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“Multitasking Is a Farce. Use These Task-Switching Strategies Instead.”

“Chunking responsibilities with similar characteristics together will help adults with ADHD avoid the chaotic and sometimes dazed feeling of multitasking.”

A woman with ADHD using headphones to drown out distractions while hyperfocusing on her work
Women with ADHD are often distracted by the smallest sound. If you are taken off task by office conversations or noise around the office, use a white noise machine, noise-canceling headphones, or listen to music to block it out. Limit interruptions by hanging a small sign on your door or cubicle that says "Busy working on a big project. Will be available at 2."

Does this sound familiar? Instead of completing one task before starting another, you find yourself multitasking while fending off distractions and interruptions from coworkers, friends, or family members. This fragmented reality often leads you to lose your place in the task, procrastinate restarting the task, and/or forget to complete the task altogether. If you’ve ever found a pile of wet laundry moldering in the washing machine or a half-finished email in your drafts folder, you know this challenge well.

For many adults with ADHD, task switching like this at work is a vicious cycle, leaving them feeling hopeless — and helpless.

You can stay focused, switch tasks, and get things done using the WORK SHIFTS strategies below.

Task Switching Strategies for ADHD Brains

  • Write down what you were doing when your task was interrupted so that you can easily resume your work. Think of it as a bookmark to hold your place in the work process.
  • Omit unnecessary distractions so you can focus on finishing your project. Put your phone in a drawer, close your email, and block distracting websites and apps. Work on major projects early or late in the day when the office is quieter, and you can concentrate for solid stretches of time.
  • Rank your work responsibilities. Discuss your work priorities with your supervisor so you can respond appropriately to interruptions in your workday.
  • Know that transitioning is difficult. Block off time for it on your schedule. Acceptance and planning for transitions can lessen stressful feelings and help you avoid falling behind on your work.
  • Schedule communications, telephone calls, and work conversations rather than waiting for people to contact you spontaneously at a time that will most likely interrupt your workflow.
  • Have a To-Do List and update it each time you switch tasks. Keeping a running log of your progress will motivate you to complete tasks.
  • Invent a routine that tells your mind when you are about to lock into a concentrated task. Consider taking deep breaths, shrugging your shoulders, or doing jumping jacks to signal to your brain that you are transitioning into focused activity.
  • Finished tasks mean celebrations. Check off completed jobs from your To-Do List. Then reward yourself by moving around, refreshing your brain with some brief exercise, listening to your favorite song, or getting a drink of water or a snack. Celebrating the small successes will motivate you to keep moving forward.
  • Tell others you are busy (kindly). Let people know when you are working on a deadline or post a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your workspace when you need to work without interruption.
  • Set up your day by chunking responsibilities with similar characteristics together so that you can multitask between them more easily. Aligning similar tasks will help you avoid the chaotic and sometimes dazed feeling of shifting too quickly between very different tasks.

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Multitasking Not Working? Next Steps