Succeeding With a Lack of Structure: Tips for Working On Your Own (Part 2)

By Alan Brown 

In the last issue of the ADDA eNews, I described a benefit of working in a corporate or group environment; the inherent structure that provides an external scaffolding. ADHDers often lack a strong internal sense of structure. As a result, working at home or independently can be a real challenge.

Without the “safety net” of an external workplace structure (e.g., a boss keeping us accountable or a team member providing the occasional timely nudge), we must build our OWN external structures to compensate for those we lack inwardly.

Let’s take a look at the second in a series of four specific structural deficiencies along with some ways you can build your own structures. Even if you’re employed in an environment with a boss who keeps you on your toes and plenty of support staff, these tips will boost your productivity.

Lacking Structure in…Time and Memory:

Within corporate and group environments there’s always someone who will remind you of a meeting or a due date. Not so at your home office where you’re at the mercy of a dysfunctional sense of time and weak working memory.

Build Your Own Structure:

ReminderLet’s assume you’re already using a planner of some sort. (If you’re not, GET ONE – it’s the sine qua non of time and memory management!) The question is this: Are you using said planner to provide as much external structure as possible? If not, consider re-configuring your approach. For example:

  • Use Outlook or another calendar software to set alarms/alerts like crazy – this means setting an alarm to ring at least 15 minutes prior to every event – for everything you need to remember.
  • For every call or meeting scheduled with an auto-alert 15 minutes prior, create an ADDITIONAL calendar entry a couple of hours before the call/meeting called “PREP MEETING w/BOB.” This builds in an additional nudge for readiness, and allows you a break to plan and focus on what you want to talk about.
  • Schedule time in your planner to PLAN – a set time every morning, even if just five or ten minutes, to look at the day and week ahead.
  • If you’re using an electronic (versus physical, paper-based) planner, make sure it is regularly synced automatically across all your devices. You need ONE calendar/planner/list…not five. There are few things worse for the unstructured ADHD brain than the chaos of several different calendars/lists saying different things.

Remember: even if you’re working in a well-structured office environment, implementing these tips will take your game up a notch.

Start structuring!


Alan Brown, creator of the acclaimed ADD Crusher™ videos, was undiagnosed until adulthood and coping with chronic underachievement, substance abuse and worse. Upon diagnosis, he struggled to learn coping strategies from books, so he developed his own strategies. He is also co-author of best-selling 365+1 Ways to Succeed with ADHD.



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