Adult ADHD can present challenges that affect various aspects of daily life, including work, relationships, and personal responsibilities. While the impact may not be as evident or addressed during childhood, the consequences of these symptoms can manifest in adulthood, potentially leading to difficulties in managing tasks, staying focused, and maintaining productive routines. It’s important to recognize the implications of adult ADHD and explore strategies to effectively navigate and mitigate its impact on daily functioning.
If you’re experiencing ADHD as an adult, know you’re not alone. Persistent ADHD (having a childhood-onset leading to adult life) affects 2.58% of the population, while symptomatic ADHD (irrespective of childhood-onset) has a prevalence of 6.76%, affecting over 366 million adults globally1.
Seeking a first-time diagnosis in adulthood is also an important step if you are recognizing patterns that prevent you from staying focused and productive. While psychotherapy and medication can help you manage ADHD, it also helps to learn practical strategies for adult ADHD to make your life easier. Here are some strategies for adult ADHD.
Develop a Routine and Stick to It
When it comes to managing ADHD, establishing a structured routine is crucial. You can stay organized and on track with activities by training your brain to follow a daily regimen.
Let’s use exercise as an example. Set aside 45 minutes every morning at 7:00 a.m. for a workout session, whether it’s a brisk walk or a quick home workout. Make a sincere effort to stick to it and let your brain adapt to the new routine. As these habits become ingrained, you’ll discover their incredible potential. Building a routine may be challenging, but the rewards are worth it. In terms of brain training, this helps to form new neural pathways and strengthen existing ones through consistent behavior and repetition. This phenomenon, called ‘neuroplasticity,’ highlights the brain’s knack for reorganizing itself by forming new connections. Essentially, what we do regularly gradually becomes easier to achieve.
To get started, consider these tips:
- Create a Schedule: Write down everything you must do in the morning. List your tasks in priority order to avoid distractions.
- Use Reminders: Set reminders on your phone or iPad. Do you forget to take your daily meds? Set a reminder. Does the recycling bin collector only come once a week? Set a reminder. Do you often forget to water your plants? You know what to do.
- Don’t Forget Slumber: About 25% to 50% of adults with ADHD do not get the recommended amount of sleep and experience sleep issues like restlessness and insomnia 2. When creating a routine, don’t make it too hectic that you neglect sleep. Instead, create bedtime rituals, like doing your skincare, listening to zen music, reading a book, or journaling. Set an alarm for the same time every day, even on weekends. It will help maintain your sleep schedule.
- Schedule Chores: ”I’ll just do laundry whenever I have time.” This might work for non-ADHD individuals. But as an adult with ADHD, putting off tasks often means not doing them for the foreseeable period. So, schedule regular chores for specific days and times. For example, do the dishes at nine every night. Laundry is on Saturday, grocery shopping is Friday, and Monday mornings are for coffee pot cleaning.
Additionally, don’t forget to uplift your efforts in improving your lifestyle. Instead of fixating on past shortcomings, focus on personal development and celebrate your progress. This simple mindset shift can positively impact your self-perception and overall outlook on life.
Be Organized at Work and Home
Organizational strategy can help everyone – ADHD and non-ADHD individuals alike. But it does wonders for the former.
Bringing organization to your daily routine is a game changer. You can start with small ones and work to build up to the larger projects. Starting with the kitchen pantry is better than starting with all your paper records.
You can also check out some of these organizational tips:
- Use a Planner: A planner can make all the difference, especially if you have to fit a lot in a day. Don’t get a planner with too many bells and whistles, as it may distract you. Instead, opt for a simple planner with relevant sections. Digital planners like Sunsama, ClickUp, Google Calendar, and Todoist can work wonders for busy schedules. The key is to find a system that works for you, which means keeping you away from impulsiveness, procrastination, and distraction. Don’t force something to fit; instead, focus on what improves your workflow and make it a habit.
- Give Every Item a Place: Don’t just come home and throw your things wherever you can. Giving every item a designated space will make it easier to find it the next time you need it. For example, the car and house keys should always go in the entryway tray. The wallet goes on the bedside table, and the work bag is on your bedroom chair.
- Revamp Your Catch-all: We all have that catch-all spot where we tend to toss anything and everything. But let’s make it more intentional and organized. Consider using a basket or storage cart to corral those miscellaneous items that need a temporary home. This way, you can kickstart the clean-up process without feeling overwhelmed.
- Arrange Weekly Outfits: The last thing you want is to be late for work because your ADHD brain won’t let you settle on an outfit. A simple solution is to line up five outfits for the week on Sunday. Iron and hang them in your closet in order of work days. Also, decide on shoes and accessories beforehand.
- Structure Your Environment for Your Needs: It’s essential to create an environment that works in harmony with your ADHD tendencies and supports your focus and productivity. Pro tip: pay attention to your patterns. Ask yourself questions to find where to start. such as where does disorganization arise most? What causes me needless stress?
Let the Paper Trail Go
In managing ADHD, the burden of excessive paperwork can be particularly daunting. Rest assured, we understand the challenges posed by overwhelming paper clutter.
The influx of paper can compound the challenges faced by individuals with ADHD. That’s why we’re here to offer effective and efficient solutions to address this matter directly. Jaclyn Paul, the author of the popular book “Order from Chaos: The Everyday Grind of Staying Organized with Adult ADHD,” sheds light on this predicament. Within this section, you’ll find practical tips and strategies inspired by Paul’s invaluable insights, empowering you to regain control over your environment and cultivate a more organized and mentally well-functioning lifestyle.
To counter this, find a way to deal with paperwork or go paperless. Here are some practical solutions:
- Check E-Mail Daily: Start with a morning ritual, which includes daily checking the mail. You can keep a designated spot for the bills and important documents. As for other mail, file, trash, or save it, depending on its importance.
- Have a Filing System: Create folders for documents such as income statements and medical records. You can do the same with receipts and coupons, like color-coding your folders to help you find the documents quickly.
- Minimize Paperwork: While going paperless isn’t always a choice, you can always reduce your paper trail with a little effort. For example, you can subscribe to e-bills and online statements instead of paper. Also, try keeping your work files as soft copies on your computer instead of printing hard copies. Create an intuitive e-filing system instead of just dumping it on your desktop (we’ve all done it!). And don’t forget to back it up.
The goal is to focus on simplification. Finding solutions that work for your unique needs as an adult with ADHD. Embracing the iterative nature of the process, trust in your journey towards building an ADHD-friendly space. Trust the process; knowing each step brings you closer to your goal.
Make Your Tasks Bite-Sized
ADHD paralysis is just as real as ADHD procrastination. Both can make it difficult for you to make decisions or start tasks that seem too big and overwhelming.
The fix is to break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable parts. Cleaning your room in one go might be super overwhelming. But what if you tackled your closet on Friday? Then, you vacuumed the floors and cleaned your work table on Saturday. And Sunday could be for changing the sheets. Sounds doable?
Divide a task, such as cleaning the kitchen, into smaller activities.
- Set a 15-minute timer for one activity, such as cleaning the stove.
- For these few minutes, only focus on the stove.
- When your timer goes off, check if you’ve completed the task. If the stove is clean, set the timer for your next task.
Don’t push yourself to do too much. If you get tired, stop. If you cannot complete a task in time, don’t fret over it. Move on to the next task, or continue doing it when you can.
The point here is to do what works for you.
Manage Your Time to Meet Deadlines
As an adult with ADHD, meeting deadlines can be a bit hard. These tips can help:
- Don’t Procrastinate: It’s easier said than done, even for people without ADHD. But if you follow a routine and stay organized, you can manage this.
- Deal With Matters on Time: If you get an email at noon, don’t check it until the end of the day. Check your emails on time. Pay your bills the same day you receive them. Book your tickets once your decision to go is final. This way, you’ll have fewer things overwhelming you later.
- Set Time Blocks: Adding time blocks to your daily routine can reduce decision and willpower fatigue. For example, you can set 7:00 to 7:30 for breakfast, 9:00 to 9:30 for emails, and so on. If you have trouble keeping up with time, use a timer. It’s okay if you go off schedule. Simply move on to the next activity and try to follow your time blocks the next day.
- Avoid Multitasking: To keep things simple, try doing one thing at a time instead of handling seven tasks simultaneously. Put all your focus on one task, complete it, and then move to the next.
- Be Realistic: Don’t overcommit to projects or commitments. Keep an eye on the time you have and schedule it accordingly.
One way to avoid distractions is to train your brain to not ‘see’ them. But there’s a better way; removing distractions altogether. Use these tips to minimize distractions.
- Declutter: Whether it’s your work desk or home, declutter it. Put everything in its place after use and resist buying things you don’t need. Donate, sell, or throw away items you don’t use anymore.
- Wear Headphones: If you find it challenging to concentrate due to a noisy environment, noise cancellation or using white noise can provide a much-needed respite. These simple solutions can help create a focused and peaceful atmosphere conducive to improving focus and productivity.
- Desk Rest: It’s widely acknowledged among healthcare professionals that a clean environment plays a crucial role in managing ADHD effectively. If the word “cleaning” makes you uneasy, consider using the term “resetting” instead. To create a neat and organized workspace, limit the items on your desk to essentials like your laptop, water bottle, sticky notes, a clock, and files required for the day. Take a few minutes before starting and ending your workday to straighten up, ensuring everything is in its proper place.
- Work In a Quiet Space: If you can choose your workplace sitting space, stay away from the office chatter or request a quiet space. If none of these is possible, you can always try noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, as suggested above.
- Keep Your Phone Off: Turn your phone off when you must complete an important task or put it on silent. Many phones also have built-in timers that don’t let you use an app longer than a preset period. Use this feature to avoid getting distracted by four hours of endless scrolling. We’ve all done it, but the trick is how do we un-do this pattern: safeguards. Be mindful of your time so that you don’t seek an escape from what truly needs your attention.
Coupling Strategies for Adult ADHD With Professional Support
ADHD is considered one of the most manageable mental health conditions, as individuals with the appropriate diagnosis and treatment can significantly improve their situation and achieve a more manageable life.
However, self-compassion can be challenging, especially when your condition interferes with important work or personal commitments. Instead of allowing yourself to get frustrated at your imperfections, learn from them. Keep a journal to track your emotions, challenges, and possible solutions. If a strategy isn’t working, try a different one. Doing this exercise will help make you resilient over time, allowing you to be kind to yourself, especially in moments of distress.
While using ADHD management strategies to streamline your day-to-day tasks is important, so is getting mental health professionals’ support. At BestMind Behavioral Health, our team is dedicated to providing exceptional and innovative mental healthcare to help you effectively navigate life’s challenges. Whether you need a first-time diagnosis or want to learn more about treatment options, we’re here for you with ADHD testing and medication management. We are here for it.
Take the next step towards your best self by contacting BestMind Behavioral Health today for adult ADHD testing and personalized treatment options.
- Song, P., Zha, M., Yang, Q., Zhang, Y., Li, X., & Rudan, I. (2021). The prevalence of adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A global systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Global Health, 11, 04009. https://doi.org/10.7189/jogh.11.04009