You’re Right, To-Do Lists Don’t Work For Everyone: Three Alternative ADHD Productivity Hacks

If you’re an adult with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there’s a good chance the phrase “to-do list” is kind of triggering. Your friends make it sound so easy: “just write it all down on a piece of paper and check things off.”

Right, but first you need to remember to write it down. Then you need to write it down in the right place. Then you need to remember where you put the to-do list. Then you need to calm down from the anxiety attack you had when you couldn’t find it. Just a simple piece of paper…yeah, right.

Still, you’re looking for some kind of structure. To remember to call your friends. To hand in that annoying paperwork. To just plain show up.

Why don’t to-do lists work for a lot of adults with ADHD?

Well, one-size-fits-all solutions (like “just make a to-do list”) tend to overlook the creative-yet-distracted ADHD brain. And no two brains––particularly no two ADHD brains––are alike. So, it’s really a matter of finding the right productivity systems and habits that work for you.

Three tools to help you be more productive (that aren’t to-do lists)

1. Start an Electronic Master Task Doc

This isn’t so much a “to-do-list,” as a workflow management system. Basically, you create one master document when you can dump all the things that need to get done. This keeps tasks from getting lost or forgotten.

The key is increasing the likelihood you’ll use the master task document. This is why it should be digital.

Making sure the tool you use is already near you can be helpful. So sticky notes or kitchen to-do lists on flowery paper (that you have no idea where you got) wouldn’t count. Because random pieces of paper aren’t always around. Cell phones or a computer, however, usually are.

There are great apps, like Google Task, which work on both your phone and computer. The more (convenient) places the doc exists, the higher the chance you’ll use it.

2. Schedule a Morning Huddle

Part of managing ADHD is understanding the ADHD brain. Managing your brain means managing dopamine (the brain’s pleasure receptor). For most people, mornings are peak dopamine times. And since scheduling tasks often requires the most creativity, that extra energy in the mornings can help.

One way to get more done in your day is to have a “morning huddle.” This is a focused time each morning to review what you need to get done that day. It doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to be consistent. If you take the time to pause before you jump right in, you’re likely to be way more productive.

3. Use a Planner to Keep on a Schedule

Don’t rely on winging it. Keep a little planner with you––on your phone or a small notebook––to schedule your day or your tasks. This planner can be your go-to for reviewing what you’d like to get done or where you need to be. Scheduling tasks ahead of time will hold you accountable, taking the overthinking out of what to do next.

There are two keys making a planner actually useful. First, keep it with you. If the planner doesn’t live near you, it’s about as helpful getting things done as a potato peeler at an ice cream bar. Second, make a mantra: “if I don’t put it in the planner, it won’t get done.” Creating a habit takes 40 days, but keep this one up and you won’t miss a beat.

Schedule out your day. Hour for hour. Knowing what you’re doing can help you avoid procrastination, Netflix binges, and social media vortexes.

Make the System and Feel Less Worried

Many people worry about their “to dos.” In his book, Getting things Done, David Allen talks about your brain as a computer. When we worry, it’s because some parts of our systems are not working well for us. It’s when your brain won’t shut off from a specific worrisome thought. Finding the right systems can lower worry. And for productivity that’s, well, awesome.

ADHD Treatment Columbus, Ohio

If you’d like more help incorporating more productivity hacks into your life and feel like you could use some professional support, an ADHD specialist can help. ADHD treatment can help you manage and better manage life. Because ADHD impacts people in different ways, Focused Mind ADHD Counseling offers a variety of services including: adult ADHD treatment, counseling for men with adhd, depression counseling for adhd, and anxiety treatment for ADHD. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our Columbus therapists.