I have ADHD. Here are 9 productivity tips that really help me
Even before I was diagnosed with ADHD, the question “have you tried writing a list?” would put me on the edge. I’m all for innovative productivity hacks and well-meaning neurotypical people doing something can often as simple as writing a list, but as Edward Hallowell, MD, psychiatrist and ADHD expert tells SELF, things aren’t that simple for people with ADHD – which, by the way, is includes, “Most of the organizational strategies that we tool fail because they’re boring,” he says. And people with ADHD, he explains, can’t tolerate boredom. This intolerance leads to “a supercharged version of procrastination, to the point of endangering work and relationships.”
I use several of these ADHD-specific tips and strategies to help me overcome the difficulties – and also to make the most of the benefits – of this. neurodevelopmental disorder, but they’re not necessarily just for people with ADHD. You might find these tips more useful than ever at this time, as most of us face some pretty big changes in our routines while we practice. social distancing during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Considering our new daily and work environments, now is a great time to incorporate a few tips and tricks that can help you focus.
1. Make the first thing you do every day something relaxing and enjoyable.
Dr Hallowell describes the fear of many people with ADHD about embarking on a job or project as a “colossal block of negative thoughts”. The good news, he says, is that “you can turn that boulder into a pebble” with smart strategies, especially those that directly tackle this cycle of negative thoughts.
If you haven’t already, start your day with something pleasant to ease the fear. It could be a beautiful breakfast—I like healthy porridge with berries and seeds – a morning exercise or video chat with a friend or colleague to get you started on your project or task. I keep a “Nice Things” folder on my phone, where I stick all kind replies to articles and compliments on my work from my colleagues. It is really useful to read on mornings when I want to start by reminding myself that I can accomplish anything.
2. Break down your tasks into small sub-tasks.
Once you’re ready to start, start small. Like, very small. You can make just about any project more manageable by breaking it down into smaller components and setting deadlines for each of those parts.
And I’m talking about setting a really low bar to get you started, so a small task might be “open document” or “do 10 minutes of research”.
3. And make sure that your first small task is one that you have a 100% chance of succeeding in.
Susan C. Pinsky is a professional organizer and author of Organize solutions for people with ADHD. She recommends intentionally organizing the chores of your day so that when you need a victory, there is one waiting for you. “Try to structure your workday so that you do the easiest thing first,” she says. “You are already giving yourself success. You have accomplished something, and now this great thing that is in front of you is not so overwhelming. Formally crossing something off my to-do list gives me a bit of a buzz and helps me move on to the next thing.
4. For each item on your to-do list, quickly write down why it’s a priority.
The things that motivate neurotypical people don’t always work for people with ADHD. As Dr. Hallowell explains, motivation can be hard to come by, especially for tasks that are inherently boring, tedious, or uninteresting. Just because you know you need to do something doesn’t mean you’ll be motivated to do it. One thing that helps me is making sure I know exactly why I need to complete a task. I’m writing a little note for these kinds of tasks, but you can also schedule a quick catch-up with a colleague or supervisor to refresh yourself. Why something needs to be finished. My other strategy: I’ll often condense an email or project briefing into bullet points and paste them at the top of whatever document I’m working on so that I don’t forget essential tasks or priorities.
5. Overestimate the duration of tasks.
Having a fundamentally different sense of time – especially not being able to estimate and record the time that passes – is part of the experience of many people with ADHD. When their perception of time differs from the neurotypical deadlines and deadlines that most people are required to meet, people with ADHD can find themselves in difficulty. Dr. Hallowell explains that for many people with ADHD there is “now” and “not now”. When, for example, an article is due next Thursday, a person with ADHD might mark it as “not now” and put it on the back burner until it is too late to do so on time. All of a sudden “now” is almost there and you panic.