him yet. The only problem that I really see him having now is that he still believes that he can control it - therefore, I'm not seeing true attempts at trying to improve things. We have three children (two of which are ADHD) and we are in the process of doing homesteading gradually. I am about to die from handling all the burdens because he can't seem to keep it together. You give me hope for him.

    • MoralsEthics1960 profile image

      MoralsEthics1960 10 years ago from Florida

      Finally someone who understands!

      Your info is going to be valuable to me.

      Medication helps but being able to work everything out and plan your day is the key I have been missing.

      Thank your for the wonderful info I can now apply and maybe find the time for a more structured and productive life.Your awesome!

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 10 years ago from Sydney

      I did not even know that this Add existed. I have led a sheltered life.

      Thank you for a awesome hub

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 10 years ago from Georgia

      I think that clutter hinders my ADD abilities. :-( I'm good with writting things down. I like using dry erase boards.

    • gabriella05 profile image

      gabriella05 10 years ago from Oldham

      Marye I wouldn't never thought that you have ADD I have a forum where people can talk about ADD/ADHD

      Great hub thank you for schering

    • profile image

      queenbee56 10 years ago

      Excellent advice and thanks for recommending the book. I think your advice is valuable for those of us who are just messy, even if we don't have ADD!

      (btw, Jim, ADD/ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder).

    • jim.sheng profile image

      Dalriada Books Ltd 10 years ago from UK

      Very interesting. but what is Add/ADHD short for?

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      Nice work Marye. I don't think I have ADD, but I'll never understand how you write hubs and put together one or more blogs at the same time! Just publishing my old columns keeps me busy, and reading all the great stuff on hubpages takes up many hours. Thanks for an interesting hub.


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