Strategies & Tips for Adults Living With ADHD

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Blog

Adult ADHD can make various aspects of daily life more difficult, from work to relationships and personal responsibilities. Keeping up with everyday tasks can feel overwhelming, and on top of that, you might feel like friends and family members don’t understand what you’re going through. 

If you’re experiencing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as an adult, know that you’re not alone. An estimated 3-4% of the adult population meet diagnostic criteria for adult ADHD – that’s more than 366 million adults globally.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to help you manage symptoms of ADHD. Practical strategies can help you improve daily habits, stay focused on important tasks, and be more organized and efficient in your life. In this article, we’ll share our best tips for managing adult ADHD symptoms. With a little practice, patience, and positivity, you can reduce stress levels, feel more in control of your life, and experience renewed self-confidence. 

1. Develop a routine – and stick to it!

One of the most essential strategies for managing ADHD is having a structured routine. Training your brain to follow a daily regimen makes it easier to stay organized and on track with activities, helping your day run more smoothly. 

You can start small with simple routines, for example, hanging your jacket in the closet as soon as you get home or washing a dish immediately after using it. Make a sincere effort to stick to these routines and let your brain adapt. As these habits become engrained, you’ll build confidence in yourself and feel more ready to take on more. 

Tips for building a routine if you have adult ADHD

Building a routine can be challenging at first, but consistent behavior and repetition will help form new neural pathways and strengthen existing ones. Once these habits are engrained they’ll become a second nature and you won’t even have to try. 

 

Below are some routine-building tips for adults with ADHD:

  • Create a schedule: Write down everything you need to do for the day, and arrange your tasks by priority to avoid getting distracted. Cross things off as you go so you can see what you’ve completed and what’s left to do. 
  • Use reminders: Set reminders on your phone to keep you on track. Do you forget to take your daily meds? Set a reminder. Does the recycling bin collector only come once a week? Set a reminder. Reminders take the pressure off having to remember everything yourself. 
  • Prioritize sleep: About 25 to 50% of adults with ADHD don’t get the recommended amount of sleep and experience sleep issues like insomnia and restlessness. Try not to make your routine so hectic that you neglect sleep. Instead, make time for bedtime rituals, like doing your skincare, listening to zen music, or journaling. Set an alarm for the same time every day to initiate your wind-down routine and maintain a healthy sleep schedule. 
  • Schedule chores: “I’ll just do laundry whenever I have time” might work for non-ADHD individuals, but as an adult with ADHD, putting off tasks often means not doing them for the foreseeable future. To stay on top of your chores, schedule them for specific days and times. For example, do the dishes at 9:00 pm every night, laundry on Saturdays, grocery shopping on Sundays, etc. 
  • Stay positive: Don’t forget to congratulate yourself for your efforts in improving your lifestyle. Instead of fixating on past shortcomings, focus on celebrating your progress and looking forward to the future. This simple mindset shift can positively impact your self-perception, relieve pressure, and make it easier to adopt routines. 

2. Organize your work and home life

A good organization strategy can help everyone, but it does wonders for people living with adult ADHD. If you spend most of the day trying to figure out where to start and end up having achieved very little by evening, then a little organization will change the game for you.

Organization is all about removing distractions and making it easier to maintain focus. Don’t try to organize your whole life at once: start with small spaces and slowly build up to larger projects. Once you’ve organized one thing in your life, it’ll feel so good that you’ll naturally want to do it more and more. 

Tips for staying organized if you have adult ADHD

Getting organized can be tricky for people with adult ADHD. You might not know where to start, find yourself getting distracted easily, or struggle to make decisions. 

Below are some of our best tips for organizing your home and life if you have adult ADHD:

Use a planner

Don’t try to remember everything mentally. Get a planner to jot everything down so you can clearly see in front of you what needs to be done. Avoid getting planners with too many bells & whistles as this might distract you from the tasks at hand. Instead, opt for simple planners with relevant sections.

Digital planners like Sunsama, Google Calendar, and Todoist can work wonders for busy schedules. If you find yourself trying to juggle too many projects at once, planners will make your life easier. The key is to find a system that works for you. In other words, it keeps you away from impulsiveness, procrastination, and distraction. If something isn’t working out for you, try not to force it. Instead, focus on what actually improves your workflow and integrate it into your life. 

Give every item a place

Giving everything a designated space will make it easier to find next time while also bringing a sense of peace and order to your home. Resist the urge to come home and throw your items wherever you can. Instead, find a home for them. For example, your keys should always go in the entryway tray, wallet on the bedside table, and work bag hung behind the door. 

Revamp your catch-all

We all have that catch-all spot where we tend to toss anything and everything. Let’s make it more intentional and organized. First, consider using a basket to house those miscellaneous items that need a temporary home. 

Next, go through the items and assess whether they could find a permanent home elsewhere, or if you need them at all. Could some be thrown out or donated? If you haven’t used something in years, it could be time to let it go. This can help kickstart your clean-up process and simplify your life without feeling overwhelmed.

Plan your outfits for the week

The last thing you want is to be late for work because your ADHD brain won’t let you settle on an outfit. Let’s get one thing off your mind every morning and line up five outfits for the week on Sunday. Choose your outfits, iron, and hang them in your closet in order of work days. Decide on your shoes and accessories, and voila, your mornings just got a lot easier.

Create an environment that works with you, not against you

Finally, set your environment up in a way that works with your ADHD tendencies and supports your focus and productivity. Pay attention to your patterns and see where you need some support. 

Ask yourself questions like, where are you most disorganized? What aspects of your life cause needless stress? Then think about what you can do to reduce or eliminate these patterns. If you’re always rushing out the door in the morning, for example, start waking up 10 minutes earlier to give yourself more time.

3. Clean up paper clutter

The idea of excessive paperwork can feel overwhelming when you have ADHD. From bills to work documents, emails, and more, if you feel like you have mountains of paper clutter to constantly sift through, you’re not alone. Jaclyn Paul, author of Order from Chaos: The Everyday Grind of Staying Organized with Adult ADHD sheds light on this predicament. Below, we offer some practical tips and strategies inspired by Paul’s invaluable insights. 

Tips to manage paper clutter when you have adult ADHD

Managing emails, documents, and paperwork can make a world of difference when you have ADHD. It’ll help you regain control over your environment, feel more organized, and enjoy a clearer mental space. After all, decluttering your life helps declutter your mind. Let’s look at some tips to help:

  • Check your mail daily: Opening up your email to see piles of unread emails can feel like a horrorshow. To avoid this, make checking your email a morning ritual. Immediately delete any junk mail, action any items that require responses, and organize your email inbox to have separate folders for bills and other important documents. Do the same for your mail. A healthy mail routine gives you one less thing to think about. 
  • Create a filing system: Bring order to your files and documents by creating a filing system, both in-person and on your computer. Create folders for documents like income statements, medical records, receipts, or coupons. If you’re working offline, color-code your folders to help find documents quickly and ensure everything is properly labeled. 
  • Go paperless where you can: Reduce your paper trail wherever possible. For example, subscribe to e-bills and online statements instead of paper. Try to keep your work files as soft copies on your computer instead of printing hard copies. Be sure to file everything properly instead of dumping it on your desktop and don’t forget to back up your system. If you have the time, you could even scan your paper documents and keep everything on your computer. There, you’ve just cleaned up a whole bunch of space in your home!

4. Break big tasks down into bite-sized pieces

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 or overwhelming. 

The fix is to break tasks down into smaller, more manageable parts. Cleaning your room in one go might be super overwhelming, but what if you just tackled your closet on Friday? Then you can vacuum the floors and clean your desk on Saturday and change your sheets on Sunday. Sounds more doable, right?

 

This strategy is all about dividing the same task down into a bunch of smaller, more doable activities. Here’s another way to do it:

  • Set a 15-minute timer for one activity, like cleaning the stove.
  • For these few minutes, focus only on cleaning 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, and don’t fret if you can’t complete a task on time. Move on to the next task, or continue doing it when you can. The point here is to do what works for you.

5. Practice clever time management

Meeting deadlines can be a big challenge as an adult with ADHD. The truth is, getting things done is all about learning effective time management. Below, we offer some tips. 

Time management tips for adults with ADHD

Cleverly managing your time will essentially double or triple your productivity. It’s all about having the right strategies in place! Below are our best time management tips for adult ADHD:

  • Don’t procrastinate: Easier said than done, but if you follow a routine, stay organized, and hold yourself accountable, you can manage this. Stay aware, and when you find yourself procrastinating, get back to the task. 
  • Action items immediately: Reply to emails as soon as you read them. Pay your bills the same day you receive them. Book your tickets once the decision to go is final. Get things done as soon as you can to feel less overwhelmed and have a smaller to-do list.
  • Block your time: Blocking your time can reduce decision fatigue. For example, set 7:00 to 7:30 for breakfast, 9:00 to 9:30 for emails, etc. Now you know exactly what you’re doing all day. It’s OK to go off schedule, just move on to the next activity and try to follow your time blocks tomorrow. 
  • Avoid multitasking: Try doing one thing at a time instead of handling seven tasks simultaneously. Put all your focus on that one task, finish it, then move on to the next. 
  • Be realistic: Don’t overcommit to projects. Keep an eye on the time you have and schedule it accordingly.

6. Reduce distractions

If you take a break during your work to make impulse purchases or check the time on your phone only to find yourself scrolling, it’s time to minimize distractions. 

Tips to reduce distractions when you have ADHD

One way to avoid distractions is to train your brain to not ‘see’ them, but a better way is to remove distractions altogether. Here are our best tips:

  • Declutter: Whether it’s your home or work desk, declutter it. Limit the items on your desk to essentials like your laptop, water bottle, notepad, clock, and files required for the day. Before and after your work day, ‘reset your desk’ and ensure everything is in its proper place.
  • Wear headphones: If it’s hard to concentrate due to a noisy environment, consider using noise cancellation headphones or listening to white noise. Both of these solutions can help create a peaceful atmosphere that improves focus and productivity. 
  • Find a quiet spot: If you can choose your workplace sitting space, try to keep away from office chatter or too many phone calls. If that’s not possible, consider headphones or white noise, as suggested above.
  • Turn off your phone: Turn your phone off when completing important tasks. If your phone allows daily limits for certain apps, use it to avoid being distracted by hours of endless scrolling. Be mindful of your time so you don’t seek an escape from what truly needs your attention.

Find support for adult ADHD

ADHD is considered to be one of the most manageable mental health conditions. With proper treatment and practical strategies, adults with ADHD can significantly improve their situation and achieve a more manageable life.

That said, having self-compassion can be challenging, especially when your condition interferes with important work or personal commitments. Instead of being frustrated at your imperfections, try to learn from them. Keep a journal to track your emotions, challenges, and possible solutions. If a strategy isn’t working, try a different one. You will find yourself growing resilience and being kinder to yourself over time, especially in moments of distress.

ADHD management strategies can help streamline your daily tasks, but support from a mental health professional is also important. 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 adult ADHD diagnosis or want to learn more about treatment options, we’re here for you with ADHD testing and medication management. 

Take the next step towards your best self and contact our team today for adult ADHD testing and personalized treatment options.