Using NLP to Organize the ADDer

Sandy Maynard
Catalytic Coaching

Using NLP to Organize the ADDer by Sandy Maynard

One of the most problematic symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder that bring clients to me for coaching is disorganization. One of my clients had this to say: "I feel overwhelmed and I panic at the thought of even trying to get my office organized. The more I try, the worse it gets. I can never finish what I start!" I started coaching this client by going over a comprehensive list of strategies and tips for overcoming disorganization, from A.C.T. NOW, a workbook I authored to address the organizational needs and motivational challenges of adults with attention deficit disorder. The comprehensive list of organizational and time management tips provides clients with very basic, commonsense activities that will enable them to clean up their environment and prioritize, as well as manage their time and stay focused on the task at hand. To assist my clients with this process, I teach some very simple visualization exercises using neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) principles. As a result, clients report feeling less anxious and less overwhelmed at the thought of doing what they need to do to get organized and stay organized. The first step is to demonstrate to clients that they can control what they visualize, and how they visualize it. I have them do this by choosing an object that is easy for them to visualize, such as their favorite food. I ask them to notice everything they can about it, such as what color it is, how big it is, and how close it is; whether or not it is in focus, or if it is flat or 3-D. I then ask them to make the picture gray, and out of focus, and have them shrink it down in size and move it far away into a very dark corner. I ask if the same food appeals to them as much as it did a minute ago. With this question comes the realization that we can change how we think and feel about something by controlling how we create visual images of it in our mind. I ask my clients to practice this exercise over and over again, until it is really easy to do. Being able to control the way they visually represent images in their mind becomes a skill they now have at their disposal. Once my clients have learned this skill and can do it easily, we choose a task to use it on. File systems, instead of pile systems, make life easier and keep us much more organized, but let’s face it, they take more effort to set up and maintain than just dumping stuff in stacks. Creating motivation to start using a file system, and to continue using it, is where this visualization skill can be of use. Creating a visual representation of the clean and neat fining system we would like to have is the first step. The next step is to make that picture as desirable as we can by adjusting various aspects of the picture, as we did in the food exercise. We may, for example, make the filing system more desirable by bringing the image closer, yet if we bring it too close, the project may "loom too large" as one of my clients expressed, until he moved it to a distance that felt comfortable for him. I encourage clients to experiment with their own changes until they get the visual representation as desirable as possible. With the ADD client, it is often very important to create just one image at a time and practice e keeping that image still, as the natural tendency may be to have several images that move rapidly, creating a sense of confusion. Controlling and stabilizing the internal visual representation of a task often allows ADD clients to become more focused and stay calm and relaxed. To gain control of this, they simply practice moving an object around in their visual field, slowing it down and speeding it up until they are confident they have complete control of this function. If the representation of the task is in movie form, then there should be just one movie on the screen, and it should stay in one place, and not move as if someone jiggled the projector. Gaining control of this takes practice also. ADD clients pretend to project the movie on the wall, then the floor, then all around the theater. They move the projection camera in slow, even movements and then fast, jerky movements, continuing to practice until they easily have complete control. Learning how to control our internal images to motivate us can be a very powerful tool to get organized and stay organized. As one satisfied client said, "Look at my beautiful office. It’s just as I pictured it! No more piles of papers stacked on top of empty file cabinets. I love the way it looks and I’m keeping it this way. Thanks for helping me see how easy getting organized can be!"

Sandy Maynard is a master practitioner of neuro-linguistic programming and a personal performance coach, specializing in adults and adolescents with attention deficit disorder. She can be reached at 1-888-REFRAME or