ADHD Time Management Focus Tools That Work | Disabled Person
The above picture is of a man sitting down with his head down, eyes closed, and his right hand on his head. Above his head is a bunch of scribbled lines.
2.8% of adults have adult ADHD. That number comes from adult diagnoses. The thought used to be that children would outgrow ADHD diagnoses, but research is leaning away from that as we learn more about how ADHD is closer related to neurodivergence than typical learning disorders.
Most likely the children that "outgrew" their ADHD in the past were the ones that found focus methods and ADHD time management techniques that worked for them and allowed them to function in a neurotypical world.
If you'd like to be more like that, you can be. While it takes dedication for people with ADHD to learn to hack their brains, once you find something that works for you, you'll never go back.
We've put together some ADHD-er approved tips for you, below.
Online Task Managers
When you have ADHD (or ADD), your working memory doesn't function the same way as neurotypical people's brains do. ADHD brains are much more forgetful, due to something called object permanence (which we'll explore later). While many people can function with a to-do list in their heads, that's not the most efficient way for someone with ADHD to work.
For your brain to be able to organize itself, it's helpful to see everything laid out in front of you. People used to use planners or calendars for this, but that's only helpful if you remember to write it down and or look at it.
That's where apps like Asana and Trello come in. These are software (websites and apps) that allow you to make to-do lists and create projects with multiple steps.
Yes, you still have to go through and put your projects and tasks in, but the automation features will help you stay up to date on deadlines. You can even set the app to remind you about what deadlines you have coming up.
Plus, every time you check off a task, it moves to the bottom of the list and crosses itself off. Neurodivergent brains love that little hit of dopamine from finishing something.
Both apps have free versions, though there may be some features inaccessible unless you pay a monthly fee. You can decide whether this checklist for ADHD is worth your money.
Do yourself a favor and spend time learning how to use the platform. The more you figure it out at first, the higher your success rate will be later.
As a bonus, if you're working on a project with someone else, both time management apps have collaboration features.
Some neurodivergent people swear by this method. It was named for those old tomato-shaped kitchen timers that you could twist to set the time.
The concept of this method is that you set a 25-minute timer and do one task only. When that timer goes off, you get a five-minute break. After that five minutes, you do another 25 minutes and repeat the process.
Traditionally you do the process four times, equalling 115 minutes if you count your five-minute breaks. At the end of your fourth working session, you take a 15-minute break.
The great thing about this method is that it allows the ADHD brain to hyperfocus. That's the term for when you get into such a groove with something that you can complete an uncanny number of tasks in a short period. Concentrating on one task for 25 minutes is a great way to knock smaller tasks out of the way.
Additionally, knowing that you'll only have to do something for 25 minutes before getting a break (ie, a hit of dopamine) makes it easier to start. People with ADHD work better under stress or the threat of urgency, which this method taps into.
There's no real history on who came up with or popularized this method, though many claim it was their idea.
The Forest App
Do you have trouble concentrating on one task without looking at your phone? For people with ADHD, our phones are big sources of dopamine, especially if you're into Tiktok or other short-form content.
And with the way our lives are now, it can feel like muscle memory to reach for your phone every couple of minutes. That doesn't make for great productivity.
The Forest App aims to address that. It's almost like a phone lock, but you can access other apps if you need to, like if there's an emergency.
When you open the app, it'll ask you to set a timer for how long you want to concentrate. Different timer lengths are associated with different trees or shrubs and if you make it through the entire timer without changing out of the app (checking your phone), that tree grows in your virtual forest.
If you do decide to check your phone by closing out the app and opening other things, then your tree dies and you have a dead tree sitting in your forest. It sounds silly, but the more you use the app, the more you care about your fake trees.
The app actually donates real trees based on how many people use it. You can read their policies about donations online.
The app is free and you can earn "points" by using the app more, which allows you to buy different varieties of trees.
Change Your View of Motivation
ADHD brains do not work off of the same "I need to do it and so it'll get done" track that neurotypical brains have. It's harder for people who are neurodivergent to initiate tasks.
But here's the thing: motivation is born from action. It doesn't come out of thin air. If you start with the smallest thing on your to-do list or even just set a five-minute timer, your motivation will build and you'll want to keep going.
This is a great focus method to use to trick yourself into doing things you don't want to do, like cleaning your house. Ask your virtual assistant (like Alexa) to set a 5-10 minute timer. Then clean until the timer goes off.
Most of the time you'll be so in the groove of cleaning that you'll want to keep going. If you're not, at least you got five minutes of cleaning done (or work, or phone calls, etc.) instead of zero.
ADHD Time Management: You Can Do This
These tools are all ADHD-individual approved. This list doesn't contain any focus methods created for neurotypical brains, so hopefully, that will give you enough faith to give them a try.
Keep in mind that some of these ADHD time management methods will work on some days, while others won't. If you find you can't focus using one, try another. Being flexible with your brain is a great way to build your self-esteem.
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