Feeling more distracted than usual? This guide might help.
One of the first things I discovered when I entered the workforce was that I truly thrived in busy, fast-paced jobs. The thrill of chasing deadlines and hopping from one event to another kept my ADHD brain stimulated, and balancing multiple tasks felt like a fun challenge to me.
Unfortunately, fast-paced jobs just don’t leave a lot of room for days when my ADHD is a lot more present than usual. There are days when my to-do list feels like a fire I need to put out all at once, and more often than not I end the day feeling like I got nothing done. It hasn’t gotten easier with the shift to a work-from-home setup, where the most thrilling thing I’ve done to date is push out five articles hours before I’m set to log off.
Fortunately, the past year has given me more than enough time to try out (and sometimes fail at) a number of tips and tricks from friends and fellow ADHD-havers on the internet. Here are a few that have really made a difference:
When it comes to confronting the daunting project that’s been lurking in my to-do list, starting strong means starting small. Lookin at a project so overwhelming that you can’t quite figure out where to start? Get everything about the project out of your head and onto a blank piece of paper (or document). It’s a lot easier to get going when you see which steps have deadlines and which tasks you can enlist help for.
Don’t be afraid to set the bar low either: I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to hit the ground running when I get started on a task that I know I’ll be able to finish—like “read about a potential feature topic” or “write down title ideas.” Aside from the fact that you now have one less thing to worry about, you’ve given yourself a small win.
Find music that works with you
Despite the numerous medical articles recommending that I tune into ambient noise or background music while I work, I’ve found that they just don’t help my focus the way the music in my Spotify library does. I find that it’s a lot easier for me to tune in to the work I need to do when I can pick out songs I like that match the energy I need for the day.
If I’m looking at a slow work day, I can just put on some indie pop music to give me a little extra motivation to keep chipping away at my tasks. I can just as easily tune into high-energy K-pop songs on busy days to keep my momentum going. I can even pop on a podcast on days when background chatter is just the noise I need to stay on track.
If you’re like me and you’ve found the genre that taps into your focus, the next best thing you can do is to put together a playlist before you work. That way, you won’t have to turn away from your tasks to look for a new song to listen to.
Take things one step at a time
Despite my best efforts, there will be days when not multitasking is a lot easier said than done. I’ve handled big projects and reports that had to be done on the same week. Now that I’m working two jobs, having my deliverables overlap with each other is just a thing I’ll have to get used to seeing more often.
On my most hectic days, I’ve found that I get a lot more done when I shift my focus to one task at a time. My busiest day of the week looks a lot like me finishing a story for my writing job, taking a small breather, and picking up an order to edit for my full-time job—over and over again until it’s time for me to clock out for the day.
If you’re looking at finishing bigger projects, the same logic still applies! If you need to work on a second project, stop working on your first project at a point where you can easily pick it up and gain momentum again—and vice versa. You’ll find that you’ve made significant headway on both of your projects by the time you’re done.
“Should-less” days are your best friend
Every now and then, mostly when I get off from a grueling work week, I’ll recharge my batteries by having a “should-less” day. I’ll wake up during a rest day and decide that I’ll only do what I feel like doing—whether it’s sleep in, watch a Netflix series, or even try a ramen hack I found on TikTok. On days like these, my personal expectations are low and I get to do things I want to just because.
While I take pride in getting multiple things done when they need to be, putting in extra effort to hold myself accountable and make sure I still get things done even when my ADHD kicks in a little harder can get draining. My “should-less” day isn’t just me doing what I want, it’s a little break from the part of my brain that feels like I should be more productive than I already am.