Friday, December 2, 2011

The ADD-Friendly Day Planner (The Concept)

Hello, my name is Heather and I have ADD.

I've been debating about whether to share this with you. Not because I'm ashamed of it, I'm not, and not because I'm afraid that it will mar the perfect image that I'm attempting to portray to you, *snicker* but because I don't consider it to be one of my defining characteristics, anymore than someone with diabetes would consider their illness to be a defining characteristic. It's just something that is true about me, that I have to deal with, but it isn't "me." Does that make sense?

Russell and Hazel's mini binder in easy-to-see lemon drop.
However, I decided to share it with you for the simple reason that it explains a lot. I've already alluded to it in The Chaos Fairy and Weeding the Closet  posts, among others, but now I thought I'd just come right out and say it. As you lovely people have decided to join me on my blogging journey, there may be times along the way when you wonder "What in heaven's name is she doing?" If you have this piece of information it'll be a clue. It's also a factor in many of the decisions that I make while I'm trying to renovate and "organize" the house (if you could call what I do "organizing").

Mini Bands, also from Russell and Hazel in Geo and Bloom
So, you may be wondering what having ADD actually means? Everyone has heard of it but what it is like? Well, imagine you're mind is a hummingbird and your thoughts are flowers... hundreds of flowers, and your mind flits from thought to thought without ever completing one.  Now start adding more, new, interesting thought flowers that keep attracting your attention. Now you're all over the place. Pretty soon you've forgotten about the first thought entirely. Now, if your first thought was about painting rainbows on you fingernails then it's probably OK. However, if your first thought was "I have to get the chicken out of the freezer to thaw for dinner tonight." then you may be in trouble. Spaghetti again tonight! Oh hooray.

Also Russell and Hazel.

ADD also has Executive Processing Disorder as a component. The executive processing center of you brain is like the air traffic controller of your thoughts. Your EPC is the thing that tells you to collect ALL of the glasses from the living room and bring them to the kitchen in one trip. It's the thing that reminds you to bring your calendar with you to your appointment and look at it once in a while. My air traffic controller is asleep.

Russell and Hazel mini pockets.

What does all of this have to do with a day-planner? Lots. Day-planners require a series of habits in order to make them useful. For example:

  1. You must remember where you put the planner.
  2. You must remember to bring the planner with you
  3. You must remember to write in the planner, and
  4. You actually have to reference the darn thing once in a while
  5. They work best if you don't keep changing the plan

I can and do fall down on any/all of these points.

Russell and Hazel Mini blah, blah, blah. It's all from R + H.

Usually, I decide to get my act together and I get a brand new planner, because this time I'm going to get organized and this planner is going to magically get me there. It doesn't work. Ever. Here's the thing though, I do need something to keep my thoughts and plans in. I have to have something to ground me and to help me focus on the stuff that I most want to accomplish.

To that end, creating a planner that actually works for me, is one of the items on my 40 x 40 list (which may or may not be called that, contain 40 items or be done by the time I'm forty ;-) - thank you for your advice, I'm still considering all of it) Since I need the planner sooner rather than later, I've been working on it now.

R + H

With ADD, you have to think differently about how you approach organizing tasks. Things which seem incredibly obvious and straightforward to typical people are complicated and confusing to people with ADD. This means that my first step in creating my planner has to be to define its purpose. I can see you shaking your head. "What do you mean define its purpose? It's a planner, duh." Maybe to you but not to me. To me it's complicated, loaded with decisions about what to include and what to leave out and how to use it best. It also contains the specter of many past failures, which I don't want to repeat. See? It's complicated.

The first rule for organizing anyone with ADD is KEEP IT SIMPLE! We cannot manage complicated systems. That's why defining the planner's purpose is so important. I have to distill it down to it's essence in order for me to have a prayer of being able to use it. 

Here it is: My planner's purpose is to keep track of appointments, keep completed plans and finished lists in front of me so I remember to focus on what I want to accomplish and to keep a record of the items I've completed to encourage me to keep going.

Here's the funny thing: I'm not going to do any actual planning in the planner. Only completed plans and lists have a home there, and by "completed" I mean that the plan is fully-fleshed out, not that I've finished doing the things in the plan. It's intended to be a book of reminders as opposed to a place to plan. I'm making pages to go in it. There will be a daily checklist of things I need to do everyday but usually don't because there are actual fun things to do, my 40 x 40 will be right in the front, lists that go with the 40 x 40 will be in there, my monthly calendar and my blogging calendar, among other things, will all go in. 

This is a work in progress so I'll post the completed project as soon as it's done. If anyone would like to use some of the pages I create I can post them as PDFs so let me know if you'd like them. they'll be 5.5 x 8.5 and fit in any mini binder.

Here's the planner exoskeleton and guts on my table, it still needs its brains. That's right, I styled it a little.

and because I have an ironic sense of humor, here is the other, non styled, end of the table:

Is your table clear? Well la ti da for you pbbbt ;-p

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I think I'm going to turn off the computer this weekend and get out and do stuff! So I'll see you again on Monday :-)


PS, all of the components are Russell and Hazel, you can get them at or, for less money, and with Prime, on Amazon, just search "Russell and Hazel mini" and all of the options will come up.


  1. hi heather, my name is noreen and my ears don't work very well so i wear hearing aids. i'm glad you told us about your add. it's something you are always managing, just like i am managing sitting close to the speaker at a conference. i love your planner! also if you do make a list, put it on, and then you have the satisfaction of crossing it off!

    hooray for you!

  2. Thanks Noreen! I wasn't sure I should, but it's done now and your sharing has helped alleviate the sound of crickets chirping that was hearing from the post ;-p

    As in: "Hi my name is Heather and I have ADD."

    *record scratch*
    (long pause)

    *more silence*

    *crickets chirping*

    Readers thinking "Well, now I'm uncomfortable. What the heck do I say to that?"

    So thank you for that :-)

    It'll be a quirky planner, but hopefully I can make it work this time.

  3. Heather, my best friend has ADD. So I can relate to your chicken story... sometimes i am the chicken and our plans are forgotten but i love her the way she is!
    Glad you could share this. I have OCD, and i hate being labelled, but it's how it is. Not the kind of ocd where i wash my hands every minute, but the kind where i have repetitive worrying thoughts, anxiety.
    Thanks for sharing, we all have our quirks, but it just makes us who we are. Much love to you and the planner is awesome!


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