The Lists We Keep

This morning, I had a great exchange with a mom online that really sparked my morning thoughts about the different strategies we use to keep our attention in check. I always say that when you've met one person with ADHD, you've met one person. We may share similar symptoms, interests or motivations, but each person is uniquely wired to respond to their individual preferences, fears, and interests. What works for one, may not work exactly the same for another.

I know, I know, isn't EVERYONE unique? Absolutely. But ADHD can often make those "shoulds" and "want to's" on our lists a little trickier to automate as compared to the average person. This can vary by the degree of severity in symptoms as well. Finding what works for you is crucial for the ADHD minds of the world. Sticking with that process or strategy, on the other hand, can be a daily struggle - especially without a personal tweak here or there.

So, this morning, during my drive to work, I started pondering what works for MY brain and why. If I start with my values, I know that I have a deeply ingrained value for completion of all things. It's something that is deeply embedded. Completion of tasks in particular is often followed by a feeling of calm, humming energy.  I find I get a similar feeling from the look of a room I have just reorganized. This is not to say that my house is always in order, but it might just explain why lists make me happy.


I use lists to set the tone for the day, track my productivity, and organize my thoughts. That brain dump makes room for all of the other tidbits of data I collect in the day. I can't carry it all in my head without feeling a bit cluttered on the inside. Do I always keep those lists in check? Nope. But when I fall off that wagon, I know that getting right back on will set me straight. With a little forgiveness from myself, I can let go of that shame from getting off track, and find the energy to start crossing things off again. My lists are my way of organizing everything running around in my brain - creating a sense of order and providing me a road map for things that are awaiting completion. I love the act of crossing off something from my list. Pen to paper beats the click of a button for me every time.

You might be curious about what I'm putting on that list. Anything and everything is fair game for making my list. My goal is to accomplish at least 3 things on that list, but I always sprinkle in a few "gimmes" or tasks that I know I can muster the energy to complete. They are typically easy tasks like "call xyz back" or "pay a bill", and knocking them off the list provides a boost in confidence and dopamine that helps build momentum for the items that might require more energy.

Lists may not be your jam.Perhaps you prefer something more akin to a mindmap. Some with ADHD even adopt pieces and part from David Allen's Getting Things Done. The options are endless and speak to your unique preferences. The important piece if finding what works.

What systems do you use to create order in your brain? I'd love to hear from you.