Problems staying focused and paying attention are two common symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a common health problem in children and adolescents. If ADHD persists in early adulthood through middle age, it presents many of the same challenges as childhood: it is difficult to stay organized, start projects, stay at work, and meet deadlines. But now life is busier and the expectations of work and family are often even higher. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can help you manage this time in your life.
Organizational tools are a must for people with adult ADHD. They help you prioritize and track activities for each day or the coming weeks.
Tools include a pen and paper to create lists, or computer or smartphone apps to set appointment reminders, highlight important days on the calendar, mark deadlines, and keep lists and other information.
Take time each day to update your lists and schedules. Don’t let the task become an obligation. Think of it as a routine task like brushing your teeth and do it daily so it becomes an established habit.
And a word of caution: Smartphones and computers can also become distractions. If you have adult ADHD, you may spend hours looking at less useful apps or websites. If this is a common trap for you, set a timer for each use, or leave the phone off or in a different room when trying to work.
Just being organized doesn’t mean your job gets done. But a few simple approaches can at least make the job easier.
- Relax your home and your office. Treat yourself to an attractive work environment and keep important items easily accessible.
- Reduce distractions. This can mean modifying your workstation so it is not in front of a window, moving to a quieter location, or simply muting your smartphone and email notifications.
- Write down ideas when they come to you. You may have an aha moment for one task while in the middle of another. That’s okay; Just write that thought down and come back to it later after your more pressing work is done.
Deadlines present two major challenges when you have adult ADHD. First, it’s difficult to start a project, often because you want it to be perfect, or because you’re intimidated by it and put off. Second, when starting a project, it’s very easy to get distracted and leave the task unfinished.
How can you avoid these pitfalls?
- Do not hesitate. Put procrastination on your to-do list – like a chore – and fool yourself into actually starting your work.
- Handle emails, phone calls, or other matters as quickly as possible. This way, fewer things will hang over your head and overwhelm you later.
- Be a watchman. Get a watch and get used to using it. The more aware you are of time, the more likely you can avoid spending too long on a task.
- Take one by one. Multitasking is overrated for everyone – and it’s a nightmare for people with adult ADHD. Focus on getting one task done and then move on to the next.
- Be realistic about your time. This can mean saying no to new projects or other commitments.
Get more help
The ideas listed here can help you cope with ADHD in adults. However, they may not be enough to meet the challenges of ADHD in adults.
Hire an ADHD coach to provide you with more strategies and additional tools to help you manage your condition. Look for an ADHD coach who is a licensed psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of ADHD and may also have certification in ADHD coaching from the ADHD coaches organization.