Archives for September 2016

The ADHD Filing System

filing-cabinetDo you have a filing system? Or more of a piling system?

If you have ADHD, just thinking of filing your papers away in a filing cabinet can fill you with dread.

There are 4 Very Good Reasons to Have a Filing System.

1) Peace of Mind

Knowing exactly where your important documents are gives you peace of mind and a sense of comfort and security. No more intense panics when you need to find your birth certificate or tax documents.  Lots of people with ADHD love excitement and so the idea of ‘peace of mind’ might not be a compelling reason for you.  However, hunting all night for a piece of paper is stressful. It is better to know where your papers are and organize a fun adventure for some positive excitement instead.

2) Saves Time.

You can find a letter or piece of information within minutes rather than hours when you have a filing system. ADHDers often say, ‘Yes but I know exactly where everything is in my piles’ and that might be true. Most of the time. However, it only takes someone to accidently trip over or move one of your piles, and your super power is lost.

3) You Look Organized

People respect you more if you look organized. I know it doesn’t seem fair, but it’s true. If your desk at work is packed with papers and your co-worker has a clear desk, guess who your boss thinks is more competent? It doesn’t mean they are, but that is how people perceive an organized space verses a disorganized space.

4) You Are Able to Focus and Concentrate

When you are surrounded by piles of paper, it is hard to focus and concentrate on important tasks. You might not think they affect you, but they do. Keep the projects that you are currently working on (max 5)  in color coded folders. Then file the rest of your papers away.

Why is it Difficult to Have a Filing System When You Have ADHD?

It is hard to feel motivated to do tasks that are boring and mundane when you have ADHD. Filing isn’t  interesting or stimulating. It is a task that fits into the ‘I know I need to do it some day’ but it is very easy to procrastinate or dash off to do something more exciting.

Some ADHDers fear filing systems because they worry that if something is out of sight they forget about it. If this describes you,  it is a good idea to keep your current projects in full sight.  But, you don’t need to see your home insurance document every day to remember you are insured. Documents like this can live safely in a file.

The 2 big challenges of having a filing cabinet when you have ADHD are

setting up and maintaining it.

filing-cabinet2How To Set up Your Filing System

The key to having a successful filing cabinet system is to keep it logical and intuitive for YOU. Not anyone else. You don’t need to create elaborate systems or even alphabetize it. You just need to know where the logical place for you is. So, if I said ‘car’ you would know where all your car information is.

Wondering What Categories to Have in Your Filing Cabinet?

You could do an internet search and get a list of common filing cabinet categories. However, what you really need are categories that make sense for your life. Here is a quick way to find out what these are.

Find a clear space on your floor, then grab one of your paper piles and start to group similar pieces of paper together. For example, group all of your banking papers together,  all of your pet information.  Each group gets its own hanging file in your filing cabinet.

If a group starts to get too big, that is a sign to divide it into two categories. For example, a health category could be divided into ‘family doctor’ and ‘dentist’ or into Health 2015 and Health 2016.

Once you have your categories, label your hanging files.  I use a label machine.  I am not a naturally organized person so being organized takes lots of effort. Having a few tools like a label maker makes organizing more fun for me. Plus the labels are easy to read and ‘official’ looking.  For some reason this motivates me to put paper in the right hanging folder much more than if they were in my hand writing.


Once you have set up your filing cabinet, be sure to use it!

If you have a piece of paper in your hand, file it straight away rather than popping it on your desk and saying ‘I will do it later’. It will only take seconds.  In contrast, if you leave it, that 1 piece of paper will become 100 and your filing task will take a few hours.

Often filing systems become graveyards for old information. If your filing cabinet gets full, or the files no longer reflect your life, you stop using it. Then you revert back to your piles. Remember, you don’t need to keep everything forever. Even tax documents can be thrown out after 7 years. Only keep what you need.

I purge my filing cabinet every year after I have filed my taxes. Linking cabinet spring cleaning to another activity is a good idea particularly one that is set in stone, like taxes, because it acts as a reminder.  Purging doesn’t take long. Just take out everything you no longer need and shred it.

Because organizing paper is unlikely to ever become something you really love to do, try to minimize the amount of paper that comes into your home. Sign up for online banking and get digital copies of your bills whenever possible.

What type of filing system do you have?


PS. The filing cabinet in the photos are from a Banksy exhibit I went to in Rome.


ADHD and Weekly Reviews

One of the characteristics of ADHD is not always learning from your experiences. It might be because you are in rush and dashing to the next task or appointment or because you are distracted or perhaps your mind is so full that there isn’t room for one more thing.

 ADHD and Weekly ReviewsWhatever the reason, if you did not get a chance to process and reflect on an event (big or small) you can end up feeling like you are in the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ and each day is a repeat of yesterday.

It could be that you are always apologizing to the same people for being late. Or perhaps you forget that something is not enjoyable until you are in the same situation again, each time promising yourself never again.

Not taking a few moments for reflection also means that there is no time to congratulate yourself when something goes well.

This is why having a Weekly Review is so important when you have ADHD!

Spending time reviewing your week might sound boring and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. It only takes 10 minutes, and it can be enlightening, empowering and a really great way to help you to reach your potential.

Here is a simple ADHD-friendly way to review your week and your life.

1)Pick a time that makes sense for you.  For example Friday afternoons, or Sunday evenings. Make it a recurring event.

2) Create a Word or Google document and label it ‘Weekly review.’

Ask yourself 2 questions:

What worked this week?

What didn’t work?

Under ‘What worked’ write down everything that went well for you this week. Use bullet points so that you aren’t tempted to write long paragraphs. You can, but we want this to be a weekly habit; if you feel like you have to write pages,  procrastination could set in and it won’t get done.

Here is an example:

*Went to bed every night before midnight and was able to get up with the alarm every week day morning,

*Took gym clothes to work and went straight to gym after work… 3 times

* Took a shopping list to the supermarket and only bought what was on the list. Saved about $40 on impulse purchases

Keep doing the things that worked!

Under ‘What didn’t work’ write down the things that didn’t go so well. Also problem solve to think of a solution.

For example,

*Went to the theatre with friends. Forgot how bored and restless it makes me feel.

Will suggest we try doing X instead next time they invite me.

*Impulsively interrupted Sally again. She accepted my apology but seemed offended.

Even though Sally talks very slowly, I will practice focusing on each word she says, (almost like meditation) and wait until she has finished her sentence even if I know the answer.

Your review doesn’t need to be perfect. Don’t worry if you don’t write down everything that didn’t work. Even just a few points will help you to operate differently next week.

Why do I need to write the weekly review?

There are many benefits to writing down your review rather than just thinking about your week. The act of writing forces reflection time. If your weekly review was just a mental one, it might be easy to get distracted or miss parts.

Your review document becomes more valuable as the weeks go by. You get to see your progress, which helps build your confidence and self-esteem. It jogs your memory of things you might have forgotten, and you will also see themes emerge.

If there is a stressful phase in your life, good habits can disappear. Then, when the stress has gone, it is very easy to forget what you were doing -sometimes for years. This document allows you to jump back on the horse quickly.

This week schedule your first weekly review, and let me know how it goes!