Making Space


It has been a busy Summer for me with family, travel, edits for a short story collection to be published in September, research for more stories, book reviews, correspondence, lining up interviews for my blog, recipe testing, blog photography, you get the idea.

When people ask how do I get so much done, I always say that I am blessed with the H (hyperactivity) in the ADHD diagnosis and that it is my super power. I find it difficult to sit still. I have to move, to do, to be active. It is not always a blessing. I can be exhausting to be around. I take on too much at times. I have to regroup and rethink when facing deadlines. I have to make space and pare down by make room for all the things that are important.

It is not uncommon for folks with ADD/ADHD to find themselves swamped with projects, overwhelmed and frustrated. Right now I’m working on my plans for my blogs and my writing projects for the year, and it occurred to me that the real answer to getting things done is not just the blessing of being a high energy person, it is also the ability to discern what to let go of and what to hold on to. I like to garden and a big part of gardening is weeding. Weeding to make space for what you want to grow. I had to let of blogging for a bit to focus on other writing projects. I’ve had to let go of my gardening projects to make time for my family. I’ve had to let go of social media a bit to have time for me.

It doesn’t mean that I won’t go back to these things, but it does mean that the process of picking and choosing what to spend time on is key in accomplishing anything. The one question to ask when deciding how to cut back in order focus on a specific project or goal is: “What can I let go of to make room for what I want to happen?”

Let go of things that are crowding out the things you want to grow.



Embracing the Work of You: Ten Tips for a More Organized Life

Bucky 2009

Staying on top of your “to do” list. Being on time. Having clean clothes. Being able to find what you need when you need it. Staying on a task until it its complete. ADD/ADHD makes each of these tasks seem impossible at times. I often feel like Sisyphus, rolling that dang bolder up the hill just to watch it roll away again.

The truth is, no one ever has it all together. Everyone struggles to keep up with their lives. For those of us with distraction issues it feels like we carry extra weight on our journey.

I have a great brain for remembering every little bit of information that comes my way, but I still have to put the car keys away in the same place every time, or I can not remember where I put them.  I label the shelves in the refrigerator so I can remember to put food back where it goes, and my toothbrush has colored tape on it because I can’t remember which color toothbrush is mine. Silly? Maybe, but it keeps my from brushing my teeth with other peoples toothbrushes!

 When I get frustrated with myself have to remember that most people do not contend with a brain that will drop everything to watch, and perhaps follow a stray ant that happens along. Most people can filter out the unimportant from the important. Most people would comprehend that starting that wallpaper stripping project at midnight,  just because you notice that part of it is already starting to peel anyway, might not be a good course of action.

After years of being angry and frustrated with myself, I finally decided to make friends with my brain, and to find ways to work with what I have.  If you are struggling with organization, and keeping up with events in your life try these organization tips.

  1. Automate everything possible.  Sign up for E-Bills, schedule up automatic bill payments, schedule routine deliveries of household items (toilet paper, etc.),  subscribe to mail order/ automatic prescriptions refills.  Take advantage of services available. 
  2. Use labels on the outside, and on the inside containers, drawers, and cupboards to help you remember what goes where and where things are.  For young kids pictures work well. The inside label system  works well for chests of drawers and helps to keep clothing organized.
  3. Use a checklist for groceries. There are many free downloads on line. Find one and use it, or create your own. Train everyone to check things off as you use them.
  4. Create a landing zone and have a routine for entering the house. This works for kids and adults. Create a routine, such as: hang keys up, shoes off, coats hung, bags/ backpacks/ purses/ etc hung up, hands washed. Cubbies, hooks, key racks and shoe racks work well to keep things off the floor and where you need them when you leave. 
  5. Create a household task schedule. It can be a simple as knowing that every Wednesday and Sunday you are doing laundry, and cleaning the bathroom every Saturday.
  6. Clean the kitchen after each time you cook. This will 1) save you money as you will not be as tempted to go out to eat, or order a pizza, and 2) provide a sense of accomplishment because at least the kitchen is clean!
  7. Lay out out your clothes for the next day, have your kids do the same. This will save time in the morning, and prevent last minute scurrying around trying to find clothes that fit, and that are clean. 
  8. Have a place to open mail and pay bills. Do not open mail anyplace else. Train everyone to place mail in the same place.  This system will prevent lost misplaced bills, etc. 
  9. Have a main calendar for the family. Place it where everyone can see it. Use different colors for each person’s schedule.  REVIEW the calendar nightly!  If you don’t look at it you might as well not have one.
  10. Maintain a sense of humor. Everyone misses appointments, forgets things, has to find the cleanest dirty shirt to wear, or scrambles at the last minute to get things together.  Give yourself a break and go back to your system.
These are some of the things that I do to keep my life going on a somewhat even keel. I hope they help and if you have suggestions, send them along! 

Timers-Not just for Cooking

Throw back Timer

Looking back over my posts on how to get things done when you have distraction issues, I talk a lot about using timers. I did not grow up in a home where kitchen timers were used. My mom never used one. I can’t smell the aroma of burnt rice, and not think of my mom. I am not sure when I figured out that the smoke alarm was a poor excuse for a kitchen timer.  I will tell you this: using timers when cooking transformed my kitchen skills.

 For years I used the alarm settings on my digital watch, now I use the timer on my phone because it is loud enough I can hear it over the usual pre-schooler chaos in my house.  A timer does not serve you if you can not hear it.  An added feature of using my phone is the ability to set multiple alarms.

ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by J. Kolberg and K. Nadeau (Buy the book here)  has a very good explanation of how using timers assists ADD/ADHD individuals with time/life management. I found this book at a time when I was really struggling with keeping things together, and it remains one of the most helpful books I have ever read.  My copy is well-worn and tabbed. These are some of the ways I learned to use timers and alarms to overcome my distraction issues.

 Cooking. This is the most obvious, and common use for timers.  When I don’t use my phone, I have a kitchen timer that has a clip so you can clip it to your clothes, and take it with you.This is very helpful for those of us who decide in the middle of fixing dinner that some household project needs to be started/finished, etc.  I am really partial to the digital ones that count down from when the alarm goes off so if you can’t get to the oven at the precise moment things are done you know how long it has been since you missed the alarm.

Laundry.  I  use a timer when doing laundry, and this cuts down on the “Damn- how long has this load of laundry been in here?!” factor, and rewashing clothes because you got distracted while doing the laundry. It also keeps the laundry moving, taking advantage of the residual heat in the dryer.

Writing. I use a timer when I do sprints, challenging myself to write 1000 words in one hour,  and when I am breaking up my writing time by devoting set times to different works-in-progress. I also set an alarm to remind me to pick up the kids. This lets me focus on my writing and not worry that I am going to be late picking them up from school. When you only have 2.45 hours of kid-free writing time you have to make every second count.

Cleaning up with the kids. We set the timer and play beat the clock, racing around trying to see who can pick up the most toys. It makes picking up the toys more fun, although it can get pretty competitive and sometimes we have to stop to break up the melee that results.

 Any task that I really do not want to do.  I set the timer for ten minutes and give myself permission to quit after ten minutes if I want to do something else. Most often, I get over myself and just finish the dang thing because I want to get it over with after I started it.

Exercise. I set the timer when I exercise so that I can focus on the exercise itself.  There are some great exercise program apps that have timers built in. Using a timer instead of counting reps for exercises allows you to work at your own pace, and tailor the workout to your fitness level. These programs also are body weight programs and do not require equipment. My favorite apps are The Seven Minute Workout (free) ,  and YAYOG ( You Are Your Own Gym- $).

There are many timers on the market for people with ADD/ADHD.  For children, these are wearable timers that look, and function like a digital watch, with the added benefit of vibration so the alarm can be discreet, and kids can wear them to school. The Watchminder is also marketed to adults/seniors. Using timers with kids can decrease the parent nag/kid resist behavior loop.

 Wearable timers designed for use by adults/kids have the ability to set multiple alarms, some also function as count-down timers, and stop watches.  These timers are great to use with kids too young to use phones, non-smart phone users, kids/adults whose phones are a distraction, and kids/adults that work in environments that do not allow cell phones.

Using timers with kids with distraction issues, organizational issues, or  ADD/ADHD is a great way to help them focus, learn to monitor their own behavior, and teach them ways to overcome their distraction issues.  Learning self-management is a great self-esteem booster for kids. For parents, using timers with kids decreases parent stress by letting kids take responsibility for their behavior.

Learning to use timers changed my life in very positive ways.  Timers decrease stress in my life. If you haven’t tried using timers, experiment with them. See if they make a difference for you.

Geeky but functional.

Irregular schedules and Ten Time Management Tips

OH Yeah I OWN it! (Much to my wife’s dismay.)

Time. The most difficult thing in the world to get a handle on if you have an irregular schedule. Add in distraction issues, and you have a wonderful recipe for always being “a day late and a dollar short” as my mom often says.

 I have had an irregular schedule for most of my adult life. I have worked all three shifts at one time or another, worked 8 hour shifts, 10 hour shifts, 12 hour shifts, and everything in-between. I have gone to work on days when I was not scheduled, and not showed up when I was scheduled.  I have missed events, been early for events, and scrambled to make deadlines.

As difficult as it is to manage time for yourself, when you add one, more little people, the challenges of getting everyone where they are supposed to be with: appropriate clothes, homework, lunches, wallet, purse, backpack, book bags, show and tell items, etc.  multiply like rabbits in spring.

In my quest to find a system of time management, I wasted a lot of time trying to follow different popular organizational systems (Getting Things Done, 7 Habits, etc.) before I realized that most well promoted organizational systems are written by men who assumed that: 1) everyone works Monday -Friday, 9-5;  and 2) that there is a wife and/or staff somewhere taking care of the house, food shopping, cooking, bills, and the kids.
No time management system developed by a man has any reference about how to manage and integrate childcare, kids activity schedules, house maintenance, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, caring for older family members, or suggestions about what to do if your kid gets sick, you need to go get them from school and you have 3 meetings scheduled. Knowing a fair number of men that are active participants in the care and maintenance of homes and children, these systems would not work for them either.

 The following tips are gleaned from my personal experiences, and various time management resources. My favorites are the classic by Julia Morgenstern’s Time Management from the Inside Out (buy the book here and  ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life by Judith Kolbery and Kathleen Nadeau (buy the book here).   Both books embrace the fact that people (read most often women) work AND have other responsibilities.

These are my top ten tips to save time. Some of them might save you money too.

  1. I lay out my clothes, and get the kids’ to pick out their clothes for the next day the night before. This saves fuss and bother in the morning about what to wear. In my house we can settle who’s turn it is to wear the purple owl socks the night before and avoid tears before school.
  2. Pack all lunches, book bags, your bag, etc. the night before. If you have leftovers, pack them into lunch size containers when you clean up from dinner. This saves time and money, not buying lunch and using up leftovers. 
  3. Have a family calendar posted where everyone can see it. For parents of teens, if you  work shifts, you may want to withhold your work schedule. Keeps the kids on their toes!
  4. Make a meal plan, use it! NO,  really it does help, the last thing I want to think about at dinner time is what to make.  Make sure you schedule really easy meals on nights that are busy, or you get home late. 
  5. Use the alarms and reminders on your phone. This has saved me from being late picking the kids up more than once. I can also really focus on what I am doing instead of looking at the clock every five minutes.
  6. Keep a running grocery list. Use it. Train your kids and spouse to use it. This saves you time by not having to run to the grocery store every five minutes because you are out of something.
  7. Limit your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus time.  Hide the icons on your phone, heck, hide your phone if you need to! We all know how much time can be frittered away on social media. Pick your time, set a timer, and make yourself put your phone down.
  8. Stop hitting the snooze button. Really. Get up, and get going. You will not get the time back, and that extra snooze time is not worth the stress. 
  9. Let go of perfection. Good enough is often good enough. Stop wasting time trying to copy those Perfect Pinterest pictures and get on with your life.
  10. Use a planner. Plan creative time to pursue your projects. Plan time to be with your spouse/partner. Plan Family time. Remember the housework will always be there. Enjoy the people in your life.
Do these tips work all the time? Am I perfectly organized, never late and always prepared? No. Recently, as I was driving the kids to school, I looked in the rear view mirror and I realized that no had combed their hair, including me! I do the best I can. And carry a comb.

Life is a journey of constant corrections to stay on course. Sail On.

I would like to say that every morning before school is like this, but that would be a lie.