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Strategies for Getting Things Done When You Have ADHD

Updated: Mar 21

Strategies for Getting Things Done Living with ADHD can make it hard to get things done. Trouble focusing, poor time management, and difficulty getting started on tasks are common challenges associated with ADHD that can hinder task completion. However, there are a

variety of strategies you can adopt to accomplish your goals.


ADHD Explained

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that can lead to significant impairments in an individual’s functioning. Though often identified in childhood, its signs may continue into adulthood. Common ADHD symptoms include restlessness, trouble focusing, and challenges with self-regulation.

ADHD symptoms can make it difficult for someone to sustain attention for any period of time. This problem can often result in distraction while performing their daily tasks. 

Furthermore, people with ADHD may experience selective attention (focusing on one task) and divided attention (juggling multiple tasks). In fact, the core symptoms of ADHD are impairments in executive functioning. The term executive functions refers to specific parts of our brains that are responsible for helping us with things like motivation, prioritization, activation, working memory, time management, impulsivity, and emotion regulation. Impairments in these capacities can have a devastating effect on someone’s ability to be productive and engage in the tasks that they would like to be engaging in. This is the reality that many people with ADHD experience.

people with ADHD may experience selective attention (focusing on one task) and divided attention (juggling multiple tasks).

ADHD Paralysis: How It Affects Your Productivity

ADHD affects how the brain works, making it tough for someone to think and decide. ADHD paralysis, a common experience associated with ADHD, can make it hard to keep up with tasks at home, work, or school. Even though it shows up differently, usual signs include:

  • Overthinking problems

  • Struggling to initiate important projects

  • Difficulty prioritizing tasks

  • Easily getting distracted and losing focus

  • Poor time management

  • Time wasting

  • Mood swings

  • Decision-making challenges

  • Inattentiveness to others

  • Rapidly switching between tasks

  • Forgetting train of thought

  • Concentration difficulties

  • Feeling confused or unclear

  • Avoiding tasks requiring focus

While many perceive ADHD paralysis as procrastination, they are not exactly the same experience. Procrastination involves delaying tasks due to tiredness or lack of motivation, while ADHD paralysis causes a shutdown when overwhelmed with information or tasks. People with ADHD are prone to both experiences of paralysis as well as procrastination due to impairments in their brain’s motivational and activation systems too. 

How to Stay Productive With ADHD


Productivity with ADHD can be challenging. Falling behind on your tasks can significantly impact your energy, motivation, confidence, relationships and sleep. ADHD paralysis can be really frustrating, but there are ADHD productivity hacks that can help you get yourself back in motion. 

While getting a proper diagnosis and treatment for ADHD by an ADHD professional can aid in dealing with its symptoms, incorporating strategic approaches into your daily routine helps in structuring and prioritizing your tasks. 

  1. Break Tasks Into Manageable Goals

Breaking down a complex project into smaller components can help you easily manage your tasks. Taking on a big project can be too overwhelming to start. Take, for instance, packing up your apartment for a relocation. Start by writing down every small task, such as ordering boxes, purchasing packing tape, or emptying the cabinets. This strategy can help you finish small, easy-to-achieve tasks each day. 

This method is also useful in completing school or work projects. You can combine this method with the following strategies:

  • Establish a deadline, time frame, or location for the completion of each minor task.

  • Begin your day with a small, easily achievable goal, increasing the likelihood of success.

  • Do not hesitate to set modest expectations, such as tasks like "create a new document" or "respond to an email." It may seem silly to do, but this is one of the essential reframes necessary for living with ADHD. You have a different brain and you are going to need to do things differently. 

  • Envision the ultimate objective; a large project becomes less intimidating when a specific goal is visualized. 

Many people with ADHD try to set aside large chunks of time to take care of tasks they don’t want to be engaging in. For example, if someone is dreading taking care of taxes they might plan to set aside 5 hours on one day to just take care of it and be done with it. While this sounds like a nice idea, in reality, those kinds of plans don’t tend to pan out well, especially for people with ADHD. 

It would be more effective to spend 15-30 minutes chipping away at that task over a period of a couple of weeks and then maybe one or two slightly longer periods when they are closer to completing the task. If they need to sit down for 5 hours to work on a dreaded task they are going to be feeling pretty overwhelmed and are likely to go find something else to do. If they are sitting down for just a few minutes and know that they’re not going to do more than just a few minutes of work, it makes it much easier to engage in it and chip away at it. 

It would be more effective to spend 15-30 minutes chipping away at that task over a period of a couple of weeks and then maybe one or two slightly longer periods when they are closer to completing the task.

  1. Choose a Task You Can Easily Accomplish

Pick a simple task you know you will succeed at to get something done. This can give you an easy headstart, which helps you get the satisfaction of continuing with the project. Start with creating a “done list” and write down the tasks you have completed. Crossing off tasks on your list inspires you to keep going. 

  1. Work in Intervals

Use your phone to set a timer for a specific task for 20-30 minutes. Work hard, stay focused, and avoid distractions, such as checking your social media or email. Once the timer goes off, relax for 10-15 minutes. Repeat the process as needed.

If 20-30 minutes feels overwhelming, start with 10 minutes. If it feels too easy, you can make the interval longer. Over time, this can help establish your stamina and focus. 

  1. Limit Distractions

Many individuals with ADHD are easily distracted. To stay focused on your task, identify your biggest distractions and think of solutions to limit or eliminate them. 

Consider these ADHD productivity tips:

  • Use noise-cancelling headphones.

  • Be smart in choosing the type of music while working. Many people choose to listen to lyric-less music to avoid distractions.

  • Install applications that restrict access to social media during specific time intervals.

  • Maintain order in your workspace.

  • Record distracting thoughts as they arise and set them aside until your tasks are finished.

  • Don’t off notifications from your phone and computer. You might do this on a temporary basis while you are working, or you can even consider turning off most notifications in general. Chances are you’ll be checking your phone at various points and seeing things anyways (of course you can make sure your settings lets important and urgent notifications come through at all times). Constant phone notifications can create constant interruptions in focus and engagement. This is a problem for everyone but can have tremendous negative effect on productivity for people with ADHD in particular.

  1. Keep Things Fun and Interesting

To make things interesting, come up with some fun and exciting ways to turn boring tasks into something enjoyable. 

  • Introduce gamification, such as transforming tasks into time-based challenges.

  • Transform mundane tasks into friendly competitions, comparing speed and efficiency.

  • Use apps designed to turn dull activities into engaging games or missions.

  • Associate routine tasks with enjoyable activities, like folding laundry while watching an episode of your favourite show.

  1. Avoid Multitasking… in General! 

This might sound contradictory based on the last tip, but it can be helpful to generally avoid multitasking. Depending on the type of ADHD, some people with ADHD love multitasking as it feels fun and stimulating. However, studies claim that the human brain can only perform one task at a time. Shifting from one task to another can be daunting and exhausting.

For instance, while working at home, the temptation to multitask can be strong. You might feel pulled to do tasks like laundry and answer emails simultaneously. However, these small distractions can hinder your focus and make it difficult to finish your work. Stick to one task at a time for better concentration and productivity. The exception is for routine kinds of tasks that really don’t require much brain power to engage in. Activities that might fall into this category include things like doing laundry, household cleaning, washing dishes, or perhaps even a work task like basic data entry. For activities like this, combining it with another light activity such as listening to a podcast or music, or watching a TV show may paradoxically actually help the person with ADHD focus better. Trial and error can help you see what works best for you. 

Stick to one task at a time for better concentration and productivity.

  1. Set up a Daily Brain Dump

Oftentimes, a person with ADHD struggles to stay organized. Processing too much information all at once can be overwhelming, especially when organizing your thoughts in your head. 

Setting up a brain dump helps minimize the ordeal. Here is how a brain dump works:

  • Record your thoughts in a digital document, on paper, or using Post-It notes.

  • Evaluate and remove any unnecessary thoughts from your record.

  • Arrange and prioritize the remaining thoughts and tasks, categorizing them or setting deadlines.

  • Integrate them into your Google Calendar for efficient tracking and automated reminders of due dates and events.

  • Compile a written list of tasks and projects to simplify the organization process.

  1. Celebrate Your Accomplishments

Creating space for treats or rewards when you finish a job is an excellent way to increase your motivation. Treating yourself does not have to be fancy. It could be as easy as enjoying your favourite ice cream or getting a book after finishing a mundane task. 

  1. Find Your Peak Productivity Hours

Whether you are a morning person or a night owl, knowing your peak productivity hours can help you get things done fast. When you are in your best state of mind, you are hyper-fixated on completing your tasks.

How an ADHD Therapist Can Help You

Dealing with ADHD symptoms can be overwhelming. Regardless of your situation, you 

are not alone. 

At Shlomo Radcliffe and Associates, we believe that ADHD should not hinder you from achieving your personal, career, or academic goals. Our ADHD therapist in Toronto offers personalized ADHD support suited to your unique needs, be it task prioritization, time management, or organization. 

Take the first step towards a focused and fulfilling life. Schedule a free 15-minute phone session now with Radcliffe Psychotherapy Clinic. Call us today at (289) 801-4133, or submit our contact form


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