They say that when you treat a kid without ADHD as if they did, it helps them stay focused and organized too. I say this to people parenting kids with and without ADHD because it’s only fair to make the same rules of all the kids, and so parents can feel comfortable and more confident with applying ADHD-specific rules to their kids without ADHD or kids with suspected but not yet diagnosed or dysfunctional ADHD. The organizational strategy I’m about to discuss is likewise probably helpful for most people, even those without ADHD, so I hope everyone can check it out and see if it works for you.
A friend was telling me about bullet journaling, so I read up on it and realized it’s a lot of making lists. A light bulb went on, because an important strategy for kids and adults with ADHD is to make lists. Even if they lose the list, the practice of making a list helps the brain practice organization. The list-making technique in bullet journaling seemed to be the perfect planner/diary format for anyone with ADHD.
It’s so easy. You just need a lined notebook, small enough to fit in a bag, and since kids have school bags, any lined notebook will do, doesn’t have to be a small fancy one. While you can spend up to $30 or more on a notebook, I opted for this one that I got for under $5. I love that it has a small pocket behind the back cover for receipts or business cards, and I love the elastic band to keep it closed. I also love the subtle shimmery design, but mostly the price too! Next time I plan to purchase this 2-pack minimalist black elastic banded notebook which has dotted grid when I’m a bit more advanced at bullet journaling and may want a bit more flexibility.
There are several parts to a bullet journal.
- Symbols are important, so I put the keyword on the back of the front cover in case I forget.
- Number the pages. I just number 20 at a time in case I have to rip a page out later, and also it saves me time from having to take too long to get a journal started. and then keep numbering as you get further along.
- Index. Takes up about 2 pages. This is where topics can be added here to help you find which page they are on faster. Topics can be added as you go along, such as monthly plans, vacations, project ideas, or college vibes.
- Annual plan. This is a grid of 2-4 pages with all the months of the year. Jot down future to-dos or events and follow up tasks here.
- Current month. Set aside one page for each month. I list my month numbering the days down the lined page. Some people may prefer a more traditional monthly grid style. Work on one month at a time, so that the monthly plan stays close to the pages where you have your daily schedule.
- Current day. List our your to-dos and schedule on this section. Set aside 1/3 to 1 page for the day. I like to limit my day to 1/2 a page, because realistically, I am not never going to finish my list if I fill it with a whole page of tasks.
- Ideas. You can also dedicate a page for certain brainstorming ideas.
- Extra. You can get a little wild with colors and washi tape (multitasks well for other crafts and easy hack for decorating stationary or a plain gift bag or wrap), but I’m going minimalist here with black ink and some basic post-it flags to tag important pages. For me, the simpler the system, the better I (…um…er…my teen patients) stay on track and be efficient.
The bullet journal system may take some time to sink in, but worth 1-2 days of practice. It’s really as simple and flexible as you make it. If you are very OCD about the way your page looks, you can just rip it out and start over instead of throwing out the whole pre formatted planner!
- Learn more about bullet journaling in this rather irreverent (trigger warning for parents) but hilarious and easy to understand post from BuzzFeed.
- Check out additudemag.com for more ideas on parenting, study skills, and organization strategies for kids (and adults!) with ADHD.
- Find out more about the Pomodoro Technique using timers to help boost productivity in both people with and without ADHD, and a list of top apps that allow users to set work and break timers. To be honest, I haven’t found such apps that are free and user-friendly, so I just use my phone timer and chill music on Pandora (Missy Higgins, Joshua Radin, and Ben Folds Five are my go).