The Plain and Simple
by Mary Jane Johnson, PCC, ACT
The planners that are out on the market today can sometimes be too cumbersome and overwhelming for an adult with AD/HD, especially when they are initially trying to get better organized. I have devised what I call "The Plain and Simple To-Do List" that can be made up from items most people already have in their homes.
Open up the folder and lay it flat on your desk. At the top of the left side write "Ongoing To-Do List." At the top of the right side write "Daily To-Do List."
Using the Post-It notes (I buy all different colors for variety) start writing items down that you need to do (say over a period of a week) - only one item per Post-It - and place these Post-Its on the left side of the folder. This is your Ongoing To-Do List that you can add to as you think of things that need to be done.
As you plan each day, take some of the "To Do" items from the left (Ongoing To-Do List) side of the folder and move them to the right (Daily To-Do List) side of the folder. Line up the Post-Its you have transferred to the right side, in priority order. Think about what you need to do first, second, third, etc.
What is so great about this system is that you can easily change your priorities throughout the day - depending on how things are going - just by switching out Post-Its to different positions on the right side of the folder. Once each item is complete, remove and discard that Post-It. This process clears your plate for the next day (or some things can be carried over or returned to the ongoing list if necessary). Remember, try to be realistic about how much you can actually accomplish in any one day.
For people who like to see items on their lists disappear to feel success, this is great - just remove items as you complete them! For those who need to see items checked off of their list to feel success, you can move the completed items to the backside of the folder (or onto another piece of paper) where you can look at them at the end of the day and see what has been accomplished.
Once you have become accustomed to using the to-do list in this way, you can customize it to your own personal needs. You can have two separate folders, one for personal, one for work. Or you can do as I do and divide your pages in half (horizontally), top half for personal to-dos and bottom half for work to-dos. You could also section off your to-do list into "morning" and "afternoon" to- dos. To save time writing down each to do item, if you have things you do on a weekly or monthly basis (i.e., groceries, pay bills, get gas, go to post office, etc.), make up a Post-It for each. Mark off a small section of your ongoing list, write the word "garage" in that space and park those Post-Its in there to be used over again each week or month (or use a separate page for stored items.) Another idea is to use different color Post-Its for different categories (i.e. yellow for appointments and meetings, blue for phone calls, green for car errands, etc.), or use different colors for the activities of other family members (i.e., yellow for Dad, green for Joey, blue for Susie, etc.)
This is an easy and inexpensive "Plain and Simple Daily To-Do" system that almost anyone can use. When the folder is closed it looks like any other folder and can be taken with you anywhere you go. This is also a good tool for helping your children with their first To-Do lists.
I use this system myself, however, I have incorporated it into the front of my DayMinder book (which only has the monthly calendars with big squares to write in, with each month spread over two pages.) I use the inside of the front cover and the first page on the right (which is usually not a page you would use). When there is writing of any kind on either the inside front cover or the first page, I cover it with plain white paper so the wording that is there is not distracting. (As an aside, I also tape a white sheet of paper on the inside of the back cover and keep my "most used" telephone numbers listed there.)
When I am running a bunch of errands on the weekend, I sometimes use a more portable version of the "plain and simple." I stick my Post-It notes on the inside (front and back) of an old checkbook cover, fold it up and it is just the right size to stick in my pocket or purse.
(c) Mary Jane Johnson, 2005
Mary Jane Johnson, ACT, PCC, is a Professional Certified Coach that works with women who have ADD and are struggling with organization and time management. She was on the founding board of ADDA (1989) and is currently Vice President of Programming.