The Eternal Dance Between Organization and ADHD

Only a few days ago, I cracked a joke with a friend over FaceTime. “Three days into classes and already my desk is an absolute mess,” I said. We both laughed and I rearranged a few things in an attempt to combat the clutter. It was indeed a comedic moment, but one that revealed a very real and deep-rooted insecurity within me: my struggle with organization. 

Growing up, I idolized characters like Jo March, Rory Gilmore and Hermione Granger. They were young girls that were smart, determined, focused, put together and always succeeded when they put their mind to something. How disheartening it was when middle school rolled around and I realized that I was not like those girls. 

Every attempt I made to become organized and manage my time seemed to crumble within a few days. Planners went unfilled, to-do lists went unchecked, homework went uncompleted and I lost self-esteem. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until my junior year of high school. 

By that point, mental self-flagellation and self-consciousness surrounding my shoddy study habits had been a major part of my school life. I had grown to think of myself as messy, lazy and unintelligent only to learn that my brain was just wired differently. 

woman lying in white bed  Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy from Unsplash

Cookie-cutter study tips and advice on how to be organized, the very general “learn how to manage your time” or “how to use a planner” wasn’t enough for me, which meant I had to look elsewhere.

As I begin my second year of college, all of these thoughts are once again at the forefront of my mind. I’m still learning about how ADHD affects me. There is more research than ever about the symptoms in women and more resources and coping techniques available than ever before. 

The biggest challenge has been recognizing that ADHD is not something I will outgrow or somehow overcome, but something that I must learn to live and work with. It’s hard work, and it’s a process. While I still enjoy looking at the aesthetically pleasing bullet journals and desk inspiration photos on Pinterest, I now know that I need more than a study blog to help me.

I’m learning to make peace with the fact that I will likely never have pretty color-coded notes or a planner that I use and fill out every day. Instead, I have reminders taped on my wall and little notebooks filled with a mix of messy scribbles and hasty doodles.  

notes pinned to a board Photo by Patrick Perkins from Unsplash

My purpose in writing this is not to wallow in self-pity, nor is it to brag about how far I’ve come. Instead, I hope to offer comfort to those who are like me and to shed some insight for those who don’t understand. 

ADHD is often misunderstood, even by those diagnosed with it. It’s often viewed as something that only affects children and teenagers or that it’s only really visible in a classroom setting. Some view it as an excuse for lazy students to get extra time on tests.

But ADHD affects a person their entire life and shows up in everything from work to personal relationships. Finding what organizational methods work for you is a personal journey of trial and error. It takes patience, willpower and, more often than not, help from the people around you. 

I’m still far from perfect, but I know that all the work I put in will be worth it for the sake of my own mental health. And if you happen to be in the same boat, learn to respect the process and not beat yourself up when you think you haven’t done enough. As corny as it may sound, becoming organized has to start with accepting yourself for who you are.