A lot of us with ADHD have a love of stationery. We accumulate piles of notebooks and planners, drawers of gel pens and scented pencil crayons, and fistfuls of post-its and stickers. That blank, smooth, unblemished first page seems alive with possibilities. Maybe this time, we think to ourselves, this time is the one where I'll finally get it together. It doesn’t help that some others are telling us to “just make a list”. All we need to do is get another organizer.
Far too often these shiny pages are filled with empty, whispered promises. We end up with a stack of books, the first handful of pages filled and the rest as blank as our hopeless stares at our chaotic lives. This happens because ADHD needs two things that so very often clash. We need structure (something we are singularly poor at providing for ourselves, but extremely adept at resisting from the world) and a system completely customized by us.
One of the ways I've created a custom system for myself is by using Google Drive, Documents, and Sheets. These provide that notebook-like space.
(Note: I've developed a habit of referencing Google Documents on a daily basis. This is not a system that would work for everyone because something based online without a reminder or alarm function would all too easily become out of sight, out of mind.)
Goal and Habit Tracking
Once the task of identifying what goals and habits a person wants to achieve is done, the next step for ADHD is to be able to maintain awareness and progress toward them. I use Google Documents to outline each step toward my goals so I can easily begin work on them as soon as I sit down at my desk. I track my habits by recording when I accomplish the habit and when I don't so I have an accurate idea of what it is I am doing, and how long it's been since I began trying to make something a habit.
Tandem Editing and Collaboration
As an avid writer, I have collaborated on a number of projects in the past several years. The comment, sharing, and suggestions features of Google Documents have enabled me to do this with ease. My husband has even used these functions to collaborate internationally.
Manual of Me
While training at the ADD Coach Academy, I was taught a truly amazing strategy. Essentially it boils down to recording how you function so you don't have to reinvent the wheel each time a challenge occurs. I use Google Documents for this as well.
When I come up with an outfit I'm really proud of, I always fear I will forget about it. So I've started recording either a description or a picture of the outfit in a Google Document database of my clothes. This allows me to skip the time it takes to assemble an outfit each time (which could be anywhere up to 45 minutes if I'm feeling particularly uncertain about my fashion sense).
By using the “Find and Replace” feature, any document becomes a searchable database of anything at all. I can instantly find out what to do if I'm feeling anxious, what outfits I've created in the past for a spring day, and what's my next step for my goal of launching my coaching business.
When something is blank, it becomes the perfect template for the ADHD brain to create what it really needs. For that other part, the structure, sometimes we need a few outside ideas. All of the above was inspired by ideas of others, then tweaked to fit me.
Always search out what you need and never give up, because there are as many ideas out there as there are people to think them, times the infinity of the Internet. All we need to do is find the right one for each of us.
What do you need in your system?