Structures and systems for living a free life

I'm fascinated by systems. When I wrote about my daily schedule, someone commented that I have a lot of self-discipline. Here's the thing: I wasn't born this way. As a free-spirited ENFP with ADD, I naturally tend to skitter off into tangents, daydreams, dithering, procrastinating. My weak points are organization, goal setting and staying focused long enough to complete necessary tasks. Yes, I'm a moderately talented writer but in high school I realized that my "flashes of brilliance" were not enough to accomplish my dreams of becoming a published author. I actually needed organizational systems and structures (as much as I hated them!) to help me. Otherwise, my dreams would remain wishes.

I used to wish I was one of those elite writers who could churn out awesome manuscripts while drunk, or in a coffee shop surrounded by people or while under intense stress, or while traveling. But I'm not one of those writers. I'm me. I need my sleep. I need my routine.

My systems save me. My systems free me.

My systems enhance creativity. Take a sonnet, for example. Sonnets have structure: meter, rhyme scheme, sequences. Sonnets have tight structures and yet, some of the most transcendent poems are sonnets. The structure is the setting upon which the beautiful diamond shines.

Once I started loving structures, I began seeing everything as a potential system. For example, shoes. Shoes need a system. Especially in a big family like mine, shoes can easily overwhelm space and become unmanageable. Our shoes needed a system.

Now, here's the trick (especially for folks with ADD!): don't over-complicate your system! It doesn't have to be Pinterest pretty. When it comes to systems, I always choose function over aesthetics. I'm not opposed to aesthetics, per se. Beauty matters. But I'm more concerned about ease and functionality.

Hence, our family shoe closet (it's not even that tidy but it still totally works!):

This shoe closet used to be a coat closet. My husband retrofitted it with shelves. Little kids' shoes are near the bottom, adult shoes on top. It's not exactly pretty, but it solves the problem of a shoe pileup near the front door. Also, if everyone keeps their daily, school shoes in one spot, getting out the door each morning is simplified.


Here's one more example from my life. Each morning I shower, do my hair and makeup. But if everything isn't easily accessible, I'll forget something like flossing or mascara (thank you, ADD). So, I've created a little countertop solution that--once again--is not PRETTY--but it's functional and systematizes my morning routine.

I keep a few things in the medicine cabinet--mainly because if it's TOO crowded in my toiletry tray, my ADD brain can't sort it. The things I keep in the medicine cabinet stay in the EXACT SAME SPOT so I always know where they are.

I also have systems for exercise, mail management, books, lunch pails, carpool routes, bedtimes, laundry collection. I have systems for writing. I have systems for blogging. After I'm done editing this book? I'll tell you all about my system for book writing!

The point is, if I--as a scatterbrained ENFP--can organize and systematize my life, ANYONE can! Start small. Start tiny. Systematize ONE thing. Maybe just make your bed. Maybe just put on your workout clothes (without even working out!). Just one thing. One tiny step.

You CAN achieve your dreams!