Discover a way of being productive that works for you
As an ADHD coach and positive psychology expert with an ADHD diagnosis, I see first-hand how ADHDers often know exactly what they need to do each day, but have difficulty staying motivated and managing their time effectively. Therefore, self-care gets neglected, and the to-do list is still just as overwhelmingly long at the end of the day.
Plus, with the long wait times for ADHD diagnosis and support, many people are finding ways to self-manage their ADHD symptoms – especially around staying productive. So, if that’s you, try these five tips for getting, and staying, positively productive with ADHD.
Plan your day
Whether you prefer to plan your day the night before or that morning, start by scheduling your breaks – time to go for a walk, have lunch, or go to the gym – before you schedule your work and other commitments. Prioritise these appointments with yourself and your productivity will thank you for it.
Create routines that work for you
ADHD brains thrive with routine and structure, but finding something that works for you, and sticking to it, can be tricky. Start with small things that make your life easier. Make your bed as soon as you get up, pack your bag the night before work, review your schedule in the evening and decide your priorities, don’t check your email first thing, and set alarms to remind you of tasks throughout the day.
Make sure you have nourishing food available throughout the day to avoid seeking out the dopamine rush of a Toffee Crisp at 3pm. Keep a big bottle of water with you, preferably where you can see it, so you don’t forget to hydrate. And remember to nourish your soul too, by taking time every day to do something that brings you joy.
Use positive psychology to boost your mood
Positive psychology, also known as the ‘science of happiness’, uses evidence-based exercises that can help people learn to thrive. The right exercises can work brilliantly with ADHD brains too, especially if they trigger our dopamine pathways. See which exercise resonates for you, and give it a go:
Make this easy for yourself by keeping the journal in full view on your nightstand so that you remember to write in it before you sleep. Write three specific things you are grateful for that day. For example, the way your coffee tasted that morning, the robin that landed near you on your walk, or the way your partner smiled at you over dinner. This is training your brain to look for positive things, which leads to a more positive outlook.
Your best self
Imagine yourself in the future, when you’ve achieved all of your goals and dreams, and write what this looks like and how you feel. Get really detailed, and have fun with it. Repeat this exercise daily for a few days, and revisit it regularly. By doing this, you are creating the same neural pathways as if you have already achieved those goals, and we know that what we focus on, we get more of.
Strengths and values
With ADHD, we already know we function best focusing on tasks that give us a dopamine kick. When we learn what our strengths and values are, we can make sure we spend most of our time working with those, which is way more interesting and rewarding to the ADHD brain. Find out what yours are today, and spend some time thinking about how you can lean into those at home and work to boost your productivity. Try tools like high5test.com or viacharacter.org.
Explore productivity tools
Try a productivity app like Evernote or Notion to manage multiple to-do lists and projects. Having a repository for thoughts and ideas is essential for unloading some of the ADHD overwhelm, and managing that feeling of always forgetting something.
Binaural beats with noise-cancelling headphones are essential for my creative focus. You may also want to try brown noise or polyrhythmic music – YouTube has a large selection.
Finally, use the calendar app. If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen. I use multiple, colour-coded calendars within iCal to manage my studies, business, and general life.
ADHD can look different for different people, so keep trying various techniques, hacks and routines until you find something that works for you.