Three reasons your to-do list is not getting done if you have ADHD

Organisation expert Lisa Woodruff offers expert organisation tips for the ADHD mind

Loose Women host Nadia Sawalha has said she would “rather put her hand in boiling oil” than be taught how to create a to-do list.

Speaking to Kate Thornton on the most recent episode of the White Wine Question Time podcast, she admitted: “I don't understand an organised mind. I'm pretty sure that I have – and I am going to actually go and have a diagnosis on this – I'm pretty sure that I have ADHD. My brain will skip all the time.

“My lack of organisation has caused me the most problems in my life. The chaos around me is very, very debilitating and, as I get older, I get more and more weary of it. I try and write notes and I don't know what to write. I try and write a list and I don't know how to do the list.”

From left: Nadia Sawalha, Kate Thornton, and Kaye Adams on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time

Organisation is a learnable skill, though – albeit one that is very rarely taught, particularly to those who struggle with ADHD traits.

But by starting with a to-do list, you can learn the skills to become more organised and productive in your life – leading to more free time, positivity and profitability.

The number one reason that you forget to do what you want to do is because you don't have a consistent location for all of that information.

So often we want to use digital apps and reminder lists to keep track of what we need to get done. In reality, we and end up stacking our paper in piles, and making list after list so we “don’t forget” what we need to do.

Until you have a digital system you trust and use every single day, my suggestion is to create one physical inbox on your kitchen counter for all of your papers and lists.

I called my inbox the Sunday Basket. Having only one place to put notes for yourself, leave random lists, and put all of your actionable papers gives you only one place you need to look when you're trying to find that paper.

The second reason your to-do list is not getting done is because you are working in the nooks and crannies of your life instead of giving your to-do list a solid chunk of time each week to complete.

My system is called the Sunday Basket because I go through all of my actionable papers, mail and to dos on Sunday and try to complete as many as humanly possible.

While this does take 90 minutes to two hours out of my Sunday, it frees up 30 minutes to an hour every single day during the week not doing these tasks.

In batching my tasks on weekends, I am also able to get more done in less time by doing similar tasks back-to-back.

The last reason you're not completing your to do list is because you are putting too many to-dos on your daily lists.

Since I have a system of getting the majority of my weekly to-dos done on Sunday, that leaves fewer actionable items that need to be done during the week in addition to my regular work and home weekly responsibilities.

Every night before I go to bed, I make a list of what needs to be done the next day. The key to doing this successfully is to only pick a handful of items that really actually need to be done the next day instead of a laundry list of wished-for items that might get done if you have a "perfect day”.

Lisa Woodruff has three tips for taking the first step to organising your mind and life.

“Perfect day” to-do lists leave you feeling unfulfilled, and further and further behind. But realistic to-do lists planned the night before with just three to five items on them almost always get accomplished – leaving you feeling proactive and productive.

The bottom line is that we have too many desires to accomplish in the limited amount of time we have each week. I love the quote from Bill Gates, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

The same is true for our own personal organisation and productivity. We often overestimate what we can do in a day or a week but vastly underestimate what we can do in a month or a year.

Getting a handle on your ideas and to-dos puts you back in the driver seat of your life.

You can get started today by finding one location on your kitchen counter to put all of your actionable to do this, going to those this Sunday and then making your to do list the rest of the week the night before with 3 to 5 actionable to dos is each day.

The author Lisa Woodruff is the founder and CEO of Organize 365®, a company that helps women take back their homes and paper in one year with functional organizing systems that work. Find her book How ADHD Affects Home Organization on Amazon here.

White Wine Question Time is released on iTunes and Spotify every Friday.