As an adult, my personal life was a sad series of I-forgot’s.
I forgot to go to the grocery store so I don’t have the ingredients I need to cook dinner. I forgot to do my laundry and now I have to wear dirty clothes to work. I forgot to text back my boyfriend all day yesterday, and now he thinks I want to break up.
When I found out I had ADHD, it was a relief to know why I kept forgetting.
Being inattentive and forgetful, while not my intention, was acceptable when I was younger as long as it was in my personal sphere. Struggling to keep all my must-do’s straight at work, on the other hand, was awful but necessary because I couldn’t have a professional I-forgot.
It was easy enough before kids to pull all nighters if necessary so that everything would get done. Now I’m an ADHD boss with two kids. That’s a lot of details to keep straight, and much less time to get it all done.
So how do I do it?
1. I write everything down
2. I have a personal calendar and a professional calendar, and check both before making appointments.
3. Any personal appointments during work hours, or any professional appointments during personal hours must be added to both calendars.
4. I have an insanely complicated spreadsheet that allows me to only add one project per day per category. This way I can move stuff around up front instead of realizing at the last minute there’s no way I can finish everything on my list.
5. I look very carefully at the work set out in my department for the week and make sure I’m keeping tabs on big name projects that are due that week.
6. I recognize that I have to put in extra hours every night for planning and to finish projects for which I didn’t allot sufficient time.
7. I automate and pre-schedule whatever I can. If someone needs something in two weeks, and it’s a simple task I can set up now and cross off my list, you bet I do it now provided I’m not on deadline.
8. I try to batch process certain tasks. If I have to make three calls for my family, I have the list all set and the numbers and names ready to go so I can leave three quick messages if necessary.
9. I keep a consistent weekly schedule for myself, my family, and my staff. So an appointment for my son should be at the same time if he has to go every week. I have standing weekly team meetings at work that I don’t move and only rarely cancel. My life is one big ritual being repeated on a weekly basis.
10. I look at systemic issues with how my department runs, and fix those to the best of my ability, rather than fighting the smaller battles with a smaller payoff.
Bonus tip: As always, the key to ADHD is finding your own way of staying on top of all the necessary details, and not taking on too much at one time.
I have found that while trying to cook dinner every night is completely beyond my skill set due to ADHD, my executive functioning skills at work are much better. In some sense this is the rote repetition and practice over the years, but also because I am able to do things however I want in order to fulfill the assignment. Embrace any freedom you have to make a plan that works for you, or embrace the structure of someone else’s plan, if it exists. Both have their merits. Good luck.
What did I miss? Feel free to add your own two cents in the comments.