3 productivity tips tailored for people with ADHD from Jessica McCabe (HowtoADHD)


If you have ADHD, the cookie-cutter tips for productivity — locking yourself in a room to stay focused or listening to motivational speeches on YouTube — don't work. Applying traditional ways to deal with productivity in an ADHD brain only worsens things. Because when they don't work, feelings of shame or failure make progress even harder.

But that doesn't mean people with ADHD can't be productive and achieve their goals. We researched a bit about it and found Jessica McCabe's YouTube channel. Jessica was diagnosed with ADHD at age 12. Over the years, she has built this channel as a toolbox of all the strategies that help anyone with ADHD live a fulfilling life.

In this post, we are sharing 3 tips we learned from Jessica that can help people with ADHD get things done and live a fulfilled life

3 productivity tips tailored for ADHD brains

Takes forever to get started? Use the Pomodoro technique, but with a twist

For people with ADHD, it can take forever to get started on a task. And if they start, focusing can take longer, or the brain gets distracted easily.

The tool that is helpful for such situations is — the Pomodoro technique.

It is a time management method where you do focused work for 25-min followed by a 5-min break. Each work session is called a Pomodoro. After 4-5 Pomodoros, you take a more extended 20-25min break.

In Sunsama, you can enter Focus mode, and it will automatically start tracking the time you are spending on a task.

When it's time to take a break, hit 'B'  on your keyboard, and you will enter 'Break' mode — get a screen with no tasks showing up and an automatic timer is tracking your break.

Starting a Pomodoro gives our brains a clear signal to start working on our tasks. Since we know we have a slotted time to take a break or get distracted, we focus better.

It works in an ideal world. But it's not very ADHD-friendly in its simplified form.

It doesn't stop ADHD brains from thinking about other things. The breaks can sometimes break the flow and become distracting. Sometimes, 25-min can seem too long to stay focused for.

Here are 4 ideas Jessica suggests for modifying the Pomodoro to suit an ADHD brain:

a) Whenever you think of other things to do during a Pomodoro, note them on a piece of paper and get back to your current task.

b) You can do mini-Pmodoros. Instead of 25-min focusing, try 10-min focusing and 3-min breaks.

c) You can do a reverse Pomodoro — a short time for focused work coupled with a longer break.

d) If you find breaks distracting, keep working through the break into the next Pomodoro session. And then you can treat yourself to a longer break at the end.

Do you know what the next step is? Break down your project

We all voluntarily, unnecessarily delay important tasks despite knowing we'll be worse off doing so — this is procrastination.

While everyone procrastinates, people with ADHD can find it particularly difficult to make progress once procrastination sets. Many people struggle with the feelings of shame caused by delay and tend to give up completely on the tasks.

Even if you don't have ADHD, these tips can help you deal with procrastination.

The first step is to identify why you procrastinate, and no, it's not because you are lazy.

The most common reason why people procrastinate is simply that they don't know what to do or what the next step is.

You can overcome this by creating a to-do list & breaking each task into smaller subtasks. At any point, if you know exactly what to do, you will avoid the cognitive load of figuring out the next step and start the task easily.

Collecting all your tasks, meetings, and projects on a page every day sounds overwhelming. You can simplify it with a tool like Sunsama.

Enter what needs to get done and break it down into smaller subtasks. For example, if you have to create a presentation for a product demo, the subtasks look like this —

Set a deadline for yourself for those small steps or at least put an estimated time you plan to devote to a particular task. If you succeed under pressure, doing so can help imitate the adrenaline rush you get when you postpone until the last minute.

Bring all your tasks from Jira, Asana, Notion, Trello, and more to Sunsama. This will automatically create your daily to-do list for you. You won't have to switch between multiple tools and that means fewer opportunities to slip up and check social media or watch YouTube.

Build a habit of daily planning by listing down your tasks at the same time every day.  Read this post to see if you should plan your day in the morning or evening.

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Don't feel like doing the task? Identify why

The second most common reason to procrastinate is that you don't feel like doing the task. Find out exactly what you are feeling at that moment — are you bored? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Hungry? Distracted by something that seems more interesting in the short term?


Once you identify your most common feeling, take the help of tools & systems to tackle those:

  • If you easily get bored, some music in the background will help. You can search for lo-fi playlists on Spotify or create your own mix on websites like Nosili.
  • Doing one job at a time can feel too restrictive for people with ADHD — especially if the tasks aren’t interesting enough. So, Jessica recommends choosing two things to do, like a project at work and reading, and alternating between the two. Got bored of work? Switch to reading. Too distracted by reading? Switch back to work. It might take longer, but it’s a great option if you need variety.
  • If you get distracted, try website blocker apps such as Freedom. Use the fullscreen option when using your laptop so you aren’t distracted by other applications. Turn off all notifications during work mode.
  • If you want some motivation, try virtual co-working spaces like Flow Club or ask your friends if they want to co-work with you. Having others around you brings accountability and connection (dopamine hit!) that helps you stay productive.
  • You can't shake off every feeling simply by using willpower. So, if you are hungry, make a meal and eat and then focus on getting back to work.

You are not lazy, stupid, or crazy

If you are dealing with ADHD, you will often hear people telling you, "You are smart, but you are very lazy." You might also get frustrated and put those labels on yourself. But that is failing to acknowledge that your mind needs to make more effort than a neurotypical person.

Most people with ADHD won't complete tasks as quickly as their non-ADHD counterparts. So consider that when you set your expectations and schedules or make commitments. Develop 'ADHD-friendly habits, such as including extra time when scheduling or breaking projects into subtasks.

Tools like Sunsama can help you build habits around these systems. Take these tips and strategies for a test drive with a 14-day free trial here. No credit card is required for signup.

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