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11 Ways to Boost Your Productivity if You Have ADHD

Are you struggling with staying productive due to your ADHD? If so, you’re not alone. Until I realized I had ADHD, I thought that my inability to focus, stay on task, and get even the simplest things done was some kind of inherent personality flaw!

Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help boost your productivity if you have ADHD. I’ve used these 11 tips to help me get more out of my day and be more productive. I’m not 100% there yet, but compared to a couple of years ago, I’m doing much better, and these 11 things have helped the most.

1. Set Simple, Achievable Goals

If you have ADHD, setting simple, achievable goals can help you become more productive. Big goals? Terrifying! And the bigger they are, the less the chance that you’ll stay interested in them long enough to complete them.

Rather than trying to accomplish too much at once, focus on breaking down tasks into smaller chunks and completing each one individually. Don’t think of it as writing a novel, like I used to do. Think of it as writing a short story, or even just a scene in a short story.

I used to focus on the novel and come up with the ideas, and characters, and plot, and by the time I had all of that done, I’d be bored and give up on it. Now, I focus on one small scene or short story (i.e., chapter) at a time.

This doesn’t apply only to writing. This can be applied to almost any task that seems too big to manage.

A popular piece of advice you might have heard when it comes to goal setting is to break it down into smaller tasks and give yourself little deadlines (as we all turn and laugh every time we read that). Self-imposed deadlines? Not going to happen.

Instead, find yourself a buddy, an accountability partner, or a virtual boss who will call you out on the deadlines. A friend is great - but only if they are actually going to give you some grief if you miss the deadline.

2. Make a Daily To-Do List

Having a daily to-do list is a great way to help you stay organized and boost productivity if you have ADHD. Creating a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish each day can help you focus and keep you on track.

Don’t laugh! To-do lists can work but you need to play around with them a little bit. Try different kinds of to-do lists (because not all to-do lists are equal).

Start by writing down your most important tasks first, as these should be done before anything else. Then, prioritize the remaining tasks in order of importance. That way, you can start with the most important task and work your way down the list.

You can also break down large tasks into smaller steps so that they seem more achievable. This can help make the task less overwhelming and can make it easier to tackle.

It's also important to add time limits for each task so you know how much time to spend on each task and when to move onto the next one. This can help you stay on task and avoid procrastination.

Finally, it's helpful to track your progress throughout the day so you can see what you've already accomplished and what still needs to be done. You can do this with a simple check list or color-coding system. This will not only help you stay organized but will also provide motivation as you see how far you've come throughout the day.

By creating a daily to-do list, you can stay organized and focused on your tasks, helping to boost your productivity if you have ADHD.

This is just a starting point for someone who has never used a to-do list before. I’m guessing most of you have. What if this system doesn’t work for you though?

Here’s a few ideas to hack your to-do list so it works for your ADHD brain:

  • Make it huge by writing down even the simplest things like brushing your teeth, washing your face, making the coffee, drinking the coffee, etc. Why? Because it gives you lots of opportunities to check things off and checking things off gives you a dopamine boost, thus, more likely to do all the things.
  • Keep it minimal with only two or three things that you’re relatively sure you can get done. For a good month my to-do list included two things. Take meds and drink a glass of water. If I did those two things, my day was a win. Once I was consistent about those two things, I added another one. As long as I did those two things, I knew anything else I did was a bonus and I eventually was able to do more throughout the day.
  • Turn it into an art project. Sometimes, I can only do things when they are fun, so if the to-do list is boring...I just won’t do it. That’s when I bring out the markers, highlighters, stencils, and sticker and turn that to-do list into a work of art. I post it on Instagram and then I feel compelled to do the things on my list.

Do what you need to do to create a list regularly and to do the things on the list! Everyone with ADHD is unique, so what works for one person won’t work for everyone.

3. Break Down Tasks Into Smaller Steps

If you have ADHD, it can be difficult to focus and stay productive. Breaking down tasks into smaller, achievable steps is one of the best ways to make sure that your tasks are manageable and that you are able to complete them. Here are some tips on how to break down tasks:

  1. Identify the task – Before breaking down any task, it is important to identify what the task is and what its main components are.
  2. Break it down into smaller pieces – Once you have identified the main components of the task, break it down into smaller pieces. Make sure that each step is achievable and can be completed within a reasonable amount of time.
  3. Prioritize each step – After breaking down the task into smaller pieces, prioritize each step in order of importance. This will help ensure that you stay on track and don’t get overwhelmed by the task.
  4. Create a timeline – Create a timeline for yourself for completing each step. This will help you stay on track and make sure that you complete each step on time.

By breaking down tasks into smaller steps, you can make sure that you stay productive and focused on your tasks. Additionally, breaking down tasks into smaller steps can help reduce stress levels and make sure that you don’t get overwhelmed by the task at hand.

Image: Author

Image: Author

4. Use a Planner

If you’re living with ADHD, having a planner can be extremely beneficial. Planning out your day and organizing your tasks can help you keep on track and stay focused on what needs to be done. It can also provide structure to an otherwise chaotic life.

I know - planners are hard because there are so many different types, and half the time, they end up in a pile at the end of your desk, unused. That’s ok. One day you’ll find something that works for you. Or maybe you need to design a planner that fits your needs. You may need more structure or less structure.

Some of the planners I’ve found useful include Happy Planners, Rocketbook Planners/Notebooks, and the most flexible, the Bullet Journal system.

Using a planner allows you to set achievable goals and plan out your day in advance. You can also use it to keep track of your progress and review past tasks to help you identify areas that need improvement. Additionally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, a planner can help reduce stress by providing clarity on what needs to be done and when.

Organizing your day with a planner can make it easier to stay focused and productive. So take some time to find the right system for you and start using it today!

5. Get Rid of Distractions... Or Don’t

Many people with ADHD find it hard to focus on tasks and get things done if there are any distractions at all. If that’s the case for you, there are many things that can be done to limit distractions in your environment.

First, take a look at your workspace. Is there anything that could be distracting you? Make sure that all devices like phones, TVs, and computers are turned off or put away while you’re trying to work. Move furniture if needed to create a space that helps you focus.

Second, limit the number of people who come into your workspace. If there are people around who could distract you, make sure to keep them out of your workspace.

Third, block out times when you are not allowed to use your phone or computer. Set specific times where you can check emails, messages, or social media and limit the time you spend doing so.

Finally, if possible, have a separate room or space dedicated solely to work and studying. This will help you stay focused on the task at hand without any distractions.

However, some of us can’t work without background noise or in isolation.

Heard of body doubling? That’s when you can only get stuff done when there’s someone else in the room. When I seriously need to write because I have some kind of deadline or I just want to get a lot done, I can’t isolate myself. I go sit in the living room with my partner. We don’t talk. He’s just there. And I get more done. Sometimes I go to a coffee shop. Just so there are other people nearby.

Other things that help me are having the television on (but only something that I’ve watched a million times before, like Friends) or playing music. I even have a coffee shop sound playlist for when I need background noise but not lyrics.

Experiment with different settings to find the environment that works best for you.

6. Take Breaks

When you have ADHD, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out, which can make it difficult to focus and be productive. To combat this, it is important to take breaks throughout your day. Breaks can help clear your head and allow you to recharge, so you can focus on the tasks at hand.

Try to take 5-10 minute breaks every hour or two, depending on how long your tasks will take. During these breaks, you can do whatever helps you relax. This could include going for a walk, reading a book, listening to music, or even taking a nap. Taking regular breaks can help improve your concentration and productivity levels.

The Pomodoro technique seems to be designed for people with ADHD. The basic premise is work for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes. But if you’re working on something you have a low level of interest in, 25 minutes might be too long. Start with 10 minutes. Break for 5 minutes. You’re still getting 40 minutes of productivity into an hour you likely didn’t have before.

7. Exercise

Regular exercise can be a powerful tool for those with ADHD. Exercise can help improve your focus, self-control, and overall well-being. It can also help reduce the symptoms of ADHD by improving sleep, mood, and overall mental health.

I’ll admit, this is something I’m still struggling with.

The best type of exercise for people with ADHD is aerobic activity, such as running, biking, swimming, and dancing. Not only do these activities provide physical benefits, but they also require focus and concentration. This can help to improve your attention span and overall mental functioning. Additionally, research suggests that exercise can even help to increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, which is responsible for controlling motivation and focus.

It’s important to find an activity that you enjoy doing, so you’ll stick with it. It’s also beneficial to exercise with others. That way, you’ll stay accountable and motivated to keep going. If you don’t like team sports, you can join a gym or take classes.

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine is essential for managing your ADHD symptoms and increasing your productivity. So find an activity that you enjoy and start moving!

Exercise can be boring though and you and I both know that boring means we won’t do it. In order to create a habit of exercising, you have to find an activity you really enjoy.

What if you just don’t like exercise that much?

Try finding activities you can do with people you really like spending time with. Parallel play anyone? This term usually refers to children but people with ADHD find parallel activities enjoyable, too. Try walking with a friend while you don’t talk. Maybe you are both listening to the same ebook or podcast so you can talk about it later.

Another option that might work for you is gamification. There are lots of apps that let you gamify your physical activity. Lately, I’ve been really into using the Zombies 5K app. It’s a freaking game where you walk, run, and train for the zombie apocalypse! It’s on the Google Play and ITunes stores.

8. Get Enough Sleep

If you have ADHD, getting enough sleep is essential for staying productive and focused. Sleep deprivation can make it difficult to concentrate and make decisions, so it’s important to get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Here are some tips for improving your sleep:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning
  • Avoid caffeine, especially later in the day
  • Take a hot shower or bath before bedtime to relax
  • Try not to use screens before bed (such as your phone or computer)
  • Avoid eating late at night
  • Get some exercise during the day
  • Make your bedroom comfortable and dark
  • Try using noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs if you can’t sleep due to noise

By following these tips, you can help ensure that you are getting enough restful sleep to keep you productive during the day.

9. Meditate

Meditation can be a great way to reduce stress and boost productivity if you have ADHD. It can help you relax and focus on the present moment, allowing you to become more productive and less distracted by other thoughts.

To get started, find a comfortable spot where you won’t be disturbed. Start by taking several deep breaths, focusing on the breath as it moves in and out of your body. As thoughts come up, acknowledge them and then bring your attention back to the breath. Practice this for a few minutes each day, and you’ll begin to notice an increase in your productivity and focus.

10. Take Medication as Prescribed

If you have been prescribed medication to help manage your ADHD, it is important to take it as directed by your doctor. Medication can be a valuable tool in helping you be more productive and successful in managing your symptoms. Be sure to take the medication on time and follow the dosage as recommended by your doctor.

This is easier said than done for most of us! I can’t even tell you how much I’ve struggled with this. But, with the combination of a smartwatch, multiple “stations” for pills (so I never have the excuse not to take them), and minimal routine, I’m mostly on board with this.

It is also important to talk to your doctor if the medications you are taking aren’t working as effectively as they should or if they are causing any side effects. Your doctor may recommend adjusting the dosage or switching to a different medication.

Finally, remember that medication alone is not enough to manage ADHD symptoms; it should be used in combination with other treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and lifestyle changes.

11. Seek Professional Help

If you have been struggling with productivity and focus despite trying various methods, it may be time to seek professional help. Talking to a mental health professional can help you better understand and manage your ADHD symptoms. A mental health professional can provide insight into how your ADHD is impacting your life and offer guidance on how to best cope with it.

Some mental health professionals may suggest cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy involves understanding the thoughts and behaviors that are interfering with your productivity and coming up with ways to manage them. They can also provide advice and resources on how to develop better habits, improve focus, and increase productivity.

Your doctor may also recommend medications for managing ADHD symptoms. While there is no single “cure” for ADHD, certain medications can help alleviate symptoms such as impulsivity, hyperactivity, and distractibility that can lead to poor productivity.

No matter what method you choose, seeking professional help can be an important step in managing your ADHD and becoming more productive.

Take One Step at a Time

The road to productivity can be hard for anyone, but when you have ADHD, there are even more challenges. I've been on my productivity path for years now, so remember to be kind to yourself.

One thing I have learned is when you have ADHD, you can't push yourself to learn it all in a day. Break it down into small steps and work on changing one habit at a time. Give yourself at least a week or two after you've learned a new habit before you start working on a new one.

Keep taking one step at a time, and you'll get there!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.