ADHD: Make Being Organized Interesting
From a series of stories shared with me by Hunters in this Farmer's World
This story is from Greg Vetter, the president of an organizational training and consulting firm in Atlanta.
He tells how he discovered that being distractible and high-stim do not necessarily mean you can’t get organized, and shares one of the techniques that he’s taught to people ranging from entrepreneurs to presidents of Fortune 500 companies:
I’ve gotten to meet a lot of new people in my career. I changed jobs like some people change hair styles. The first job I had other than working for my family’s business was mowing lawns. Then at seventeen I moved up to bigger and better things: I was working at the 7-11, but not for long
I’ll never forget, my sole purpose was to organize the store’s cooler and candy section. Never mind that I was supposed to be checking customers out at the register. The owner’s priorities and mine were worlds apart, so he asked me to organize elsewhere. Little did I know that later in my life I’d be organizing presidents of Fortune 500 companies. Obviously my boss didn’t either, because he certainly never would have let me go. Who knows, if he hadn’t fired me, I still might be working at a 7-11.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed things to be in an orderly, familiar way. If they weren’t, I felt anxious and out of my element. When I would work on a charitable project I used to go crazy, because everything was so disorganized and so much time was being wasted. I found it very hard to be in a disorganized environment. If I didn’t have all my ducks in a row, I got frustrated pretty quickly because it wasn’t familiar to me and I felt out of control.
In college I majored in psychology; actually I double majored in it. During an Industrial Psychology class, we toured a John Deere factory to study how productive the factory and the workers were. I was hooked by this experience, and couldn’t get enough. I wanted my career to involve something regarding how people worked, but I didn’t know exactly what yet.
Fifteen years later, after working and struggling in corporate America and elsewhere, I decided to start my own business. It was a restaurant and catering company which I started with my partner, Bill. Putting it together was a ball, but after it was up and running I was bored. No challenge, nothing new to learn. Running that business did, however, drive me crazy, because it was one interruption after another and I could never get anything accomplished.
What I found in my career was that I got bored very easily if I was in any sort of routine. The constantly changing and exciting atmosphere was great, but routine wasn’t. Half my jobs have been in management and starting things from scratch. Once they’re up and running smoothly, though, I’d invariably become bored and lose interest in what I was doing
Through the years I’ve always had the urge to create a better organizational system for myself, whether it was selling, running a restaurant, or supervising a sales district. Finally, in 1989, I decided to create my own organizational consulting business. Every job that I had had gave me another chance to perfect a system of how to work. I collected all my thoughts, experiences, and systems that I had developed and created “A Vetter Way To Master Your Paper And Priorities.” I created a system to meet my own needs: one that would allow me to function and excel in getting things accomplished at work. Here’s how it works:
Many of the people I’ve worked with find the most useful part of my system is the idea of a paper-free desk. Every loose piece of paper on your desk represents a decision not made. Think about when you sit down in front of your desk and there are stacks of paper and loose pieces of paper everywhere.
If you feel constantly interrupted, it’s probably due to that little voice in your head reminding you of all the things you still need to do. Each piece of paper is a distraction and an interruption. If you videotaped your head movements during the day, you’d find your head turning to the left, the right, the top of your desk, and so on and on, noticing all those pieces of paper and constantly distracting you from what you were attempting to do.
In the Vetter system, there should only be five things on your desk: An In Box on one side, and an Out Box on the other; your phone should be on your left if you’re a righty and on your right if you’re a lefty; your appointment book and computer complete the list. Everything else is filed away with a system in place on how to get your priorities done.
One of the most useful parts of the Vetter system is my five-step system to empty your In Box of papers and materials in five minutes or less.
Most of us do our work out of our In Boxes. As a result, they’re almost never emptied, we never want to go through them, and the pile of stuff in them grows at an unexplainable rate.
So here’s the five-step system that’s perfect for ADHD people:
1. Stand up. When we sit, we have a tendency to take longer with whatever we do, but when we stand we become energized.
2. Ask yourself OATS. There are only four places anything in your office can go. Out Box (out of your office), Action (things to do), Trash (anything you want to get rid of), and Support (things you refer to).
3. Decide the category and the file. Categories are groupings of similar or like things. Files are the individual components that make up a category. When you decide to keep something, it will go into either one of your Action or Support categories. It always works from general to specific, big to little. The sequence starts with category, then goes to sub-category, then file, then sub-file.
4. Say it, hear it, see it, touch it, and, if you’re weird, smell it. The reason we forget where we put something is because we don’t decide what to name it (categories and files) and because we don’t reinforce where we will keep it. Use all your senses when you sort through your In Boxes. Say the category and file name out loud, see what it is (visualize it in your mind), touch it and sometimes even smell it. (Remember those perfumed letters you got years ago?)
5. File it away. Simply put your papers away. When you’re finished with this process, you can work on getting things done one at a time. In the meantime, you have a paper-free desk with an empty In Box, you can find everything in five seconds or less, and you’re in control.
Not a bad way to start out a day’s work!