GETTING YOUR LIFE ORGANIZED
Adults on the autism spectrum can have trouble getting their lives organized. They
may struggle with relationships, work and life in general, without
knowing why. This often leads to anxiety and can result in obsessions
with rigid routines, and severe distress can arise if routines are
disrupted. It can be difficult to make plans for the future and
organizing one's life when it comes sequencing tasks. Some people
with Aspergers syndrome over-compensate for this by being extremely
meticulous in their planning, and having extensive written or mental
Factors such as anxiety,
and multiple demands can have serious effects on organizational
abilities. Important considerations for improving general well-being
• A balanced diet and appropriate supplements i.e. vitamins
• Sufficient restful sleep
• Regular exercise
• Relaxation and stress-reduction strategies
• Following prescribed medication guidelines and medical advice
• Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
Structure allows us to put most of our lives on
automatic pilot and reserve creativity, memory, and novelty for
more important areas. People on the autism spectrum especially
need to build structure into their lives as they are usually less
able to cope with surprises and disruptions to routines. It is crucial
to have well defined tasks for the day or week ahead.
Set a timetable each day that will ensure the healthy lifestyle
above. For example, sleep can be properly regulated by always going
to sleep and waking at set times. Meal times should be at set times
and never skipped. Work with family members or partner to arrange
a weekly plan for visiting others, exercise and any self-improvement
organize your environment
Get a daily planner, diary or electronic organizer
and write things down in the order you are going to do them. Get
into the habit of checking your schedule at the beginning of every
day or the night before. Strategies for organizing the environment
include the following:
• Using a note pad system beside the phone
• Using a large notice board and making plans
• Having a special place to keep objects which tend to go missing
• Labeling or color-coding cupboards as a reminder of where things
• Tying objects to places e.g. a pen to the phone or a key to a
A To-Do List is a handy tool. Get a whiteboard and put it up somewhere
in your house. Write on it the things that you have to do and then
erase them as you complete them. Sometimes people will list 50 projects
and none of them will get done. If you have this problem, create
a list of five projects that you want to do and write them on the
whiteboard. Don't add another project to the list until you completed
one of the five items. As you add one, you have to subtract one.
You may want to limit it to only three projects if five is overwhelming.
We all have goals we have set out to achieve,
often at a subconscious level. Goals keep us focused on a purpose
and help us through difficult times when many others less motivated
would give up. A person who wants to get the most out of life often
has a number of goals simmering at the same time.
By setting goals you can get out of negative mind sets and help
yourself to gain more control over your life. It pays to set these
out in writing and approach them step-by-step. It is crucial to
have an accurate idea of your strengths and weaknesses. It is not
uncommon to have unrealistic ideas expectations of how you may cope
in different areas, so it can help to discuss your strengths and
weaknesses with a trusted family member.
One way to plan and organize a goal involves designing a goal schedule
which may include some of the following sections:
• Time frame
• Aim for completion
• Potential barriers
• How to overcome barriers
• Benefits of achieving the goal
• Measures of success.
It is important to realize the underlying emotions or needs behind
a goal. For example, you may want to find work but find you've had
problems here in the past. Why do you want to work? It may be the
sense of being productive, of being part of a team and feeling esteemed
by peers. In this case you could look at volunteer work for a community
organization which may achieve these underlying needs.
Achieving goals is a step-by-step process. It may seem too daunting
at first but families or partners can provide support and assistance
in a graduated way. Dealing with issues when living on the autism spectrum is more like a marathon than a sprint. Both you and your
family need patience, positive attitudes and plenty of loving support
for each other.
Goals should be adjusted to fit your learning style or hobbies.
If you hate reading or writing then your goals shouldn't use written
exercises or reading of books. If you Don't mind writing then keeping
a journal is an excellent way to record your progress, especially
when you feel you aren't getting anywhere. A journal can keep track
of the “three steps forward, two back” that can sometimes feature
bringing it all together
All of these suggestions are compensatory strategies
that is they compensate for skills that a non-autistic world expects
you to have. The good news is that the right strategies can go a
long way to meeting these demands. All it takes is commitment to
getting these strategies into place and being patient with yourself!
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