Make a list, they said. Make a list, and a time to check it, and an alarm for that time, and an alarm to set the alarm for checking, and, and, and…
Yes, structure can be super helpful to ADHDers trying to survive in a neurotypical world. But when does structure become a barrier to success?
Some of ADHDer’s challenges stem from weak executive functioning, and compromised working memory. Recognizing this, and realizing that support for these areas will be necessary, is pretty crucial for improving one’s ability to stay organized, meet deadlines, and generally deal with obligations that keep us employed, sheltered, and not pissing off relatives by forgetting their birthdays. There is no shame in needing strategies and support for executive function, just like there’s no embarrassment in wearing glasses if you have impaired vision.
And those supports really need to be the right ones for you. If I wear my husband’s glasses, I will easily walk into a wall. And if he wears mine, he will likely drive off a cliff. If I tried to use his to-do list, I’d probably lose my mind. And vice versa.
Sometimes, though, we go overboard-and the very structure that is supposed to help us becomes a burden. It might be too much structure-scheduling every minute of every day-or not the right kind. Some people thrive with bullet journals. Personally, not my jam (and I have tried, I have the gorgeous journals with 5 pages filled to prove it).
When we over-structure, it can cause discomfort, even resentment. And that’s the tipping point at which one might say “I hate all of these lists. That’s it, I’m done!” And the ADHD free fall begins.
We’ve all been there. It lasts…until the scales shift, and there’s more discomfort with the free fall than the structure. And back and forth we go.
But, what if we built some free fall into our structures? For example, one day a week without a to do list. Or an hour every day built in for just…being. Or maybe, including some time every week for going down rabbit holes.
It’s tough to balance one’s ADHD tendency to go down the rabbit hole with the need for a plan, to not just get stuff done, but also to feel good about the effort. But both are parts of the ADHDers’ make up. So why not just own that…instead of trying to extinguish it?