Updated: Jun 29
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One of the biggest ADHD questions I see people asking is which planner do I use? But even if you are given a selection of planners, the next question is, why do some work better for ADHD than others?
As noted by Antshel and colleagues (2010), executive functioning can be a struggle for ADHD adults. Two significant executive functioning issues we have are time blindness and working memory (Schweitzer et al., 2006; Smith et al., 2002). This means any planner system we use should be designed to support these areas by helping us to:
• See time passing visually and add in those events like travel or getting ready, which we can often miss without that visible support.
• Have a place we can place and prioritise tasks, as well as create subtasks. This gives our working memory a break and increases motivation because we aren't facing hidden subtasks.
• Allow us to adjust and move events and tasks around quickly. Life happens, and things often don't go as planned, especially if, like many people with ADHD, you struggle with goal setting (Ohan & Johnston, 2002). Having a planner system that takes these changes into account can help save hours of re-planning time.
Below are five planner systems that I've used or recommended to clients that fit these requirements. Let me know if you are planning to use any in 2023.
1. The Planner Pad
Full disclosure, this is the planner system I'm currently using. Set up like a regular planner, it has a dedicated section for categorising tasks, followed by daily tasks and then appointments. This makes it easier for you to think through how to fit tasks into your day and only highlight a few jobs without losing the important but not urgent ones.
• Dedicated spaces for your general and daily tasks
• A helpful system for prioritising
• Comes with a no-date version if you don't want to use it every week
• Ships from the USA so it can take time if you live overseas
• Not as many design options as other physical planners
• The list of tasks at the top can still feel overwhelming if it's not organised into categories
You can find a link to the Planner Pad here
2. Google Calendar Suite
Google Calendar is well known, but what is less familiar are the Task and Keep apps that now connect to this system. These apps allow you to schedule onto the calendar and place tasks and sub-tasks as well as general notes into their respective apps. If you like using online systems rather than paper planners and need something that can be accessed everywhere, this might be the right system for you.
• You can access it anywhere on your phone or desktop
• Easy to duplicate and repeat appointments
• Almost impossible to lose!
• Currently, Keep and Tasks don't work as smoothly on mobile as on desktop
• If you like to prioritise tasks using colours this option isn't available
• Unless you give all the tasks a due date that comes up on the calendar, it can be easy to miss one
You can find a link to the Google Calendar here
3. KANBAN Board + pocket dairy
I haven't personally used this system, but it's very popular with a number of my clients, often those who are juggling their families schedules as well as their own. Having a board of colour coded tasks set up in a public space can help your household see what needs to be done and maybe take a few tasks off your hands 😊. When paired with a pocket diary this system lets you keep your appointments when you're out while also working on tasks at home. Try carrying some coloured post-it notes with you along with the pocket diary. When you're out and have an idea, you can write it down, come home and stick it to the board.
• Easily viewed and used by the whole family
• You can always bring your pocket diary with you compared to a larger planner
• It's easy to prioritise tasks visually
• Difficult to use if you do a lot of tasks away from home
• Post-it notes can fall off or get lost
• Requires a lot of physical space to set up the board
A few years ago, when I was running a meal delivery business, I tried various project management systems, but nothing had the functionality of Clickup. If you're a project manager or running something with lots of colleagues and moving parts, this might be the system for you. However, there's a lot to learn, so I recommend watching a few videos and starting with a GTD template that's easier to use.
• Has everything you need in an online project management system
• Excellent visual organisation tools like Gantt charts
• Allows you to include others and integrate with apps
• Steep learning curve
• Not all options are free
• It can be easy to get overwhelmed and lost if you create too many lists (recommend starting with a GTD template)
You can find ClickUp here
5. The Bullet Journal
This is arguably one of the most well-known ADHD systems in recent years. In a world of abandoned planners that don't fit your changing needs, the Bullet Journal offers the ultimate flexibility by letting you set up any format yourself. However, this benefit can also be negative, as I found out myself when I tried to bullet journal a few years ago. Setting up a new day or week takes time and I'd often find myself starting a new week with no pages set up for it. But for many people, the Bullet Journal represents the only system that they will stick with, offering both novel and personalised support.
• The layout can be set up any way you want
• The journal can be chosen and designed as creatively as you want, great for artists!
• There are endless examples of layouts online to keep you inspired
• It can become a lot of work to update the layout
• It can feel too flexible if the lack of structure leads to analysis paralysis on the layout rather than focusing on your tasks
• Challenging to keep neat, don't expect this planner to stay Instagrammable for long.
So, there you have it, five ADHD planner systems that support our time blindness and working memory. Hopefully, this helps you decide on an organisational system for 2021. Let me know what you decide on or if you have any planner recommendations to add. 😊
ADHD can have a huge effect on productivity. But it doesn’t have to. If you’re looking for neurodiverse-friendly strategies you can use immediately, then book a free consultation with one of our ADHD Coaches.
They will help you understand your executive functioning struggles and learn how Unconventional Organisation can help you. Plus, they also have ADHD!
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Talk to you next week,
Antshel, K. M., Faraone, S. V., Maglione, K., Doyle, A. E., Fried, R., Seidman, L. J., & Biederman, J. (2010). Executive functioning in high-IQ adults with ADHD. Psychological Medicine, 40(11), 1909–1918. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291709992273
Ohan, J. L., & Johnston, C. (2002). Are the Performance Overestimates Given by Boys With ADHD Self-Protective? Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 31(2), 230–241. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15374424JCCP3102_08
Schweitzer, J. B., Hanford, R. B., & Medoff, D. R. (2006). Working memory deficits in adults with ADHD: Is there evidence for subtype differences? Behavioral and Brain Functions, 2(1), 43. https://doi.org/10.1186/1744-9081-2-43
Smith, A., Taylor, E., Rogers, J. W., Newman, S., & Rubia, K. (2002). Evidence for a pure time perception deficit in children with ADHD. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(4), 529–542. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00043