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 β€” 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 β€” 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 β€” 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 β€” which, of course, take time to correct.

[Free Download: 10 Rules for ADHD-Proof Productivity]

One way to be sure to get enough sleep is to set a second alarm clock β€” 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 β€” 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 β€” 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 β€” 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 ADDitudeΒ ADHD Medical Review Panel.