Getting Things Done

6 Pieces of Life Advice (& 6 Apps) That Make an Immediate Impact

ADHD coaches understand that generic life advice is useless and pointless for ADHD brains. Here, they share the strategies that actually work for their clients with ADHD — from keeping a success journal to learning how to take breaks to practicing the art of the pause, and more.

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Thriving with ADHD largely boils down to one thing: finding your rhythm in what is largely a neurotypical world. Learning how to embrace ADHD and roll with life’s punches might take a lifetime in itself, but there are plenty of tips and good advice to pick up along the way.

Here, leading ADHD coaches share their most impactful (and surprising) nuggets of life advice for living with ADHD — the same tips they frequently share with their own clients.

Life Advice for ADHD Brains

1. “Time Box” to Get More Done

Many people with ADHD work from a to-do list. But a to-do list doesn’t show the most impactful or urgent tasks. It doesn’t tell you how long you should devote to each task or the best time to do it. Time boxing — scheduling tasks into specific time slots in your calendar and assigning a start and end time to each task — is making appointments with yourself to do what is most important to you and your goals and life. — Linda Walker, PCC, ACCG, BA

2. Maintain a Success Journal

Most Creative Geniuses (my term for those with ADHD) carry a portfolio of failures, reprimands, and criticisms. You may feel you are broken or flawed. Start a Success Journal, a place to document your successes. These include your good deeds, accomplished tasks (especially those you found challenging), and anything you do well that brought you joy (your strengths and passions). As you note your wins for the day, take time to celebrate them. The celebrating is key because it motivates you to create even more successes. — Linda Walker

3. Check Your Battery Life

Many of us with ADHD overestimate and underestimate the amount of emotional energy a task will require. Everyone has different activities that drain them or refuel them. Attending a party can be fun or exhausting. And sometimes both! Imagine that you have a battery, like a phone or a computer. Learn to pay attention to managing your battery usage. For example, if cleaning your kitchen reduces your battery life, plan to do something to charge your battery, like meeting a friend for coffee. Knowing what charges our batteries and what drains them is vital for our physical and mental health and peace of mind. — Tamara Rosier, Ph.D.

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4. Practice the Art of the Pause

The pause — a break when thinking and doing is completely stopped — is invaluable to my clients. The pause may be one minute or five. It can be a Zen moment of staring out the window, doing absolutely nothing, or a simple stop before answering a demanding child or pushing the send button. The pause is your moment to leave planet Earth or at least escape to the mountaintop. In this moment — just quit! You are alone in this space, away from the demands of your brain saying you must act immediately, reply instantly, or do whatever screams “Do It Now.” This pause is your moment of peace and a reminder that you do have the power of choice. — Linda Anderson, MCC, SCAC

5. Learn Your 1%

Many individuals with ADHD practice all-or-nothing thinking. The time to act is now or not now. This can lead to trying to do everything or doing nothing because the task is too daunting. Learning your 1% means doing something small each day or each week to take steps toward your goal. I like to imagine a visual of two ladders. One has steps spaced close together (small steps, 1%), and another has steps spaced so far apart that it is hard to reach even the first step. If your goal is to read a book, perhaps you should start by reading one page a day or five pages a week, rather than trying to read the entire book by next week. — Brooke Schnittman, BCC, ACC

6. Occupy Your Brain Before Bedtime

The ADHD brain is reflexive and reward-driven. It seeks pleasure and will do anything to escape pain. It is unrealistic to think we can overcome ADHD with willpower. It’s best to work with your ADHD, not against it.

Take sleep. In theory, it should take 15 minutes for your brain to surrender itself to sleep once you are in bed with lights out. But the ADHD brain instinctively resists the pain of boredom and will escape to anything pleasurable until the brain passes out from exhaustion.

[Read: How to Fall Asleep with a Rowdy, Racing ADHD Brain]

The trick to overcoming this common ADHD sleep problem is to find something to occupy your mind before bedtime that is interesting enough to escape boredom, but not so pleasurable that your mind will resist surrendering itself to sleep. Think of it like a Post-it — tacky enough to stick to the wall, but not so sticky that it will pull off the paint. Some ideas that have worked for others include using adult coloring books, doodling, knitting, or playing solitaire with actual cards. — Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC

Bonus: Apps and Tools That ADHD Coaches Love

Apps and tools for organization, calm, and productivity — recommended for ADHD brains.

1. Focusmate. My clients love this virtual co-working app to start work that they have been putting off. Working next to someone (on video) with a start time and end time makes it easier to activate themselves. — Allison Mueller, M.A.

2. Focus@Will offers various music channels that are great for initiating tasks and getting down to work. You can select from several genres and energy levels to fit your mood. — Allison Mueller

3. Evernote. Adults with ADHD struggle with short-term memory. A single note-taking system that synchronizes across all of your devices to track anything you want to remember reduces forgetfulness. With Evernote, you can create different types of notes, such as audio recordings, photos, and clips from websites. You can attach PDFs, receipts, and images. — Linda Walker

4. GoodReader lets you upload documents, including PDFs, onto the app. It enables you to highlight important passages and write notes as you read. — Linda Walker

5. Insight Timer. Looking for an easy, peaceful way to bring meditation into your daily life? This is a great app to do just that. — Elaine Taylor-Klaus, CCPC, PCC

6. Copytalk MobileScribe allows you to dictate into your phone and have your words transcribed live and emailed to you. (Human transcriptions are more intuitive than software.) This works for email-based people who have a system to file information. — Jeff Copper

Life Advice for Adults with ADHD: Next Steps

NOTE: Please note that all names, models, prices, links, and specifications were accurate and items were in stock at the time of this article’s last update on January 31, 2022.

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