Thursday, November 3, 2011

Now, where the heck did I put that reminder?? A book review. . .

Among my personal mental files, perhaps the fattest folder in the bunch is the "Tell Me Something I Don't Know" file.  I file it under "D" for "Duh!"  In this file is decades worth of advice from well-meaning individuals--friends and family, as well as authors whom I know only through the pages of their self-help books--who have tried to help me manage my life over the years.  It's filled with gems including, but not limited to:

  • Keep a calendar
  • Make a list
  • Wear a watch
  • Write it down
  • Just remember
  • Don't forget
  • Get organized
  • Put it back in its proper place
  • Concentrate
  • Just do X, Y, or Z. . .it's easy!
Hmmm. . .yeah, okay.  Without your expert counsel and mentoring, I 'never' would have thought of any of those things.

Yep, Kind Reader, I feel your head nodding knowingly.  If you have ADD/ADHD, you have a file like this too, chock full of recommendations to help you with your day-to-day struggles. 

Only, the trouble is that you were diagnosed with ADD/ADHD - you were not diagnosed with being clinically stupid or uninformed. 

Chances are pretty good that you've heard about the fancy new high-tech device known as "The Shopping List."  You appreciate that it's an extremely helpful tool. . .when you remember to take it with you to the store.  You would love, Love, LOVE, to put things back where they belong.  You just don't know where they belong.  Do they belong in this pile on the counter or that one on top of the washing machine?  You probably have at least seven calandars and day planners in your home. You'd never be late for an appointment in your life. . .if only you could remember to write the appointment down in the day planner. . .which you would do. . .if you could find it.  Perhaps it's on top of the washing machine. 

After I was first diagnosed with ADHD, I was chatting with my therapist, Dr. R., about what I might be looking for in the way of a therapeutic treatment plan going forward.  He suggested a class in organizational skills.  I laughed.  "I could teach a class on organizational skills.  I know all about the priniciples of organization and time management.  I just can't do it."  Dr. R. responsed with a sympathetic chuckle--he's heard this before, no doubt. 

If I had to guess, I'd say that a huge percentage of the royalties that any organizational guru earns from how-to books is generated by sales to folks with ADD/ADHD.  After all, it's our intense frustration with our inability to implement these seemingly simple skills that sends us into the doctor's office in search of a diagnosis, in the first place.

In the first few days after starting medication, I was more determined than ever to organize the chaos of my life.  And now that I was medicated, I had a newfound confidence that I could do it.  So, guess what I did!  I went to the library and checked out about 15 books on how to organize.  They had titles like (now, I'm making these up, but you'll get the idea): The ABCs of Alphabetizing Your Life, Clean Your Disgusting House!, 1,562.3 Simple Organizing Techniques for Simpletons, and Smart Organization for Messy Morons.

At home, I sat down with my books, and leafed through them for all of about six minutes.  Tiny font, yuck.  One of the books had so many numbers and charts and graphs on its 600 pages that I could have mistaken it for my college calculus textbook.  These aren't going to help me, I quickly assessed.  I took them all back to the library.  Three days overdue, of course.

But I hadn't given up my quest just yet.  One day I sat at my laptop and thought wistfully, I wonder if there's a book out there for me - an ADHD-friendly book on how to organize my life.  So I Googled it.  Just then, the sky parted--in that proverbial way that the sky parts whenever something awesome happens--and the angels burst into a rousing and funky chorus of "Celebration," as Google returned the search result for the Holy Grail of organizational books for the ADHDer:  ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, by Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau. 

The title pretty much says it all.  It's a book on organization written especially for people with ADD/ADHD.  What makes this book unique is that it doesn't focus on techniques.  It focuses on the particular challenges that people with ADD/ADHD face that make it difficult (and sometimes impossible) to implement or sustain traditional organizational and time-management strategies.  This book is not a detailed "cookbook" that requires the reader to follow prescribed steps or systems.  Rather, Kolberg and Nadeau concentrate on the trouble spots common to people with ADD/ADHD that interfere with our abilities to implement rigid systems.  They offer explanations for our struggles, and offer wonderful suggestions for organizing that involve working with instead of fighting against our tendencies.  They provide examples of strategies that have worked for people they've helped.  They encourage us to devise strategies that feed our craving for fun and stimulation in our work.  And they outline the various ways we can garner support for our efforts from ourselves, friends and family, and if needed, professionals.

Even the format of the book is, as they say, ADD-friendly.  Its exceptionally organized content is displayed in a readable font, with logical bold section headings.  Each chapter is clearly summarized with memorable bullet points.  There's plenty of white space on the pages to encourage even the dreamiest of daydreamers to stick with it through just one more chapter. 

What I enjoy most about this book is that it gives me ideas for developing my own stragegies, which I'm working on little by little, slowly but surely. 

My doctor, Dr. K., told me that, in her extensive experience, she's noticed that after beginning treatment, her clients with ADD/ADHD tend to spend a year or so developing an infrastructure for their lives, where they had chaos before.  That's where I am right now - at the very front end of it.  Chaos continues to breathe menacingly down my neck, but I see organized calm on the journey ahead of me.  I plan to use ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life as one map to help guide me there.


  1. Thanks for the review. I've ordered the book even though I hate the thought of ordering yet another book. I just found out at age 41 that I have ADD and, for some reason, finding out that I have it, even though I'm on medication, seems to have made the ADD worse! I've convinced myself, though, that if I can just get better organized, I'll be able to get more done, so I've ordered the book and enlisted some help to keep me on track. I hope you keep posting, as I'd like to her how it goes for you.

  2. Hi, Karen - thanks for your comment! I hope you find the book useful. I've gotten a lot of good tips from it. With the help of medication, I have better focus and *ability* to organize; but I'm realizing that now that I can focus better, I have to learn the skills that I never learned in 44 years - sometimes really super simple little things that I just never thought of because my brain didn't put information together in that way.

    You mentioned that you think that your ADD might actually be worse now that you found out about your ADD. If you haven't already, you might want to mention that to your doctor. It might not be your imagination if you've recently started meds. If your medication dosage is too high, it can actually worsen your symptoms.

    Best of luck to you; and thanks for encouragement to keep posting. Keeping a project going beyond the point where the inital enthusiasm wears off has always been a really hard challenge for me! Knowing that there are some folks out there who find my blog at least a little helpful or entertaining helps to keep me motivated and writing. I appreciate it! : D