ADHD / Adult ADHD / Coping Strategies

ADHD: Hell in the planner aisle.

Well it’s finally come to this. Not only do I need to use a calendar, but my life is so busy and multidimensional that I really need to have a planner.

A planner. You can’t hear my voice as I say those words, but if you could, it would be a creaking, gasping sound, better suited to the radio storytelling medium. An inhale where an inhale should not be.

My goals are ambitious and I realized that the best way to make regular, steady progress, is by planning out every single day between now and 2015. You can’t really do that with a mere calendar – at least not with the amount of work I have to do. There is a certain amount of effort that I need to make, daily, on certain tasks and projects, to make sure that everything progresses. A planner. I got a planner.

In the process of this epiphany, I also realized that I had to cut some things out of my schedule. I need to be focusing my energy. I have to do this from time to time…I end up with too many projects and have to streamline in order to actually get anything done. The executions begin, tomorrow morning. I’ve already made my list of what stays and what goes.

I hate calendars, but I like organization and I like systems. It’s kind of a contradiction. So is everything about my ADHD. I’m the stupidest smart girl in the world! So tomorrow morning, I’m going to sit down with a mechanical pencil and begin with entering my kids’ schedules. But we’ll come back to that.

Tonight, I went to Staples and headed for the aisle marked “Planners” and oh my freaking gawd. OH MA GAWD. There were only 8,000 different kinds. And all of them cost more than I wanted to spend. I guess you have to pay the price when you prefer a “weekly/monthly” versus just a monthly. Whatever. So I looked through literally every type of planner that they had in stock. I nearly passed out when I saw the ones where you can schedule every tiny parcel of your day into 15 minute increments. Jesus H. Popsicle. Then there were the ones that I was immediately drawn to, the artsy, colorful, whimsical ones, with swirly retro designs on them. Not only were they free-spirited on the outside, but there were a hot fucking mess on the inside. I don’t need a bunch of shit drawn all over my calendar and planner pages. No. Nope. Insert vision of my brains exploding splattering everywhere.

Now, overall, I was completely disappointed, because what I realized what that I wanted one that was bright and fun on the outside – but serious and seriously boring on the inside. I need gridlines in my calendars, not just numbers floating around like they’re stoned. But NONE of them fit these criteria! None! Apparently one is allowed to be either corporate and boring, or artsy and fartsy, and not a combination.

And…there were, I don’t know, like 20 different kinds of planner, and then they had each type in different sizes. It was overwhelming. It was the PLANNER AISLE. I had to Facebook Chat for help. It didn’t help much because my friend was like “okay, so how is this gonna go” and I was like “OMG THERE ARE SO MANY”. That’s about as far as that got. And then I was that person talking to themselves in the aisle “ooooh, that one has pears” and “oooh, paisley, I love the 70s” and “WHO THE FUCK SCHEDULES THEIR LIVES IN 15 MINUTE INCREMENTS?!” And can you imagine…someone out there has the job “planner designer”. Planner Designer. Right there on their name tag. I mean there must be, why else would there be 20 different styles in 60 different sizes?

I finally found one that I liked in terms of size, and that I LOVED in terms of its internal boringness. The cover…meh. But at least it was navy blue with subtle sparkles, and not just navy blue. I can deal with this. And if I have to, I guess I can just decorate it.

I have come up against this type of challenge before. In my last trimester of college, I was basically desperate to finish my undergrad degree before I hit the “let me the fuck outta here” wall again and was tempted to drop out again. I pulled a classic ADHD boner and in addition to my regular course load, in order to finish in that one trimester, I added a full course load of correspondence courses to my schedule. 30 credits in ones trimester. It was completely terrifying! That was very motivational. But to make it work, I had to get extreme with my organization. And oh, I did. I literally planned every day of the trimester on a calendar/planner thingy and I followed that goddamn plan every day. I nearly flunked out of astronomy because I was so tired and kept falling sleep in the planetarium – but I wrote a paper every day, and did all of that reading, and I did it. I completed my credits and I graduated. I was really proud of myself. It was a pretty great achievement.

I think I’m a little worried right now…because I have some factors (key people) in my life that aren’t totally predictable. I’m afraid to make a plan and then have to change it and then it might keep changing and then my plan is fucked up and…I either need a plan, or I need chaos, but I think I might freak out if my plan gets all effed up. I’m making a plan based on goals. I don’t want to be disappointed and I hate having to keep changing my focus. I just want my plan.

I was going to start using the planner tonight. I really like systems, after all. But…I was nervous. Then I opened it up again to see how much I liked the inside (I liked it! Nice, clean little boxes!) I got some cheese and crackers. I thought about it some more. I got tired.

I’m going to bed. I promise I’ll crack that sucker open in the morning.

I promise. It’s an ADHD promise, which means that it’s really sincere, but I’ll remember in a week…or something…haha…

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9 thoughts on “ADHD: Hell in the planner aisle.

  1. I have so much to say about this, but I’m in a rush and afraid I’ll forget to come back and comment (classic ADHD!!!). But, I think you might be my long-lost twin except at this stage you are WAY more productive and goal-oriented. Strangely, I’m envious and grateful at the same time. I’m one extreme or the other — ruled by disorganization and ADHD OR obsessive and controlling in regards to my schedule, structure, and getting things accomplished. My mission in life is to find that ideal balance…..All the best with the planner. Quick question: do you struggle with digital planners, like keeping everything in your phone and synced with your computer and other devices? I ask because this is a VERY big problem for me. I need to be able to see it in front of me all the time. Plus, if I use my iPhone for everything, I forget to look at it OR I look at it obsessively. Just curious. And please, if you find the perfectl planner, I would love to hear about it. Wishing you luck, and happy 2014.

    • OMG I do struggle terribly with digital planners and calendars and such (I actually talk about it here, lol: http://www.additudemag.com/adhdblogs/26/10561.html). Technically, the little audio reminders and stuff seem like they would be a good idea – except that I think they would distract and stress me out all day long, so I seem to end up going back to paper, usually, eventually. I also can’t “see” the electronic kind – you have to seek them. A physical, paper, planner can be used as a visual cue. I need visual cues. Out of sight, out of mind, I’m like you – I have to have it in sight at all times. I do this with to-do lists too – my most extreme to-do list was when I used to do custom sewing orders for brides. I had a hard time remembering what I was working on and would spend a lot of time wandering around the studio going “what was I just doing” or “where in the hell did I just put my scissors this time”. If I walked across the room to check my list for my next order…I would forget key details by the time I got to the other side of the room. I solved this by getting giant paper, many feet high and many feet wide, sticking it to the wall, writing REALLY BIG and making this my orders list. I would just cross things off as I would go, and I could see the list from any point in the room. I highly recommend this for those pesky working memory issues. This made me far more productive. I suppose one could make a calendar for themselves this way too, in their work space.

      And balance…the struggle OF MY LIFE. Constant work in progress. That’s actually why I got the planner. I need to give myself a very literal structure for a while. One thing I have been working on lately is actually working a 40 hours work week like I hear people do. There’s a variety of reasons why this is challenging for me, but lately I have been doing things like “oh hey, it’s evening, I hear other people actually stop working at this time of day, maybe I’ll try that and have a conversation with my children, instead” or “oh gee, it’s a weekend, what is it that people do with those again? Maybe I’ll watch some true crime shows”. I think it will always be a work in progress though. By nature, I’m either ON or I’m OFF and once I’m in either mode, it’s a struggle to switch. Meds help, but it will never be perfect.

  2. I am actually now afraid to start any new projects, such as volunteer jobs, etc, just because I KNOW I’m going to add to many things into my schedule and get overwhelmed and have to quit some! Last semester I thought I could schedule a full course load of classes on top of working full time. Didn’t work out so good… all F’s. Maybe I need a planner too! (Although I don’t think planners help with OVERplanning stuff unless some hand comes out and says, “STOP! You’ve done too much already!”

    • Haha, yes, I know this problem well. This is why, for several years, I refused to have a calendar. I would just keep adding new things to it, as long as there was room to write it. I tried to curb the problem by getting the smallest calendar I could find…I just wrote smaller! So I stopped having one. I really can’t always get away with not having one though. I need one. So I’m giving in, again. I’m better now at not adding stuff…I still get a little out of control sometimes (people who know me well will read this comment and scoff to think that I’ve improved at all, but I swear I’m not as bad as I used to be!) When I do, I just have to think the herd again. I’m thinning it a little now, in fact, but because I’ve been steadily working on this streamlining in my life over the past few years, it’s not nearly as bad as it’s been before 🙂

  3. I bought a planner 2 years ago and used it for like a week. It was a weekly/monthly one, but it was bulky like a yearbook. I didn’t use it much at all. Maybe if I got one half the size it would be better. I’m on meds too but planning is still just crazy for me.

    • I get that. Though meds are helpful, they are just one tool – and they can’t do everything. I find that for me, the size/color/texture/format of something like a planner matter a lot. Even though I was overwhelmed in the planner aisle, I knew I was going to have to look through them to find one that would “click” for me. I can’t say it was a totally enjoyable process, lol. But as I looked through them I started to find ones that I knew I hated and eliminated those from my consideration. And I actually started a pile of ones that I liked. I ended up with 3-4 at the end, looked through those, and picked one. Most of the weekly/monthly ones had weekly sections that were formatted in a way I didn’t like. The one I picked let me make a list for each day. Gotta find what works for you 🙂

  4. This post absolutely made my day! I think someone commented above about being long lost twin. Well we all must be triplets. As I hold in my hand a brand new fancy teal leather classic Filofax. So I went through the nightmare process on having to find a store here that sells them, drive out of my way so I could see and touch them. Last minute color switch at the register and you would think relief the pain is over. No. Now I need stuff color blocked and laid out in a format that makes sense to my brain. Now. The joy of finding printables that make sense, the font, color,format etc. oh not to mention finding A5 paper in the U.S. I have to print, hole punch. Gawd, I just want to start using my blasted planner. Thank you thank you for this post. My husband got a great laugh as well. He said this is exactly my process.

    Sincerely,

    Still in planner hell

  5. Hey Katy. I’m so happy I read this. I’m currently designing planners for kids and adults with ADHD and time management challenges because I am so frustrated what the planners that are available. I’m offering them for free via download to print (no sign ups or anything required). I don’t have ADHD, but I have had lots of experience with kids with ADHD in public schools, and I work in the mental health world, so I see it frequently. Yes, the cute little squiggles and drawings are adorable in many planners, but they are also a huge source of distraction and space-wasting frustration, but the distraction-free business-style planners are just a step up from a blank notebook that leaves you feeling clueless about what to put where. I would love to get feedback from you on what you are looking for in a planner, so I can incorporate it into future designs. Thanks!

    • I think planners and their effectiveness are a very personal thing. Different things are distracting or frustrating for different people. In general, I HAVE to have a full-month view. Have to. I need it in order to conceptualize the passage of time appropriately, and in order to see how everything fits together in time and space. I also need the boxes on the calendar to be big enough to write a few different events in, but I don’t like a planner to be any bigger than 8.5 x 11, because I need it to be very portable (my life can be very mobile at times). I prefer one that’s like 6 x 9 so I can still fit it into a purse or bag easily.

      I don’t ever use the pages that give you lots of room to write notes for each day – because the likelihood of my ever flipping to those pages, or remembering to look at them after writing on them is very, very slim. What I end up having to do, is using the month-view pages…then paper-clipping the daily notes pages together in-between, so that I don’t have to flip through them to find each month-view page. I guess I could also rip them out, but I always think “huh, maybe I should be using those”. But I never do 🙂

      Then I usually end up customizing things myself. Like…why don’t more smallish planners have pockets? I need pockets! I have important lists and info that needs to be tucked into a pocket. So…I make my own pockets in my planners. Ideally, I would probably like a planner with just the month view pages all clumped together, and then a BIG section of lined pages where I can scribble notes and things, and pockets in the inside of the front and back covers. That would be perfect.

      Aside from that, the only thing I even care about is color. I need fun cover colors. I agonize over crappy color choices. Options, planner-makers, I need options!

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