When you have ADHD, being productive has a positive ripple effect on all the areas in your life.
When you are getting things done and making progress with your important tasks and projects…
- You feel accomplished
- You stop feeling ‘behind in life’
- You feel happy
- Your relationships improve
- There are positive effects on your health
- and so much more.
Being productive means you are able to ‘produce’ more, or get more things done. It doesn’t mean doing ‘busy work’ or that the quality of your work is reduced.
Instead, being productive means you are getting your most important tasks done (the things that move your key projects forward) at your usual high standard.
How do you become more productive?
There are lots of systems designed to help people be more productive, from best-selling books, software and apps.
The trouble is, most aren’t designed for the ADHD brain. They are complex to set up and difficult to maintain for most ADHDers, including the iconic ‘Get Things Done’ by David Allen.
If you have gotten excited and hopeful about a new system, learned how to use it, had a few successful days and then it falls flat, it can feel crushing and you probably blame yourself for it not working out.
The beauty of this article’s productivity tip is that it’s simple and requires no complicated systems or external equipment.
Instead, it’s a mindset shift.
Each day do your most important task first.
Because if you do your most important task first thing, then the rest of your day has a habit of taking care of itself.
Mark Twain wrote that if you eat a frog for breakfast, the rest of the day will be a breeze because you have done the worst thing.
Author Brian Tracy says in his book ‘Eat That Frog’ that by doing your most important task first, your productivity increases.
Why does this technique work when you have ADHD?
There is a chemical reason for the Eat That Frog technique working so well for ADHDers. After you have finished your task, you get a shot of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine levels are lower in the brains of people with ADHD. That means the dopamine shot helps you to feel good AND it also helps improve your focus and concentration.
Dopamine also makes you want to ‘do’ things. That is why, when you have finished your first task, you naturally want to accomplish the next thing on your list, and then the next.
There is a huge psychological advantage to completing your most important/hardest task first.
Imagine if you don’t like making phone calls and you have a list of people you need to call.
By making the hardest call first, say, the local government tax department, all the other calls on the list will feel very easy in contrast. After the first call, you will feel exhilarated and on a roll, and work through the list almost automatically.
You won’t need to give yourself a pep talk before each call or decide to leave them for another day [aka procrastination :)]
On the other hand, if you start your day checking Facebook, chatting to co-workers, doing some easy but low value tasks, you can trick yourself into believing you are busy but you won’t feel accomplished.
3. Reduces anxiety
It’s counter intuitive, but sometimes the way to overcome anxiety about a task is to do it.
Or at least make a start if it’s a big task.
I know it sounds like a heartless suggestion, but it works.
If a task is causing you anxiety, then this your most important task for the day. Once it’s done you will feel much better and less anxious.
4. Helps you to prioritize
Lots of people with ADHD struggle with prioritizing. By using the Eat That Frog technique you are building your prioritizing muscle one day at a time.
Each day, you prioritize your most important task.
This keeps you in the habit of using your muscle and it feels more doable than needing to prioritize a whole list of tasks.
5. Reduces the planning time
Lots of ADHDers don’t like to plan, because it can feel confusing and overwhelming.
If you don’t like to plan then the Eat That Frog technique is perfect because every day your plan is the same. Do the most important thing first! And everything else falls into place naturally.
There is a downside to this productivity tip! Because it sounds so simple, you might brush it aside and think, ‘I know that.’ But knowing it and doing it are very different things. The magic happens when you implement it. Every day.
Other things to consider:
If you aren’t a morning person, it’s helpful to pick your Frog task the night before. That way you don’t have to do any thinking, You can just get on and do it.
The Eat That Frog technique is most powerful first thing in the day. However, you can use it to turn your day around at any time. For example, if you are in a slump and don’t know what to do, ask yourself ‘What is my Frog?’ and then do it.