By Karen Espig
If you have ADHD, life can be a bit more challenging, particularly when it comes to focusing and getting things done. But it does not mean you have to give up. It just means you will get things done differently. Nothing at all wrong with that. It’s about finding your strengths and the strategies that support them.
Many tips and tools are available aside from the obvious (and often effective) choices of pharmaceuticals and/or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Below are a few ideas; try those that match your particular needs or pique your interest.
Plan Your Day
Start the day with a clear idea of your priorities and create a schedule. If you have one large task, break it down into multiple smaller units, ideally into chunks taking no more than 25-30 minutes. It might seem restrictive to do this, but focus on the reward, and you won’t have that feeling of “what happened to today?”
Create An Environment With Fewer Distractions
Start with a clean and uncluttered work area and if you need to clean up, set a time limit. Have only what you will use in view. Put items that you don’t need away in designated places.
Reduce distracting noise and try to work away from other people, windows, and high-traffic areas. Use an app like Focus@Will, developed by neuroscientists, to improve concentration.
If you must have your smartphone on, turn off notifications from social media apps. You could also designate specific ringtones for work colleagues or important personal contacts and ignore other calls.
Set aside five or ten minutes to clean up and organise your work area at the end of the workday. Get rid of any discarded notes and put away work that is complete.
You can and should apply all of these strategies to your personal life too.
Use Timers And Calendars
Most smartphones have a free timer app and calendar—use them! Other apps are available like Be Focused (Mac OS, IOS), and more business type organisation platforms like asana help you prioritise and stay on top of tasks.
Set timers and calendar reminders at the very beginning of the day, at the end for the following day or a few days in advance for bigger tasks. I review my calendar a few times per day, deleting completed tasks and rescheduling those I will not get to.
When you complete a task, reward yourself. It can be something planned for the end of the day (watch a movie, have a long bath) or in the moment (take a short walk, have a coffee). If you still have tasks to accomplish, use a timer to ensure you return to your priorities after the reward.
When you do get distracted by a thought or idea, write it down. At the end of the day or week, review the notes. You could also put them in an app on your phone, regularly deleting what is completed or irrelevant. Any great ideas can be added to another day’s plan. Discard the rest.
Having a task called “clean the house” or “finish the presentation” is not helpful. Most people would find that overwhelming or easy to avoid. Instead, list the specific tasks: empty the dishwasher, wash the floor, research images, input links, etc. You get the idea.
Exercise, Nutrition, And Sleep
I know, I know, you have heard this before—regular exercise, quality food, and a good night’s sleep cures (almost) everything. Well, yes, they are that important. Try improving these factors slowly and over time, and you will see results.
Schedule a short walk or a bike ride in your day. Invite a friend to increase the odds of it happening.
Have a meat, dairy, or sugar-free day, or start by adding one more vegetarian meal per week. Next time you do groceries, change one regular grocery item to an organic one or a healthier choice.
If you struggle with sleep, try using a mask and earplugs. Some poor sleepers find white noise effective, and there are many apps to choose from, or you can simply have a fan running through the night.
Try using coloured post-it notes or coloured pens for reminder notes or to call attention to tasks—you will be less likely to forget or ignore them. Once you no longer need the note, be sure to discard it. It might also be helpful to use colour to prioritise—blue notes being less critical than yellow notes, for example.
Take It Easy On Yourself
It is okay to not accomplish everything on the many lists—no one does! You are just aiming for a sense of moving forward. Having ADHD in no way stops you from achieving your dreams. Focus on finding the tools that work for you and your individual brain wiring, and get things done your way!