Title

Do What Works for You

Responding to Mary Churchill.

January 22, 2020
 
 

In Mary Churchill’s most recent column about getting things done in 2020, she ended with the question for the readers about what we do to be organized. Rather than a lengthy comment, I decided to write a post instead.

Two (or is it three, now?) years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD. After years and years and years of beating myself up for not being organized enough, for being messy, for being absentminded, for being so easily distracted, for any number of things, big and small, that I held against myself as being major character flaws, I had an answer that explained everything. My brain quite literally worked differently than everyone else’s. And so traditional help and advice on getting organized was never going to work for me.

Suddenly, how I did things became OK. I stopped apologizing for my methods, for my process. I could better articulate why I do things the way that I do and struggle with other things that people think are easy. I stopped beating myself up and started looking at myself not as a failure for not meeting some sort of external norm, but as a success for getting to where I am given what I now know about myself.

My ADHD didn’t become an excuse, but a productive way forward. A colleague and I started a podcast chronicling our later-in-life ADHD diagnoses and how they have impacted our lives, as well as tips and tricks on how we manage to get things done and not frustrate (OK, not overly frustrate) the people we live and work with. We wanted to create a space where not only others could see themselves, but also know that it’s OK to be how we are, to be different, to be non-neurotypical, as well as tips for what works for us and what doesn’t, what we still struggle with, and how that struggle looks and feels.

For example, I usually have a lot of tabs open in multiple browser windows, and while it causes some of my colleagues’ palms to sweat and hearts to race, it works for me. I have at least four different handwritten to-do lists around my desk, and no app has ever helped me more than my handwritten lists, so the lists stay. My iPhone helps me remember everywhere I need to be and when and gets me there without getting lost, so kudos to all those who are looking to unplug, but my iPhone literally changed my life for the better, so I’m keeping mine on me at all times. And I write best with music or TV or a movie or podcast on in the background, so I’ll put my headphones in and respect your need for silence.

These are just some things that I do that I know mystify others in terms of my process and productivity. But they work for me, and as long as I’m not actively impacting others’ productivity and process, then it’s OK.

So, let this be my post where I give you permission (if you need it) to do things the way you need to do them to be your best self. You don’t need to beat yourself up or apologize for working differently than others do, for common advice not being effective for you. You have permission to ask for what you need, rather than trying to make yourself fit into what others just assume your needs are. Let 2020 be the year that you make things work for you, regardless of how others tell you they should work, and the advice that has never helped.

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