How ADHD Systems Fail

This morning I had a couple hours to go work at a coffee shop. I was going there so I would get right to it, and not be distracted by dishes or my own thoughts.

I pulled into the garage that's easiest to guarantee 2-hour parking meters and a quick return to the house for my next client call.Those meters are quarters-only. Dig, dig, dig through the ashtray full of change- no quarters.

So I try to move to the street parking meters- but it seems my city has changed many meters to quarters-only. In the library lot I figure out it's the 2-hour meters; the 1-hour meters take small coins.  Well, by now I might as well take the 1-hour meter, because going to the bank to get more quarters will use up as much time (though I'm tempted).

Why am I out of quarters?

1. I get quarters when I go vacuum out my car at the car wash. I stick about 5 bucks in the change machine just for parking quarters. I guess I haven't gone recently enough. If I'm going less often- need to get $10 in quarters!

2. I didn't check my wallet this morning- or the car. I really wanted to just go and not think about it. If I had, I have back-up quarters in change jars in the house.

#1 is key for the organizational systems of an adult with ADHD. It illustrates the classic reason systems fail for people with ADHD. What's important here is to recognize where it's breaking down and to change the story you tell about it. In other words:

-no, the fact that I'm out of quarters doesn't mean I can't be organized.

-no, the fact that I'm out of quarters doesn't mean I'm a failure. Or lazy. Or incompetent.

So what does it mean?

-I have a system. I can remind myself to use it, and possibly tweak it.

-I have a system. It usually works. Cool!

Here is one more classic example of this breakdown:

Adult with ADHD or organizing challenges doesn't think they can use a filing system. We talk about when they used to use a filing system. They remember that they used to have a filing system. It worked for a while. The drawer got full. It became too hard to put new stuff in. They stopped. They forgot that it used to work well. They called themselves names about it. They didn't know it was time to weed out some old papers and continue using the system that was working.

What system used to work for you- and how did it break down? What can you do to restart it?