The Fourth of July is just around the corner, but for many of you Independence Day will truly come some time in late August when you leave home for your first year in college. Just think: no more parents telling you to go to bed, telling you to wake up, making sure you finish your homework, and getting you to your appointments on time. 

That’s a good thing… right? For many outgoing college freshmen, this level of independence and self-management may be difficult to navigate on top of all the other pressures that come with college. Hopefully you’ve been working to take over some of these responsibilities before that fateful date where you fly from (or get kicked out of) the nest. But even if you’ve got some of the basics down, independence can be a little overwhelming.

Over the years I’ve adopted a few tricks that I use to keep me on track and keep my ADHD from derailing me. It took a lot of trial and error to figure out how my brain works and how I can be prepared for any situation. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s an ongoing process, and I feel like my clients teach me as much as I teach them. So I thought I’d put together a Survival Guide – made up of some of the tools I’ve picked up along the way, and some of the tools that you, my clients, have recommended to some of the basics down, independence can be a little overwhelming.

1. Smart Watch

The wristwatch was recently listed in an article on obsolete gadgets. Sure enough, I started looking at my teen clients’ wrists and I rarely see anything other than rubber bracelets. When I ask how they keep track of time, I hear one of two things:

 1. “My phone.”

 2. “I don’t.”

A good watch can give you a wake-up call, remind you of appointments, and remind you to take your medication. Oh yeah - it can also tell time and keep you on schedule. Tom Coughlin, head coach of the New York Giants famously quipped, “If you’re on time, you’re five minutes late.” Don’t be that guy. These new Smart Watches sync with your phone to keep you alerted to incoming calls, texts, and remind you of your schedule.

Suggestions: Coo Koo Watch ($129: Apple), Sony Smart Watch ($129: Android)

Sony_Watchß Sony Smart Watch

2. Smart Phone

I know, I know. Thanks, Captain Obvious. Telling my clients to carry a smart phone is like telling them to breathe. But I include it on this list for what it can do beyond texting, Instagram, and iTunes – namely, keep you organized. There are hundreds of organizer apps out on the market (Apple and Android) that can help you keep tabs on your tasks. You can set a reminder for an appointment, call to confirm, and bring up a map of the location all within a couple of clicks.

I recommend: Things ($50: Apple)AnyDo (Free: Apple, Android)


3. Valet

The average American spends 55 minutes a day looking for misplaced items. That’s 14 days per year that you can never get back just because you can’t remember where you put your keys. A valet isn’t just a guy who parks your car. It’s also a stylish organizer for your dresser or your bathroom counter where you can throw your keys, wallet/purse, and phone at the end of the day.

I recommend: Amazon.


4. Corkboard/Dry Erase Board

You need a place to keep track of bills, appointment reminders, and your roving to-do list. The corkboard lets you get things up and off of your desk, but in a place that’s right around eye level. Use the dry erase board to write down phone numbers, quick notes, and reminders until you can transfer them to your organizer (see #2).

Suggestions: These can be found at any office supply store, such as Office Depot, Staples, etc.\\


5. Man-Bag (aka “Messenger Bag” or “Murse”)

You need a way to carry around all of your stuff and it’s time to take a page out of the ladies’ handbook, gentlemen. Until cargo pants come back into style, your best bet is a Man-Bag. It has plenty of room for your tablet/laptop, paperwork, iPod, and that book you never have time to finish. The Man-Bag used to get a bad rap for being feminine, or “sissy.” Not anymore. Unless, of course, you think that marrying a super-model and winning a bunch of Super Bowls is sissy.

I recommend: Target ($20 range), Banana Republic ($100 range)


6. Memo Pad and Pen/Pencil

With all of this tech that I’m pushing on you, this item is the cheapest and possibly most essential item in your Survival Kit. I learned this one from my dad, who always keeps an index card and a pencil in his shirt pocket to write down things that come to his mind. Whether you jot down a reminder to run to the bank, a quick grocery list, or someone’s phone number, the old pad and pen is a throwback that has aged beautifully. But Dr. Peacock, you say, why would I use a pad and pen when I just downloaded that organizer app for my phone? Because, I respond, what if you’re on your phone when you are given the information that you need to write down? That’s why. Trust me on this one.

Suggestions: Pick one up when you’re getting your cork board


7. A Wake-Up Call

Even though it’s the last item on my list, this is really the first step in Self-Management. If you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning, the rest of this is moot. And if you can’t get yourself out of bed, you’re not alone. One of the biggest reasons that students struggle in their freshman year is that they don’t make it to class. Follow this handy-dandy flowchart to help you figure out which alarm clock is right for you.



W. Walker Peacock, Psy.D. and Julie Sherman, Ph.D.