6 Jan 2009, 6:26pm
design life
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53 comments

A Big Box of ADHD

Sometimes I have trouble focusing. Most of the time actually. My high school coach warned me about burning the candle at both ends, a college professor recommended Zen meditation. By now I’ve learned that a necessary part of life is making choices, and that means sometimes letting a few of the things you’d like to do go to the wayside.

I think I’ve done that, but then I look at all the things I still want to do RIGHT NOW. I’m in the process of rewriting my novel and when that one’s done, I’ll need to find a publisher and start on book 2. I have plans to start a webcomic about the back story, and another graphic novel I’m trying to work on with my brother. I’ve recently decided that I should probably be trying to get some illustration work in children’s literature, so I need to pump up my portfolio in that area, and really, my portfolio needs work all around. Of course I also have to make some changes to my website since all the artwork on there now is pretty outdated and I have to make some changes to my blog. There are a few other website ideas I’ve been meaning to get started, including an art blog index, a challenge blog of monster art, a webzine for junkers and a few bigger projects. I have a fencing Tournament with a capital T in less than two weeks so I should be training for that, plus I need to get my epees in working order and make sure that I have all the other equipment I need. I’ve got a few short stories I’d like to write, a couple nonfiction pieces I should get started on, and a nonfiction book idea that I think has a lot of potential. Also, I want to learn to program.

You should see all the wishes I cut out.

The problem is I’ve trimmed my goals as much as I’m willing, and now I’m convinced that if I can just sit down and FOCUS, it’s possible to get it all done. The trouble is, the more I try to do, the more quickly I get overwhelmed and too often I end up doing nothing at all.

adhd_box_4So. I made this box.

This is my ADHD box. The theory is that my lack of focus doesn’t HAVE to be a bad thing. Afterall since when is it bad to have diverse interests and skills?

I’m hoping this box can be the organization that my brain is lacking. This is meant to keep me from getting overwhelmed. I can work on whatever I want, so long as I’m working on something.

I started by finding a box that would let me compartmentalize my goals. I eventually found a wooden jewelry box from Pat Catans that was perfect and got started on painting it be something FUN to use. Note: if you are the person looking for more focus, you might want to skip this part. This project has been a two-month long excuse for procrastination.
adhd_box_1
I separated the different things I want to work on into 8 categories with “time” in the center.

adhd_box_2In terms of prioriries, getting my novel finished so I can graduate is pretty high up there, so for a while the novel drawer will be seeing the most action. Still, I can only correct my own grammer for so many hours before I go insane, so with an organizational structure in place I should be able to get a lot more done than I have in the past. It’s so easy to waste time when you’re not keeping track so this is a crucial first step.

adhd_box_3What I’ve done is put all my hours for a week into the center drawer: time. When I work on something for an hour, I move a button, or coin or whatever from the time drawer to whatever I’ve been working on. That way even if I’m “in progress” I feel like I’ve accomplished something, which helps keep me going. I may have to put caps on some things so I don’t spend all my time “brainstorming” but I think this is going to be an enourmous help. It’s simple, but it’s also a powerful visual reminder, which is exactly what I need.

I think this could be helpful for other people who have trouble focusing, especially kids with ADHD. It doesn’t have to be a box, just something visual and tangible. It could be a series of jars with marbles to drop into different subjects. A re-purposed connect 4 board, with each row a different activity. That one would be even more satisfying because at the end of the week you’d get to dump all the hours to start over again.

The point is, having lots of hopes shouldn’t be a bad thing. There’s no rule that says I have to work on things consecutively just because that’s what most people do. If this works I think my distractibility could finally be an asset, allowing me to express all my varied potential, rather than a liability holding me hostage to my own whims.

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  • I LOVE the idea of an ADHD box. I’m not, technically, ADHD, but the creative personality shares many of the same traits as clinical ADHD and bipolar conditions…

    Sadly, I have the artistic ability of pond scum.

    Artistic ability is optional. I’m not sure if I’m technically ADHD either, but things have been working better and generally making more sense since I decided to accept the possibility.

    That’s pretty awesome, right there.

    Thanks Clay.

    Where did you come up with this? What an incredibly tactile, visual and FUN way to manage your many interests and activities without neglecting the most important concept of all: our precious time!

    Absolutely brilliant. I’ll be sharing this one, and seeing if I can find a similar box to make for myself!

    Marvelous concept! I’ve just spent my last 35 minutes making a list of all the creative projects I want to do, and then tossing it aside because I don’t have “time” to do anything!

    Wow, what a creative idea! I need a box like this too, and I rather like the Connect 4 idea. Or maybe teacups and pretty stones! hmmmmmmm

    GREAT IDEA beautifully executed — thanks for posting. I’m gonna try something like this with my 10-year-old, highly creative, easily distracted son.

    Sarai- Not exactly sure where I came up with it… I was just trying to figure out some way to break down my time. Glad you like the idea and I hope it works out well for you.

    Becca- That’s one of my most common problems. There are so many cool things I want to try that I get discouraged before I even get started.

    Bozoette Mary- I like the teacups idea too, that’s a nice spin. The connect 4 version was my initial concept for this, but then I wasn’t sure where I could get a connect 4 board these days and didn’t know the best way to label it. Also I was afraid I’d be tempted to dump out all my hours halfway through the week just for fun. :)

    Amy Jo Kim- If it works out, please let me know what you ended up doing!

    I really am ADHD and I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’d have to pre-load a bunch of hours to my job and commute, but apart from that, I think I could find this really really useful to make sure I actually get stuff done rather than endlessly procrastinating. Thank you!

    Miche- I hope it works for you. Please let me know if it does!

    Well that will depend on whether I ever get around to implementing it. ;)

    Ha, good luck. :)

    Very cool. It is a 3D representation of the visual schedule we use for my autistic daughter – she has a box with a picture of what she is working for (usually a treat) and she has to get 3 tokens on her board to get her reward.

    The box is a great idea for when she gets older and is at school (she is 3yo) and needs to balance her time between school work and her special interests.

    Thank you.

    Marita- Yes in many ways this is just a more tactile version of a star-chart. I think the key difference beyond the obvious is that it’s a more active way to keep track: rather than having stars or stickers given to a person as a reward, it’s part of the process.

    [...] Meagan over at A Certain Lack of Focus describes very well what it’s like to want to do a million things at once, fail to follow any one thing through, and wind up doing nothing. She also has come up with something I consider to be pure genius, the simplicity of which puts it in a class my BlackBerry can’t touch: the Big Box of ADHD. [...]

    Wow Kiddo! From the comments I’ve read here, sounds like you should work with a designer and start marketing these. Bet they would sell like hotcakes at Eugene’s Saturday Market.

    Love, Dad

    Hi Dad! Yeah I’m thinking I might start making some on my own when I’ve got a bit of free time (as in, once novel is done and set for graduation). I think they might sell at some of the craft shows around here too, which is something I’d like to start getting into. I love the idea of my life work being MAKING THINGS, whether it’s books, drawings, or, yeah, ADHD boxes.

    [...] s&#101nt us a lin&#107 to h&#101r Big Bo&#120 of A&#68H&#68 pro&#106ec&#116. I thi&#110k it woul&#100 be a supe&#114 way to help ki&#100s (a&#110&#100 g&#114ow&#110ups) [...]

    Brilliant. I, too, have an industrial-strength wanter. You’ve given me some great ideas, as I’m working on something similar. Way to go!

    Thanks yachris. I hope it helps.

    I love this- would make my work week smoother, and keep me from getting bogged down in the nothings like I do.

    At home I’ve taken an idea from last years “craft your new year resolution contest” on Craftster.org- I have four things I want to get done every day- clean, create, exercise, take my meds- I’m using a magnetic white board with the days of the week marked out and magnets with pictures on them for each of my four categories. when I take my meds, or do the other activities for at least a half hour, I move the magnet over- it’s a great sense of accomplishment to get to the end of the week and have all of the magnets moved.

    This is a fantastic idea. I wish I would’ve seen something like this years ago while working with my ADD son. It is basically the work = reward program that one of his special ed teachers used, only more visible. I’m with your dad….market it!

    20 Jan 2009, 3:58pm
    by Bruce Bullis


    If that’s all you’re willing to cut, then you’re not willing enough.

    CC – good luck! I know I need some sort of system to keep myself organized, and the more physical form seems to work better for me. Also, we live in a small space so I wouldn’t actually have anywhere to PUT a normal wall chart. Even though it’s 3-d, my box actually takes up very little room.

    cksm – Thanks for the encouragement! I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing it, but I might try to go the craft rout with it sometime next year. Could be another fun project to complicate my life!

    Bruce Bullis – Quite possibly. So far though, it seems to be working ok. I’ve found that the times where I cut my goals down to what more reasonable people consider “realistic” I actually get less done. I seem to need slightly realistic goals to reach realistic levels of accomplishment.

    This is a great idea – my time management is pretty shocking and my list of things I want to do / make / try is neverending and growing at an alarming rate. I’m going to give this a shot and see if it helps bring a bit of order to the chaos :0)

    wow, i felt like i was reading my own journal for a while there! thanks for sharing this great idea!

    Natalia blogged..Thank You Dr. Martin

    Ruth – I hope it helps. Please let me know if it does!

    Natalia – Yeah, I’ve got to think that there’s a way to turn all that energy into a positive thing, right?

    what natalia said: like lookin in a mirror. of my brain. (hey, *that’d* be a cool project!)

    lisa blogged..peace on earth to everyone, and abundance to everyone you’re with.

    This is a brilliant idea – visual and tactile, so it ticks all my boxes. I’ve got a connect four set, but my sons might be a bit miffed if I repurpose it, lol. Maybe I’ll try marbles and jar.
    Just to know that you’ve done something!

    I love the way you decorated your box – Lol at the 2 mths procrastination. *Phew* at your list of projects :-)

    Sam blogged..Weekly update

    That is beautiful. I’m going to have to try something like this for both myself and my partner. Thank you for sharing this!

    (Here via the craftzine blog, btw.)

    I’m another girl with a lot going. Once I tried using an egg timer to allot the proper amount of time to each project… but I hated it. I like the button/stone credit system.

    beinred blogged..Snow Day

    Wow!
    I’ve gotta try this out! I have never been diagnosed with ADHD but I too experience the “Everything till I get nothing done” syndrome on a daily basis! My wife thinks I have OCD as well, LOL!
    Thanks for posting this!

    Lisa – that does sound like a fun craft project, brains are always good. Matt and I, someday want to have a room full of resin animal brains like they’ve got at the National Zoo. I’d like to use them as an organizational system for our library.

    Sam – While I think the connect 4 conversion would be the most satisfying manifestation of my box, the dilemma of ruining the game connect 4 was one of the reasons I didn’t pursue it. I’ve always rather liked connect 4, and while I’ve now got it on my iphone, it’s not quite the same. I’m glad you like the decoration style… I meant to mention this in my post but forgot: the style was inspired by Sticks Furniture, http://www.sticks.com/ although, really it doesn’t look much like it at all.

    Jessica – I hope it works out for you, please let me know how it goes! Thanks for letting me know where you came from, I submitted this to Craft and Make a little while ago, but didn’t actually expect them to link to me!

    Beinred – Good luck! Hope this helps you get things done without having to give too much up.

    Hisart – I’ve never been diagnosed either, I’ve just found that I get more done if I assume it and work from there. Hope this ends up helping!

    Have you read Barbara Sher’s book, “Refuse to Choose”?

    I have linked to your post on her forum
    http://www.barbarasher.com/boards/index.php
    in the Interesting Finds board. Hope that’s okay!

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned this (as I have ADHD Inattentive Type and only skimmed through the posts), but what about follow-through? That is pretty much a key ADHD trait: coming up with many extraordinarily creative ideas but not being able to keep up with them to follow through to the end. Granted I think it is a wonderful idea but for us, ADHD’ers, it would end up by the wayside with our other projects for organization. Just a thought. :)

    Alwen – No, I’ve never heard of it, but I’ll have to check it out. Sounds like it could be helpful! Feel free to link to me where ever.

    Marisa – I’m planning to write a follow up post sometime in February to talk about how I’ve been doing with the box. Can’t vouch for anyone else’s progress, but I can see how it would be a problem. That’s one of the reasons I keep asking people who say they’re going to do some version to let me know how it works out.

    Remember to tighten your tip screws! Also, go back to foil.

    Nice idea with the box. I think an aid for simply tracking where all the hours went would help me too.

    And intrestingly enough, I’m a fencing programmer who has been meaning to try some (3D) art.

    Great idea for tracking your creativity! Helps to have something fun to look at instead of the tattered notebook I have on my desk right now. I’ll link here for tips to getting over those “cabin fever” months. Thanks!

    Jenn blogged..Found: Organic Coffee That Actually Tastes Good

    That idea is utterly awesome. I’ve been looking to change the way I manage my time, to get better at it, and I think this could make a great tool. Mind if I take inspiration from you?

    Also, a thought on selling them: you might want to consider not only craft show stock, but custom pieces. I’d bet people’s goals and time management needs are as various and unique as people themselves.

    Corvus blogged..The Kindness of Others

    Phil – Actually I didn’t lose a single tip screw, surprisingly. No more foil for me, I hacked that bridge to pieces (because you see, I did some sabre too). I usually have a really hard time with 3-d art. I make some of my own furniture (which means I design it, and Matt mostly trusts me to tell him how to put it together) but other than that, I stick to 2-d.

    Jenn – I’ve tried notebooks and found that I end up not being able to make any sense of my own notes, or I lose the lists somewhere, or they just get lost in the mess of writing and drawing. I’m working with Evernote on my iphone right now, which seems to be working a little better for me.

    Corvus – Glad you like it, feel free to run with it. If you let me know when you do, I’ll even link to you. I agree that doing custom pieces would be a good way to go, I’ll just have to figure out a way to balance out the worth with the amount of time it would take me to make them! I mostly draw, so I’m actually a pretty slow painter right now. I suspect that would change if I started doing it more often. I’d also like to start doing hand painted jig-saw puzzles, but, for now, there’s no room for that in my box!

    Ohhhhhh, would you mind if co-op this to work with my ADD and ADHD kids? I case manage about 40 special needs children, of which about 1/2 have this issue and they (and their teachers) are constantly trying to stay on track. I think if I could use the visual and tactile method of keeping track of what they need to get done, it would really help. They are middle to older elementary kids. What a great idea to run across when your google ADD!

    Afton – Feel free! Please let me know how it works out.

    This is a great idea! Beautifully executed as well :)

    I teach kids with ADHD and we often suggest to parents what they can do to help their kids manage their time. Maybe instead of just suggesting them to make lists, maybe I can also show your project? It’s a nice way of showing them that there are more alternatives to just writing down their tasks.

    23 Feb 2009, 2:58am
    by Mizz Lizzie in a ADHD Tizzie


    Wow, I love this! I am a crafter/doll maker and with my ADD, seems I’m always ‘driven to distraction… I’ve been reading books about doing something like that and for that I thank you from the bottom of my lil crafters heart! Ü
    Thanks LOTS for sharin’ your idea… You Da BOMB Ü

    [...] love this Big Box of ADHD. Usually when I see something that makes reference to ADHD, it is cheesy and doesn’t actually [...]

    This is a fabulous idea –and also charming. Great combination!

    mary blogged..Friday, Friday, can’t trust that day

    Bituin, Lizzie and Mary- Glad you like the idea, hope it’s jelpul for you!

    Wow. What an idea that is and how beautifully executed.I too have ADHD and can’t concentrate on anything and wrote about how frustrating I found it in a professional context a while back but have never figured out how to organise these myriad thoughts. I think I’m going to nick this idea and use it myself!

    mischief blogged..my REAL wall – March 23, 2009

    Hi Mischief, feel free to use the idea. Please let me know how it works out for you!

    29 Mar 2009, 6:45pm
    by KaboomBaby


    Wow, I just read a whole lot of stories about me!
    I’ve been diagnosed ADD/ADHD, I take my meds, and still the problem descriptions listed here on organization are very active in my life. Why take the meds then? Well, it’s actually the improved version of me. I have a similar system as Meagan but it simply consists of bunch of notebooks, a few storage containers, a desk calandar mounted to the wall where I can see it from near anywhere, and a hella lot of alarms set on my cell phone.
    There is a lot of misconception about what ADD is and who it affects. I’m 39 and still dealing with it; very frustrating.
    What you have created here is a powerful tool. It isn’t just an item of visual impact, it’s a powerful coping tool. Everyone needs coping tools in their lives no matter what the situation and here you have provided for those most in need!
    Bravo Girl! You done a great job !!

    Thanks Kaboom, glad you like the idea!

    Hello, just landed on your blog randomly. Your Dad is absolutely right on the money (no pun intended): You should absolutely think about making and marketing these. You’ve already got a wonderful prototype, after all. This idea is just brilliant, seriously. It’s something everyone needs (because everyone procratinates), and I’m not sure anything else like it exists. And you can bet someone else will make and market this (or something very much like it) if you don’t, and you’re going to kick yourself when you see it for sale in an office supply store or a department store for $29.99!

    Of course, if you’re not actually interested in making and marketing these, you should probably take a pass on the idea. But if the idea interests you at all, try to find a creative entrepreneurial person who’d be willing to help you out. (Your instructors at school might know of someone; your parents might know of someone.) You might even dig around on Etsy.com and in the classified section of BUST Magazine for contacts and inspiration. This is just too good to forget about. And so smart!

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