A Notebook as a System to Fulfill

Creating “A System to Fulfill”

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
In support of The ADD in the Spirit Coach Training Program Series

Setting it up so that you get to WIN!

The priciples of setting up a tracking system for a brand new coaching practice generalize — so don’t skip this article, simply because you won’t be setting up a notebook for coach training.

Beginning with the END in mind

There’s a lot to track when you’re setting up a brand new system for a brand new business!

If you are like most of us with ADD, that tracking part doesn’t land anywhere close to your centers of competency, so don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

Start out organized!

Don’t play games with this – do it right away!

  • You know what will happen to the notes taken in all those tattered legal pads and spiral notebooks – or on the little scraps of paper – or on anything else you grab to write on “for now,” don’t you?
  • Somewhere deep inside you KNOW that the “tomorrow” where you will finally get everything together and filed for easy retrieval-on-demand will NEVER turn into today — don’t you?
  • Yep! The task will loom larger and more daunting with every scratch of the pen and tick of the clock.

Class notes, handouts, contact sheets, practice management tips, tricks and brain-children, medication references, bridge numbers and access codes (and who knows what else?!) – OH MY!

Your best defense against overwhelm and Boggle

. . . is to make it “easy by default.”

Easy by Default

Unless, from the very beginning, you have an easy-to-use system in place to make sure you can put your hands on information the moment you need it, you might as well throw your notes in the fireplace and burn them after every single class!

We all KNOW that part, right?

  • We tend to underestimate the importance of that easy-to-use part.
  • More to the point, we get misleading information about what
    “easy to use” really MEANS.
  • The time-honored systems designed to keep “vanilla” brains organized (“unflavored by ADD or EFD”) rely on better access to working memory than most of us, MOST days, have on board.
  • Even if YOURS is fairly good, working memory is a cognitive process with heavy reliance on your cerebral cortex.  More specifically, working memory is one of those executive functions that relies heavily on a particular area of the prefrontal cortex — a limited resouce (ADD or not).
    It’s a really bad idea to rely on it when you can set things up another way.

ADD Organizing Logic

Neurotypicals are advised by the organizing gurus to file for ease of retrieval.

While that’s certainly an important organizational concept, it skips over one little detail that will make the difference between success and failure for those of us with ADD:

Easy-schmeezy, if you don’t put it away to begin with,
it won’t be there TO retrieve!
(Check out Ten ADD Organizing Principles for more)


Setting up Your Class Notebook
for the ADD in the Spirit Coach Training
Setting it up so that you get to WIN!

You will want a 2 – 2-1/2″ ring binder

The kind that will allow you to insert labels into plastic pockets, front/back/spine, will increase your sense of organization and allow you to locate your notebook more easily — so that you will have it in front of you for EVERY session (Labs & Peer Coaching included!).

  • You need to be able to insert “coming attractions,” so a spiral notebook won’t cut it.
    (No, two notebooks is a lousy idea!)
  • Buy a notebook with the right ring size. Don’t buy one too small or you’ll end up with the “two notebook” problem in a heartbeat.  (No, you probably won’t “consolidate everything later”)
  • Don’t buy a huge one, or you will stop using it as soon as it becomes unweildy — and you will be right back to the “I’ll file it later” problem.  (You won’t!)
  • This is not the place to try to save a few dollars.  The rings need to open and close easily, pages need to turn without catching where the rings meet, etc.  If it’s not effortless, you won’t do it in real time.  (You know what that means, don’t you?)
  • Understand that you are setting up a resource you will use for at least a year, and probably for the rest of your coaching life.

Get Good Paper – whatever that means to you

  • I know my ability to  absorb information increases with every distraction I eliminate.  I am aware of a slight “annoyance factor” when I attempt to take notes on anything but my favorite “college ruled” paper.
  • If your favorite needs to be hole-punched, DO IT NOW and put it in your notebook.  Set it up to be easy in the moment.

Tabbed Dividers

Purchase enough tabbed dividers to create labeled sections for each of the categories listed below.

As the class continues, you will probably want a few additional dividers for sub-sections, and to accommodate whatever is suggested in class – so get them NOW and keep them IN your notebook.

  • For right now, rely on the Basic Organizing-101 core principle:
    Don’t complicate by over-organizing!
  • Let the blank dividers hang out together in the back of your notebook, ready to label new sections the minute you realize you need them (and not before!).

Ten sections you will probably need and want

1.  Class Notes  (you may want to sub-divide later, don’t over-think this NOW)

2.  Syllabus (and updates to same) – if you are highly visual, three-hole punch a cheap monthly calendar and stick it here.

3.  Contacts (initial contact list, Peer Coaching names and numbers, potential clients)
If you need it to reach anybody related to coaching or coach training, put it here.

4. Call-in Numbers (class & lab numbers and pins).
Don’t make yourself scramble for these. It WILL happen that you realize that you need to dial in OH NO, RIGHT NOW! – make it “easy by default.”
(You can also insert a sheet into a plastic sheet protector you keep in your Contacts section, as long as nothing else in that section is in a plastic sheet protector)

5. Homework (assignments themselves, as well as your work in response to the assignments)

6. Handouts (programs, assessments, forms, inventories – anything you use for the class, as well as items that you will ALSO use or adapt for your clients)

7. Resources (websites, meds lists, etc. — for you, and for use with your clients)
For NOW, print the expanded resources list here and file it there.

8. Lab (anything related to Coaching Lab, separate from your class info)

9. Certification (print outs of requirements, tracking your coaching hours, etc.)
I promise you do NOT want to wait to begin to collect this information until you have amassed enough coaching hours to qualify.  If you don’t have a specific place to file it, you’re doomed.

10. Marketing – this is one you will need later; you might as well set it up NOW.

ONE Last Point

At the end of the oral portion of the exam for my 2-1/2 to 3 year A.C.T. training, I usually asked the following question:

What do you know NOW that you wish you’d known when you began the process?

The answers I heard most often ALL had to do with organization:

  • I wish I’d realized how important starting out organized would turn out to be.
  • I wish I had taken the advice to track coaching hours in my notebook.  I thought putting them in a file would work better for me, and now that I’m thinking about certification, I’m scrambling to collect them all.
  • I wish I hadn’t waiting until the class was half over to set up my notebook.
Don’t do that to you! While I do love to say, “I told you so!” about the good things I predict, I hate even the thought of an “I told you so” for oopses that could have been avoided.


ASCT students: an additional “structure to fulfill” — Please leave something in the comments section below so we know you’ve read this info (simply your initials or name, if you’re rushed – comments welcome too!)

ADD in the Spirit Coach Training
(Links below turn RED on mousover)

Organizing (and related) articles on this site

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

21 Responses to A Notebook as a System to Fulfill

  1. Ann Miller says:

    Now, I just read your email today (6/11) saying you had buried something for us students in this post. Was this in the post from the very first day because I read this the day it was posted (way before anyone else posted a response)? In fact, I had emailed with my great idea of utilizing OneNote for my notebook rather than paper because I am such a computer geek! Anyway, I may be ADD enough to have missed this bit, but my OneNote notebook is perfectly organized with every single item sent printed into it. I have even been typing my notes directly onto any handouts you have sent. I’ve been a good girl, I promise! So please don’t be disappointed in me! (insert endorsing response now–just kidding!)


    • Ya’ know, I DO believe I might have gone back to add that “homework” checker after posting — so if you jumped on it right away, you might NOT have seen it. btw- YOU, I’m not worried about. You were the ONLY one who jumped right ON the research homework, l-o-n-g before it was due.

      Any ideas how to light a fire under a few of the others? This is such an AMAZING group in *every* way but follow-through skills. Coaching follow-thru in others necessitates getting a handle on it in your own life, so I’m willing to nag, even though I hate it.

      I *know* that ADD and school stuff have NEVER been the friendliest mix, but I’d hate to see any one of you fail to actuate your potential because of something DUMB like chasing the content vs. keeping up to get the best out of class. Maybe we’ll talk follow-thru systems in the coaching lab coming up?


      • Steve K. says:

        I KNOW I didn’t do the homework yet. I even made mention of that in a recent email to you, and that I would not be able to get to it until after this Wed evening. I am in what us coders (and probably many in the rest of the world call CRUNCH TIME). I have until about midnight tonight {Tuesday} to finish some very high priority work. I then have to follow up with it tomorrow with the guy I am sending it to tonight. At 3:30 PM Wednesday, I pick it up from him in sumarized document form, have to get several signatures and make sure it is in registered mail by 5 PM. Our class starts at 5:30 PM my time. Whew!!! Made in with seconds to spare….. THREE CHEERS FOR HYPER-FOCUSING!!!!! A GIFT!!!!

        Then comes the homework and the rest of my life … if I can remember where I put it … What was I supposed to rememeber again? Let me check my lists…. Oh yeah, homework and reading, and … OK … I’m good. 🙂



        • BIGTIME LOL! I love the way those of us with ADD put things together – starting with the thought, “OOPS, what did I do wrong NOW?”

          What’s frustrating about the dynamic is that those of you who remain in action (for the most part and to a human-friendly degree) SEE the emails sent to the class as a whole, tend to personalize and “freak” — because you go to the black and white place – the dichotomy between “perfect” and “worthless.” Those I REALLY want to reach with the “keep on keeping UP” message don’t see the emails for a while (when they are even further behind!), and tend to get overwhelmed and shut-down.

          Unfortunately, tuition is priced for group support (including admin & emails) – so I can’t figure out a better way to do it that leaves me time to make a living! I don’t think I could DO this living under a bridge. 😮

          No make-wrong intended in my nudges – simply the best I can do with the time I have. The potential of this class of coaches to make a HUGE difference out there in the world is too good to lose through lack of participation – and there’s only so much we can do IN class and still deliver the training.

          ANYBODY reading this comment – put your coach hats on and get your peers motivated to do it too. None of you have any IDEA of the difference it will make to your education AND your bottom-line to keep up!


      • annie ellerbusch says:

        My homework fire has been effectively lit (lighted?). . . . thank you!


        • annie ellerbusch says:

          Ann Myers and I have decided to call each other (or leave a message) every day to help us focus on getting our assignments, reading, etc. done – I think this will be a tremendous help to both of us if we can pull it off. Wish us luck, good fortune and a few extra squirts of dopamine to help us forge ahead!


          • Perfect “structure to fulfill”!! The “every day” part assures that you will at least think about it every day — even if life makes it impossibel to DO anything about it on any particular day.

            With ADD in the mix, if we do NOT set systems in a regular and recurring fashion, we have no nudge to help us “get BACK on the horse” — so week turns into century with the very first oops (why we advise WEEKLY coaching appts. that don’t change, btw)


      • Ann Miller says:

        Classmates, I thought this research assignment was due on 6/1 for some reason (bad notetaking?) and actually thought I was late in my submissions; so please don’t think I’m all that much of a go-getter!

        Regarding ideas–I think maybe an email with the assignment specifics might have helped back when it was assigned as I know verbal instructions always trip me up (as evidenced by above, but at least I erred on the early side). I am very much a written word learner and have formed quite a system for responding to emails and instructions therein (to the point that I will email myself with a to-do reminder!)


        • ASCT students re: Ann Miller — NAH! DO think she’s a go-getter 😀 Also understand that being a go-getter is a GOOD thing (once you begin your practices it will put more than pennies in your pockets – but not if you don’t set the link to the habit during your training).

          Re: email reminders, etc. — see my comment to Steve re: class costs and admin. For those who NEED multi-modality nudges, etc. and don’t have systems like Ann’s in place, consider the cost of a tutor or a mentor coach part of what YOU need to pay to move forward — classes and groups are not priced for one-on-one support because *most* would not appreciate the increase to hire an additional admin assistant, NOR would it be good for your training as coaches to model that kind of interaction

          YOU will have to set up your policies and procedures [P&Ps] with an eye toward your practice’s bottom line too — biggest mistake I see with new coaches is overlooking the ENTIRE amount of time they will be spending when they price their services. (Blows a lot of great coaches out of the field.)

          In the Practice Management section you will be told this – TAKE THIS COACHING!
          “From your very first client, set up your P&Ps as if you had TWENTY. If you won’t have time to do it for 20 (and still have time for a life), don’t set it up to do it for 1 – exceptions management is expensive!”



        • annie ellerbusch says:

          Hey Ann,
          Thanks for the links you sent via email, already found some good information. Speaking of go-getters, (I think you have my vote regardless) I just read the article about the research done on the difference in the brains of go-getters vs. slackers – did you mention that link or did Madelyn? oh dear.
          Anyway, I agree with the idea of having our assignment specifics written out. I took notes on the assignment but got parts of it mixed up also. If it is not possible for that to come from one of our fearless leaders, maybe someone in our class is good at that sort of thing (hyper-focus?) and could be the official written word assignment distributer. At least that way we would all make the same mistakes.


          • Now THAT’s thinking like an ADD coach, Annie!

            Don’t forget the ADD-factor in the set-up, however. We tend to over-promise, and resent it when we are “forced” by life’s realities to under-deliver. When the next guy says they “didn’t do” because WE didn’t do, a nice situation becomes a group toleration in a heartbeat.



  2. Kim Carrington says:

    Hi. Great list, thanks. Your website is awesome. There is so much to read and learn! Thanks for all you do.


    • Yea Kim! (4 down, still more to go, so shhhh! – don’t tip off your classmates.)

      Thanks for the acknowledgment about the depth of content here, but I especially appreciate your comment, knowing that it indicates “closing the loop” of a class assignment – increasingly difficult for those of us with ADD to “make” ourselves do with every day that passes.

      Backlog (what I refer to as “inventory”) can be a killer for those of us with “alphabet brains!”

      Once everybody rings in, we’ll talk more about this dynamic in class – mining personal experience with how we allow “homework catch-up” to shut us down in other arenas – the dreaded “Domino Problem!”

      Congrats and GOOD job!

      See you in class tomorrow night.


  3. annie ellerbusch says:

    I got my notebook (thanks for the recommendation Natalie) and dividers from amazon today – filling it up now – i really hope i can find my 3 hole punch!


    • Yea, Annie!! (3 down, more to go!).

      Ya’ know, as truly amazing as your group is in *most* respects, it’s starting to look like we will need to Sherlock what’s going on with your follow-thru skills (at least, that is, following through on class homework :D)

      Reminder: Don’t tip off your classmates about the need to leave a comment, or the fact they need to click the links sent as homework — we’re Sherlocking and prepping for a future class discussion.


      PS. Hope you find the 3-hole too. Stay on it — I *promise* it will bite you in the behind if you don’t!


  4. Jeanie says:

    This review of the notebook system was helpful! Looking forward to class!


  5. Steve K. says:

    Thank you! I appreciate it. I am going to be in class. Not only do I agree its always going to be easier later if our tools are already set up earlier, but you are telling us, from the benefit of those who have succeeded (and those who have needed additional support along the way), what in your view point works the best. So its probably better, than a guess, off the top of my head at least. It would be silly for me to ignore.

    When I went through a Masters course a few years back, they ended each weekend long set of classes with the class together saying, “Be Smart, Do Your Homework Early”. That was also a very important piece for success. I have a that saying on a magnet next to my computer and will see it every day.


    • You are going to be VERY good with this group – can’t wait for you all to “meet” each other – lots of talent, skills, education (formal and Self-study) on the call, with depth of background in transformation work. We may well be joined by a few more — especially if it turns out we are able to make Skype work with the bridge.

      We are so psyched!!


      PS. I like the way you ended classes, btw. – not a bad idea for ANY ADD group, yes?


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