As an ADHD coach, I often get the question: what are some simple tips for living with adult ADHD?
And truth be told, I’m often looking for additional strategies, too!
I love asking myself:
How can I make this easier?
What’s a simpler way I could approach this?
Let’s be honest, navigating ADHD is no walk in the park.
But when we can support our executive functions and reduce unnecessary cognitive demands, we can lighten the load significantly.
And that’s exactly what we do in episode 153 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast.
I share my favorite simple strategies to support your ADHD brain so you can reduce unnecessary demand on your memory and attention, simplify organization, and navigate task initiation with less procrastination.
You can listen to the episode above or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:
Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.
In Episode 153: Adult ADHD Organization Tips to Simplify Life, You Will Discover How To…
- Reduce unnecessary demand on your memory and attention
- Simplify the organization process
- Navigate task initiation with less procrastination
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Episode #153: Simple Tips For Living With Adult ADHD (Transcript)
If you are a person who loves tips and tricks, this is an episode for you.
Today’s post is filled with different strategies and hacks that I love to use in my daily life to help make things easier when you have ADHD.
There are so many different things that I’ve put into place to help reduce the cognitive load – the demand on my brain – while helping me manage my time, remember to do things, and get stuff done.
Similarly, there are strategies that I’ve learned from clients and friends over the years.
Many of these are not concepts that I would talk about individually for a whole 20 minutes on a podcast episode – they don’t really warrant that – so I haven’t found a way to weave them into the podcast.
Then I thought, why not do an entire episode dedicated to a collection of random hacks and strategies to work with your brain?
That could be fun. So that is what we’re going to do today.
I’m going to share some of my favorite tips and strategies that either I use, or I’ve learned from my clients to help us with:
- Memory and attention
- Staying organized
- Navigating procrastination and task initiation
I have 18 different strategies to share, and I’m going to go through them one by one with a little explanation of each in hopes that some of them will be helpful for you.
The last thing I want to mention before diving in is that I want to hear from you!
If you have additional tips and strategies to hack your brain, whether it’s for things around the house, navigating work, interacting with other humans, whatever – please contact me on Instagram @imbusybeingawesome!
ADHD Organization Tips To Improve Memory and Attention
The first category of strategies we’ll look at today focuses on supporting our memory and attention.
A lot of them are tech-related, and while you may already use some of these, I hope that some will either be new or a useful reminder. Because sometimes I’ll hear about a strategy or a tip, I’ll use it for a bit, and then I’ll forget about it.
So I hope that some of these strategies spark some new ideas for you.
1. Rely on Siri or Alexa
Rely on Siri or Alexa or whatever platform you use to help you remember to do things.
The amount of times that I ask Siri to add things to my shopping list or create an appointment or make a note is pretty remarkable. She helps me out a lot.
If you’re an iPhone user, you can simply say, Siri, add milk to the shopping list, and it will be there in your reminders app.
Similarly, you might say Siri, remind me to call my mom tomorrow at 6. Then you’ll get that reminder at 6:00 o’clock, and you’re good to go.
Plus, in the moment when you use your voice, you don’t pick up your phone, which removes the temptation to get sucked into social media or checking your e-mail.
One of the members in We’re Busy Being Awesome offered a great tip last week when she uses Alexa…
She used to just have Alexa set a timer and would say Alexa, set a timer for 60 minutes. But then – as is the case for many of us with ADHD brains – we sometimes forget why we set the timer in the first place.
So the timer goes off, and we can’t remember what we needed to do. So she has Alexa remind her of the specific task. For example, she will say “Alexa, remind me to take the cookies out of the oven in 12 minutes.” That way when that reminder goes off, the cookies don’t burn.
2. Set Up Reoccuring Reminders
Speaking of the reminders app, one other strategy that I love to use is setting recurring reminders for the things that happen frequently.
I have personally recurring reminders set for:
- Refilling my prescriptions
- Taking my meds each day
- The day before trash and recycling come so I remember to put out the bins
- I have one set each month when I need to give Bruno his flea and tick medicine
I have all of these different recurring reminders set so that I’m not simply relying on my memory to give Bruno his flea and tick every 30 days or to remember every Tuesday night to get the trash out.
Again, it’s one less thing for the brain to think about so I can focus on something more important.
3. Set Up Automatic Bill Payments & Auto-Delivery
Another powerful way to help lighten the cognitive load on your executive functions is to set up automatic bill pay and also auto-delivery on the basics that you use regularly.
For example, the phone bill, the water bill, cable bill, heat, and electricity.
When you can set those on autopay, it’s one less thing to think about.
I do the same for all of the recurring products that I know I’m going to need every month or two, whether it’s laundry detergent, toothpaste, toilet paper, and paper towels.
It can be so helpful when you don’t have to think about it at all. You don’t need to worry about running out. You have exactly what you need.
4. Use the Pin Feature for Text Messages
One of my clients shared an awesome strategy that I think you’re going to love.
One of the biggest gripes I have about text messages is that we don’t have the option to mark a text message as unread.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I avoid reading a text message because I don’t have time to answer it and I want to make sure that I have the little notification there to remind me to check it later.
At the same time, I want to read the message to make sure it’s not an emergency or they don’t need an answer in that very moment.
Well, my client has this brilliant strategy, where she uses the pin feature for text messages, and she pins the individuals that she needs to respond to.
Seriously, this is a game-changer because this way anyone who is pinned at the top of your list has an unanswered text.
How To Pin a Person’s Texts
On an iPhone all you have to do is open your messages, and you’ll see the list of people who have texted you.
If you want to pin a text from your sister so you remember to respond to her later that afternoon, all you have to do is…
- Slide right on her name, and you will see a yellow pin option.
- Then you can pin it and her name will appear at the top of your different message chains.
5. Use the Unread & Snooze Feature in Email
Building on the idea of marking things as unread, this is a strategy that I love to use occasionally with e-mail, especially in combination with the snooze feature.
This tip is for both marking emails you’ve read as “unread,” and combining it with the snooze feature.
For example, let’s say that I get an e-mail to give a talk…
I’m teaching a masterclass on how to build a business with a distractible brain for a business/entrepreneur program, and they reached out to me in April to set it up.
After we organized the details and decided on the date for June, I knew that I didn’t really have to think about this masterclass for the month of May and that I’d want to return to prepping for the talk a couple of weeks before the event in June.
- What I did is select the e-mail in my inbox, and I marked it as unread.
- Then I clicked the little clock symbol at the top of the inbox, which is the snooze option. This is for Gmail, I’m sure there is a similar feature for other email providers, too.
- I chose the date and time when I wanted the email to reappear at the top of my inbox.
- In this situation, I snoozed the email until 8:00 am on June 10th. And on that Friday morning, the e-mail reappeared at the top of my inbox, marked unread as a reminder to begin prepping for this master class.
And because I snoozed the email and it wasn’t in my inbox throughout April and May, I didn’t have to worry about accidentally deleting it or having it as this open loop in the back of my mind.
I snoozed it, knowing that it would come back as a reminder exactly when I needed it a couple of weeks before the event. So easy.
ADHD Home Organization Tips
Now we’ll dive into ADHD organization tips that will help you out at home.
6. Have a Place for Everything
One of the core concepts that I lean on time and time again when it comes to organization, and where I have seen the biggest shifts for both myself and my clients, is practicing the concept of “everything in its place.”
I know that this can be very challenging to get to, especially when we have a lot of stuff or are starting from nothing having a specific place.
However, when we can start small, and when we can start identifying very specific places where you always keep certain items, it can have a significant impact on helping reduce the demand on our brain.
You can start small here.
When the brain knows exactly where certain items go, and there’s a very clear space for them, there’s no question about where to put them.
Plus, you know exactly where to look for it.
For example, my medicine pill case sits on my desk right next to my desktop computer. It does not move from this space.
This way, when I sit down to work in the morning, I can remember to take my morning meds, and the same is true for the afternoon. If for some reason I’m away from my desk and somewhere else around the house, I know where to find it.
It is always in this space.
Similarly, my keys hang on a key rack, which is right inside the front door. Every time I get home, this is exactly where I hang my keys so I’m never looking for them.
I have clients who have a bowl where right when they walk in the house, they put their keys in their phone right in there so that they always know where it is.
I have two sets of wireless earbuds. I have one set that sits on my desk for all of my client calls, and I have one set that sits right next to Bruno’s leash, both of which sit on a counter right by the door, so when it’s time for our stroll (I can’t say the W-word because he’s in the office as I’m recording) I grab the leash and my headset from that one space on the counter and I’m ready to go.
So I’m not wasting time looking for my earbuds or the leash. I’m not wasting time looking for my car keys.
Everything is always in that exact same space.
7. Have Multiple Sets of Items That You Often Lose
Building on that, it can be useful to have multiple sets of items that you always use and often lose. And again, we can keep them in the same place.
So what do I mean by this?
For me, these are things like phone chargers, computer chargers, scissors, tape, etc.
I have a phone charger at my computer desk plugged into my computer, I have one up in the master bathroom, where I charge my phone overnight, I have one in my car, and I also have one in the family room.
You may be thinking to yourself, why do you have to charge your phone so much? And I would offer, that’s a really great question. Ask Apple why the battery keeps dying so quickly… but that’s another story.
The point here is that having those chargers in the same places all the time is useful because then I’m not wondering where I left my charger.
I know that there’s one in each of those rooms and I know where to find them.
The same goes for scissors. I have a pair of scissors in my office, in the upstairs bathroom drawer for when I need to cut off tags and things, I have one in the kitchen, and one down with the wrapping supplies in my basement.
Also for Scotch tape. I have roll of Scotch tape in the kitchen, my office, and with the wrapping supplies. I also like to keep a notepad in all of the areas where I sit as well. That way if I have an idea or remember something, I have a piece of paper I can write it down.
And on a similar vein, I love to have a second set of items for situations when I need them both at home and outside of the house. What do I mean here?
For example, when I used to go to the gym early in the morning and then straight to the office, I had a second set of toiletries so I could just get ready at the gym and then head into the office. I didn’t have to worry about transferring my shampoo and conditioner and makeup and everything from my house into the gym bag. It was just always ready for me.
The same goes for traveling – I love to have my travel set. That way I don’t have to remember or worry about forgetting things, it’s already put together and ready to go.
Now, if you find yourself struggling to keep your home organized, especially when you have other humans in the house, there are a couple of different strategies and hacks that can be useful.
8. Create Individual Baskets for Kids Stuff
First, a fun strategy some of my clients have used is having individual baskets for their children’s stuff.
They keep the baskets either in the mud room or some space that people walk by frequently.
When they’re doing a quick sweep of the house, and they find random pairs of socks or books or video games or headphones or whatever else gets left around, they just throw them into the respective baskets.
Then when the kids are looking for said headphones or books or what have you, they know to look in the basket.
Then on a certain day of the week, everybody puts the things in their baskets away. That way it’s easy to do a quick sweep and people can find what they need.
Similarly, I had another client with several young children, and she found herself often having her arms full carrying kids around.
So, she kept a basket both at the top and the bottom of her stairs.
When she had things that needed to go upstairs, she’d throw them into the basket at the bottom of the stairs and the same goes for the things upstairs that she needed to bring down; she’d drop them in the basket at the top of the stairs.
Then on the rare occasion when she didn’t have a child in her arms, or when her partner was home, she would be able to bring that basket up with all the things more efficiently.
9. Put Your Laundry Away Right Out of The Dryer
If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a minute, you know I have a lot of thoughts about laundry and more specifically, putting away laundry.
What I’ve found to help me with this is hanging and folding the laundry immediately out of the dryer.
I bring down all of my hangers with my laundry to the basement where my laundry machines are and after I wash and dry the clothes, I immediately put them on hangers or fold them and put them in the laundry basket.
That way all that’s left to do is bring them upstairs and hang them in the closet.
I realize this may seem obvious to most of you listeners, but I used to just throw my clean clothes into the laundry basket from the dryer all in one heap and then bring it upstairs and tell myself that I would hang them and put the things away once I got upstairs.
Inevitably something would distract me or I wouldn’t feel like it and it would result in some very very wrinkly clothes and a long delay in putting them away (if I ever did – there were many times when I would just pull the clothes out of the clean laundry basket and wear that.)
However, I bring down the hangers and I hang things as I pull them out of the dryer, it reduces some of that friction for me, and it’s been a more effective approach for my brain.
Because then when I bring stuff upstairs, I literally just have to hang them in my closet. Simple.
10. Stick to The Same Style of Socks
Another ridiculously small and simple hack when it comes to laundry is this: I only have one style of socks.
Well, technically, two.
A short style for summer and a long style for winter.
Otherwise, they’re all the same sock. Because here’s the deal; I hate having to match socks.
So I bought all the same socks – they’re all black socks – and they’re what I wear every day. I don’t have to worry about finding the right pair, I just grab two and they match.
No more wasted time doing something like matching socks. Yes, please.
11. Focus on The Time You Need To Leave (Not When You Need to Arrive)
Speaking of saving time, one more powerful thing to remember when it comes to getting yourself organized and out the door on time is to focus on the time that you need to leave rather than the time that you need to arrive at the next location.
For example, if you need to be at the office sitting at your desk at 9, I don’t recommend focusing on the 9:00 o’clock time. Instead, I recommend working backward.
Figure out the following:
- How long it takes you to settle into your desk
- How long it takes you to walk from the parking lot to your desk
- How long the commute is
- How long it takes you to get out the door
After you’ve gathered this data, you can focus on that time of when you need to leave.
For example, if it takes you about 5 minutes to start up your computer and settle in, 5 minutes to walk from the parking lot, and 25 minutes on an average traffic day, I would focus my brain on leaving at 8:20 rather than 9:00.
Just that small shift can help your brain get moving in the right direction so you’re on time.
ADHD Organization Hacks for Task Initiation & Navigating Procrastination
I have one more category of strategies and hacks that I want to share with you today, and this is the category of task initiation and navigating procrastination.
12. Use Dictation Instead of Writing Things Down
The first tip I want to offer is when you feel resistant to writing things down.
I come across a lot of people who feel resistance to putting pen to paper.
It might be a resistance to journaling and getting your ideas out.
It might be a resistance to getting a project proposal written for work.
I find that many of our brains face paralysis when looking at a blank page.
Sometimes perfectionism sneaks in – especially when we are journaling – and we’re thinking we have to have the “right” answer or we don’t want to “mess up” the pages if the writing doesn’t look good.
Plus, I think a lot of people with ADHD are verbal processors.
Our mind is racing at 1,000,000 miles a minute, and it can feel challenging to try and capture all of those thoughts and get them down on paper fast enough.
If you find yourself feeling stuck by this, it can be useful to use a program like Microsoft Word. This is not a sponsorship, but it’s literally what I’m using to write this podcast right now.
Microsoft Word has a great dictate feature, and it’s rather accurate. I just click the little dictate button, and I start talking.
It records all of my ideas as I get them out quickly from my mind onto the page.
Then I can go back and edit and adjust as needed. What I love about this approach is I’m able to quickly get out my ideas faster than if I were writing them by hand or even typing them out.
And like I said, this is literally what I did as I wrote this very podcast.
13. Try Mind Mapping
On the other hand, maybe you don’t know what you want to say yet.
Maybe you are working on an article for tenure but you don’t really know where to start.
Or maybe you are brainstorming content for a course that you want to create, but you have so many ideas you’re not quite sure where to begin or how to organize them.
Rather than getting started, you find yourself spinning in procrastination and prioritization traps doing everything else instead.
In situations like this, it might be more useful to grab a pen and paper and start doing a mind map.
For visual learners, it might be useful to simply write down some of the big picture ideas on a piece of paper and then branch out concepts that relate to those big picture ideas in a mind map form.
For example, if I was doing a mind map on this podcast episode, I might have my main topic bubbles be memory and attention, organization, and task initiation.
Then from each of those core bubbles, I might have smaller bubbles like apps on your phone, household hacks, or computer strategies. From there, I might write down the specific ideas.
Using some form of a mind map like this can help get out ideas and see how they can relate to one another.
So again, this is a useful strategy for people who are more visual.
14. Write An Outline to Gather Ideas
Alternatively, if I feel a lot of resistance to writing my ideas, and if speaking them out loud to some dictation program is not flowing for me, I might instead turn to writing an outline.
Just as your English teacher made you do in high school, it can be super effective to write down the main concepts that you know you want to talk about, and then start writing supporting ideas underneath those main bullet points.
I know for myself, that this is a great strategy to get me started and get my ideas flowing.
By the end of the exercise, I’m nearly writing in full sentences with all of my ideas.
Then when it’s time to write the actual content, whether it’s words for a podcast, content for a workbook I’m creating, or whatever, I’ve done so much of the leg work with the outline that writing the actual words is so much easier for the brain to get started.
15. Use a Timer To Complete Tasks
Now if you are really dragging your feet to get started, it’s also a powerful strategy to make time visible, and race the clock. In fact, another person in We’re Busy Being Awesome shared this strategy herself last week, too.
She loves to use the countdown kitchen timer that sticks on her fridge. And she said, once I set that timer, I can feel the challenge to race the clock and try and get the thing done before it beeps.
I think she’s spot on. I similarly like to use my timer. You can actually see the passage of time go by, which helps the brain realize that time is passing and it can sometimes feel more compelled to get started.
It wants to race the clock and beat the time.
16. Set Up an Email Auto-Responder
Another big game-changer for me with procrastination over the last couple of months has to do with e-mail.
I know a lot of people deal with e-mail overwhelm.
I read a statistic that most office workers get over 100 emails a day, which is so much information to sort through.
So, I’ve found that using an auto responder all the time – not just when you’re on vacation – can be really impactful for my brain. I’ll try and explain why from my own experience.
If you have emailed me in the last couple of months, you may have received my e-mail autoresponder.
I have it set to respond to anybody who emails me.
It says something to the effect of…
Hey there, thank you so much for your message. It’s safely in an inbox, and I look forward to talking with you. I check my e-mail Tuesday through Friday, and I strive to respond within two business days.
Then I also offer some quick resources and responses to common questions.
- I link to the client portal for my clients and remind them of the different ways that they can reach out to me individually.
- I have links to learning more about my coaching programs.
- I link to the podcast resources etc.
- I also mentioned that if it is an urgent situation, people can reply back with “urgent” in their subject line.
I’ve found that setting up this autoresponder is useful in a couple of different ways.
- It helps me practice what I preach, which is making space for family and friends and play and rest, rather than spending all of my time in my inbox.
- It acknowledges all of the incredible people who make time to send me a message, which I truly appreciate. I love hearing from people in our community, and it allows me to know that their message has been acknowledged and that I’ll be in touch soon.
Knowing this lets my brain chill out a bit, and stop thinking, “I need to get back to everybody this very moment,” because again, in my autoresponder, I set clear expectations that I’ll get back to them within two business days.
So believe it or not, vacation responders are not only for vacation. You can use them all year round.
If your brain freaks out about this idea, check in with yourself by asking, why?
If you are a person who navigates a lot of e-mail and e-mail overwhelm, this can be a powerful strategy to use.
I’ve personally found that it is much easier for me to approach my regularly scheduled e-mail times with a lot less stress and overwhelm because I know that people’s emails have been acknowledged, and they’re not wondering whether the message has been lost.
I can therefore approach my inbox during that scheduled time going through each e-mail one by one with a lot less resistance.
17. Prepare to Work
Speaking of resistance, this is of course one of the main challenges when it comes to procrastination.
We feel a lot of resistance to getting started.
And with that in mind, another powerful strategy that I want to offer here is to get everything ready to go before you sit down to work.
For example, if you’re working on a project that requires a lot of information from different places, make sure that you have the books and the folders and the data at the ready.
Make sure that you have…
- A notebook for writing down ideas and pens that work.
- Water to drink
- A sweatshirt if you’re cold
- A computer charger if you need it.
In other words, you want to really set yourself up for success by getting everything you need ahead of time.
The reason why preparing to work is so impactful is that it can take some time to get into a flow state. And once you get into a flow state, you don’t want to break it.
The easiest way to help stay in that state is to ensure that you have everything you need before you get started, so you’re not accidentally distracting yourself and having to get up to find things over and over again.
By identifying what you need, gathering it together, and pairing that with a timer, you help yourself get over the hurdle of resistance and into the work more effectively.
18. Use a Music App To Help You Focus
When I’m feeling especially resistant to starting, that’s when I love to reach for an app called brain.fm.
If this app is new to you, essentially, it’s a focus music app.
The designers use neuroscience and psychology to develop background music that stimulates your brain with these rhythmic pulses that support sustained attention.
As you might guess, most music is designed to grab your attention. Most artists and composers aren’t thinking, I want to make this music just boring enough that it blends into the background, right?
The music on brain.fm is functional, and it’s designed to impact your brain and enhance your performance and focus.
I’ve found it to be quite effective when I need to get into that flow state.
(If you sign up using the link above, you can try 30 days of the pro version for just $1, for the first month)
- Set yourself up with everything you need
- Close out the distractions
- Try brain.fm or a white noise machine to help you get through the resistance of procrastination and into a work flow more easily
ADHD Organization Tips for Adults: Recap
So there you have it – my favorite random ADHD organization hacks and tips for your distractible brain, helping with…
- Memory and focus
- Home organization
- Task initiation
If you have additional strategies that you’d love to share, please send them my way. You can connect with me on Instagram @imbusybeingawesome with all of your favorite tips and if I get enough of them, maybe we can do a part two later on.