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5 Steps for Organizing Your Office if You Have ADHD (and Even if You Don't!)

Do you have trouble keeping your workspace organized?  Are there papers and objects everywhere?  Piles upon piles?  If so, here are five specific, ADHD-friendly steps that will clean up your office fast, then make it easier to keep it that way:

Step 1:  Storing vs. sorting - If you have boxes of things (from a move, for example) that have been sitting around for more than a year, don’t sort them…just label them and store them.  This might mean simply stacking them neatly in a closet, basement, attic or even the corner.  Why this is ADHD friendly:  it’s really easy to get distracted and overwhelmed when sorting (“Oh, look, an interesting article!”) yet the fact these things have been in a box for over a year means you probably will never need to access them.  So don’t waste your time.  And putting them aside, rather than throwing them out, means that if you do need something (old tax files, for example) you still have them.

Step 2:  Create “master” files – Many of us make the mistake of sorting too finely.  Instead, create a few files for things you access regularly (you know what these are) and throw the rest into broadly classified master files.  The broadest version of this is 3 folders:  “To do” which is a reminder file (and which has a piece of paper stapled onto the outside of it on which you keep a list of items you need to do – the folder simply holds the back up documents); “bills to pay” (which you clear out and pay on the 1st and the 15th of each month – set a reminder if you need one!); and a large basket labeled “2012.”  You put everything personal that comes into your office into one of these three places.  When you finish a “to do” item, put it in the “2012” basket.

Why this is ADHD-friendly:  If you need something, you know exactly where to find it – no wasted time locating something that is “lost.”  The basket automatically arranges things in reverse time order (most recent on top) so even though there is a lot of stuff in it, it’s pretty easy to find what you need when you are looking for something specific.  You’ll find that you pull things out of this basket less often than you might anticipate.  Plus, this system gives you the maximum amount of neatness with the least amount of time doing the boring stuff!

Step 3:  Clean the existing mess up one area at a time – There are two great ways to tackle a big existing mess so it doesn’t get in the way of your life and relationship.  Either set an alarm for a specific amount of time (perhaps one hour) and stop whenever it goes off OR define a small part of your office as what you will next tackle and do only that part (“the right side of my desk” or “the first book shelf”)  Why this is ADHD-friendly: It cuts down on the overwhelm you may feel about tackling the huge project of cleaning up your office (“one little bit is manageable!”) and doesn’t require that you stick with the not-so-fun project for more than a short time.

Step 4:  Do a January sort – Find your calendar.  Block out, right now, a half a day to do a basic sort of your main 2012 folder.  On that day, take everything that is in the basket and sort it into a few meaningful piles that make sense to you:  “2012 Taxes”; “2012 Non-Tax Financial”; “2012 Health”; “2012 Home Receipts”; “2012 Kids Stuff”; “Family Historical” and “2012 Other” may well cover all that you need.  If you have items from the basket that don’t fit these broad categories, consider whether you need to create an additional folder or can toss it.  When you’re done sorting, label files and put the information away (in a box or filing cabinet).  Why this is ADHD-friendly:  Setting aside the time right now means you won’t leave finding any tax information you may need until the last moment. Plus it will clear your office out for 2013.  Keeping the number of piles/files you sort into small means the sorting is easy.

Step 5:  Start your next year’s files – set up your 2013 three master files and you’re set to go.