Organizing Disorganization

Organizing Disorganization

I have heard many concerns related to disorganization.  “I just can’t get organized.”  “My son is so disorganized, I don’t know how he finds anything in his room.” “My grades are bad because I lose my homework.”  Disorganization comes in many shapes and sizes but commonly the result is the same…underachieving on task completion.  As we enter the school year and the lives of children, adolescents, and families become more active and busy the need for organization becomes more apparent.

There are many reasons for a person to be disorganized including but not limited to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, low motivation, laziness, being overwhelmed, or skill deficits.  Regardless of the reason, disorganization is a compounding problem.  A person who becomes disorganized, and makes no attempt to reorganize or is unable to reorganize, will become more disorganized as time goes.  For example, a child comes home from school with 2 worksheets and 3 notes randomly placed in their school bag.  Neither child nor parent tries to organize them into a folder but the parent sends the child back to school with 1 additional note and 1 permission slip to turn in to the teacher.  There are now 2 worksheets, 4 notes, and 1 permission slip randomly placed in the child’s school bag.  This child is unlikely to get everything back to where it needs to go.  As this pattern continues it becomes more and more difficult to manage the mess of papers in the school bag. This pattern can be true for adults and children alike.  It can result in missed appointments, forgotten soccer games, poor grades, and a multitude of other stress inducing scenarios.

To reduce stress and increase task completion getting organized becomes a necessary process.  To help, here are some tips to help reorganize.

  • Look beyond the behavior: When we focus on behavior we tend to label. “He’s lazy.” “I’m messy.”  Even if those labels are true, they aren’t helpful.  Looking behind the behavior allows for the opportunity to understand the behavior.  We can identify deficits and other precipitating factors that allow us to begin problem solving.
  • Use an organizational system and tools: This includes smartphones including apps, alarms, and reminders. Use calendars, notebooks, sticky notes, charts, etc. Create visual cues and reminders like a bright colored note with a reminder message attached to a notebook.
  • Prioritize: Identify deadlines and urgency.  From there, break large tasks down in to smaller more manageable tasks.
  • Routine: When we repeat a pattern of behaviors consistently they become habits. Habits require less mental effort.  Less mental effort puts us in a better position to be successful.  A routine creates organization and organization creates routine.
  • Be proactive: Plan and prepare ahead of time.

If these tips don’t remedy the issue, talk to someone.  Perhaps a therapist, a financial planner, a home organizer, etc., could be helpful.  Organizing your life and your tasks is the first step towards success.

Joe Lilly is a therapist with over 10 years’ experience working with children, adolescents, and families.  He is the Director of Anger and Behavioral Management and specializes in the treatment of anger, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder as well as many other mental and behavioral health related concerns.  Joe provides individual, group, and family therapy.