Latest update: July 14th, 2013
“Mommy, did you sign my spelling test?”
“Mommy, do you remember how you told me last week that you would be able to have my blue shirt washed for school today? I really need it for the play.”
“Chanie, you were supposed to pay the phone bill on Tuesday, right? I thought since I was out of town you were going to take care of that.”
“Where’s my lunch bag, Mommy?”
It was a regular morning in Chanie’s house but she felt like she was going to cry. Chanie knew that her kids and husband were not even angry. They were used to her forgetting to sign their spelling tests and pay the bills. They were also used to her forgetting to pack their lunches, mixing up their birthdays, and double-booking their dentist and doctor appointments. It made Chanie sad to think that her children expected her to be unreliable. She always had the best of intentions.
Organizing oneself is a very tough task. Organization requires discipline, time and something else that you might not be aware of – executive function skills. Executive skills allow us to organize our behavior and override immediate demands in favor of longer-term goals. Through these skills, we learn to sustain attention, plan and organize activities, and follow through on a task.
Sometimes, people might think that they are simply disorganized, but in reality, they could be impaired by Executive Function Disorder. Those with Executive Function Disorder lack many skills such as planning, time management, and working memory. This in turn can lead to persistent lateness, impulsive behavior, and the inability to finish any task completely.
It’s very possible that Chanie is disorganized because she simply has never tried to be organized. Considering the pain she feels when she lets down her family, it is unlikely that this is the case. It is possible that she is disorganized because she is missing executive function skills or her lack of executive skills can stem from undiagnosed ADHD.
Many women do not realize they have ADHD until they bring a child in for an evaluation. On occasion, after her child has finished testing, a mother will ask to speak to me privately. Often she will explain that she seems to have many of the same symptoms. It is only then she realizes that perhaps her inability to keep track of her complex life has nothing to do with her intentions and everything to do with ADHD. Together, we then work out a plan to aid her in combating the disorder.
For women, there are specific issues that coincide with undiagnosed ADHD:
Anxiety and depression. Many women with ADHD do not understand why they cannot function in the same way everyone else seems to. This deflated sense of self is often linked to anxiety or depression.
Obesity and eating disorders. Research has correlated women with ADHD and a higher chance of being overweight or having an eating disorder. Since organization is used to plan a healthy diet and make time to exercise, women with undiagnosed ADHD tend to grab quick meals or look to food to provide comfort from their other symptoms.
Addictions. Both men and women with ADHD are at a higher risk for harmful addictions such as substance abuse or gambling. This is because those with ADHD have weaker impulse control causing them to have difficulty in stopping addictive behavior.
In that case, what can you do to help yourself get things done well and in a timely manner? What can you do in order to get your life on track – to either manage your ADHD or Executive Function Disorder?
The Center for Learning Disabilities suggests multiple ways to improve your life and overall organization:
1. Use tools like time organizers, computers, and watches with alarms in order to give yourself reminders to help you get things done on time. Because your brain might not be programmed to give you these repeated reminders, setting up external cues can keep you on track.
2. Create checklists and to do lists. On these lists, estimate how long each activity will take you to accomplish. Then, break the longer tasks into small ones and assign time frames for completing each section. Breaking apart larger tasks will allow you to stay focused the mission at hand.
3. Remove clutter from your workspace (or kitchen). If this feels too scary to handle on your own, ask a friend or family member to set aside a few hours to help you clear your space. If they do not have time, consider hiring an organizer to do the work with you. Once the workspace is clean, set aside ten minutes every day to make sure it stays clutter free.
4. Use visual calendars to keep track of long term projects, appointments, and bill invoices. Keep this calendar posted in a central location and ensure that you look at it at the same time nightly. This way, you will have time to prepare for any different events taking place the next day.
For people with ADHD or Executive Function Disorder, getting organized can seem daunting and almost impossible. Regardless, with a plan and a goal, you can take small steps towards organization and order in your life. And, remember, nobody’s perfect – even with checklists and calendars – life might get a bit disorganized every now and then.
About the Author: An acclaimed educator and social skills specialist, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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