1. Create the Right Environment
Create the workspace that's right for you. Some ADHDers get more done when listening to loud music. Others need clutter-free, distraction-free zones -- many ADHD college students go straight to the library, not their chaotic dorm room. If noise distracts you, noise-reducing headphones can be a lifesaver. If your racing thoughts are distracting, putting them on paper can banish them from your mind.
2. Set the Right Environment
Before you start you need to prepare to start. I always make sure I have eaten (food is a great distraction) and taken care of bathroom needs. I always need to have water to drink in my work area. If you need tools of any kind, including reading glasses, be sure they are assembled. I find it still important to have a high protein snack such as nuts or a health bar available to sustain focus especially if the task requires intense mental or physical energy.
3. Start Somewhere, Start Anywhere
www.attitude.com recommends this one! After your project is broken into small pieces, you face the moment when you have to start. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and tell yourself that you can do anything for fifteen minutes. Even if your first completed work is a bit sloppy, hey, at least you’re moving! Half the time, you’ll get in a groove and be ready to move forward with the next steps.
4. Start with the Hard…Start with the Easy?
For some it is best to start with a fun or easy part of the task. For me, it works best to do the “yucky” things first so I can look forward to more enjoyable parts of the work later. I think it depends on each person which tactic works best. I recommend that folks experiment to determine their own style toward success.
5. It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect …most of the time
Ok, if you are a brain surgeon or work at a nuclear power plant then this one does not apply. For most of us it is enough to strive to do and be the very best. Perfection rarely happens anyway. Research has shown that telling yourself negative statements like, “I can’t do this”, or “I will never get there so I should not even try…” are very destructive. The reverse positive self-talk has been shown to be very effective. The brain benefits from hearing positive, but true, statements.
6. Take Mental and Physical Breaks
Set a timer to go off after 30-60 minutes of work. At the beginning it might even need to be 15 minutes. But, also set the timer to remind you to get back to work after 5 minutes. The brain needs breaks but also will work better if the body moves. Blood and oxygen flows that are increased by just a few deep knee bends, or a short walk around the backyard will help get the brain juices going.
7. Post Deadlines
Post deadlines for each step of your project where you and others can see them. Some people make a personalized computer screensaver that pops-up with their deadline or have a smart phone reminder. After a while it just becomes easier to do the task rather than delay it.
8. Make It Public
I had considered writing my second book for a long time. Of course I had plenty of negative self-talk that convinced me this would never be possible. At some point I decided I had to at least try to get a publisher since I was sick of hearing my own thoughts about why this was an important project. So, on January 1 I wrote a goal on my annual goals sheet to “make a serious attempt to secure a publisher”. I then shared this with my husband, then others. By making it public I made myself accountable to my own goal.
9. Break Big Projects Into Smaller Ones
Once again this comes from www.attitude.com. Break projects into smaller projects, and assign a deadline for completing each step. Most of the time, we're given a deadline for the date by which the entire project has to be completed. To keep yourself on track, mark the date by which you should complete one-quarter of the project, one-half, and so on. Those dates will alert you to problems while there's still time to play catch-up.
10. Multitasking Can Cause Multi-Problems
For those who already have difficulty focusing it can definitely be a problem having many tasks going at the same time. Of course the real world often demands many things at one time. There can be ways, however, to better handle such situations. Before switching to another task/topic, be sure to at least stop for a moment to complete or close-down the current task. It can be helpful to use Post-it Notes, or make a note in the computer, or put a note in your smart phone…which ever system you are using be sure to notate what you were doing so you can more quickly return.
When I work with children and their parents I often talk about the importance of having a sticker or behavior chart. Children love getting fun stickers, praise, and being rewarded for hard work. I also tell parents that adults love stickers too! We adults work real hard for those rectangular stickers with pictures of presidents on them. And we work extra hard for some of those special president stickers! Rewards can, of course, be more than money. We can build-in our own rewards of planning a weekend outing after a particularly difficult work week. Even a special cup of coffee or taking time to enjoy a sunset can be rewarding. I recommend shying away from food as a consistent reward since that can establish problems of its own later on.
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Careers for ADHD Adults: Which One is for You?
Managing Up With ADHD