Focus. Prioritize. Delegate. These are the standard rules of productivity. And they don’t work for ADHD minds. People with ADHD operate differently. We need incentives, positive affirmations, and visible deadlines. Here are 10 ways to light a fire under your brain’s butt.
Let’s face it, people with ADHD aren’t always the most productive bunch. Planning ahead is pretty much our kryptonite. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t get things done, it just takes a certain way of thinking. The following productivity tips might not belong in a time management book, but they work well for those of us with ADHD.
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Be realistic about the time you need to do something — everything will take ridiculously longer than you think. Plan for that, so you don’t go ballistic on everyone within karate-chopping distance over missing your own deadline.
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Know that you can’t do everything perfectly. Sometimes focusing on being productive at work means that you order takeout for dinner or the laundry piles up. You’re only human, so give yourself some slack.
Prep your environment for focus. This will mean something different for everyone. For me, it means going into my bedroom, locking the door, turning off the ceiling fan, closing the door to the bathroom, fluffing my pillows, and leaving the blinds half open so I can still see out, yet cocooned enough to attack the items on my list that require sitting in front of a computer.
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Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Set yourself up for success. Before you sit down, go on a scavenger hunt and retrieve everything that needs to be within arm's reach, so you don’t interrupt yourself to retrieve it later. Trust me — you’ll love an excuse to stop what you’re doing. Take that option away at the start.
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Fun Stuff First
Do the fun stuff first. I know that means you’re leaving all of the non-fun things for last, but I have a theory. Once you get that nice little dopamine drop from accomplishing the fun stuff, your body digs the groove, wants more good stuff, and now has the motivation to accomplish the not-so-fun tasks just to get more of the good stuff.
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Leave Time for Transitions
Give yourself a transition time between tasks — especially for mentally challenging projects. Set a timer for 10 minutes and take a walk, do some yoga, or sip your favorite tea. Use this time to psych yourself up for the next task on your list.
Because of that ever-present risk that we'll get distracted, adults with ADHD tend to have trouble with long, multi-step tasks. The secret to completing large tasks is to break them into a series of smaller steps aren't as intimidating. Keep up your momentum by focusing only on the next doable step. Write this step on a sticky note and post it within your line of sight.
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Do a Brain Dump
For most adults who struggle with ADHD, the only way to keep track of the things we're supposed to remember is to write them down in a planner. Just about every task should be jotted down as it’s assigned. Otherwise, it will be displaced by new thoughts, facts, requests, or bits of gossip. Get a planner with lots of space to "dump" your ideas, as well as your appointments. And never leave home without it. Ever.
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Make Deadlines Visible
Post your deadlines where you will see them. This will remind you to use your time wisely. Try highlighting your to-do list in your trusty planner, putting sticky notes on the wall over your desk, or creating a computer screensaver that reads, "July 22 or Bust!"
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Nix the Negative
The negative words we reserve only for ourselves are counterproductive. Did you know that the unconscious mind does not compute negation in language? That’s right — the deepest recesses of the mind don’t process the word “no.” Therefore, when we say, “I will not waste time on the computer today,” the words are read as, “I will waste time on the computer today.”