Photo: extraordinareality.blogspot.com

Here are some more tips for creating structure in your life.

Start with 75-hard or a similar program

At the beginning of the corona crisis I had to deal with a lot of anxiety because of the sudden absence of many activities that were providing structure in some form or other. In my frantic search for ways to keep some form of structure I came across the website of Andy Frisella (https://andyfrisella.com/pages/75hard-info) and the program he has developed, 75 hard. What this comes down to is that you agree with yourself that for 75 days you will exercise a certain amount, eat according to some kind of diet, do not eat cheat meals, drink no alcohol, drink one gallon of water each day and read 10 pages of a book. This gave me an every day purpose. Where before I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning, do constructive things and work towards my goals, I now had a way to motivate myself. The beauty of this system is that everyone can do it. You adjust the type of diet and the intensity of the exercise so that it works for you. Seems easy? The trick is that if you fail at one of these things for one day, you start again at day 1. Even so, many people have been successful with the program. It is not really about losing weight or fitness, although many people see positive results in these areas. It is more about mindset. This might not be for everyone, but if you struggle with structure, following a plan like 75-hard or something similar, can help you by giving you certain activities around which to structure your day. The deadline also makes it easier to stick to the program.

Use the KonMari method as described by Marie Kondo

I am sure everyone has heard of Marie Kondo, her method of getting rid of unnecessary clutter, or both. The nice thing about her method is that it is very systematic and works for every form of clutter you can run into. It is a great way to go through a bookcase with books you have bought years ago and never read, or to finally tackle sorting through your clothes after failing several times before because it is such an overwhelming task. Her book Spark joy has helped me more with tidying up my house than any other method, and is well worth a try.

Use a habit tracker for those things you need to do every day/week but keep forgetting

As described in the blog post on keeping a diary, you can add a habit tracker if you find that you keep forgetting or postponing certain tasks. There are many different design which you can find on Pinterest or Google, but I have found that the simplest version works very well for me. At the beginning of every month I make a grid on which I put the tasks on the vertical axis and the dates on the horizontal axes. It is not so much about being able to force myself to do those things I wouldn’t otherwise do, but more about becoming aware how many times I for example change the bed sheets. It gives you something to hold on to, and you do not have to keep all those things in the back of your mind at the same time.

Use procrastination

Everyone with ADHD will know how problematic and infuriating procrastination can be. You know there is that really important test in a few days that you need to study for, but you keep watching cat videos on YouTube. Or you have to give a presentation for your boss, but you still have a week, so why ruin your day by working on that right now? However, up to a certain point procrastination can also be used for good. I have found that in some cases procrastinating on one task will give me motivation to do something else I would normally not want to do. It is for example a great way to do certain household chores. I make a list of everything I want to do in a certain time period, and if there is a task that I really do not want to do, I keep delaying that by doing all the other things on my list. This doesn’t always work and I of course still have to do that thing that I keep delaying, but it can make me very productive.

Create some perspective for the future

This one may sound a bit weird. When the corona pandemic started and we had to go into lock-down, all plans for the near future were scrapped. This was a lot more stressful than I had anticipated. It wasn’t so much that I had made those plans and was disappointed that I couldn’t go through with them, but more that all of a sudden I didn’t seem to have a future perspective anymore, a feeling I am sure many people are familiar with. This made me realize that I have had that feeling with some regularity, although normally it wasn’t as clear as at this moment. It has everything to do with the way I experience time, something people with ADHD struggle with in general. At moments when I had almost no plans for the future, which was for example the case when I started to heal from my current burn out, I felt really stressed out because I had no future plans I could focus on. It felt like I had no future anymore, that I had to live from day to day, because the future seemed to have vanished. It is hard to put into words what this feels like, but people in a similar situation will probably know what I mean. It made me go from a situation in which I felt mostly in control to one where I was in survival mode. One of the most important lessons this has taught me is that I need to plan some things for the long term. Even if it is just a holiday I will go on in a few months or that course I want to start in half a year, as long as I have something to look forward to in the future, it is easier to deal with the stress from day to day, especially in this pandemic. This works best if I write it down in my diary. Keeping it all in the back of my mind feels chaotic pretty quickly. That way I can also see which things I need to take care of before I can carry out certain tasks, and gives me a better handle on the future.

Split tasks into smaller steps

Many times people feel overwhelmed because tasks seem very complex. If you don’t know where to start with something, it becomes hard to start at all and you keep delaying certain tasks. You can bypass this problem by cutting tasks into small parts. Just make a checklist of every step you need to take with a complicated task. This doesn’t just give you a clear overview of everything that has to be done, you force yourself to go through the task mentally, making it less overwhelming.

In these posts I have written about all the things I have discovered that help me create structure and thereby give me the feeling that I have control over my life. But there is one thing that I haven’t mentioned so far that I think is the most important: Listening to my gut instinct. During my childhood I was regularly told that this is not a good thing to do, that I should ignore my instincts and just do things as I was told. It made school into a nightmare and some things very hard for me to learn. After years of ignoring my instinct and struggling through tasks that many people seemed to find quite easy, I finally am learning to trust my gut again, and it has made things a lot easier. People have probably told you that solving certain problems is easy if you do X, Y or Z, only to find that this doesn’t seem to work for you. Only you know how your mind works, so only you can find ways that really work for you. You will also probably know pretty quickly if something will work for you or not. If you, like me, have learned to shut down that part of your intuition, it could help you a lot to learn to listen to it again. Of course people can make suggestions that can turn out to be really helpful, but if not, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t trying hard enough or are lazy. It just means that those things aren’t right for you. I hope that what I have written in these posts can help you overcome problems with structure, but if not, keep on looking. Sooner or later you will find something that will work for you.

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Henrike Jekel

Henrike Jekel

Language enthusiast with a background in molecular biology and a passion for mental health