Getting Things Done

A Get-Things-Done Guide for the Overwhelmed and Overloaded

You can’t hide from your to-do list forever. Use these 11 strategies for de-cluttering, managing paper, overcoming distractions, and getting things done.

A man buried in a mountain of incomplete work when he needs to be getting things done.
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Overcome the Overload

Every day we’re confronted with information, distractions, work, and lots of other stuff. Is it a surprise anyone gets anything done, never mind those with attention deficit? People with ADHD are easily overwhelmed by the fast pace and interruptions, so they need some stay-focused strategies to keep them on track. Consider this your "how to get things done" guide.

A woman with ADHD uses her phone to help her get things done
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Capture All That Information

Instead of going crazy trying to write down all those bits of information that come your way, try these solutions:

  • Call important information into your voicemail and leave yourself messages.
  • Convert verbal information into text, using an app like Dragon Dictation.
  • Store your text messages in one place using an app called Treasuremytext.
A to do list, one way to get things done with ADHD
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Finish Something, Anything, Early in the Day

Completing a chore — a small task or something larger that you worked on yesterday — gives you a sense of closure, making the rest of the day meaningful. No matter how the day goes, you can say you got something done, which gives you a sense of satisfaction that will encourage you to keep going the next day.

[Free Resource: Get Control of Your Life and Schedule]

A woman wonders how to get things done when her young son is pestering her
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Get a Grip

If a phone call or a request from your spouse distracts you from a task you’re working on, hold on to a physical artifact to remind you what you were doing, An unopened envelope, for instance, will remind you that you were opening mail before the interruption, and will focus your attention more quickly.

A calendar can help people with ADHD get things done
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Put It on the Calendar

It’s not enough to write down a task on your to-do list. You have to enter your it into your calendar. Assigning a task to a specific day increases your chances of getting it done. With a to-do list only, you have a 40 to 50 percent chance of doing the task. Scheduling the task increases your chances of completing it by 70 percent or so.

A cluttered desk, which can make a person with ADHD feel too overwhelmed to get things done
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Just Do It

Don’t get overwhelmed about where or when to start a de-cluttering task. It doesn’t matter where you start; begin at any spot in a room. After you start, continue in some kind of logical order. If you start on the left side of the room, keep going to the left. If you start on the top shelf of a cabinet, work your way down. There is no ideal time to tackle clutter.

A woman sits at her computer and plans how to get things done
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Change the Scene

People with ADHD can optimize their focus and attention by doing different tasks in different kinds of places. If you have to do your taxes, rent a room in a local hotel for a day or two. You can spread out all the papers and receipts, with fewer distractions than at home. Some people with attention deficit can’t get anything done — studying, writing, reading — in the quiet of a library. Finding a setting like a Starbucks, with some background noise, will help them be more productive.

[The Power of a Well-Crafted To-Do List]

A couple goes through paperwork and plans how to get things done
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Enlist a Support Team

Stop trying to be an ordinary person who keeps it together in the same way that people without ADHD do. Support might mean another set of hands, someone to keep your morale up, or someone to function as a body double. A body double is somebody who is physically present as you do a task but doesn’t do the task with you. Your body double anchors you to the chore at hand.

One arrow points a different direction from other arrows, a metaphor for changing a daily routine
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Switch Up Your Routine Every Quarter

People with ADHD get bored with their routines more quickly than those without the condition. The higher boredom factor keeps them from tackling things they once completed with ease. Routines — whether it’s opening mail, doing dishes, or tackling a project at work — can be kept fresh by changing them up every three months. This doesn’t mean a complete overhaul, just a tweak.

A person with ADHD marks a deadline on a calendar
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Play It Loose with Deadlines

Schedule extra time to finish a task. Rather than trying to precisely estimate how long a task will take, just say, “Screw it. I’m going to need 30 percent more time for everything I plan, no matter what.” Just pick a number: Twenty percent more, 50 percent more, and allot that. The worst that could happen is that you finish it early.

A woman with ADHD uses her phone to help her get things done
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Keep Calm and Carry On

As you start your day, do the first three things that worry you the most to get them off your plate. The internal distraction of worry plays more on people with ADHD than on other people and prevents them from getting things done. If you do any small part of what is worrying you, chances are you’ll break the anxiety and move forward.

A woman with ADHD opens her front door with junk mail in her hands
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Manage the Mail

  • To cut off junk mail at its source, log on to and have them alert marketers to stop sending you stuff.
  • Have only one place for the day’s mail to land, maybe the dining room table. Yes, it piles up quickly, but at least you know where it will be when you decide to tackle it.
  • Don’t open junk mail. It can contain four to seven pieces of paper. Junk mail goes, unopened, right into the recycling bin.

[Getting Things Done Without Getting Bogged Down]

13 Related Links

  1. Hold on to a physical item? ( artifact? PLEASSE)

    how? I get distracted and forget to hold it. My keys are lost that way frequently so i carry them on a string on my neck

    Got a holder for stuff I don’t need to find. I would have to put em on hold and then guess what gets forgotten? LOL But not funny for the forgotten call.

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