Organization, procrastination and the ADD-riddled mind

May 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm 1 comment

History

When I was in high school, my parents wanted to have me tested for a learning disability. It was a crazy and confusing time in my life when I wasn’t particularly fond of school. The suggestion of a learning disability was insulting to me and I refused to get a test. My teachers at the time didn’t believe I had a learning disability.

“I know you’re smart, Kaitty,” my teacher for American History I and II, Mr. Silverman, said one day when I stopped into his classroom to vent about the situation. “You’re just lazy.” Ouch.

To my parents frustration, and my relief the school psychologist saw no point in testing me for a learning disability. My standardized test scores were normal, and testimony from my teachers showed that I needed a push in the right direction in order to help me succeed, not the diagnosis of a learning disability.

My freshman year of college I was not a “good” student at all. I didn’t understand the seriousness of college. The fact that I was taking out large loans, and in turn not working for a grade that I wanted didn’t hit me until the end of freshman year. My turn around from a lazy, disorganized student to serious academic has been a gradual process since sophomore year. It wasn’t until the beginning of my junior year though when I realized that my parents may have been right all along.

Coming Around the Bend

During my first semester of junior year, a counselor at La Salle gave me an excerpt from a book that would forever change me for the better. It was the first chapter of a book titled Delivered From Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey.

The first chapter of the book is “The Skinny on ADD: Read This if You Can’t Read a Whole Book.” My ideas of learning disabilities, and specifically ADD transformed after reading the question-and-answer style chapter (a format that is easier for people with ADD to comprehend). I found out that ADD isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just makes the usual tasks in life a little harder, but gives a person unique gifts.  Before I go on though, I must clarify that I have never, ever been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. This post highlights how a few lifestyle changes, as suggested in Delivered From Distraction, which are usually alternative treatment methods helped me improve certain parts of my life.

One of the first questions in the chapter highlights the advantageous and disadvantageous characteristics of ADD. There were a few characteristics on each list that I identified with. On the good side I felt I possessed “many creative talents, usually underdeveloped until the diagnosis is made,” and have “remarkable persistence and resilience, if not stubbornness” yet still keep “warm-hearted and generous behavior.” I identified with many characteristics on the disadvantageous list though too, such as: “difficulty in turning their great ideas into significant actions,” “difficulty in explaining themselves to others,” and especially, “chronic underachievement. They may be floundering in school or at work, or they may achieve at high level (getting good grades or being president of the company does not rule out the diagnosis of ADHD), but they know they could be achieving at a higher level if only they could “find the key.”” There are a multitude of other disadvantageous characteristics I show as well: history of being labeled as “lazy,” organization trouble, issues with time management, completing things at the last-minute.

Knowing that ADD could be been the weight that was holding me back all these years finally gave me the relief and direction I needed to start fixing small parts of my life to overcome the monster that is ADD. Hallowell and Ratey suggest treatment plans designed specifically for an individual, but there are some common ingredients for treatment: diagnosis, a five-step plan that promotes talents and strengths, education, changes in lifestyle, structure, counseling/therapies and medication.

Since testing for ADD is expensive I decided to forgo a diagnosis and create treatment plan by myself.  I must stress that I do not have a medical degree of any kind (or any kind of degree, for that matter). I have never ever been tested or medically diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.  I focused on the structure and changes in lifestyle aspect of treatment for ADD. Both of these methods involve making up for what the ADD-riddled brain is lacking and creating habits to help one in the areas that they suffer. Hallowell and Ratey write, “…the ADD brain is low on filing cabinets. So, you need to set up more filing cabinets outside the brain in order to replace piles with files. […] Useful devices and new habits can help more than any medication.”

It’s this method that leads me into the world of organization. I began legitimately utilizing my planner for every aspect of my life – not just school work. I also picked up the common organization method of “never handling a piece of paper more than once.” I found that I let a lot of e-mails and bills fall by the wayside because I would look at them, think that I would remember to return to them in an hour or so, when in actuality, I got back to them days or weeks later, and they would then become irrelevant or out of hand by the time I returned to them.

There are six lifestyle changes that Hallowell and Ratey recommend: positive human contact, reduce electronics, sleep, diet, exercise, and prayer or meditation. I decided to focus on reducing my use of electronics, sleep, diet and exercise and positive human contact. All of these changes were small, but have made a significant impact in my ability to concentrate and get things done, and my grades have significantly improved. For most people a conscious effort does not have to be made to do these things, but others are not blessed with these instincts naturally thus, we need to teach ourselves.

Procrastination: my worst enemy

But there are still certain aspects of this problem that I deal with daily, such as procrastination. But recognition of these problems has led me to look from answers from professionals such as Melissa Hediger, the Learning Support Specialist at La Salle University.

The positive human contact aspect of my self-crafted treatment plan  lead me to appreciating my friends and family more than ever before. Check out the recognition I give them in this slideshow.

None of this happened overnight, and I’m sure that creating habits to avoid ADD tendencies will be difficult to support at first, but I’m glad that I tackled this problem early on. According to a survey from the World Health Organization, between 3 and 4 adults have ADHD and on average miss over three weeks a year in workplace productivity. Knowing that I’m becoming better at hurdling over the obstacles ADD creates makes me feel confident that once I’m in the real world, I’ll be able to excel and create a satisfying career for myself.

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Entry filed under: reason.

Advantages/disadvantages of a connected world

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“Becoming Organized” in a nutshell.

Anais Nin once said, “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

All I am is someone who is in the process of becoming organized, wanting to share my journey of the states I am going through. I like to think of it as lending a hand to the less organized. Giving personal testimony to what works for me and what doesn’t, helpful hints, tricks and tips, and why becoming organized was so important to me.

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