Paper-Based Planning for the ADHDer

T he ADHDer’s difficulty with visualizing time, along with the (inevitable) boredom that comes with the task of planning, turns this activity into a dreaded nightmare. However, I’ve recently adopted (created, one might say) a multi-part system that has helped enormously with this boring but essential life task. It allows me to plan my days and weeks. It allows me to capture most everything that runs through my head (and that’s A LOT OF STUFF). And it allows me to feel like I’m on top of things.

FYI: The Fall 2010 issue of ADDitude Magazine is dedicated to my ADHD-inspired planning methodology. More information is here.

The Delta Planner – Your Life On Paper

There is no such thing as the perfect paper-based planner. Like any tool – be it a planner or a cordless drill – it’s only a useful tool if you consistently use it. So, over the years I’ve had DayRunners®, PalmPilots® and so on. (I wrote about this issue in 2007.) However, I seem to always return to paper. Putting something on paper – whether it is handwritten or printed from the computer – has a greater sense of “reality” than when it is only on (in?) the computer.

Some time ago, during my quest for that perfect paper-based planner, I came across The Delta Planner. It seemed a bit off-beat and that was probably part of the attraction. Unlike a regular calendar which may be read from top to bottom and/or from left to right, this calendar reads from the bottom up. When you reach the top you reach the end of the week. In the image below, Monday is at the bottom of the page, Friday is at the top. Saturday and Sunday are the two shaded squares towards the top left. The rest of the page is basically free space. Fill it in as needed. You can designate a space for your to-do list, for jotting down notes or  phone numbers or just about any information you need to record.


The Pocket Diary

For a short period of time I tried to use The Delta Planner as a means of keeping track of projects and sales opportunities. That failed miserably. I could not pack all the information needed into the small boxes for each day. I then thought about having a section of the planner dedicated to projects and sales but, there can be five projects and fifteen sales opportunities all going at the same time. How was I to track it all? I decided to try a pocket diary. This is a small book with just ruled pages. It’s not a calendar. It’s not any sort of planner. It’s just a diary. [note 1]

A sample page is shown below. I date the entries and then leave space for notes. The notes are reminders of the next step for a particular project or sales opportunity.

What’s nice about the pocket diary is, well, it fits in my pocket. It’s small enough to go in a shirt or pants pocket.


Ya Gotta Be Free

I believe that what’s made it possible for me to continue using these items is their free-form nature. The Delta Planner is, for the most part, able to be used in almost any way you want. The only constraint, and it’s a minor one, is the actual layout of the days. (You need to have some constraint in a calendar…or it wouldn’t be a calendar.) But the remainder is open for your use. You can adapt the open spaces of the page to whatever you feel you need (a to-do list? Sure…go ahead. A call list? No problem). The diary is also free form. No constraints at all. It’s also small and portable. I always have it with me and can always jot down thoughts and ideas.

  1. I was initially attracted to this pocket diary for, well, its aesthetics. Small, compact, easy to hold.
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  • In Hoc Signo Vinces

    Jeff: Also a good thing to have are those light to carry Accordian Files…They come in all sizes, are inexpensive and come blank or with months or numbers for each slot or label slots yourself…You can put a manila file or papers in them or anything-like invoices and bills and ithey will not fall out & be lost….You can even tie or fasten them up. Easy to keep in car or briefcase.

    • Jeff

      I like that idea!

      • In Hoc Signo Vinces

        Yes. You can get quite a bit in those….Even a Pastrami Sandwich and a Pair of Pants if you needed to.

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