31 Time Management and Productivity Tips for People Living With ADHD

People living with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), traditionally have extra challenges at work including completing tasks on time, staying focused / feeling restless, planning in both the short- and long-term and noticing the passing of time (too fast and/or too slow). How much ADHD (also called ADD), affects a person’s work depends quite a bit on how severe their condition is and the impact of their environment. Thankfully, work-around solutions do exist that can help the approximate 4% of adults impacted (1.4 million in Canada and 12.0 million in the USA).

Should people living with ADHD be apologetic or feel embarrassed?
No. Absolutely not!

When one’s mind has a tendency to wander and/or get distracted, employees usually work late, take work home and work weekends to complete their important work. This can create even more challenges for people living with ADHD as they get less of the important down-time and rest they need.

Should people living with ADHD be apologetic or feel embarrassed? Absolutely not. People who are not morning people find work-arounds and employees who are not good with numbers find work-arounds. Why should it be different for people living with ADHD? Instead of being self-critical or judgmental, remember there are many operational and time management techniques for people living with ADHD that can help… techniques their Leaders should be aware of as well.

Here are 31 time management and workplace productivity skills people living with ADHD (and their support network) can consider:

  1. Always be fair to yourself and others.
  2. Be grateful for the 90% of your life that goes well. Don’t linger on the 10% that doesn’t.
  3. Stay positive. Think glass half full versus half empty. Self-talk like the following is helpful, “I had a great morning and even though I had to course correct twice I did finish my XYZ on time. Now, to pull that energy forward into this afternoon.”
  4. Practice Mindfulness or meditation to help yourself stay present and calm yourself if you feel triggered, frustrated or restless. Mindfulness or meditation at work can be as simple as sitting still, taking a short walk or taking a few deep breaths. It may also mean excusing yourself from a meeting to ‘go to the washroom’ if you are feeling overwhelmed and want to gather your thoughts and refocus your intention.
  5. Let a few coworkers close to you know you live with ADHD. They may be able to support your unique communication needs.
  6. Have someone who can help you be accountable – someone you can call, text or email to share your goals, successes and struggles.
  7. Keep photos of your support group close-by to remind you that you are not alone and that people are routing for you.
  8. You may need to stay away from open office concepts. In many new office structures small pods are available and these may help you as long as you don’t feel claustrophobic. Basically, you likely want to eliminate sensory distractions. When all else fails, you may have already discovered noise reduction headphones. Again, share what you need with your coworkers so they can understand and help.
  9. Try to keep meeting sizes small to reduce distractions.
  10. For large meetings that you have to attend, try to sit away from the key players and/or where other people’s attention will be focused.
  11. The Time Manager and Leader in me would love to think all meetings would end by someone creating and sharing simple minutes that summarizes important conversations and action items. This doesn’t need to be complicated, a short email written as the meeting recap happens often is all that is needed. This best practice helps manage everyone’s expectations – keep everyone working toward the same goal and timeline.
  12. Summarize conversations. Paraphrasing what a person says helps you confirm everyone clearly understood the conversation and key information, timelines and deliverables.
  13. Make a list of what you have to do today, this week and this month. Include short-term and long-term goals. Write everything down in a diary or log-book. Keep it up to date as new priorities come in so you no longer have to worry about forgetting something. Equally important, you’ll be able to see when you may be overloading your schedule… which is a BIG concern. NOTE: I like keeping a paper-based version of my to-do schedule. Find a system that works for you and stay with it.
  14. Always break work into smaller tasks spread over many days / weeks. Breaking tasks into smaller pieces can help you to feel less overwhelmed and helps you avoid procrastination.
  15. Schedule extra time you may need to complete a task
  16. Always schedule time in your day when nothing is planned. This way, when a crisis happens you don’t feel even more pressure because you have time to work on it.
  17. If you finish a task early or have to wait for an appointment, don’t fill that time by getting on social media. Try using that time for reflection and to calm yourself. Try a simple meditation technique of focusing on your breath. Use this time to recharge your batteries (and your brain).
  18. Avoid trying to multitask. Nobody can focus on two or more important things at a time so give yourself a break from trying.
  19. Use a Timer. One of the best techniques I’ve come across for anyone is to use the Pomodoro Time Manager. This timer-technique suggests 20 minute of work, 10 minutes of rest and then repeat.
  20. Another timer-technique is to set your cell phone to vibrate every 15 minutes. When the alarm goes off, use that as a cue to re-orient yourself. Ask yourself if you are working on your important work in this moment?
  21. Remove distractions – all the things that get in the way. Turn off unnecessary electronics – even background noise may be a challenge.
  22. Only you know what works best for you. Instead of absolute quiet and lack of action, background noise, white noise or music might work better for you. Take charge of what you need. Do you need to squeeze a stress-ball or hand-weight? Does sitting on an exercise ball or using a stand-up desk help? Even a gentle desk fan is known to help. Whatever you do, try not to disturb people around you – just like you don’t want them disturbing you. NOTE: Music, a metronome, tapping or a bouncing leg can be distracting to others even though it may help you. The trick is to find a balance within you and your coworkers.
  23. Have only what you are working on in your line of sight. Keep your workspace clear.
  24. Set up ‘HOMES’ for special things and make a habit of using those places… all the time:
    1. Important files
    2. Files you are going to need today
    3. File for today’s meetings
    4. Phones
    5. Keys and wallets
  25. Set a personal goal. Do something for yourself.
  26. Hire an executive coach. He or she can help you talk through any issues you face and may also be able to help you consider solutions.
  27. You know how much sleep you really need and how to get it… so be sure that happens. You have to feel rested.
  28. Work when you are at your best. For many, that means the first few hours after you wake you are at your strategic, creative best.
  29. Follow any medical plan you have that has been prescribed by a doctor who specializes in the treatment of adult ADHD.
  30. Eat sensibly. You don’t want sugar highs and low and carb crashes adding extra challenge to your day.
  31. Get regular exercise. This may mean daily for you. Again, you know yourself best.

Conclusion.

Perhaps you’ve already come to the conclusion there isn’t a single best practice listed here that isn’t good for everyone. All of these are great time management and workplace productivity skills for all people – it just so happens that they are especially important for anyone living with ADHD.

What we do every day of our lives is what matters.

We hope you enjoyed this post.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Leadership Skills, Motivation Skills, Difficult Conversation Training, Business Email Etiquette, Time Management, Mindfulness and more.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Call us at 416.617.0462.

 

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Improve Your Time Management Skills

You feel stressed with how busy you are. You are having a challenge and you know your time management skills are part of problem because you:

  • Answer email at all hours of the day and night.
  • Work long hours – even weekends.
  • Feel you often do other people’s work.
  • Don’t get rewarded for some of the work you do.
  • Sometimes miss key deliverables associated with your key performance objectives.

You want change. You want a work-life balance you see others enjoying.

The first thing I would like you to consider is that busy doesn’t mean important. In fact, busy work often means your important work is not getting done and the quality of your work is suffering.

Working more effectively means being able to make important work your priority.

Scheduling your important work is one of many time management skills that can help you fulfill your dreams… but change isn’t easy. Learning how to schedule your important work first takes practice and often coaching.

How To Identify Important Work

Ask yourself “What are my top priorities?” You need to define what you need to do today to be successful tomorrow… and even more successful in 18 months.

For individuals, important work means identifying all of the tasks, steps, partners and dates that are critical to you reaching your key performance objectives and / or driving your business forward.

  • For a sales professional, important work might mean reviewing last years high-growth markets so you can identify and make contact with enough qualified sales calls to meet your end-of-year sales target.

Smart companies (or Presidents / Boards) know what the long-term goals are and how these goals break down into important work for each department and individual.

  • For a company like Apple, important work means aligning all the tasks and decisions thousands of employees must complete for Apple to stay on schedule with a new product release.

Important work and time management skills are a balance of many things. They depend on your job, personality, support systems, natural abilities, education and many other influences. Whether they are personal objectives or corporate objectives, important work has to be planned for and has to have the appropriate time set aside.

One of the most common time management challenges is that long-term objectives are pushed aside and less important busy work assigned until important work becomes urgent work.

Important work should also engage your creativity, be useful and make you proud. Nobody will fully invest their talents and create high-quality work if they expect it will be ignored.

How To Identify Busy Work?

Work is bad if it distracts you from your key performance objectives… unless you purposely use it to fill a temporary gap in your schedule (or experience).

One of the most common reasons people feel overworked and not recognized is because they get pulled into urgent work that’s not their responsibility. Is any of your current work someone else’s responsibility?

Your boss or associates may try to pull you away from your important work without realizing the impact they are having on your deliverables as they try to meet their key performance objectives. But remember; important work for them might be busy work for you. You might need to learn to say no… carefully.

It’s easy for us to get caught because many of us like to be the ‘knight in shining armor’ who helps save the day. But unscheduled busy work is often the cause for:

  • Long hours
  • Your work quality decreasing
  • Missed strategic timelines
  • Stress
  • Low personal and team morale

When this happens your customers (and boss) lose confidence in you!

What’s The Impact Of Effective Time Management Skills?

I have more to say on effective time management than I can include here. But at a high level, effective time management skills leads to:

  • Increased personal productivity
  • Increased work quality
  • Pride & job satisfaction
  • Greater engagement
  • Less stress for you and the people around you.

To be an effective time manager you have to be clear on your key performance objectives. To be clear about what these objectives are, it’s good for you (and for your boss / associates), to write down AND schedule your important projects.

People and companies that manage time well often are more responsible to their market, their customers and build more creative solutions since they take time to plan, research or brainstorm projects / objectives.

Here are a few more time management tips to get your started.

Time Management Tips

Good time management helps you focus on your important work.

1. Experience Every Moment

Even when you are delayed you have an opportunity to do more than procrastinate. I always have important work with me to read or edit. Most of the time I don’t need it but for the times a meeting is delayed or cancelled I am very happy I have it.

2. Manage Interruptions

One of the biggest time wasters are the short interruptions and quick questions people ask us throughout the day. This is similar to trying to multitask – and research shows that productivity drops when we try this. The result is that errors go up and quality goes down.

What if every day between 10:30 and 1:00 PM was quiet time with no calls, no email, no interruptions, no meeting for your whole department?

or…

What if you hung a “Can it Hold” or “Unavailable until 11:30 AM” sign at the entrance to your office / desk or on the back of your chair.  This is more positive than a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Encourage others in your office to do the same. Help manage people’s expectations about your needs – and theirs.

3. Manage Your Alarms

Turn off your email, IM service, telephone and smart phone.  Check them 3 or 4 times a day – even hourly… whatever makes sense for your job. But the distraction caused by the constant ringing drops your productivity, quality and creativity like a stone.

4. Plan For Busy Work

Leave some time open in your schedule every day to deal with “items that have developed” especially if you have people reporting into you.  If nothing happens during this time – treat yourself to a coffee, go for a walk, then get a jump on your next project, brainstorm an idea you’ve had or make a few courtesy client / supplier calls.

The important thing here is to prepare for the unexpected to happen. If you don’t “Urgent” issues will have negative repercussions in the short AND long-term.

Conclusion

Effective time management means that the important tasks get done first – and that you do these tasks when you are at your best.

If you want to improve your time management skills you have to start by defining your job / work responsibilities and then identify the ‘important’ work that will lead to your success.

  • What is that work?
  • What does success look like?
  • How will success be measured?
  • Who do I have to involve – and put on notice?
  • What are the critical timelines / project milestones?

Are some of your work habits (time management skills), holding you back?

It’s time for you to achieve greatness.

Happy communicating… Happy training.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Email Etiquette, Managing Difficult Conversations, Multigenerational Training, Time Management and Mindfulness.

Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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