Do you ever wonder if it’s possible to get things done when you have ADHD?
Perhaps your to-do’s feel never ending, or there never seems to be enough time.
Classic ADHD traits often stop you from taking action.
Difficulty prioritizing and making decisions, procrastination, becoming distracted, over thinking, all hinder (rather than help) getting things done and feeling accomplished.
Getting things done is bigger than crossing a task off your list. Feeling behind with your to-do’s affects all areas of your life including your energy, your confidence, your work as well as relationships and sleep.
Here are 10 tips to get things done when you have ADHD.
You can use them to help with whatever is happening in your life at the moment, whether it’s booking a dental appointment, projects for work, decluttering your home or filing taxes.
1. Get specific
In order get things done when you have ADHD, you need to know exactly what needs to be done. If you aren’t specific, the day whizzes by. You are busy, but not necessarily doing the important things. Then bedtime comes and you don’t feel you got anything done.
Getting specific can cause feelings of panic or internal resistance when you have ADHD. In fact, you might be tempted to stop reading this article right now.
Don’t worry, that is normal!
Getting specific involves prioritizing, which lots of people with ADHD find notoriously hard.
This is because it forces you to say ‘yes’ to some tasks and ‘not now’ to others. When there is so much to do, even saying a temporary ‘no’ to a task feels uncomfortable or even impossible. The problem is, if you never get specific, it’s hard to get the right things done.
The best way around this is to start small. Just get specific on what you can do today.
If you need more help, check out this article on how to prioritize when you have ADHD:
2. Write it down
Writing down what you are going to do is a great way to create a plan for the day. Rather than whizzing around in your head, tasks are now out in the open where you can see them. That also helps you feel organized and is a helpful memory prompt throughout day.
There is lots of evidence to support the idea that writing things down is helpful for productivity. There is even a book called ‘Write It Down, Make It Happen’ by Henriette Anne Klauser.
You can write your items down in Notepad or your favourite productivity app. If you are one of the many ADHDers who don’t like lists, you could use one of these alternative suggestions.
3. Use your calendar
In my course, Essentially Brilliant, I recommend members use an online calendar that is connected to their phone – for example, Google calendar. Keep that just for appointments with other people. The dentist, meeting friends, picking up kids up from school, work meetings, etc. Also block out travel time to those appointments.
This leaves you with a clear idea of what your week looks like, and the windows of time to get your to-do’s done.
4. How to start a task
Now that you know what you are going to work on, and when you have time to do it, next you need to develop trust in yourself that you will be able to start it.
Even with your best intentions, it’s normal to feel some internal resistance to starting a task. This is where the 5 second rule comes in. It’s a metacognition technique that overrides the brain’s tendency to talk yourself out of your good intentions. It was discovered by Mel Robbins.
Typically when you say to yourself, ‘I am going to do X,’ your internal voice tells you all the reasons why you shouldn’t take action.
Instead say, ‘I am going to do X’ and then count backwards, ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Go,’ and start. Counting like this blocks your internal voice and you will be starting the task before you know it.
You can learn all about the power of the 5 second rule here.
5. How to keep going
Some people with ADHD find once they start on a task, they have no problem to keep going. Others find they keep getting distracted.
Here are some suggestions.
To help with internal distractions
Set your kitchen timer for 30 minutes and work in 30 minute chunks. The timer helps keep you focused and on task.
Or use this fun app called Forest that helps you focus.
For external distractions
Switch your phone off, shut the door and close all the tabs down on your computer except one – the one you are using.
6. Don’t multi task!
People with ADHD love to multi task! It feels fun, stimulating, and it’s a way to justify distracting yourself. You might even take pride in being a great multi tasker.
In his book ‘The Organized Mind,’ author Daniel Levitin explains that humans can’t really multi task because the brain can only do one thing a time. Instead, when we think we are multi-tasking, we actually rapidly shift from one activity to the next. That is fatiguing and stressful, both of which hinder rather than help productivity.
Bottom line: if you want to be get things done, don’t multi task.
It might feel really strange at first to single task, so use your timer and focus for 30 minutes at a time. When it rings, have a mini break (5 minutes), then focus for another 30 minutes.
7. New email habits
Checking emails many times an hour is a specific form of multitasking. I heard a stat once that the average person spends 50 hours a year ‘checking’ email. Not typing a reply, but checking to see if any new emails have arrived.
Think of everything you could get done in 50 hours!
In the Email Club, members stop ‘checking’ their emails. Instead they open their inbox two or three times a day and batch all the email activities together. This reduces stress, increases productivity and allows them to get lots more things done in their day.
8. Break things down
If a task feels large and overwhelming, common advice is to break it down into smaller steps.
This is good advice. However, when you have ADHD, breaking the whole task or project down can be a huge task in of itself.
That could either deter you from doing it, or you might get so caught up figuring all the steps, your motivation and time to take action vanishes.
Instead, break down the task just enough so you know what the first steps are. Then the rest of the steps will become clear once you are in action.
Your small steps might be a simple as:
– Open computer
– Log into X website
– Go to heading Y
And you feel good to go.
9. Make a checklist
If you are doing a task more than once, it’s helpful to make a checklist for yourself to follow. Having a checklist means you don’t have to figure out the ‘how’ every time.
Not only does it make doing the task quicker, it also stops or reduces procrastination starting because there is no mental confusion.
You can make a checklist for tasks you do frequently, and for tasks you only do a couple of times year when you are more likely to have forgotten the steps.
You can make a checklist for things to remember when you are packing for a trip, or a procedural checklist, for example, how to upload photos from your phone to a printing service.
Here is an article with more information about checklists.
10. Are you hungry?
It’s really hard to get things done if you can’t focus because you are hungry. Or you are coming down from a sugar rush. If you know your meals and meal planning could do with a revamp, start with upgrading your breakfast to one that is ADHD friendly. A breakfast with protein will help you to focus and get things done for the rest for the day.
Click here to learn more about ADHD friendly breakfasts.
What helps you to get things done? Leave a note in the section below!
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