Time & Productivity

Repeat After Me: I Can. And I Will.

Focus. Prioritize. Delegate. These are the standard rules of productivity. And they don’t work for us. 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.

A man puts together a set of blocks to demonstrate some smart productivity tips.
1 of 11

Productivity Tips Just for Adults with ADHD

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.

Use the alarm clock on a phone and plan extra time for everything to be realistic.
2 of 11

Be Realistic

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.

A good job magnet reminds you that you need to forget perfect to be productive.
3 of 11

Forget Perfect

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.

[Free Expert Resource: Keep Track of Your Time]

A woman has the computer and all the papers she needs at her workspace to prep her environment for productivity success.
4 of 11

Set the Stage

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.

A neat desk shows that someone has retrieved everything they need for productivity success before getting started.
5 of 11

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.

An adult makes a to-do list and puts the fun stuff first.
6 of 11

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.

A woman holds a cup of tea. She's taking time for transitioning to the next task.
7 of 11

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.

[What's the Hurry? 9 Time-Saving Tips]

An adult with ADHD uses the calendar on their smart phone to break projects into smaller tasks.
8 of 11

Split Up Large Tasks

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.

Never leave home without your planner and get one with enough room to dump all your thoughts and ideas.
9 of 11

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.

An important date is marked with red pins to make it very visible.
10 of 11

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!"

A woman thinks positive thoughts because she knows negativity will kill her productivity.
11 of 11

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.”

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

4 Related Links

  1. I’m an aspiring writer and I’m having trouble actually writing. If its not doing an actual brain dump of my ideas, I feel like my ideas are trash and end up playing around with my story. Does anyone have any tips on how to get my brain to accept the story and keep the plan in mind or in sight. Also, I need some ADHD friendly planning tips for writing as everything else is not working

  2. Hello JOMA231,
    I’m a writer with ADHD, and have written 8 fiction books now, and published one. When you are a writer at heart with ADHD, you will find that you can get into a groove writing and completely lose track of time. What this sounds like to me, is more of the struggle of learning the craft of writing, versus a challenge stemming from ADHD. I don’t know where you are in your writing journey, but I recommend:

    1) studying craft books on writing, so you will become more confident in the writing itself,

    2) do exercises where you have to write quickly WITHOUT going back and editing (ex. Nanowrimo, or using a writing book, or software that doesn’t let you edit during a certain period of time).

    3) Understand that CREATIVE WRITING and EDITING use two different sections of the brain, so it is beneficial to only focus on one at a time. Just tell your editing brain to ‘Go away’ for awhile while you write. I mean you can’t edit something that isn’t written, right? AND every single professional writer in the entire world has to edit their work, and pay editors…

    three books: Larry Brooks: Story Engineering, Your first 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke, Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass, and website: KM Weiland, Kristen Lamb, and Storyfix/Larry Brooks. WRITING IS A CRAFT. Something we learn, not something that we’re just magically born with. Good luck!

    Um, as for planning, YOU have to be passionate about writing. YOU have to know WHY you are writing. WRITE IT DOWN. Also consider if you have conflicting desires, such as you want to spend time with your kids, but you want to spend that thirty minutes in the evening writing–thus taking time away from your kids… (bonus tip: Get up early before the rest of the family to get your writing in. Google Robin Sharma and productivity–I learned SOOO much from him!)

    PS. Check out this great article for adults with ADHD and symptoms.

Leave a Reply