In 1845, Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann published a story called “The Story of Fidgety Philip” about a young boy who had trouble sitting still and paying attention. He would likely be diagnosed today as having attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Previously called attention-deficit disorder (ADD), ADHD is a condition marked by inattentiveness, distractability, lateness, and disorganization. If you can relate to these challenges, there’s a chance you may have had ADHD throughout your life and were never diagnosed.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 3% to 5% of kids have ADHD, but some experts believe that figure could be as high as 10%.  Approximately the same percentage of adults are diagnosed with ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD include poor sense of time, trouble starting on a project or finishing one, impulsivity, and general disorganization.  These challenges are related to executive function in the frontal section of the brain. There is a strong genetic component to ADHD and many parents don’t know that they have ADHD until after their children have been diagnosed with it.

Getting organized makes life a lot easier for everyone. But for those with ADHD, organization can be elusive. Following are a few basic organization tips that can help anyone, but are especially useful for people with ADHD.

Time Management

  • Having a planner is the first step. Choose paper or digital based on your personality and needs.
  • Use reminders on your smartphone to help you transition between projects, meetings, and errands.
  • Make lists of things to do using an app like Evernote or jot your “to-dos” in a spiral notebook.
  • Prioritize each day. Determine the three Most Important Tasks (MITs) from your list to accomplish today.
  • Use a timer. Set a timer for 15 minutes to get started on a task. To accomplish a large project, set a timer for three 15-minute consecutive periods with five-minute breaks between working periods.

Paper Management

  • Use online resources and archives to eliminate paper, such as setting up online bill pay, accounts for insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOBs), and other financial paperwork.
  • Plan on spending five minutes of paper triage daily and two hours of administrative time weekly.
  • During paper triage, separate papers that require you to do something like bills to pay, a new insurance policy to file, or credit card statements to review. Trash, recycle, or shred as much as you can.
  • During administrative time, pay bills, review action items, add to your to-do list, file and review important papers.
  • Be creative about filing options. You can use magazine sorters, decorative boxes, or notebooks to keep paper organized rather than filing everything in hanging folders in a drawer (although that works too).
  • Think about scanning as an option. You can store documents on your computer or hard drive and retrieve them easily with a search function.

Home Organization

  • Work in baby steps.  Start with a small project, work on it in 15-minute increments until you are done, and enjoy the results of your efforts!
  • Find a clutter buddy. Having the support of an additional person in your space or on the phone can help you make decisions, commit to the work of organization, and be accountable to your goals.
  • Create deadlines for your home organization. There’s nothing like company coming, a holiday event or grandkids spending the night that makes you focus, declutter and get organized.

You can learn more about ADHD and find resources at and

!! Ellen DelapEllen Delap is a Certified Professional Organizer and Certified Family Manager Coach. For more than 10 years, she’s been helping her clients make time and space for what’s important to them by organizing their homes, offices and their daily living. Ellen works one on one with her clients in their homes and offices to streamline their environment, creating effective strategies for an organized lifestyle and prioritizing organization in their daily routine. She specializes in working with ADD and ADHD families, adults and students. Learn more about Ellen and her business at, @TexasOrganizer on Twitter, Ellen Delap Professional Organizer on Facebook, and Ellen Delap on Pinterest.