When you're a neurodivergent creative, you need to build yourself a lot of guardrails to keep your productivity - and the rest of yourself - on track.
The best systems will be different for everyone, of course.
But the ones that are most helpful to me in managing my neurodivergencies (ADHD, OCD, and autism) are the GTD methodology by David Allen, the Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, and The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.
Each helps me in a different way, so today I want to share a bit about each and what they do for me.
1. GTD methodology
The premise of the GTD system is that your biggest distraction at work isn't a coworker or social media, it's your own brain.
I’m often frustrated with how neurotypical productivity experts act like all distractions are external.
My biggest distraction is my OWN brain. And GTD gets that.
GTD says, "yes, you have a lot going on in your head, let's get it out of there, and come up with a place to put it and way to figure out what to do with it."
It also says, “we know that even though you do this constantly, it can be hard to remember when and how to do it. Let’s write out a checklist and create a reminder. That’ll help.”
And it’s exactly what I need to hear.
Just the capture habit idea alone changed my life as an ADHD & autistic person.
GTD is specifically designed around modularity and flexibility.
So it’s easy to just take the easiest parts or the parts you need most and implement them however works for you. Then once you’re used to it, you can either build up your GTD practice if you want to, or just coast on the parts you have.
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The Bullet Journal Method
And I'm sure a big part of that has to do with the fact that its creator, Ryder Carroll, specifically designed it to help manage his own ADHD.
It was only after that, that he shared it with the world.
While bullet journaling has become so popular that it’s broken beyond any single niche or audience, you will notice that a lot of its biggest fans are neurodivergent themselves.
I like to call my own bullet journaling style “colorful minimalist,” and is a good approach for neurodivergent folk to take to systems in general.
The structure, from what I create spreads and collections about to how I design those spreads, is extremely simple. Almost everything is a basic list or table. There are no illustrations or doodles, since I don’t know how to make them.
But to satisfy my neurodivergent need for whimsy and novelty, I do grab markers and stickers when I do my weekly review and use them to add emphasis to anything important.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The Artist's Way is so new to my life that I haven't written much about it yet, but the past 6 months of doing morning pages have unlocked new levels of clarity around my business and body of work.
They're basically an hourlong coaching session I have with myself every morning.
Productivity coaching, self-care coaching, relationship coaching...whichever kind I need most that day.
The other part of the system is artist dates, basically an hourlong creative date with yourself each week to nurture your inner child.
It’s been a guilt-free block of time for me to spend tinkering, crafting, or playing video games. It’s also been a time set aside to challenge myself, like starting to drive again or go inside stores despite COVID.
Now, I don't follow any of these systems exactly, because everything needs to be customized to your own needs.
But these were the best foundations for me to start from.
Have you tried any of them?