Friday, February 12, 2016

Organization and thoughts on ADHD

I have some thoughts on how to organize life. I need something light hearted and friendly because recently it seems the only thing that motivates me to punch out a post is when I'm feeling politically motivated, and honestly that's how I feel now. This should keep my mind occupied and maybe give me some time to prep a well thought out post about radical education.

Organization. ADHD and organization is a constant struggle for me. First, organization was never a concept that came naturally to me and at 28 I'm still learning basic skills others learned during adolescence. Second, the existence of ADHD is still debated by non-physicians, so I've spent my life dealing with people who think I'm rude, lack discipline, and just never learned how to organize myself. Because in 28 years of life, they are first people to ever come to that conclusion about me. Oh, the memories.

I don't hate it, I just think of it as more of a misunderstood super power. Have a wide arrange of interests is one of my symptoms, I just lacked the control and organization to use this to my advantage. In the four years since my diagnosis, I've picked up tricks to handle it. The most basic of these is feeding your self and keeping yourself hydrated, problems that cause a lack of focus in people without ADHD. Meditation and the ability to turn the eye inward to solve problems is beautiful. I'm still bad at telling people what I'm thinking, but that's because I can't write to everyone. Writing is a wonderful medium because it forces me to stop and think about what I want to say. Even one of my poorly written texts or posts take some sort of thought and organization. At the end of a post, I can read and edit points that are unclear, something I can't do when verbally communicating with people. It's not my fault people choose inefficient means of communication.

What I want to talk about today is something that I feel most people struggle with. Lists and organization. Since becoming a researcher that also helps with a math group, I have found the beauty of keeping records. It's better than sex, really, because why else would mathematicians choose numbers over sex? Filling excel sheets with data is a daily task at work. When I first started, it wasn't my favorite job. My favorite job was analyzing the data. I discovered the connections between the two tasks pretty quickly.

To all the writers out there who spend their time reading regular books and not every book about statistics they can get their hands on, I'm going to let you in on a secret. Data tells stories. Let's take something simple, like a ledger for budget. That little book of numbers contains a journal written in a foreign language. Maybe it says "For 6 months I saved for the Bahamas. It must have been something, looking at all the purchases I made when I got there." There could be a story in their about a loved one's sickness. Or maybe it's just a reflection on the monotonous routine of everyday life.

It turns out storing data in other ways tells stories. I keep a calorie chart, but not as often as I should. Looking back on it however, I can tell time of depression or when I was low on funds because I stop eating good food from the grocery store and spend more money on take out and pizza. Today I went back through my journal to discover that last year around this time, everyone in my life was on edge due to cabin fever. Just like this year. It has confirmed my thoughts that February is in fact the worst month, and valentines day started as a reminder to not kill each other.

Which brings me to my point. I cannot tell you how many times I have started to-do lists over the years. I tried it in school, but it never caught on. I try it every three months or so at this job. It usually falls through. I've finally decided to stop using to-do lists and start using a time card setup instead.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a thousand interests, and I'm probably working on at least two of them at any given point in time (one in the real world and a second in my head.) Picking one task to do in a day is impossible, but keeping track of all my tasks is hard as hell and I usually end up feeling depressed because I'm not working on everything I could. The time Card set up just requires I write down what task I did, when I started and when I finished. At the end of the week I move all the info to a handy color coded table, then I can look at everything I accomplished and decide what and how to change over the next week. The beauty is I stop thinking about what I could be doing, and I focus on what I doing and what I have accomplished.

The system is large at this point, but I'm interested in hearing how others might organize their time.