Ask the Experts

Q: “I Am a Low-Tech Person Who Needs Help Getting Things Done.”

Sure, adults with ADHD can use fancy high-tech tools to help manage and organize their lives. But all of the assistive technology available today can be more overwhelming than helpful. Read what an ADHD expert has to say about accessible and easy ways to use tech tools to get things done.

Mature woman sitting in cafe at table and typing a message on smartphone. Middle aged blogger making notes using organizing application on phone. Businesswoman reading information from smartphone while working remotely in cafe interior.
Mature woman sitting in cafe at table and typing a message on smartphone. Middle aged blogger making notes using organizing application on phone. Businesswoman reading information from smartphone while working remotely in cafe interior.

Q: “I am usually late for or forget appointments with friends. I don’t start projects when I should. Everyone tells me to use apps or tech of some kind to get things done. How do I start incorporating tech into my life when I am a low-tech person who is not comfortable with, and am often confused by, high-tech solutions?”


A: The time management solution that works for you is better than the one that has the most recommendations. Your solution doesn’t have to include high-tech ADHD tools.

Remember, back in the day, when checkbooks had built-in calendars? That worked because we wrote a lot of checks. We carried a checkbook around with us and looked at it all the time. You need that kind of solution: simple, reliable, and integrated with something you’re already using. That’s why phone-based systems work for a lot of adults with ADHD.

Getting Things Done: Use the ADHD Tools You Love

You could stick with a low-tech system. If it’s something you love, you will use it. Some people enjoy the feel of pen on paper. There are beautiful paper planners that the aesthetically-minded look forward to opening.

Some of my clients have invested in large white boards that they hang up where they spend most of their time. All they need to do is look up. I have been surprised at the number of millennials who use a system like this. Why do they do it? Because they have chosen not to be captive to tech. The downside of a white board is lack of portability. It isn’t going to help you if it’s not where you are when you need it. To solve this problem, some people carry a 3 x 5 notebook with them. Get the kind with the spiral at the top—not the side—so it will slide into a pocket.

[Self-Test: Do I Have ADHD? ADD Symptoms in Adults]

The downside of paper solutions is that they don’t make noise. Since those with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) often have no sense of time, we’re not likely to realize it’s time to leave, even if we remember we have an appointment. Phones beep or buzz at the right moment. If you need an extra five minutes, you can hit snooze and be reminded again.

Getting Things Done: Smartphone Simplicity

My advice is to start simple. If you’re new to the world of smartphones, go to a phone store and ask for help. Bring a friend who understands your trepidation. He or she can act as a liaison between you and the salesperson, in case the salesperson is bent on showing you “all the latest.” There are scaled-down phones with a limited number of features, in case you are overwhelmed by too many bells and whistles. Get someone to show you how to work the calendar and create a task list.

You won’t achieve pro status immediately. I have a friend who could never remember how to create appointments on her phone, so she didn’t use the calendar. She just used her phone as a phone. We got her past that by creating a “cheat sheet.” She wrote out all the operational steps on an index card and practiced until she felt comfortable. She kept the index card in her purse, in case she ever forgot. It worked because she had created the instructions herself, and they made sense to her. If you’d rather figure things out on your own, you can find instructions on the Internet. Search for “how to use the calendar on the iPhone” (or whatever kind of phone you have).

Beth Main is a board-certified coach and Licensed Professional Counselor who helps people address the emotional aspects of adult ADHD by developing practical solutions. You can reach her at adhdsolutions.net.

[ADDitude eBook: Getting Things Done with Adult ADHD]

Updated on August 15, 2019

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