Planning and ADHD

Planning and ADHD

Jump to:


Do You Use a Planner?

I happen to think that planning and ADHD go together – they’re a good match for one another.

My thinking behind this is pretty solid – using a planner to manage your time and activities is a skill that will be useful throughout life.

And who could use this skill more than someone with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? A win-win situation, wouldn’t you say?

So, how about it? Do you use a planner of some sort?Planning and ADHD

A calendar, your phone, anything?

Using a Planner can be a Key to Success with ADHD

Theoretically, yes.

In reality, not so much.

See, in order for a planner to work, you have to do several things:

  • Write down important information like appointments, due dates, things to do or accomplish.
  • Check the planner often, or at least in a timely fashion.
  • Remember to look ahead for upcoming events.
  • Take action.

Sometimes these are skills that do not come naturally to a person with ADHD.

Writing information down, for instance, requires that you have both the planner and something to write with at the appropriate time. It also requires the ability to listen and write at the same time.

This may be a challenge for people with ADHD – first because auditory skills are not their strong suit, and second because the speaker has most likely moved on to the next topic.

And as far as remembering to check the planner on a regular basis – well, how many things do we remember to do on a regular and timely basis?

Still, the fact that it may be a challenge shouldn’t be a deterrent. It’s just a valuable skill that is worth learning.

Time Management

I’ve been thinking a lot about planners lately, and managing time.

Like most people with Attention Deficit Disorder, I think I procrastinate too much and waste a lot of valuable time. Yesterday the entire day seemed to disappear without my knowledge.

Before I knew it, it was after 10:00 pm, and I didn’t feel as though I had much to show for the day.

So, I’ve been looking around for a new way to manage my time and be more productive. I have an iPhone, which I still find invaluable for reminding me of appointments, but it’s somewhat unsatisfactory for planning my day.

A paper planning system doesn’t help much, either.

The reasons that I find these systems unsatisfactory are the same reasons that you may have trouble using your planner consistently:

  • The entire “planning” process – set some goals, break them down into manageable parts, schedule time for them, and do them – is a linear process or a left brain activity. The left brain is all about logic and order; think math, science, and Dr. Spock.
  • People with ADHD do not think in linear terms. They see big pictures, find relationships in things that others may not see, and often have several things going at once. Scheduling things into a time slot is against their nature; they want to do things when inspiration hits. They tend to be creative and right brain dominant; think art, music, and Leonardo da Vinci.
  • People with ADHD have a poor sense of time. They often underestimate how long things will take and over schedule their days. Sometimes time flies by for them (as my day did yesterday) and other times, minutes feel like hours. We experience time in an entirely different way than people who do not have ADHD.

What’s the Solution?

At the moment, I’m still looking for that elusive “perfect” solution. In the meantime, if you’re struggling to use a planner yourself, see if some of these ideas will help:

  • Use color as much as you can. Some people color code different things – blue for home, yellow for meal planning, green for money matters, etc – and carry that throughout. You can use colored pens for this, or just highlight with the appropriate color. It’s a great idea to be able to look at a planner and see at a glance just by color which areas need your attention – your brain will register that faster than reading each entry. Color also makes the page more inviting to look at and the act of writing more appealing.
  • Planners come in all kinds of colors and designs; I’ve even seen very creative ones done by scrapbook enthusiasts that were amazing. You can also customize your planner with stickers, photos, etc. What you’re aiming for here is to make using it a creative and pleasurable experience. By the way, Michaels often has special classes that teach you about using and decorating a planner.
  • Add bells and whistles. A special pen, some cool paper clips or post-its, a pocket in the back. Check out your local office supply or craft store; they have some pretty cool things that you might like. Think of ways you can make this planner more useful for more things. Glue one of those small clasp envelopes in the back for extra storage. Some planners even come with one. While you’re at it, see if you can find a way to attach a bookmark that can be used to easily find today’s date. 
  • Find a place for the planner that encourages it’s use. The kitchen counter, your desk – even you need to carry it with you, keep that in mind when you look for one. Some of them can be pretty big and heavy.
  • Start using your own “shorthand” if you have one. I think most of us have our own version of shortening things when we’re taking notes. If you’re reluctant to use it for fear that you might not remember what it means, start small and practice. Maybe a shorthand cheat sheet could be stored in the planner. By the way, pictures and symbols are much more efficient than words, so try to incorporate them as much as possible.
  • Remember the concepts of creativity and sensory experience as you design and use your planner. They can reinforce the things you add and help you remember

And remember, no planning system is perfect. You may have to try a few to find what works for you, but when you do, it will be well worth it!

Picture of Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

Read More