10 Ways to Be a Successful Planner When You Have ADHD

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A plan is a step-by-step outline of how to achieve your goals. Goal setting and planning give your life structure. This, in turn, helps with all your ADHD symptoms; including distraction, procrastination, impulsivity, prioritizing, decision-making and transitions. It also helps you prepare for future events. The passage of time travels differently when you have ADHD; which means you aren’t able to see a month or a year into the future unless you have a system in place.

As an adult with ADHD, you might feel some resistance to planning. Perhaps because you don’t like to be told what to do, even by yourself! Or because it will mean having to do tasks you don’t like. Or maybe you are afraid of disappointing yourself because planning wasn’t successful in the past. Still, don’t let these reasons deter you! The Navy SEALS have a saying: ‘Get comfortable being uncomfortable’. It is a good phrase to remember as planning becomes part of your life. It might be uncomfortable at first. Though, the benefits of planning are so advantageous,that the discomfort is worth it. Also, the discomfort will pass and daily planning will be your new normal.

Here are the 10 ways to be a successful planner:

1.     Pick one of your goals. If you want help setting ADHD-friendly goals, head to this article.

2.     Create a project list. Brainstorm all the tasks that need to be implemented for your goal to be achieved.

  Don’t worry if you don’t know every step. Just write down the steps you do know. The other steps will become clear to you with time.

3.     At the start of each week, look at your project list and pick 5 things to do this week that will get you closer to reaching that goal.

4.     Every morning, look at the weekly plan and decide what actions you can do today.

Having a daily plan gives you direction and helps keep you moving throughout the day. When you have a plan, it is easier to say ‘no’ to offers or requests from others. It is also easier to resist internal temptations.

5.     Have a space in your home where you do your planning. Keep all your planning tools there, including your project list, calendar, agenda, etc. there. As an adult with ADHD, you are probably very visual, so having colorful visual reminders stuck on the wall in this area is very helpful. Don’t try to find the perfect calendar or to-do list. Use whatever works best for you.

6.     Create a habit of spending 15 minutes, first thing in the morning, planning the day. Brian Tracey estimates that 10 to 12 minutes of planning your day will save you roughly 2 hours of wasted time and diffused focus. For an adult with ADHD, the time saved could be a lot more.

7.     Next, sit with your plan for the day for an additional 15 minutes a day and really study it. Look carefully at the order you will be doing everything and visualize yourself carrying out each action.

This is a great tip from Nancy Ratey’s book, ‘The Disorganized Mind’.

8.     Also in your planning time, review how yesterday's plan went. Did you get everything done? If not, why? Did you plan to do too much? Did you get distracted? There are no wrong answers. It’s just good information to have, so you can plan differently today.

9.     When you are comfortable with the planning process, you can make project lists for several goals and work on them at the same time.

10.   Remember to celebrate every victory, big and small.

Nancy A. Ratey, The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents, St. Martin's Press, 2008

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