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By Anandhi Narasimhan, M.D.

Not ADD, But Something Like It - A Guide to Managing your Life

Do you forget to pay bills on time? Do you have trouble finding important papers? Are you frequently overwhelmed by your responsibilities? Have you ever felt a little ADD? Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a condition characterized by inattentiveness, distractibility, difficulty finishing tasks, and forgetfulness. At its worst, it can cause serious disturbances in functioning at work and home, and may need medical attention and treatment. If you have trouble keeping your life in order, but it’s more of an annoyance than an impediment, perhaps you just have trouble staying organized.

Although learning to manage your life might seem like a daunting task, with a little planning and thought, you can take charge of your life! Begin by taking some time away from distractions to identify your organizational strengths and weaknesses. Write down your goals for this month, the next six months, and the entire year. This will help keep both the small details and the larger picture in perspective. Also, consider the tips included below, incorporating the ones that are most useful for you into your routine. In no time, you can become better at personal management — and more relaxed, as a result.

Never underestimate the power of a clean environment. You might have rolled your eyes when Mom kept telling you to keep your room clean, but she was right! Spend one to two days just cleaning your home. Consider de-cluttering by throwing away or donating clothes, books, or anything else you don’t use. Don’t save all your cleaning for the weekend! Just ten minutes a day washing dishes or dusting, and you won’t have three hours of cleaning waiting for you on Saturday!

One of the biggest organizational nightmares is mail. Keep a basket for your incoming mail, and throw away junk mail as soon as you get it! Keep one box or drawer for important papers, such as bank or credit card statements, but separate them in clearly labeled manila envelopes or folders. Need to easily store receipts for taxes or returns? A shoebox will come in handy.

Buy a daily planner. I prefer simple, lightweight ones with enough space to create to-do lists every day. Use your planner religiously. Each morning, write down what you need to do that day, and number the items in terms of priority. If you think of tasks that you need to accomplish the next day, make a note of those as well. Don’t forget to include phone calls that you need to make! Check off each task as you finish it, and enjoy that feeling of accomplishment!

Also use your planner for long-term deadlines, such as when you plan to file your taxes. Although you might be tempted to wait until the absolute last moment to complete these tasks, try to schedule them in earlier. If you can afford to, don’t wait until right before the due dates to pay your bills. Complete your taxes in February, and you won’t have to be frantic on April 15! While your friends are hunting down that missing W-2, you can relax, cook yourself a biryani, and kick back with a glass of wine.

Don’t try to be everywhere, all the time. You might worry that if you don’t attend every event you’re invited to, you will be missing out. This doesn’t have to be true! Prioritize the events that are most important to you, but it’s okay if you skip one where everyone knows your name. Today, we are all busier than ever. Like other working Desis, you probably have a lot on your plate. Your body needs rest to be energized, and sometimes rest means spending some time alone and gathering your thoughts. Social events shouldn’t feel like obligations! You should attend them feeling energized and happy, not grumpy and edgy. Don’t feel pressured to attend every Desi club party where no one can hear each other! Instead, consider quality over quantity. If you love to dance, go out and strut your stuff, but realize that doesn’t mean you have to be the last one hanging around until the club closes. Try going home earlier to stay on a somewhat regular sleep schedule.

Relax and exercise. Try meditation or yoga, and make fitness a regular part of your lifestyle. Your attention span and stress level will benefit.

Take public transportation. If it is possible to take public transportation, try it. It’s environmentally friendly and means you don’t have to start your day with a dose of road rage. While riding the bus or taking the subway, you can do paperwork or catch up on your reading instead of sitting in traffic. If you can walk at least some or all the way to work, consider it — maybe you can skip that trip to the gym.

Leave your gadgets at home. Try going somewhere without your cell phone, blackberry or PDA — maybe not on days you might need to take calls for work! If you survived, try it again for a longer period of time.

Treat yourself. Don’t forget to reward yourself for becoming a more organized, calm person! Watch your favorite movie or take a trip to the theatre. Book a massage or facial. Have a glass of wine with your friends. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something fun. Positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage behavior modification!

Don’t be overwhelmed by these tips! Visualize yourself calm, relaxed, confident, rested and on top of things. Strive to make this a reality each day. But don’t forget to cut yourself some slack if you slip up every now and then — after all, you are only human.

Anandhi Narasimhan, M.D. is a Board-Certified Physician, accredited by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, specializing in Adult, Child, and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Narasimhan currently serves on clinical faculty at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, runs a private practice in Los Angeles and serves as a child and adolescent psychiatrist for Aviva Family and Children's Services, a non-profit contract agency with the Department of Mental Health. For more information, visit

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