Habits. We talk a lot about these on the ADHD course, don’t we? But how do we put them in place?

Me? I’m an expert on all this. My self-help books collection rivals that of the National Library of Scotland. I once worked there, hoping the wisdom from millions of books would be magically absorbed. As Events Officer, I organised entertaining activities to reach new audiences – “dumbing it down,” as one disgruntled old-timer put it. I left little better-informed than when I’d started. Where was I? Nobody has a finer collection of books or newspaper articles on Decluttering, Simplifying Your Life or ‘Death Cleaning’ (aa sobering Swedish bestseller). In fact, we can barely move for them. Apparently you’re meant to read them – I definitely will, soon.

Anyway, here are my Top Three Habits and how I succeeded in making them central to my daily life – my ABC of habit-forming.

Absolute Email Avoidance

With true commitment, you can consistently skim-read the subject lines of your inbox several times a day without opening them. It’s vital to prioritise – make sure you skip past the intimidating or tedious-looking ones. It’s okay to click on the delightful catch-up ones from friends immediately – but do resist answering until you have lots of time for an absolutely perfect, point-by-point reply. By then they’ve slipped so far down the inbox they exit your visual field and memory (WhatsApp is even better for this). If not, simply dither about e-filing. Be sure to sign up for every shiny new ‘productivity’ mailing list (especially those about Decluttering), to receive hundreds of ‘free downloads’ you’ve no idea where to put, followed by increasingly pushy offers of pricey products to solve all your organisational problems. With luck, you’ll sustain all this daily for years, until you can boast a collection like mine, of 11,000+ stagnant emails. But don’t worry if you’re not there yet – I can help.

Bickering Boldly

It’s taken 18 years to perfect this finely-honed domestic routine – regularity is key. At breakfast-time we begin bickering about the teenager’s inconsistent putting-away of washing-up; at lunchtime, lament the non-washing-up of frying pans, post-teenager-toasties; finally, bedtime grumbles about the (shared) boxroom desk covered in laptops, chargers, mobiles, schoolwork, creative writing, hairs, satsuma peel. Pair your habits: the above will reliably trigger the teenager’s outraged verbal self-defence. 

Commit to the Clutter

People go on about decluttering, but do they ever recognise the effort that’s gone into cramming this two-bedroom flat full of stuff? It’s taken me 61 years of daily sentimental stashing-away of mementoes, distracted setting-aside of half-completed projects, filling exciting new ‘planners’ with repetitive lists of things I’m definitely going to sort out one day, creating piles of newspaper clippings, filling bags with recipes I am definitely going to cook from eventually, plus hundreds of photos printed each year, to be put into old-school albums within three years maximum, scrapbooks I kept until family life took over, then the memorabilia shoved into an impressive series of boxes and magazine-holders threatening to fall on my head from the boxroom shelves (floor to ceiling, custom-made, stuffed to the gunnels).

I pursued the lifelong cluttering mission further by marrying a bookseller never known to part with any of his personal collection – from 1970s university texts to highbrow novels he once had time for to variations on Make Your Business Super-Efficient! Each room is lined with tightly crammed shelves, now expanded by our teenager’s rapidly growing novel collection (around three a week currently inhaled). My husband’s endearing efficiency system involves writing one to-do task per A4 sheet – a heap of these now towering over and straying into my own nearby “to file” pile. 

Perhaps you’ve never achieved these heights. I understand. I’ve had many years to build up these skills, and I’m ready to share them with you.

Or possibly to contemplate replacing these habits with new ones, at last. Some have tactlessly suggested there’s a case for that. I do have other habits, arguably healthier!

Let’s compare notes… once I can find mine, in that boxroom.

Carol Stobie

Director, Procrastination Station

Peer Group Facilitator

24 March 2024


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