Time & Productivity

Hate to Wait? Here’s Help

Seven time-saving, productivity-boosting strategies to help adults with ADHD or ADD get more done and feel less frustrated doing it.

Yellow alarm clock on side table in room belonging to ADHD child to limit their video game playing time. ey spend on video games
Yellow alarm clock on side table in room belonging to ADHD child to limit their video game playing time.

Do you hate to wait? I do.

Because of my attention deficit disorder, I get frustrated when I’m forced to do nothing — which is what waiting is. I do a lot of public speaking, and, on more than one occasion, I’ve zoned out as the moderator ran through a list of housekeeping announcements. As I begin my presentation, I always have a few awkward moments as I refocus — and I can never quite remember where the moderator said the bathroom was.

I also get frustrated if I can’t complete a task within a few hours. I know that the longer I spend on a task, the more likely I am to get distracted from it. And distraction means doing nothing — at least, nothing productive.

I’ve tried to stop feeling frustrated when I have to wait and can’t do anything productive, and I’ve had little success. I have, however, come up with ways to be more productive throughout the day.

Here are seven that I find particularly effective:

1. Don’t skip routine checkups

The best way to avoid big problems is to catch them while they’re small. This rule applies to most things in life, including your health and your car. Not long ago, my car’s engine exploded after I had neglected to change the oil for, oh, 20,000 miles. Because I was always “too busy” to spend 20 minutes on an oil change, I spent weeks without the use of my car.

2. Set two alarm clocks

People with ADHD tend to stay up late and not get enough sleep. When we are tired, we’re more likely to make mistakes — which, of course, take time to correct.

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One way to be sure to get enough sleep is to set a second alarm clock — to remind you that it’s time to start winding down for bedtime. That way, you’ll be more relaxed when you get into bed, and you’ll fall asleep faster.

3. Stop looking for lost socks

I used to spend hours doing this. If they didn’t turn up (which was almost always), I would toss all the singles into a laundry basket. Every few months, I’d sort though the basket to see if any matches had turned up. (Of course, they never did.) Eventually, I’d toss them all. What a waste of time! Now I accept the fact that socks go missing. Any sock that loses its mate is toast, and I buy new socks as the need arises.

4. Become an “off-peaker”

Tired of fighting the crowds and waiting in long checkout lines at the supermarket after work? Buy groceries early in the morning or late in the evening — or order them online and have them delivered. Maybe you can shop during the big baseball game, when most people are at home.

5. Get everything out of your head

Once I forgot to show up for a birthday lunch with my husband because I didn’t write it down in my planner. For most people with ADHD, myself included, the only way to keep track of the things we’re supposed to remember is to write them down in a planner.

[Getting Things Done Just Got Easier]

If a neighbor says hello, or if your child says she loves you, maybe you don’t have to get out the notepad. But just about everything else should be jotted down at once. Otherwise, it will be displaced by new thoughts, facts, requests, or bits of gossip.

Get a planner with lots of space to “park” your ideas, as well as your appointments. Keep it with you at all times.

6. Don’t try to do everything at once

Because of that ever-present risk that we’ll get distracted, individuals with ADHD tend to have trouble with long, multi-step tasks like doing laundry, dusting, or cleaning out the garage. How many times have you started to clean your desk drawers only to get distracted by what you found in them?

The secret to completing big tasks is to break them into a series of small tasks that can be tackled one at a time. Rather than do all your laundry on a single day, for example, try washing the kids’ stuff on Monday, sheets on Tuesday, your clothes on Wednesday. (After I put a load into the washer, I do a task that I expect will take 20 minutes. When it’s completed, I go back to the washer and take out the clothes.) The same idea works for housecleaning. Clean one room (or one closet) per day.

7. Do errands in batches

Each outing brings the possibility of more waiting and more distractions — never mind the cost of gasoline. Whenever possible, put your errands in a sequence, and plan a sensible route on which to do them. Drop the kids off at school, then go to the bank (two blocks away), the post office (across the street from the bank), the cleaners (the one next door to the bank — a little more expensive but I’m saving on gas!), and then drive home or to work.

If you’re heading to work after your errands, factor in your stops and possible delays, so as not to be late.

[Get Your Priorities Straight]

Patricia Quinn, M.D., is a member of the ADDitude ADHD Medical Review Panel.

6 Comments & Reviews

  1. Great article! I agree with everything you suggest. My brother in law’s theory is that socks fight in the dryer and the losers turn into lint! He told my son’s this story when they were little! I have a cute pail next to my dryer that is painted with laundry on it. It is where I keep all single socks just like you. I toss mismatched after awhile too. Not worth keeping. Buy the same brand/same color always! When I run my errands in my small town I only drive “right” so I never have to cross traffic. Waiting for someone to let me cut to the left takes too long on our Main Street. I go to the grocery store first, turn right, gas station, turn right, pharmacy (drive thru to prevent buying stuff I don’t need!), turn right, bank, turn right, pet store, home the back way to avoid all Main Street traffic and red lights. Food shopping once every two weeks. My friend goes EVERY day to get bargains. I hate the grocery store. It gives me anxiety!!! I try to be efficient with lists. I always forget something but I try! I’ve also had great success with the “go to bed” alarm because I tend to hyper focus on a project late at night and 2am approaches quickly. An alarm at 10:30pm alerts me to reality!

  2. I suggest people really think about whether errands in batches will work for them. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by planning my to do list and judging the route and timing that I just give up and go back to sleep. I overthink all of it. I personally find it useful to have a written to do list and as I drive around I check things off as I go near/by them. I have been able to make it a habit to look at my list frequently, and I drive all over the city for work – so this is just something that makes more sense with my lifestyle. It’s better than ducking under the covers to escape the confusion I create!

  3. Sock tip:

    I have tried various methods not to lose socks in the wash. This is the best and easiest: when you take your socks off, cuff them together so they stay together in the hamper. When you wash socks, uncuff them and put them in a lingerie bag in the washer. Throw the bag in the dryer to dry. Don’t take them out of the bag until you are ready to match them and put them away. No lost socks!

    Matching tip:
    Match the most colorful and distinctive first-those are the easiest. Lump the rest into white, black, navy first. That reduces the number you have to choose from when you have to match the rest.

    Frugal tip:
    Save a sock from each color group. When you get the inevitable heel-hole, cut a piece of fabric from a matching color and stitch it around the hole. It won’t show in your shoe-it is covered by the shoe heel.

    For the inevitable toe-holes, I keep a sewing kit in the washroom cupboard and one in the bedroom. I darn on-the-spot with buttonhole thread (thicker and stronger) and keep pre-threaded needles of white, black, and navy. Always re-thread before you put the needle away. I buy the needles with the self-threading eyes (slit in the eye) to eliminate the step of a needle-threader or fumbling to find the eye. An egg-darner makes it easy to repair toes and heels. A hard-boiled egg or lightbulb will work, too. (Prevents poked fingers and stitching both sides together!)

    Tip: If you have a sock with a hole, never separate it from its hole-less mate or you never will find the mate when you do mend the holey one.

    When to mend: when you need to make those phone calls to long-winded people if you can’t do on-the-spot mending while you are doing the wash.

    If it is easy (all the materials there, little to no prep, takes a few minutes), I will do it!

  4. You made the kind of comment I would usually save – – but when I saw # 3 in the article- I laughed because I saw myself, wasting hours on sock sorting that could have been better used in a hundred other ways. And I was dumbfounds that someone else had also wasted time on their sack of lonely socks.

    When You have ADD and a problem with letting things go, the last thing I really need is to save a sack of socks, only to spend more time with them. I am never going to start stitching patches on socks with holes – – – so, bye bye socks.

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