Best thing to own when you have an ADHD brain – Notebooks!!

It is a good thing I decided to study architecture because without it I might not have been able to see the importance of owning a notebook. I remember my first class, in my first year on my first Monday morning. This class just had one message, own a notebook, always carry it with you and never loose it. Even though at this point I did not know I had ADHD, this is the day my management of my ADHD devil started.

I remember my first notebook, it was bright red and had high quality paper inside, perfect for sketching, with nice pens and pencils. I loved this notebook, the color, the feeling of the paper and the drawings I started filling it with. But one day my professor opened it and asked we where my real notebook was, because this one looked too perfect on the inside. I opened my bag and showed him a pile of crinkled paper, filled with little sketches, words and schedules, on napkins, borrowed paper or just on top of study material from other courses. My professor started laughing, this should be in your notebook!

After class I bought another, less red, notebook, this time I didn’t spend 30 euro’s, only 3 seemed to be enough to really start my life with notebooks, and pens, because they turned out to be as important. Over the years, first at university and later in my working life, I have developed a system containing 4 different notebooks, five today, since I started writing, all of them have their own pen and all of them are helping me in the fight with the ADHD devil.

The to-do notebook

This is the most important notebook of all and I really can not ever forget. I own two and I carry both of them with me all the time, one for work and one for my private life. As my ADHD makes it often impossible for me to remember what I have to do, and when I do remember it’s often at a time or place I’m really not able to do it, I need to be able to write down everything, everywhere. The to-do notebooks are accompanied by a simple ballpoint pen in the color of the notebook, green for work (because I need some positivity), and black for the personal one. The notebooks don’t really contain any kind of schedule, everything inside is without a timeframe, I have an agenda for things that require time.

So what is in the to-do notebook? Lists. Lists of things I need to remember, lists of things I need to do and lists of things I need to buy. The book contains workout routines, grocery lists, bills I have to pay, household tasks I need to do, people I have to call, emails I have to send, things I have to mention in a next meeting and things I need to remember from a meeting. Once I complete one of the tasks in this notebook I cross out the line and the result is a notebook containing mostly crossed out lines of text, all with a white line in between them. The to-do notebook is just a sum up of things, it is just an extension of my ADHD brain, to help me remember the things that otherwise get lost.

The thoughts-notebook

This notebook comes with a black 0.6 mm fineliner and contains both sketches and text. This notebook is the third phase of my daily task management but where my agenda and my to-do notebook are about what I need to do, this one is about the how, it is kind of a manual for my day. The thoughts-notebook contains sketches for my designs, sketches for paintings, titles of books, and thoughts I don’t want to forget. This is the notebook that expresses my creativity as well as my chaos. I carry this notebook always with me as well, but when I start drawing or writing in this one, the world around me seems to disappear.

The thoughts-notebook is both useful and useless. It can contain a pink elephant that has been bothering my mind for a while, next to a sketch of a furniture I want to build, next to the name of a flavor of tea I don’t want to forget, next to a detail of a part of a building I’m working on. Like my brain, this notebook lacks structure and like my brain it contains sketches that are not nice, some of them I don’t even recognize, some things in there make absolutely no sense. But because this thoughts-notebook is as unstructured as my brain, it helps me a lot. In the first place it helps me to figure out whatever my brain is thinking about. Often I find myself with an idea in my head, but it seems impossible to focus on the thought of the idea long enough to figure out if it’s useful. But the moment I start drawing it, or writing about it, focus seems to appear. The 0.6mm fineliner seems to be able to connect with the fast moving thoughts, and hold on to it long enough to put the idea on paper, long enough for me to be able to understand it.

Secondly, the moment I start putting things on paper, my head gets more empty. Many times when the ADHD chaos takes over, I am not only thinking about a lot of things, I am also trying to remember some of them, which creates a complete mess of random thoughts and important thoughts that together keep making even more thoughts. As soon as I am able to draw or write about them, they stop moving around in my head, they no longer collide with other ones, they no longer create new ones. If I take the time to put my thoughts on paper I can create space inside my head. I can get rid of the chaos by transferring it from my brain, through my pen, onto the paper.

The drawing notebook

This notebook is never to be found in one of my bags, it is in the house and it stays there, together with the two fineliners it is drawn with. The paper of the drawing notebook is nice, it feels nice and it looks nice. This notebook is not part of my daily fight with my ADHD devil, I don’t use it often enough, but it is an expression of me. I use this notebook to express my creativity, to let my hyperfocus take over and create something nice. It contains the nice drawings, drawings I can work on for hours. The drawing notebook is like my paintings, a way to loose myself in my own thoughts an passion. Whenever I allow myself to draw in this notebook I become more calm, I feel more in balance and by owning this notebook I make it very easy for myself to start my creativity, to start to take time to find the balance within myself again.

The writing notebook

The new one, although the content of this notebook has always been important to me. I recently decided it was time to start a writing notebook, I have always felt like writing digitally misses the point, it misses the pen, through which the connection between this world and my brain can be made, a pen is the only thing that can create this connection, wether it is drawing or writing. The writing notebook comes with a fountain pen is similar to the drawing notebook, even though they look completely different, the function is the same. I connect the pen to the paper and it starts to reflect my thoughts, this time in words. Often the words can surprise me, often my writing tells me things about myself I did not knew before, the things that where hidden behind the mess of other things. I see this notebook as the one that really reflects me, the one that shows me the things I can not see but really need to know, the one that will help me to understand myself and the world around me. The final piece in my notebook system, the piece that has been missing for too long.

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