Even though it’s been less than a year since I got my ADHD diagnosis at age 41, it turns out I have been using many tips and tricks to manage or mask my ADHD symptoms for as long as I can remember. Below are some of my most tried-and-true techniques. I hope you find them helpful! This is not a sponsored post; any paid apps and systems mentioned below are ones for which I pay full price.
Work Hacks for ADHDers
For years, we have been using and improving upon myriad business-wide systems that not only keep us organized as a whole, but also make it hard for us to ever drop the ball completely. I cannot imagine how I kept up with my tasks before we started using a tool called Basecamp.
Many people I know use Slack at work, but for me (and for some ADHD friends of mine) it’s a nightmare to deal with. I am constantly losing my place and feeling panicky about whether I saw all the incoming messages on every thread. When I’m not on it, I worry that I should be because I likely missed something. Basecamp addresses these problems, thankfully.
I set multiple calendar reminders and tasks with due dates for myself. I even create to-dos for my colleagues to nudge me at a certain time or date if they haven’t gotten whatever thing I was supposed to have prepared for them on time. It’s like my ADHD is causing me to fall through a series of nets no matter how good my intentions, but, even if I hit the very bottom net, I very rarely crash to the ground because of all the fail-safes we’ve set up. This system allows my business, Avid Bookshop, to function professionally and without major snafus with customers or vendors.
Working-From-Home Hack for ADHDers
When I am working from home, I use the Routinery app (described in more detail below) paired with the Pomodoro method (timed with the Tide app) to ensure I not only stay focused, but that I also build in breaks for mental rest, hydration, food, and other tasks. I can get into hyper-focus mode very easily, and even frequent alarms and reminders don’t seem to break through on some days. I may only stop when my bladder is uncomfortably full, the iPad battery dies, or I feel guilty knowing how hungry my kitties must be. (My motivation to switch gears is usually outwardly focused -- I’m working with my therapist to learn to be accountable to myself.)
Most of the time, these apps allow me to feel satisfyingly productive while also providing structured times to drink water, eat snacks, and even do some chores -- chores that I normally dread and put off for hours, if not weeks. If I plan to do a miscellaneous chore during of one of my breaks, I can start a load of laundry, take out the garbage, or tackle some other task that turns out to take only a few minutes after all and never merited all the procrastination and feet-dragging I’d connected to it. Like many of you, I might not start certain chores on my own without the cue from my apps. On the same token, I may focus on a chore so intently that I may not return to my main work without those app cues!
Personal Health/Lifestyle Hacks for ADHDers
I use Routinery outside of my working hours as well. I try and usually fail to keep myself in the flow of things I’m meant to be working on. Like many of you, my natural tendency is to distract myself with a tangent of a tangent of a tangent of whatever I was supposed to be focused on, and then I end up spending hours on some unimportant work that isn’t even on my to-do list, let alone a priority. But I digress (of course).
Back to telling you about how I use Routinery: I have morning and bedtime routines. More often than not, they help me remember to do things like feed the cats before bed (so they are less likely to wake me up at 6 a.m.) and to double-check the next day’s schedule so I am not surprised the following morning when I see an incoming call from someone with whom I had scheduled a meeting -- and then forgot about because I didn’t think to review my schedule in advance.
When the Hacks Stop Working
Here’s the thing about routines, app-assisted or not: We with executive functioning issues thrive with them, but they can be extremely hard to stick to. If a routine begins to feel rote, I am likely to skip it altogether. My ADHD brain acclimates to new stimuli very quickly and I seek novelty. Those avidly sought-after dopamine hits become more elusive the longer I maintain any one habit or routine. I combat this by mixing up my routines, shifting the order of tasks or adding new elements to keep things feeling new and exciting for myself.
I have such a plethora of lifelong ADHD hacks that I don’t even recognize as ADHD-related. At least once a week I realize that some process or workaround I started a decade ago is something that folks without ADHD wouldn’t ever need to consider. The more I notice the tips, hacks, rooted in my ADHD, the more I realize that ADHD has had a profound effect on my life for as long as I can remember. The more I connect with others who share the diagnosis, the more I realize how much energy I burn on systems and processes that neurotypical folks may not ever have need for.
What tips, tricks, and hacks have you discovered or developed for your own life? What practices have you abandoned, and why?
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