Planners and ADHD: A Match Made In Hell?

Planners and ADHD seem to go hand in hand. But in the Dark Times (before we had smartphones) I was constantly searching for one that would magically organize my life and turn me into a fully functioning adult. That didn’t happen. What did happen is that my home was littered with notebooks, planners, and various other organizational tools that saw a few weeks–at most–of sporadic use before being abandoned. I’m not alone, either. The lives of neurodivergent people are where a shit ton of seemingly excellent organizational tools go to die.

Oh, That Can’t Be True

If you think that last line is over the top, do a quick Google search on “ADHD planners memes”. Now, just scroll through the results for a bit. See what I mean? And really, this doesn’t just cover those of us with ADHD, it’s anyone who has problems with executive dysfunction. It’s the short-term/working memory thing I told you about last week that’s the culprit. It’s a “comorbidity” which means it’s a lovely little side dish of fuckery your brain serves up along with whatever other shit you’ve got going on. The bottom line here is that planners kind of suck for people with executive dysfunction.

Have You Tried Using a Planner?

People with executive function issues hear that fucking question all the goddamn time. When I hear it, I want to respond, “Why no, Kyle. The easiest and most common answer to this dilemma never fucking occurred to me,” followed by a hearty punch in the throat. I don’t, though. Mostly because I like my freedom and going to jail would curtail that significantly. I should probably mention something about giving others grace and non-violence and all that kind of bullshit, but I just can’t. You wouldn’t be able to either if you’d heard this garbage as much as I have.

They Don’t Fucking Work

They don’t work because they count on me doing things like entering information, making a note, or even getting off my ass and getting the planner. The problem is I kind of suck at that. Another reason they don’t work is that their efficacy is dependent on me acting on what I put in the planner. Or even remembering to look at the fucking thing. I’m sure, though, that there are some endies who get good use from these fucking things. I’ve never met one, so I’m just guessing they exist.

Urgency Is Key for Us Weirdos

You know those uber-organized people who never go anywhere without their planner? Yeah, I’m not one of them. I’ve tried. Oh god, how I’ve tried. For some god-forsaken reason, there is a disconnect in my brain that precludes me from remembering that I even have a planner, much less actually use it. Once, I tried one small enough to fit in my pocket so I’d always have it with me. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough urgency involved in remembering that planner. If I’d been smart, like my friend Hugh L. Hollowell, I’d have tied to something that had the kind of urgency necessary, like my license. But no one has ever accused me of being smart.

What Does Work?

It varies from person to person because every brain is different. But I think the key is that for a system to be successful, it needs to stay new and novel long enough for its use to become a habit. It also needs to be insistent enough that it can’t be ignored. But not so insistent that it pisses me off so much that it gets smashed/stomped/set on fucking fire. And, it needs to be easy to use. The thing that does that for me is my phone. Remember what I said in the opening paragraph about “the Dark Times, before we had smartphones”? The calendar app does all of these things. The two notepad apps I use, Google Keep and Evernote, aren’t insistent–they don’t need to be–but they are very easy to use. Don’t ask me how any of these apps managed to stick around long enough for their use to become a habit, though, because I have no fucking idea.

We’re All Different

As I said just a few minutes ago, every brain is different. That means there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all planner. The same goes for apps on your phone. What works for me might be utter shit for you and vice versa. For example, everyone’s threshold of irritating is vastly fucking different, so what is just insistent for me might cause you to throw your phone across the room in a blind rage. And, what triggers you to do the stupid-ass thing that needs to be done could totally ineffective for me. I really wish there was a one-size-fits-all solution to this situation because the trial and error shit necessary to find something that works is so fucking aggravating.

Made In Heaven. Or Maybe Hell?

Are planners and ADHD a match made in Heaven or Hell? Depends on your perspective, really. For me, using a planner requires a level of forethought that my ADHD/ASD/Executive function-impaired brain just can’t fucking manage which means that my answer to the question is definitely “Hell”. But hey, your mileage may vary. My point in all this is that, regardless of what some people might tell you, planners aren’t the only way to deal with this forgetful shit. You’ve just got to find that thing that works for you. And, resist beating the fucking hell out of the next person who asks, “Have you tried using a planner?” Fuck you, Kyle. Stick that planner up your ass. Sideways.