Steps for Setting up and Using Organizer and Filing Systems for People with ADD

Organizing Tips for ADDOrganizing and planning are normal parts of everyday life. Why be organized?

  • So you can spend less time looking for things, more time enjoying things and being more productive.
  • So you can stop feeling anxious and overwhelmed when you can’t find something and feel overjoyed instead at knowing exactly where your possessions are!
  • So you can get more accomplished and earn more money
  • So you can lighten stress levels resulting from wasted “searching” for things, from being late, unprepared, harried – angry. And instead reap benefits from improved relationships at home, at work, at social function.

But what happens in the world of ADD is this. There are normal cognitive (or brain) functions that control learning and behavioral activities; the top three of these functions are working memory (or the maintaining of information that was just seen or heard), sense of time and organization.

People who have ADD often have trouble dealing with these three functions. The results? Lack of good, solid planning and time management skills, often hurting their job, home and social responsibilities.

There are a few basic steps for setting up and using organizer and filing systems to help people with ADD. These are only general guidelines and can be adjusted to suit individual needs. Seek help from a trusted friend, educator or other person who uses successful planning strategy, or check with professional organizational companies.


Planning systems can help people calm down and focus more on real-time, day-to-day activities. They need to be used for short-term and long-term planning. Look over options available in your price ranges at planning departments and stores like Day-Timers and Franklin Covey, and online.

There are print planners and planner software for computers and handheld computers. And check with the local librarian and search online for books, forms and other resources that may be available for creating our own planner pages on your computer or word processor. Pencil and paper work fine, too.

Many planners have instructions to help guide you through setting up a system. (If you are using pencil and paper, find a library book or guide to help you). Choose the calendar pages you’d like: some planners offer variations, like choosing between daily, weekly or monthly planning sheets.

To begin, daily sheets are a good choice so that you have plenty of room to jot down information. Monthly sheets only offer small-boxed areas the size of a calendar for writing down information, whereas daily pages offer one full page per day, usually sectioned off in hourly segments to log your meetings, classes, work and other functions.

Fill out any contact information page in case you misplace your planner, then fill in any resource contacts you’d like in the back (like phone numbers for relatives, clients, doctors, etc.).

To-Do Lists

Work with your ADD or helping coach to create To-Do lists. Keep it simple and start with the top three priorities each day. Add to the list as needed. Then for up to 15 minutes a day, spend time transferring these tasks to your calendar pages and prioritizing them, so you have a strategy for handling each day.

Use colored markers and stickers to help and make planning fun. For example, highlight top the three top priority To-Do’s each day in RED. Less important items that don’t necessarily need completed that day could be highlighted in YELLOW.

Alarm Systems

To coordinate your schedule, be pro-active. Use an alarm clock and plan on enough time to get up to get ready for work or school.

For meetings, appointments and other timed functions throughout the day, get or learn how to set your watch alarm or cell phone alarm (on vibrate mode, if sound will disrupt a class or something). Don’t leave timing to chance and guessing. Take charge!

Filing and Management Systems

While organizing, you’ll run across all sorts of items you’ll want to keep for later reference and use, like brochures, letters, instructions, account information, etc., in print or hard copy format and online via email and other computer- and online-generated format.

So learn to create and maintain real world and computerized filing systems. Get coaching here, too, from someone you know and trust who successfully maintains his or her own systems regularly.

And refer to your books and other resources about your computer model and on home filing systems. For starters, you can set up a box with manila folders for hard copy materials. And create simple folders under “My Files” on your computer to save electronic data.

Organizational Management Strategy

Keep everything in ONE planner. And take your planner around with you throughout the day. There is software out there that syncs handheld and print planners. So find out what your needs and budget are and make sure to keep only ONE planner system going.

Make it a habit to log everything in there and use it DAILY. Spend at least 15 minutes a day in quiet, reviewing and planning for the next day. Then at the beginning of the next day, take at least 5 quick minutes to glance at your whole day of plans to make sure of your plan of action for that 24-hour period.

Check off items as they are completed each day. And reward yourself! It doesn’t have to be a monetary reward, either. Enjoy some extra time listening to your favorite music, cooking your favorite meal or spending time with your best friend as a reward.

What works and what doesn’t? Take notes. Did you miss a meeting? Why – -was your cell phone alarm not set properly? Or did you forget to log it maybe? Mistakes can and will happen. No one is perfect. So accept errors, forgive yourself and move on. Prepare better next time.

Carry blank pages in your planner for taking notes. Jot down ideas for improvement – maybe you’re trying to do too much in one day? Maybe you’re misjudging the time it takes to get back and forth to work?

Maybe you have your priorities mixed up? Something happens to everyone at one time or another. Stop and take a second to have a look see. Remember, “Slow and steady wins the race!”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

19 + 12 =