Life can get pretty hectic, particularly when you’re a healthcare professional. It’s easy to try to fit more and more into your busy schedule to the point of bursting; especially when you work and have children, elderly parents, family or community all needing your input or attention. Life can become ultra busy to the point of being overwhelming when trying to meet everyone’s needs as well as your own.  

For some, this may be due to a lack of prioritisation, planning and preparation, or because of having too many competing priorities so doing none of them well. This might be a new experience for you, and you might find yourself becoming more generally disorganized, missing appointments, regularly running late, missing deadlines, or feeling frazzled by misplacing items and things not being where they ‘should’ be. However, for others, there may be a recurring pattern of struggling with ‘life admin’, for example struggling to get work in on time, keeping track of your belongings and maintaining social connections in high school or university with ongoing difficulties into adulthood with organisation, at work, home and socially. This pattern of recurring overwhelm and struggle, which is not attributable to a lack of effort or motivation can be caused by various factors. For example, being chronically over committed, having unhelpful established habits (disorganised behaviours and routine), having a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or personality factors (e.g. types of personality more prone to being disorganised, avoidant or easily distracted). 

Do you tend to: 

  • have trouble with planning, prioritising or organising tasks and activities?  
  • have difficulties with focusing and maintaining attention to tasks, making it challenging to complete them or meet deadlines? 
  • fail to give close attention to detail or make careless mistakes? 
  • not follow through on instructions or fail to finish work, chores, or duties (e.g., lose focus, become side-tracked)?  
  • avoid, dislike, or are reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time? 
  • lose things necessary for tasks? 
  • be easily distracted and forgetful? 
  • experience these difficulties ongoingly (more than six months) and in different areas of your life (at work and home)? (APS, 2022) 

Or do you tend to relate to few or some of these behaviours listed, but to different degrees from very mild to moderate, with changing consistency (not all the time)? If this is a new behaviour, it may be as a result of feeling stressed or overwhelmed at how much you have on your plate. It could be an indication of feeling anxious about how much you have on your to-do list. This would be a good time to take heed of this warning sign and to reflect on your stressors and self-care, and prioritise your commitments, including those related to work, family, and community, consider which ones you can discard or stop temporarily. Left unchecked to escalate, it could become the start of a serious mental illness, like clinical depression or anxiety. 

If you tend to be disorganised generally and it’s been ongoing (not new), it can be a relatively harmless personality trait or a behaviour that you learnt over time. It’s also possible that it’s a neurodevelopmental condition like ADHD. It all depends on the degree and what else is happening in your life at this time. 

An estimated one million Australians live with ADHD which equates to approximately one in 20 Australians (APS, 2022; Health Direct, 2020), and many are not formally diagnosed. As a neurodevelopmental condition, characterised by differences in brain and cognitive development, ADHD affects the brain’s executive functioning — the ability to self-regulate and control thoughts, words, actions and emotions (Health Direct, 2020). ADHD is associated with age-inappropriate levels of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity (APS, 2022).  

People who have disorganised personality traits, a mental illness like depression, or have ADHD tend to experience difficulties with planning and prioritising, getting organised, and time management. These difficulties will impact on their ability to study, work, manage responsibilities, and develop and maintain social relationships. They can also negatively impact self-confidence and self-esteem. This will make organisation and life admin tasks difficult. For example, those suffering from depression or anxiety may find it extremely challenging to do things, including going to work or keeping their house or space clean, let alone juggling children’s after-school activities or the needs of important others.  Procrastination and distraction can also be major barriers for disorganised or anxious people, both of which tends to exacerbate the issue and associated stress.  

So, what to do? It’s important to differentiate between whether it’s stress-related, a personality trait, a neurodevelopmental condition like ADHD, or a serious mental illness, like depression or anxiety. Particularly if the disorganisation is new and severe and has been noticed or remarked on by your work colleagues, friends or family, it’s important to talk to your GP who may suggest a referral to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Tip: Talk to your GP as a starting point. If you don’t have a GP, it is important to find one.  

So, what can you do if you have ruled out ADHD or mental illness but have a multitude of tasks you want to get on top of? 

Consider the following options and strategies: 

  • Prioritise. Remind yourself of your long-term goals (e.g. selfcare or maintaining good relationships with family, friends and colleagues) and revise them when necessary.  Set daily priorities to meet your goals. For example, make daily, weekly and monthly to-do lists of important tasks.  Review your daily priorities at the beginning of each day. 
  • Manage your time… but be realistic. Schedule quiet time at work to accomplish tasks that need extra concentration.  Do your most challenging work or preparation when your energy is at its highest; save less demanding tasks, like easy household chores, for other times.  If you tend to procrastinate, focus on one thing at a time and celebrate each small win (30 minutes of chores per day is better than none). To-do lists are helpful as long as they are not overwhelming and overly ambiguous. Ensure your daily to-do list can be realistically completed in the time you have. 
  • Check your calendar daily to review your activities and avoid conflicts.  Write down all commitments rather than trusting your memory.  Use planning and scheduling apps and software to help you map out long-term projects. Assistance with organisation, such as using alarms, reminders through apps and electronic diaries can improve this skill. For example, setting a timer (on your phone or computer) can help with reminders to attend the gym or professional development sessions, or better manage procrastination and forgetfulness.  
  • “Snack” tasking is a useful strategy to increase focus and concentration. Snack tasking refers to small ‘bite-sized’ lengths of effort, so concentration does not fade. Techniques, such as the Pomodoro technique (set 25 minutes on a timer to focus and concentrate, followed by a 5-minute break), can make it easier to manage procrastination as you are aware that the amount of time to work or focus is limited. 
  • A partner or group is another great strategy for getting tasks done (dependant on the task) to assist with organisation, motivation and concentration, as well as enhancing accountability. Also, the positive and social aspects of a group tend to be enjoyable, providing encouragement and support while working toward common goals – making time pass quickly. This strategy is great for tasks like, for example, housecleaning (rope the whole family in with the reward of a fun activity afterwards) or garden or home decorating projects (offer a BBQ to friends and family post-completion of a house-painting or garden planting day). 
  • Reduce or eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone, close unnecessary tabs on your computer, and find a quiet time and space if you need quiet to complete your task. If you’re distracted by what others are doing in the house, go elsewhere, like the library or a park. If you find yourself staring out the window, move your desk so you can’t see outside. You can also use noise-cancelling headphones or white noise to block out external noise.  
  • External assistance through courses like Beating Burnout are useful to assist with wellbeing, selfcare and when feeling overwhelmed. Also seek out information if the feeling of being overwhelmed isn’t receding or improving as you get more organised and on top of tasks, for example, Beyond Blue, Black Dog or Health Direct websites have lots of information, support as well as strategies on how to improve symptoms relating to your mental health. If you are unsure or negative feelings continue, seek help from your GP. 
  • Sleep is essential for good health and wellbeing. Sleepiness and fatigue can impair attention, concentration, and working memory, potentially turning into a vicious cycle. So, set up a good night-time routine by stopping screen viewing one hour before bed, complete pre-sleep activities like a cup of chamomile tea or a warm bath (train your brain to perceive those activities as a precursor to sleep), and go to bed at a consistent time.  
  • Practice self-care – this is essential for everyone! Especially for healthcare professionals who tend to give so much of themselves mentally and emotionally at work. Ensure you get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and engage in exercise and your favourite hobbies. Take short, frequent breaks to recharge your batteries and stay motivated by enjoying stress-reducing activities, such as yoga or active mindfulness (mindfulness while bushwalking, running or cooking). Taking care of your mental and physical health will help you stay focused, energised, and motivated. 
  • Diet and supplements – if you are feeling particularly tired, it may be worthwhile checking with your GP for any vitamin deficiencies and correcting if necessary, such as iron or Vitamin D. Reviewing your diet is also worthwhile as this can be neglected when busy or feeling overwhelmed. 

What if you have been diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety or depression? As well as the strategies already listed above, consider: 

  • Ask for assistance at work. Many workplaces are happy to negotiate a variation on common work practices if it assists their employees to be more productive and well at work. For example, a person with ADHD who struggles with organisation may negotiate later starting times with their workplace. Or if you struggle with concentration in the afternoon, you could negotiate working longer in the morning when concentration is better, with a later lunch break and easier tasks scheduled for the afternoon. Many organisations will also have a variety of software or apps available to assist with appointments and planning projects and tasks (e.g. Planner). 
  • Pharmacological interventions. Many people with ADHD and/or a mental illness have found medication helpful in managing symptoms. However, medication-based treatment decisions should always be made in consultation with your treating doctor, with choice of medication(s) and dosage regimes usually needing to be optimised over time. For example, ADHD medication should be carefully and continually monitored for its effectiveness and any unwanted side effects (ADHD Guideline Development Group, 2022; APS, 2017). Book an appointment with your GP in the first instance, to decide if medications or a specialist review might be appropriate for you.  
  • Non-pharmacological interventions. There are many non-pharmacological interventions, such as behavioural therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), neurofeedback, psycho-education and lifestyle changes (e.g., diet, exercise and sleep) that can improve daily functioning for stress-related disorganised behaviours, depression and anxiety, or ADHD. Seeing a psychologist who specialises in adult ADHD and/or anxiety and depression to work on cognitive, behavioural and practical lifestyle strategies is beneficial for many. 
  • Sleep is essential for everyone due to its importance for wellbeing, learning and memory retention. Sleepiness and fatigue can impair attention, concentration, and working memory. However, sleep related difficulties are common in people with ADHD and/or depression (APS, 2022). For example, many people with ADHD report sleep onset insomnia and delayed dim light melatonin onset (APS, 2022). It’s important to set up a good night-time routine (as outlined earlier). 
  • Note that a combination of pharmacotherapy and psychological interventions is considered optimal treatment, and more effective than pharmacotherapy alone (Young & Myanthi Amarasinghe, 2010) for conditions like ADHD, depression and anxiety. For example, multimodal treatment involving pharmacotherapy, education, behavioural/self‑management skills, counselling, coaching, and either academic or workplace accommodations is likely to promote the best outcomes for adults with ADHD (ADHD Guideline Development Group, 2022; APS, 2017). 
  • Don’t underestimate the power of support.  This can take many forms. For example, it could be support and encouragement from friends and family, outsourcing routine tasks like housecleaning, window-cleaning, gardening or lawnmowing to help you stay on top of these recurring jobs, or support in the form of body doubling. Body doubling is particularly helpful for people with ADHD or those who feel overwhelmed and avoidant. Body doubling is where someone works alongside you to assist you to start, focus on and finish a task. This works well with large projects, whether work or home related. Anything that will lighten your load can help you feel more in control and organised. In addition, our ‘Beating Burnout’ program is an extension of support. It pairs an online course with effective strategies and behaviours that you can adopt now and into the future with the personalised touch of one-on-one coaching. Together with a dedicated coach, you can chart a personalised course to newfound resilience. 

Life administration can get challenging at times for everyone and having a busy schedule is often the norm in our fast-paced society. Organisation can be a challenging task for anyone, but for someone who is disorganised or is managing ADHD, depression or anxiety, it can be particularly overwhelming. Set yourself up to succeed by focussing on your strengths and getting assistance with what challenges you. Using some or all of these before-mentioned strategies will enable you to set yourself up for success.  

Disorganised, frazzled and feeling over-whelmed? Good news! Being organised is a skill you can learn to optimise work, life and wellbeing! 


ADHD Guideline Development Group (2022). Australian evidence-based clinical practice 

guideline for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity. First Edition. Melbourne: Australian ADHD Professionals 


APS (2017). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) practice guide. Accessed from: on 28/2/23 at 1.20pm 

APS (2022) We’re paying attention – Evidence-based guidelines for ADHD. InPsych, Summer 2022, Vol 44 

Employee Assistance Network. Get organized at work! Accessed 6 February 2024 from:  

Health Direct. (2020). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Accessed 1 March 2023 from:  

Young, S., & Myanthi Amarasinghe, J. (2010). Practitioner Review: Non‐pharmacological treatments for ADHD: A lifespan approach. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(2), 116-133. doi: