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Organization Skills for Autistic Adults

"I have Aspergers (high functioning), depression and insomnia. I don't know where to start. My wife complains because I agree to do something [like a chore or task of some kind] but never follow through [which is true some of the time]. At work, my desk is covered with paper, and I put off the hard part until I get in trouble and have to find it and do it. I take Adderall 45mg, and Ativan to sleep. I am overwhelmed. Now I have to go do something before I leave work. Can you give me any tips on how to get organized?"

It’s a rare “Aspie” who doesn’t feel unorganized. Are you ready to get organized? Here are some of the best organization skills, edited for brevity and consistency:

1. Always have a back-up. People will pay $1,000 to hear speakers at a conference and only have one pen to take notes. It’s a great feeling when one thing breaks, gets lost, or runs out of power, and you have another one in reserve!

2. Clean as you go. This habit is effective because it's much easier to clean things as you work or as you move through your day than to let them pile up and do a big cleaning session later. For example, if you're cooking, try to wash your dishes as you use them, and wipe the counter, instead of leaving a huge mess. 

3. Delegate. Learn to trust people with critical tasks in all areas of your life. When you learn to effectively delegate tasks, you actually find that it is easier to keep the stuff you can't delegate better organized.

4. Divide materials into red, yellow, blue and green plastic file folders. For example, anything that has to be done today (e.g., bills to be mailed) goes in the red folder. Anything that needs to be done sometime before the week ends goes in the yellow folder ...and so on.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

5. Do one thing at a time.

6. Do the most important thing NOW!

7. Don't Put It Off! If you procrastinate, you'll only get stressed out when you think about that hateful "to do" item on your list. You'll blow it out of proportion in your mind and it will become almost impossible to accomplish. Make sure you tackle the largest or most disliked job first, dividing it up into manageable tasks. Then the other jobs will be a breeze!

8. Have a place for each item in your life. Where do your car keys go? You should have one place for them and you'll never lose them again. Where do your pens go? How about your magazines? 

9. Have only one inbox for home and one for work. Many people have many more than that -- paper comes to their desk and lands in a number of places. Phone messages get placed everywhere. Notes to self are posted all over the place. Instead, have one inbox, and put all incoming stuff in there. Then, once a day, process the inbox to empty. Take an item out of the inbox and decide what to do with it, right away: toss it, delegate it, file it, put it on your to-do list, or do it now. Do the same thing to the next item, until your inbox is empty. Don't defer these decisions for later.

10. Keep a “to-do” list that syncs with your mobile phone so you can add stuff as you remember it. And make sure every item has a due date.

11. Reduce before organizing. The mistake most people make when trying to organize their stuff, tasks or projects is that they have a whole mess of things to organize, and it's too complicated. If you have a closet crammed full of stuff, sure, you can buy a bunch of closet organizers, but in the end, you'll still have a closet crammed full of stuff. Same thing with time management: you can organize a packed schedule, but it'll still be crammed full of tasks. The solution: reduce, eliminate, simplify.

12. Schedule Fun Time! Make sure you include some personal time for YOU. Allot some time in your agenda. Make an appointment for yourself and keep it, even if it's only a leisurely 20 minute bubble bath or a 15 minute walk in the fresh spring air!

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

13. Set a time limit to each phone call and make sure you tell your caller. That way you save yourself the stress of trying to end the phone call -- and it also helps the caller to condense the information they want you to hear.

14. Simplify, simplify, simplify!

15. The single, simplest thing you can do to stay personally organized is to put whatever tool, item, clothing, bag, hairbrush etc., away immediately after using it. 

16. Too much time is wasted every day on searching for things. Find a system that works for you and your lifestyle and apply it. Use it religiously and you'll find new time slots you never thought you had!

17. Unapologetically take control of your time and priorities.

18. Use “waiting time” wisely (e.g., at the dentist, meeting with your boss, waiting for your roast to cook, etc.) to catch up on reading or planning, or use the time for tidying up, filing or other tasks.

19. Use the recycling bin/trash basket. Organizing unnecessary items is wasted energy. 

20. Write down and make mental notes of your top 3 tasks to get done for the day. Everything else will fall into place if you do that.

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

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