3 Ways to Streamline Processes and Simplify Life with ADHD

I love putting the work in to streamline processes and simplify areas in my life. As an ADHDer, it’s played a significant role in helping me be more present and effective in my day-to-day.

Woman working on laptop

You see, one of the biggest culprits when it comes to overwhelm and procrastination for the ADHD brain is spinning in uncertainty and unmade decisions. 

We feel overwhelmed thinking about all the stuff – both physical clutter and never-ending tasks, projects, and ideas – that we navigate each day.

We question whether we’ve made the “right” schedule or created the “best” process to support our forward momentum.

This constant demand on our executive functions is exhausting, and in episode 144 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, we discuss how to lighten the load a bit.

We discuss strategies to reduce physical clutter, streamline tasks, and simplify decision-making so you move forward with greater clarity and ease. 

Tune into 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 This Episode 144: 3 Ways to Streamline Your Systems, You Will Discover…

  • Why decision making and overwhelm often lead to procrastination
  • 3 powerful approaches to streamline processes and simplify your life
  • Actionable steps for you to implement the concepts we discuss in your life today

Subscribe To I’m Busy Being Awesome & Give Us A Review!

Do you want to be the first to know when a new episode drops? You got it! Click over to iTunes, select “Listen on Apple Podcasts,” and then click the “subscribe” button.

Also, if you love the podcast, would you be a rockstar and leave me a review? Reviews help others find the show and allow me to share my message even further. Thanks, friend!

Get The 10 Tips to Work With Your ADHD Brain Free Ebook. Click Here

Episode #144: 3 Ways to Streamline Processes and Simplify Life with ADHD (Transcript) 

woman with tablet

Recently, in my small group program, We’re Busy Being Awesome, we’ve been diving into the topic of task initiation.

Over the last four weeks, we’ve been talking about lots of different strategies and approaches to help us navigate procrastination and start taking action on these goals that we’ve set for ourselves. Because let’s face it, getting started is often quite a challenge for the ADHD brain.

Last week we talked about the importance and the power of decision making.

What I have found to be one of the biggest culprits when it comes to procrastination and inaction is a lack of decision-making.

When we are faced with decisions, our brain automatically wants to spin around in circles.

We get stuck in that spin cycle as I’ve described before, and we try to convince ourselves that there is a “right” decision or a “best” decision. So, we keep sorting through all the details and all the information out there to find the “perfect” decision.

During the coaching calls in We’re Busy Being Awesome, the majority of our time is dedicated to coaching members in the group with whatever comes up for them throughout the week. Generally, I notice some sort of theme that emerges after the call that seems to unify all of the different call topics together.

Each time a clear theme emerges, I think is a powerful reminder that we all deal with such similar obstacles.

We are all brains walking around dealing with the same drama but viewed through different lenses.

What I mean by this is our exact circumstances might not be the same, but, we all need to learn how to coach our brains to navigate the unpredictability that comes with scheduling.

For example, one person might have an unpredictable schedule because of young children at home, while another person might have unpredictability in their schedule because they have an on-call position or they have a boss who throws last-minute projects at them all the time.

In fact, what I have personally found is that when I am in a group coaching situation, and I am not in the “hot seat” getting coached, I am able to really step back and see how the brain works.

I’m able to see how my situation is so similar that I can then filter the other person’s coaching to my experience and apply it to my situation. 

Want To Join Our Group Coaching Program?!

I will be opening the doors for the next cohort of We’re Busy Being Awesome in a couple of weeks!

Add your name to the waitlist so you’ll be the first to know about program dates and times, plus how you can sign up if it’s a great fit for you.

So with that in mind, after last week’s call, the theme that came to the foreground was the power of simplifying and streamlining your processes.

This was especially true for the things that seem to slow you down either literally or figuratively, which ultimately prevents you from seeing the progress you want in your life. Because when we don’t simplify or streamline our tasks and processes, we find ourselves stuck in decision-making constantly. 

We find ourselves spinning in indecision about what to do next.

We get lost in what feels like chaos in our brains with so many different options available.

Or you might find yourself misplacing things or losing items all the time because there is so much stuff around you can’t keep track of what’s most important.

Does any of this sound familiar?

With this in mind, the repeated solution that came to the foreground during this call was the importance of streamlining.

The more we can streamline our lives the better because it helps us reduce the excess stress on our executive functions.

When we can reduce the number of decisions and simplify our processes, we free up that additional pressure on our executive functions which allows us to focus on something else.

It allows us to focus on something more important period and believe me, your distractible brain will breathe a sigh of relief every single time you do this.

3 ways To streamline Processes and simplify different areas in your life.

3 Ways to Streamline Processes and Simplify Life

With each of these three key areas, I will give different examples so you can see how they apply to various scenarios in your life.

I also invite you to practice your cognitive flexibility and think outside of the box by seeing how you can apply at least one suggestion to an area of your life this week. Remember, learning is in the doing. 

In terms of our three key areas for simplification and streamlining, the general categories include:

  1. Streamlining your things
  2. Streamlining your locations and tasks
  3. Streamlining your responses and thought processes.

Let’s dive into each one of these categories and talk about how you can apply these three different areas and approaches to your life.

1. Streamlining Things (aka stuff!)

Recently, one of my clients wanted to talk through the process of decluttering and organization.

She knew she had some discomfort with her current organizational approach, and she was feeling overwhelmed thinking about all of the different things in her house.

One of the biggest challenges was this out of sight out of mind concept – which is a very real challenge for the ADHD brain.

Our short-term memory is not so good. So this client found that she had so much stuff she didn’t know what she actually had.

I’ve found myself in this situation, too. When I have so much, I hardly use any of it. When I look at all the things, my brain starts thinking, “there’s way too much!” and it starts spinning in overwhelm and wants to shut down.

When I can limit what I have to my favorites or when I can limit the items to what I actually need, it makes it so much easier for me to not only know what I have but also use what I have.

Now when we started coaching on this topic, we needed to focus our attention.

It’s very easy for the brain to want to think in big picture.

  • My whole house is crazy.
  • Everything is disorganized.
  • Everything needs decluttering.

This is that familiar all-or-nothing black-and-white thinking that our brains love so much.

It’s not a problem when it happens, but we want to catch it in action and remind ourselves to get more specific.

Keep narrowing your focus until you have an area that seems approachable and doable without your brain wanting to spin in stress and overwhelm.

Example: from Our Group Coaching Call

In this coaching situation, we decided to zoom in on the bathroom.

It is so easy for things to pile up in the bathroom and we don’t even notice it happening.

We get new hair products or new supplies. We try a new lipstick or a new eye shadow. We get a new body wash or a new shampoo that guarantees to make your hair shiny and silky and sleek and you pay way more than you’d like to for it.

And then it doesn’t work.

It weighs down your hair or strips out the color, but rather than throwing it away, we tuck it away in a drawer or we leave it in the shower caddy and the bottles keep piling up.

Tell me my client and I aren’t the only ones who deal with this?!

As we started thinking through the items in her bathroom, we ask the question:

How can we simplify and streamline to make her morning easy?

It can be very challenging to get out the door on time when you have to sort through a million different products when you only need three.

So we thought through her morning routine, and she realized that all she really needed was eye shadow and mascara, and sunscreen to get ready in the morning.

She didn’t need to access her full makeup kit. She didn’t need all of her different lipsticks. She didn’t need all of the foundations and powders. Similarly, she realized there are really only one or two hair products that she actually uses.

As she identified the daily items that she wants to use, she decided she could put them on a rotating tray on her bathroom counter – one of those lazy Susan type things. That way the items were front and center and ready to go when she needed them in the morning.

Then everything else she decided to keep because she does use them, just not daily, she stored them in some separate totes in her cabinet. And I know for myself, before I purchase any additional supplies – whether shampoo, lotions, makeup, etc. – I do my best to check my storage totes to see if I actually need it.

Because again, out of sight out of mind is very real. But if you can remember to check the totes, that will help reduce the amount of new stuff you bring me in that you don’t actually need.

Example: Streamlining and Organizing Things

Similarly, I was talking with one of my friends, Jenn, who recently decluttered her kitchen. One of the things that stood out to her was all of the different spatulas she had in the kitchen drawer.

And she was asking herself, how many spatulas does a person actually need?!

She realized how it’s so much easier to cook when you can actually find the things that you need for cooking.

Not to mention, way more enjoyable to put everything away when you know each item has a specific place. The three spatulas go in this drawer. The 12 cups go on this shelf, etc. When everything has a space, and you don’t have to rearrange or squish things together to make them fit, it’s a much more enjoyable process.

Genius Tip from Jenn: Jenn has a shelf for items that she feels a little bit of hesitation to donate or recycle immediately. The items where you think to yourself, what if I need it? What if I want this in a little while? If she hasn’t used the item in six months, then it goes to donation.

If you can relate to the what-ifs, or concerns that you might need the item at some point, having a test shelf where you set things for a specified amount of time can help calm your brain. Because if you need it, it will be there.

If after six months you haven’t used it, there’s probably enough evidence there to help support the thought, I’m not going to need this going forward. And if I do, I can figure out a different solution.

Example: My Personal Experience with Streamlining Stuff

I had an experience this past weekend that really drove the point home. I went to a mastermind in Texas, and anytime I go away and stay in a hotel or an Airbnb, I’m always reminded of how refreshing and freeing it is when you only have what you actually need.

It felt so good to open the closet and know the exact items I wanted to wear for the days I was gone.

I knew the makeup I brought was what I needed.

I knew the jewelry I brought was what I wanted to wear.

I had made the decisions ahead of time, so I didn’t have a bunch of excess distractions making me spin out in “I don’t know.”

It streamlined the process and freed up my executive functions to focus on the mastermind, learning the new concepts, and being with the incredible people there. I could be more present when my mind wasn’t lost in the minutia.

Those are just three examples where you might practice streamlining areas in your life, and of course, there are many other areas you could practice it, too.

if this theme resonated with you, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What things in your life could you streamline?
  2. What are you keeping around “just in case?”
  3. What is causing unnecessary decision fatigue every time you see it?

Image shows Woman working on a laptop. Text reads: How to Stay Focused with ADHD Free Training. Click here to sign me up!

2. Streamlining Tasks and Processes

In addition to streamlining things, we can also talk about streamlining tasks and processes.

On the group coaching call last week, one of my clients raised her hand to talk through her feeling of overwhelm when it came to taking in and organizing new client information.

She met with several new clients each week, and she was having a hard time keeping track of everything. It all seemed like too much to navigate.

And just like we did with the organization, decluttering, and streamlining of stuff, where we zoomed in on one specific area, we started doing the same thing with this situation.

Why? Because again, the brain wants to make these circumstances seem very big. So we began by making the situation smaller.  

We did this by first exploring the question:

What is the most challenging part of the process?

When you think about all of the clients you meet each week and all of the overwhelm you feel when you think about these calls, what seems to be the main obstacle that’s getting in the way?

The problem: Keeping all of her notes straight.

She realized that she had several different notebooks and online Google Docs, which she would use depending on whether she was working from home or working at the office.

This is a problem for many of us right now as we navigate this back and forth working from home and working at the office. What do we bring with us? How do we keep track of things?

My client knew that she does best writing things down on paper; that is how she prefers making notes and internalizing the information.

The Solution: She decided that she wanted to simplify the process by only using a notebook and not adding confusion to the mix with Google docs.

From there, she decided that the most streamlined process would be:

  • To use only one notebook
  • Only do client intake calls on specific days when she knows she will be at the office.

By making this decision, she can leave her one notebook in the same place and not have to worry about bringing it back and forth from the home or the office.

She also streamlines her workdays by deciding ahead of time that client intake calls are only on a couple of days a week.

This allows her to get into the headspace of consultation days versus other types of work, which then reduces transition and task switching throughout the day. Plus, it’s way easier for scheduling.

By focusing on the main stumbling block getting in her way, and asking herself how she could simplify the situation, she allowed her brain to think outside the box. She found a streamlined solution to keep her notes organized, streamline her workday and simplify the scheduling process as well.

This concept of streamlining tasks or streamlining days can apply to so many different areas in your life. Make sure to check out Episode 43: How to Increase Your Efficiency with Batch Work. We discuss how to create themes or routines in our days that reduce this decision-making and task switching by grouping like items together in our schedule.

Example How Batch Work Can Help You Streamline Processes

For example, here was my schedule when I was a professor:

  • Research and writing: Monday and Wednesday
  • Teaching and class prep: Tuesday and Thursday
  • Catch-all day for admin, etc: Friday

I would try and keep these days separate so I could keep my brain focused on either my students or my own research and work.

Similarly, as a coach, I have client days, I have a podcast day, and I have an admin day.

Example: Streamlining Dinner Time

Many people use themed days for meals.

Maybe you always have Italian on Mondays and Indian food on Tuesdays and Thai food on Wednesdays.

Or maybe you have 10 favorite recipes and you rotate them every two weeks.

Recently I’ve been doing more of a meal prep day where I make up a bunch of grain, protein, and roast some vegetables and call it a day. Then I can mix up the options in different combinations with different sauces so I have various options throughout the week.

Again, the theme is all about simplifying and streamlining.

Example: Streamline Your Day with a Routine

Another way you can simplify and streamline your day can be through more of a routine-based approach.

When I was an undergraduate, I was a music major and I streamlined my practice times. I knew that I would have two hours of practice first thing in the morning, and then an hour or two of ensemble in the afternoons.

Those were non-negotiables, so when I took out the decision-making and committed to it, it was one less thing for my executive functions to worry about.

Similarly, sticking to a morning routine is key for me; it doesn’t have to be super elaborate or fancy, but I do have a routine that I can count on so I have the structure my brain craves first thing in the morning.

With my morning routine, I also leave space for variety.

I know I’m going to do the same type of activities in the same pattern, but there is space to switch things up, too.

For example:

  • I don’t have to do the same workout each morning, but I know I’m going to move my body.
  • I don’t have to do the same self-coaching every day, but I know for sure I’m either going to journal, do breathwork, or meditate.
  • I don’t have to eat the same breakfast, but I generally know the handful of breakfasts that I love so I don’t have to decide at the moment from everything that exists in the kitchen.

When I limit my choices to things that I enjoy and that serve me, it leaves room for some flexibility, but also provides enough structure so I start my day off in the most supportive way possible.

If you need to streamline processes and tasks ask yourself:

  1. Where can you streamline your days, your schedules, your routines, etc?
  2. Where do things seem complicated?
  3. When does your brain want to slip into overwhelm?
  4. How can you simplify those areas or make decisions ahead of time?
Get The 10 Tips to Work With Your ADHD Brain Free Ebook. Click Here

3. Streamlining Your Thoughts and Responses

What do I actually mean here?

This is a topic that I think deserves a podcast in and of itself.

But for now, what I want to highlight is the importance of anticipating and deciding ahead of time how you want to respond to your brain when it comes up with familiar objections. Objections when it comes time to sticking with a routine or following the plan that you created.

Example: Streamlining Your Morning Routine

Let’s think about establishing and following a streamlined morning routine.

You get it locked in, but then when it comes time to follow it a couple of weeks in, your brain will probably want to resist it.

It’s probably going to find different reasons that you should absolutely skip it and do something else instead.

Now, we don’t need to be all or nothing people. It’s not that we need to “do it perfectly or don’t do it at all.” But one of the best ways that we can support ourselves to do it more often than not is to anticipate ahead of time all of these excuses that the toddler brain will make.

We want to predict all the compelling reasons it will offer not to stick to the new routine or habit.

We can start by asking ourselves:

  • What does my brain always say in situations like this?
  • What are those common reasons that my brain will offer that I should just skip the routine?

And again, I’m not saying you have to be black or white all or nothing all the time.

But if your brain is anything like mine, it’s going to complain about any plan you make until it gets locked in and sees the benefits of it.

So anticipate ahead of time, what are all of the excuses your brain will offer? And what is going to get in the way? What specific obstacles will undoubtedly pop up? What will my brain think is hard or confusing or tricky?

The reason why we want to spend time anticipating obstacles ahead of time is not to set ourselves up for failure and spin out in worst-case scenario. Instead, it’s to streamline our responses and set ourselves up for success.

When we anticipate these situations ahead of time, we bring them into our awareness, allowing us to:

  • Plan strategies for each of the obstacles
  • Have a new thought to practice
  • Have a different action to take

This is helpful because we can think to ourselves, “oh! there you are, excuse. I was ready for you. And here’s how we’re going to handle you.”

When you anticipate the obstacles ahead of time, and you decide how you want to respond even before it happens, you streamline your response into what could otherwise quickly turn into confusion or uncertainty.

If you find yourself often stuck in confusion when it comes to making a decision, following a plan, beginning a new habit or changing your routines — and your brain often has a lot to say about changes like this, I invite you to streamline your responses.

If you Need to Streamline Your Thoughts & Responses, Ask yourself:

  • What are all of the objections my brain will offer?
  • What are all the obstacles that will get in the way?
  • How do I want to respond to each one so that I have a streamlined way of sidestepping distraction as I continue moving forward and taking action?

Streamlining Your Processes and Tasks: Recap

One of the big obstacles when it comes to procrastination and task initiation is decision making.

We slip into confusion and overwhelm thinking about everything there is to do, and then get stuck in the spin cycle of indecision without moving forward.

One powerful way that we can support ourselves in situations like this is through simplification and streamlining. We can do this by:

  • Simplifying and streamlining our brain chatter by making decisions and plans ahead of time.
  • Streamlining our days by batch working similar activities and establishing flexible routines.
  • Streamlining our surroundings by reducing the excess clutter and keeping what we actually need and regularly use.

I invite you this week to choose one area in your life and try one of these approaches.

Notice a small area where you notice you’re putting more energy or attention than you’d like, and ask yourself, what can I simplify? What could I streamline? Which one of these strategies would support me?

Give it a try. See what you find!

Links From The Podcast

Episodes Mentioned In The Podcast