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     Putting The Puzzle Pieces Together

Why are so many individuals who are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder chronically DISORGANIZED? The manifestations for Attention Deficit Disorder are attention difficulties, difficulty with focus and concentration and difficulty staying on task, as well as, difficulty sustaining ATTENTION for lengthy periods of time.

Dr. Russell Barkley and Dr. John Ratey now make reference to the “EXECUTIVE function” of the brain. They contend that individuals exhibiting Attention Deficit Disorder symptoms and those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder have difficulty with the “executive function” of the brain working the way it should. The “executive function” of the brain is like an “executive secretary”. An executive secretary keeps the boss organized and FOCUSED on what needs to be done. Consequently, Attention Deficit Disorder individuals lack this important life skill.

One of the most important pieces of the puzzle for the Attention Deficit Disorder individual is to have STRUCTURE and set boundaries. Consistent routines on a daily basis need to be implemented. Waking up at the same time each day and going to bed at the same time help keep the Attention Deficit Disorder individual on SCHEDULE and rested. Clothing should be picked out and laid out the night before –- that includes the entire outfit, from underwear to socks, to belt to shoes. Have your purse and briefcase ready and waiting at the exit door. Keys, cell phone, palm pilot and any other electronic device needed should be right next to your purse, briefcase and coat. It is advisable to have a basket or container in the area where you enter and leave to house all these electronic gadgets and keys.

Many adults with Attention Deficit Disorder need to put the puzzle pieces together. The puzzle pieces consist of PLANNING, prioritizing, staying on task, and paying attention for set duration of time. These are not typical traits for the Attention Deficit Disorder individual. Because the Attention Deficit Disorder brain is wired to be so stimulation-seeking, which is counter intuitive to organizing, organization becomes a MUNDANE task-one which the individual does not want to do, and therefore, will not do well. Suggestions for staying on task:

Give yourself anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes when switching gears before going to another task. You need time to TRANSITION. Take frequent short breaks, but use a timer to pull yourself back to the task.

Use a CLIPBOARD and lined paper for retrieving calls -- and always date the messages. On your desk, only have one legal pad for NOTES, and the clipboard for phone calls. Put notes in the proper file when complete. Don’t leave them on the legal pad sitting on your desk to get mixed up with other notes. My mantra is: “cpmplete the task”.

Work on giving yourself DEADLINES for the “to-do” list and breaking the “to-do's” down into action steps. Give yourself rules and give yourself deadlines.

Open your mail over the wastebasket. Throw away junk mail, catalogs, coupons and flyers. Keep only information that you will USE. Decide what action you need to take with the remaining papers. Use rolling file cabinets or carts that are open so you can SEE what is inside, and then roll out of the way when not in use. Separate your files into meaningful CATEGORIES.

Drink cold water when you start to feel stressed. The cold water will help you CALM the stress. 9. Play classical MUSIC to help with focus and concentration. There are recordings available that are specifically for energy, focus or concentration.

Set aside time to attack your messy desk or cluttered home. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day, before you leave the office, or before you retire at home, to TIDY up and get things ready for the next day.

HIRE someone to work with you in the evenings or over the weekend. Hire a professional organizer and coach to help you clear away the clutter and get organized for good!

Make time to RELAX and recreate. Enjoy the weather. Enjoy your family. Do something special for yourself.

Putting the puzzle pieces back together can be stressful and time-consuming for the chronically disorganized Attention Deficit Disorder individual. Take it one PIECE at a time. Use a professional to help you stay focused. Be PATIENT and the puzzle will come to life.


Sandra Einstein is an organizational consultant and an ADD coach. She works with adolescents and adults helping them to organize their time, space and minds. She is the mother of a 16 year old ADD son, who attends a college preparatory day school and has been successful in achieving goals and high performance even in honors level courses. She can be reached at .

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