Do you have ADHD and find it difficult to figure out which tasks to pick without getting anxious about making the right choice? Do you feel like you're always procrastinating? Is it normal for you to be doing a dozen tasks at once — but getting nothing done?
These can make you feel frustrated and irritated with yourself. But being hard on yourself won't get things done. So we've compiled a list of 4 strategies for getting more done if you have ADHD.
Break down a big task into smaller tasks
When you have ADHD, it can be difficult to focus on big tasks, as they seem overwhelming (even for people without ADHD!). Because of that, your brain shuts down, and makes you feel like you want to run and hide.
So break a big task down into smaller tasks that you can imagine completing. If it is a time-sensitive project, estimate how long it will take you to do each small task and assign a 'planned' time to each one. Do keep some wiggle room with planned time because we generally underestimate the amount of time it takes to get things done.
Set a really low bar just to get yourself started. So a tiny task can be “create a new document” or “choose a cover page for the presentation." This will make your to-do lists less overwhelming, and you will be able to focus on them without feeling anxious.
You can use tools like Sunsama to help you create a task list and jot down the subtasks you need to do to check off the main task. Crossing things off of the to-do list one by one will give you the motivation to move on to the next thing.
Work in short time bursts
Managing ADHD in an age when we are constantly connected to the internet can feel impossible with all distractions at our fingertips. The trick is to schedule time for distractions and stay focused in short time bursts with the Pomodoro technique.
Pomodoro is a time management technique where you do focused work for 25 minutes followed by a five-minute break. You can use online apps built to implement this technique and make it even simpler.
Using Pomodoro will also give you transition time between tasks — especially for the ones that put higher amounts of cognitive load. Take breaks longer than five minutes if you need more time to recharge. Use these breaks to take a walk, sip your favorite tea or meditate for a few minutes. Avoid doing things that will make your brain hyperactive (checking social media, chatting with colleagues, or worrying about things you have to do in the near and distant future)
Set a time limit on your task (aka Timeboxing)
People with ADHD are often perfectionists as they tend to overcompensate for symptoms they see as behavior flaws.
That's why, sometimes, even with the Pomodoro technique, you can get stuck on a task. For example, you might keep working on a presentation deck for all the Pomodoros (25-min work slots) you have in the day.
How do you avoid that from happening?
The answer is — timeboxing, which is to allocate a fixed time period to a planned activity. And then you put that down in your calendar.
It’s just like scheduling a meeting in your calendar. Once you block a time, treat it like a meeting. So no canceling, rescheduling, or distraction during that time period.
This way, you can see how much time you've dedicated to the task and not go overboard.
Here's an example: You have a presentation to work on that's due in two days. In your calendar, you block out six Pomodoros (2.5 hours) for that task on Tuesday afternoon. And then, on Wednesday, you can block one Pomodoro to review what you have and make any necessary changes.
What if, even after organizing your list and setting the time limit for each task, you still don’t feel motivated to get started? Is there a way to address this obstacle? Let's find out in the next section.
Join a virtual co-working space
If procrastination is stopping you from getting work done, this strategy is for you.
Find someone who needs to get work done as well, and work with them in real-time. They don't have to help you with your task or vice-versa. They can work on their tasks while you work on yours. It's called a coworking session.
It works because coworking provides connection, accountability, & focus — the three things that can help you get work done on time. Opening up the virtual session, greeting your work partner(s), and checking in are signals that tell your brain that it's time to work on the task at hand and help you become less distracted. When you commit to someone that you will get your tasks done, you are more likely to stay focused to keep your promise.
If you are interested in virtual coworking sessions, check out Flow Club. It's an online coworking community. The entire co-working process is guided by a host, so you never have to figure anything out to get all of the benefits.
Make ADHD your superpower
Living with ADHD can be frustrating at times. Before you give up for the day, try just a little harder by giving yourself that extra push with tools — be it guided daily planning with Sunsama or virtual co-working with Flow Club. It never hurts to try. Most people dealing with ADHD find that even basic planning and some automation sets them on their way to having a productive workday.
However, while it's great to strategize and maximize your productivity, be aware of burnout as well — especially if you experience hyperfocus as a symptom of your diagnosis. Make sure you schedule downtime every day after a certain time and for at least one full day every week.
Along with practicing the strategies mentioned above, carve out some time at the end of your day (10-15 min) and end of the week (1-1.5r) to reflect on how you managed your time & work. Don't just think about areas of improvement, but celebrate the wins as well. Those will tell you what worked so you can double down on those strategies.
If you’re having trouble focusing, here’s some strategies for that are known to help neurodivergent folks focus and be productive.
ADHD doesn’t need to be a struggle. It is often a superpower that fuels out-of-the-box thinking and creativity, keeps you full of energy, and enables you to really focus and thrive with deep work.