Conquer Our Fears

Conquer Our Fears

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Organization and Structure: Worth The Effort

Organization. Some people's lives revolve around it, while others disregard it altogether. For many of us though, we try to incorporate some form of organization and structure into our hectic lives. Growing up with aspergers, I have struggled finding a successful and useful way to manage the school, work, and social aspects of life in a structured manner. I have determined from my past and present experiences that stress and lowered potential can accumulate in relation to lack of organization. This first became apparent around the high school years.

Whenever I would receive a paper during class, into my book bag it went without a second thought. By the end of each day, I would have a backpack full of crumpled,jumbled, and mismatched papers. You can imagine the time it took for me to find the homework for each class by sifting through dozens of papers, time and time again until I found it. And this would repeat the next class, and the next. I was an organizational mess. My grades suffered, my homework and test accuracy suffered, and it was frustrating for me to find anything I needed. My mother eventually helped me set up a folder system, in which I would be putting class papers in their corresponding subject folders. Great idea, great system, except it really didn't work that well for long. I would start off Mondays with a nicely purged backpack, the papers nestled in their correct folders, no paper cluttering. I would begin the week by actually using the system, putting papers in their respective folders, no problems yet. Eventually, however, I would slip up and throw a paper in my backpack erratically, just like old times. This one paper would slowly but surely turn into two, three, even ten cluttered papers by the end of the week. The papers were missing their mark, and old habit was rampant. The folder system had failed.

This pattern actually continued throughout high school until my senior year. My grades improved significantly that year and I can attribute it to an organizational system I created and effectively used myself. Instead of a folder system, I used individually colored binders to represent each different class. It may seem odd that use of colors and binders would have such an impact on my organization, but it did. Knowing that colors help me differentiate subjects, I used this as my personal method of paper organization. Eventually, this lead to me creating a personal system of charts that would help me focus more on fulfilling upcoming obligations. Knowing my preference of computer printed documents, I would use Microsoft Word to create a homework, work, and event chart. With these three charts, I would write down upcoming homework, work days, and events for that week. And surprisingly, I ended up actually using the system. After a chore or similar obligation was completed, I would cross out it out on my chart with a pen. It felt good to see accomplishments marked off in success in front of me.

Help an Aspergian find his or her own organizational fit, and they will reap the rewards. My mom's folder system was a good idea in her eyes, but for me, it wasn't a system I WANTED to use. So I brainstormed and came up with an organizational system that felt comfortable for me and happily stuck to it. Today, I am still using that chart system for school, work, and social events. If I set up a movie night on for Friday, you know it will be on that chart to help me remember. As a young adult with Aspergers, I strongly recommend others with the condition to follow suit and come up with an organizational system that is of their OWN design and that they are comfortable with. Parental ideas may help and even work in some cases, but in essence, its up to you to determine a system that fits your personality and style. I simply enjoyed the never-changing print format of charts, and knew that consistency was my best friend. I'm still using the system today, and it has helped immensely in every aspect. It is a visual of upcoming obligations, and for me, there's comfort in having a preemptive approach to life through organization.

What organizational tools do you use? What has been helpful for you or someone you know with structuring? Let me know in the comments below!
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