“Where are my *%#? Keys!” – Coping with ADD

I've asked this question many times. So have you. Sometimes I mumble it. Other times I rage!

Misplacing everyday objects is typical of someone with ADD. It can be frustrating, even stressful. But like so many ADD symptoms, there are ways to mitigate the effects. Here is how I keep track of my everyday personal belongings that before, always seemed to grow legs and walk away.

Reprogram your Autopilot with a new Flight Plan

If you are like me, you have a constant buzz of activity in your head. Even with medication, the buzz is there. To cope with the buzz, I have developed patterns of behavior I call my Rituals. Does this sound familiar?

I call my subconscious rituals my Autopilot. Over the years, my Autopilot has been programmed by me with its current Flight Plan. There's nothing you can really do about your Autopilot, but you can use it to your advantage. What you need to do is leverage your Autopilot and alter it's Flight Plan with a New Habit. This new habit will help you keep track, or more importantly, not lose track of your keys, wallet and other stuff that you use on daily basis.

So, here are the steps to altering your Autopilot's Flight Plan with a new habit: 

  1. Location! Location! Location! 
    • Designate a permanent place for your stuff. For keys, wallet, cell phone, etc. it doesn't have to be a very large space. Room for your stuff is not as important as a place for your stuff.
    • Make it near where you enter your home. It needs to be somewhere that you regularly pass when you come in and go out.

      Before I had a place for my stuff, I had a bad habit of using the dining room table, much to the chagrin of my wife. My new place for my stuff is on the counter in our kitchen.

  2. Container! Container! Container!
    • Place a container for your stuff in the place for your stuff.
    • Get something that is durable. A cardboard box won't last long, and soon you'll be looking for another container. I favor plastic or wood.
    • It needs to be large enough to contain the things you usually misplace, but not so large as to be an eyesore or label you as a hoarder. If it's too large, you'll have a tendency to put other stuff in your container that it's not meant to hold, it will fill up and then you won't have a place for your stuff.

      I use a small, wooden box I found at the local big box hobby supplier. It has a lid to help keep things which don't belong in my box out of my box. It's just big enough for my wallet, my keys, my pocket knife and my pocket change. Everyone in my home knows it's my box and they leave it alone unless they have my blessing to remove something or add something.

  3. Use it! Use it! Use it!
    • Like any habit, it has to become part of your Flight Plan. At first, it requires a conscious effort. 
    • The very moment after you designate a place for your stuff and put a container for your stuff in the place for your stuff, put your stuff in the container. Don't wait and say, I'll do it tomorrow. Empty your pockets or search your home and gather up your stuff. Put your stuff in the container NOW!
    • Next, walk away and forget about your stuff. Don't worry about it. It's in the container for your stuff, in the place designated for your stuff. Guess what? The next time you need your keys, wallet, cell phone, etc. they'll be in the place for your stuff!
    • When you need your stuff, go to the place for your stuff and look for it in the container for your stuff FIRST! If your stuff isn't there, go gather up your stuff, drop it in the container for your stuff located in the place for your stuff, and immediately retrieve your stuff. This last step sound ridiculous, but it's important that your Autopilot's Flight Plan record that you picked up your stuff from its designated container in the designated place. Habit is about doing something without thinking about doing it; over and over and over and over……
    • Make yourself a promise that you'll put your stuff in the container for your stuff located in the place for your stuff when you get finished using your stuff, and KEEP YOUR PROMISE!

You'll notice I used a lot of repetition. Building a habit is all about repetition. You want it to become mindless.. If you're like most folks, this will take a while. Don't beat yourself up if it takes months. Changing habits is difficult and requires perseverance. If you find your stuff if not in your box, look for it. When you find it, have a laugh, remind yourself that your brain is different and immediately put your found stuff in your box. I've had my box for my stuff for over a year now and on occasion, I still set my keys down somewhere else. However, looking for my keys has become much less of an ordeal.

Let me know if this is helpful for you. And if you have ways you use to keep track of your stuff, leave a comment below.

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