Published on ADDitudeMag.com
14 Ways to Get the Job Done
Your ADHD brain makes it hard to organize and finish projects on time, but your boss expects to receive reports by the deadline. What are you to do? Follow these tips, for starters.
Sources: Dr. Ned Hallowell and Sandy Maynard, M.S.
Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Consider how much time is available in your busy schedule,
and plan accordingly. If you take on a new project, you might have to put other
activities on the back burner in order to finish it in time. To resist the urge to overschedule, agree to give up one project for every new one you take on. Ask yourself if
the new project is worth the sacrifices you’ll have to make in other areas.
Take It One Project at a Time
Having to tackle several big projects at once is
stressful for people with ADD. Set one priority, and get it done, tying up all
loose ends before moving on to a new project. For instance, get new eyeglasses
before cleaning your gutters. Or take your car in for maintenance before
revising your résumé.
Post Your Deadlines Where You'll See Them
This simple action will remind you to use your
time wisely. Write down reminders (such as “Taxes Done by April 1”) and post
them on mirrors, cabinets, or anywhere else you’re likely to see them. Set your
screensaver as a reminder, or schedule reminder e-mails or texts.
Define Your Objectives
Is your goal to become an expert on home improvement? Or is
it to get the kitchen remodeled before October? Once you have a clear idea of
what the end goal is, it will be easier to stay focused. Finishing on time is
one of the most important objectives for ADDers.
Break Big Projects Into Smaller Parts, and Set a Deadline for Each
We’re usually given a deadline for the date by which the
entire project has to be completed. To keep yourself on track, mark the date by
which you should complete one-quarter of the project, one-half, and so on.
Those dates will alert you to problems while there’s still time to play
When Time Runs Short, Outsource
Don’t assume that you must do every portion of a
project. In many cases, it makes sense to outsource or delegate. If you have trouble
paying bills on time, hand the job over to your spouse, or put as many bills as
possible on auto-pay. Hire outside help, such as a nanny to keep you on task,
or college students to scan and file papers.
Things that distract you on a regular basis should be
addressed. Keep losing your glasses? Train yourself to put them in a special
place. If you’re distracted by magazines strewn about your kitchen, put a
basket in another room, and make sure the magazines get into
Take Frequent Breaks
Those who fail to get away from a project occasionally are
likely to start avoiding it—or to just give up. Taking breaks will help you
avoid burnout. Set a timer for the amount of time you think you can
concentrate, whether that’s 20 minutes or an hour. Do your best to focus and
stay on task for that amount of time. Take a five to 10 minute break when the
timer goes off.
Start and End When You Say You Will
It’s easier to stay on task when there’s a specific end time
in sight. If you’re working on a big project, say, finishing a masters’ thesis,
or creating a design for a client, set specific hours for yourself. For
example, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Without an established end time, it’s too easy to
fall into the trap of thinking, “I’ll take a break and do something else and
work on it later,” and then get distracted along the way.
Periodically ask yourself why you’re in such a hurry, and
take the question seriously. If the answer is “because I’m late,” assess your
priorities and cut out unnecessary responsibilities. The time you save should
be devoted solely to personal or family time.
Know Where Your Time Is Going
Not sure where the time goes? Create a chart, and record
everything you do. Maybe the chart indicates you’re spending too much time looking
for lost keys or nagging your teenage daughter to clean up her room. Think of
some creative ways to eliminate these (hanging a key hook near the front door
or deciding that her room doesn’t really need to be clean, after all).
Think Twice About Multitasking
Research shows that doing two things at once takes about 50
percent longer than doing them sequentially. An exception to this rule: Some
people with ADD focus better if they do something essentially mindless while
tackling an important task—for example, listening to music or balancing on a
ball while doing homework.
Rethink Your Filing System
ADDers often have trouble with filing because they create
too many categories. Better to keep your categories broad, and use subfolders
where necessary. For instance, you might label one folder “insurance,” and fill
it with subcategory folders for life insurance, car insurance, and health
Create a Document Hot Spot
This is a folder for important,
time-sensitive documents. In this folder, which should be kept on your desk,
you should place papers representing up to five different tasks that must be
attended to within the next 24 hours—an overdue bill, a client file, a phone
message to return, and so on. Clear out your hot spot daily.
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