Move Your Stuff: 5 Steps to Motivating Your Brain to Get Organized

Here I sit, typing this post, surrounded by "to do" piles in my office. One could argue that my organization style is that of a "piler" - after all, I do know what is in each stack. However, my stacks are starting to create a bit of anxiety and disdain for even existing in my office. The room feels more like a large weigh station for piles of decisions to be made - file this, trash that, scrapbook these, and reconcile those. The recent graduation of my oldest son just added more to the room - as we temporarily moved a box of papers from the kitchen into the office.

So, today, I have designated as "D Day" - my de-cluttering date begins in 30 minutes and the clock will be ticking. Like many of my clients, I too struggle with paper clutter, keepsakes, and important items that I intend to file at an unspecified time in the future. Therein lies the biggest hurdle. Many of us get stuck in the ambiguity of good intentions until one day we are surrounded by overwhelming piles, lists, projects. How do we get unstuck?

There are several great blogs out there on organizing. My personal favorite is Brenna Peyton's no-nonsense approach to paring down at One Organized Girl. Sometimes you just need someone to call it like it is. My point it, you have to find your personal style and be daring enough to pull the trigger on saying goodbye to the things that surround you. When you have ADHD, finding that drive can be the hardest part of the equation.

Here are my Top 5 Motivation Makers for a Distractable Brain.

5 motivators for getting organized.jpg
  1. DATE: Make a date with your clutter - if your office is like mine, make several. Putting it into your calendar or scheduling time helps make the event concrete. ADHD tactics like this help make time and space in a specific day, and deadlines can often create a little dopamine rush that just might spark action and increase the likelihood that you "show up" ready for action. Try scheduling 30 minutes or even an hour - you might be amazed at what even 10 minutes or power sorting can do for your psyche...and your clutter! Since clutter has a way of returning, some find greater success in setting a recurring date to prevent a return of that mountain of clutter you might be hiding behind today.

  2. ACCOUNTABILITY: Being accountable can play to both emotional and self regulation deficits. Voicing your goal to another person and knowing they are awaiting news of your progress can offer a level of obligation that can support your progress, help you pick apart what is left and ensure that you recognize the accomplishments you are making with each action step.

  3. TUNES: Music or some sort of background noise is often energizing for our brains. Jamming to your favorite tunes or sorting in front of your favorite show can help pass the time and set the mood for action and increase focus. There are even science-backed options like Focus at Will that use tempos and specific patterns to increase focus, if you want to get technical.

  4. ENVIRONMENT: Environmental conditions can make or break productivity for difficult or unsavory tasks. Removing any possible distractions and gathering supplies before you begin can ensure the maximum level of attention can be given to a task.Sorting boxes, trash bags, and file folders should all be within reach of your project area as you pare down your piles. Even better, you can unplug from your computer, phone, or other devices that may constantly divert your attention from the sprint at hand."Eat the Frog" author Brian Tracy recommends picking the ugliest item on your list and jumping in feet first. Everything after that often seems like a cake walk. When you are organizing, that can be as simple as picking the biggest, messiest pile in your room to tackle first. It might seem scary or insurmountable, but the impact can often catapult motivation and sustain a feeling of success that keeps you moving forward. If that hack seems too overwhelming, sometimes the ADHD brain responds better to picking the easiest or most fun item to jump-start emotional interest.

  5. SETTING DEADLINES: Deadlines can often be motivating for ADHD, particularly those that are more urgent or immediate. Setting a simple time can often provide visual feedback for the passage of time and effort. Time Timers are one of my personal favorites. Another option is the Pomodoro Technique. I like the Tomato Timer, which offers scheduled breaks from the heavy duty work of decluttering, and allows you to track your progress. Creating sprints can offer up mini milestones of success that build momentum to completion of a difficult task.

Sometimes it's all in the prep. So, why not mark your calendar, tell a  friend, turn up the tunes, collect your stuff, and dive into the weeds for 20-30 minutes. I'd  love to know how you feel afterwards. I'll be right there with you, unearthing my office desk.