How to Plan and Prioritize Tasks with ADHD

ADHD Alternatives

Young couple standing in the kitchen making a list

Navigating the world with ADHD can often feel like you’re trying to catch a series of fast-moving trains, each one representing a task or responsibility.

What’s one key to managing this whirlwind? Planning and prioritizing. Here’s how you can master the art of organizing your tasks and ensuring that you’re focusing on what truly matters.

Start The Day with A Purposeful To-Do List

Every morning, before the hustle of the day begins, take a moment to sit down and draft a to-do list. But here’s the catch: instead of jotting down every task that comes to mind, ask yourself, “What are the three most important things I want to complete today?” Highlight these tasks, give them a star, or make them bold—whatever helps them stand out. These are your non-negotiables for the day, and they deserve your utmost attention. Everything beyond these high-priority tasks is just icing on the proverbial cake.

Use a Task Management System

Having a task management system is essential, and if picked carefully, it will make every recommendation in this list much more digestible. Depending on your workflow, device preference, or ecosystem, hundreds of apps and methods exist to manage your tasks.

You may have a list of non-negotiables when choosing an app to manage tasks. As an example, does it integrate with your calendar? Your calendar is probably one place where you manage your entire schedule – meetings, phone calls, dinners out, appointments, you name it, it’s all there. An app that can track the time of individual tasks may also be helpful. Knowing exactly how long a task takes may help you plan future tasks more accurately.

So, what do we recommend? One of our favorites is Notion.so. This software can be as much or as little as you want and can easily support the management of your tasks. If you’re looking for something a little easier to set up and maintain, we also recommend TickTick. Handy features like adding tasks via voice notes or syncing tasks from email make task management almost an afterthought rather than something you have to sink time and effort into.

Evaluate New Tasks as They Arise

Life is unpredictable. New tasks and responsibilities can pop up unexpectedly, and there’s no way to avoid them. When they do, pause, and evaluate. Ask yourself, “Will turning my attention to this new task help me achieve today’s three most important goals?” If the answer is yes, adjust your priorities. If not, consider if it can wait for another day.

It doesn’t mean these tasks aren’t necessary, but maybe they’re not best suited for right now. If you’re unsure when they should be done, look at all your tasks and determine if you can group them in with another task. Grouping tasks can be a good way of getting more done, but efficiently.

Double Your Time Estimates

One common pitfall many of us face, especially those with ADHD, is underestimating the time it takes to complete a task. Think about it: how many times have you promised to be done with something by a certain time, only to realize that you’re not even remotely close to being able to complete it?

To counteract this, try doubling your initial time estimate. If you think a task will take 30 minutes, allocate an hour. It might seem like overkill, but use this as a good starting point. In business, this is often referred to as “under promise and over deliver,” and it also works in your personal life. This approach provides a buffer for potential distractions and reduces the stress of racing against the clock.

Break Down Overwhelming Tasks

Staring down a colossal task can be daunting. To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, break a big task into smaller, more manageable pieces. Assign mini-deadlines to each segment. This method transforms a mountain into a series of molehills, making the overall task less intimidating.

Let’s use an example that everyone can relate to. Maybe you told yourself you would dedicate your Saturday to cleaning your house or apartment. Saturday comes, and you’re looking into your home’s cleaning abyss with absolutely no idea where to begin. It feels like there’s so much to do that it’s nearly impossible to start. Instead of looking at it as if you have to clean the entire place all at once, break it up room by room and even section of each room by section. If cleaning your entire office feels too much, start with your desk and don’t move on to the bookshelf until that’s complete. Then, move on to vacuuming and mopping the floors once that’s complete. You can break down every task into incrementally smaller segments.

And remember to reward yourself! Every time you complete a segment, take a moment to celebrate. It could be a break to fire up EndeavorOTC and play through a level or two, or something as simple as your favorite snack. These rewards act as motivation boosters, propelling you forward.

Set Deadlines and Find An Accountability Buddy

Deadlines are a double-edged sword. They can be stressful, but they also provide a clear endpoint. You might need a strict deadline set by yourself or someone else to get anything done. With unlimited time available, you may end up pushing it off until later.

By setting your deadlines, you’re taking control of your tasks rather than letting them control you. But setting a deadline is only half the battle. To truly ensure you stick to it, share your goals with an accountability buddy. This buddy could be a friend, family member, or colleague. Knowing someone else is aware of your deadline can be the push you need to stay on track.

In the intricate dance of life with ADHD, planning and prioritizing are your guiding stars. By implementing these strategies, you’re not just managing your tasks; you’re mastering them. Remember, it’s not about perfection but progress. With each day and each task, you’re moving closer to a more organized, productive, and fulfilling life. And if you ever feel overwhelmed, refer back to your starred tasks, focus on them, and watch as the chaos transforms into a harmonious rhythm of achievement.