Mental Health

Five Tips on How to Manage Your Day and Get Shit Done With ADHD

Written by Patricia Tomasi

Since my oldest daughter was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) last summer, I’ve been wondering whether I have it too.

It is genetic, but besides that, the more I learn about it and strategies on how to help my six year old get through the day, the more I come across articles about what undiagnosed ADHD in adults looks like.

And (cringe), it looks a lot like me.

Which explains A LOT.

According to the Centre for ADHD Awareness in Canada, over 60% of children with ADHD take their “impaired” symptoms with them into adulthood. The other 40% are able to sort of fix themselves by the time they become adults either through therapy, medication, self coping mechanisms or a combination of all three.

The rest of us struggle with impaired symptoms that can include problems with attention regulation, hyperactivity, impulsivity, executive functioning, and regulating emotions.

If you’re like me, then you have a serious problem with getting organized to get everything you need to get done in a day. This is called “executive functioning”.

According to CADDAC ( executive functioning ADHD symptoms in adults can manifest as:
* Difficulty prioritizing tasks
* Disorganization, messy home, office desk and car
* Procrastination
* Trouble starting and finishing projects
* Difficulty with time management, often over or underestimate time required
* Difficulty with planning
* Unable to consistently use hindsight and forethought when making decisions
* Feelings of under achievement
* Starting numerous projects but not completing them
* Delegation of organization duties to partners

I think that’s why, apart from the postpartum bipolar induced hypo mania I was going through at the time (a blog post for another day), I quit my high demanding, paperwork heavy, 90k salary boring ass office job back in 2012.

And then became poor, very, very quickly.

Crazy, I know.

But the struggle is real.

The symptoms described above are so me to a tee and why, since quitting my job and starting a non profit while supplementing my non existent income with freelance writing, teaching piano and selling all of my belongings one by one, I’ve had to hunker down and find strategies to help me manage my day or I’m in big, big trouble.

Without a handle on my executive functioning skills, you’ll find me impulsively spending money I don’t have at the mall, signing up for doula training I have no intention on following through on, and taking off somewhere fun with the kids for the day leaving all my worries behind. On days when my toddler is at daycare which is three days a week, without proper self management, I’ll either feel too overwhelmed or too lost to do anything and will wallow away the hours between drop off and pick up time surfing social media and watching Netflix. Having done nothing at the end of the day then makes me highly irritable, moody, and impatient with myself and my family.

It’s a vicious cycle and getting caught in the wheel more than a few times over the past few years has really taught me the importance of having key strategies in place to seize the day and get shit done as they say.

I do plan on finding out soon, whether I definitively have ADHD or not, but until then, here are some valuable tips on how to manage your day that work well for me. I encourage you to try them, if you, like me, find life so overwhelming day in and day out that you wonder how everyone else seems to be able to handle so much on their plate so easily.

Or maybe they’re just better at faking it.

In any case…

Five Tips to Manage Your Day and Get Shit Done with ADHD

1. Keep it simple

Don’t overpack your day. Write out a list of what needs to be done and another on what you’d like to accomplish, then prioritize them according to what matters most. This might take some reflecting first on what does matter to you most. I know for me, it used to be me that came first but I’ve since gone through a metamorphosis of sorts, a transformation, rebirth, or whatever you want to call it. I matured, plain and simple, and now put my kids’ needs above all else, no longer subscribing to the “oxygen mask goes on the mom first” analogy to mothering. I’ve decided that though yes, a massage is wicked and of course I’d love to have one a month, heck one a week and sure they would make me feel great and happy and relaxed, what’s more important is saving the money for my kids. Anyways, I digress on this topic for now. Back to managing your day. Just keep it simple and pick the most important tasks to accomplish for the day to start. You can add all your dreams and goals later. First you need to make sure you have a roof over your head, food to eat and your kids have matching socks in the morning.

2. Use your phone and use it wisely

If you have ADHD, I’m pretty sure you have a smart phone and it doesn’t leave your side. Instead of buying a fancy agenda which you have to manually write it and carry around with you wherever you go, do what I do and use your smart phone!

No word of a lie, it’s taken me years to find a daily agenda system that works for me. I’ve tried them all – bullet journals, day timers, weekly planners, monthly charts, one for home, one for my purse, a calendar for the fridge, apps for my phone. I’ve spent tons of money and the only thing that works for me is the calendar that came on my phone. It’s not exciting but it works because it’s simple, accessible and within reach 24/7, exactly where I need it to be. All I do is create a new task for each thing I need to do that day or remind myself of and then set a reminder to remind me because I’ll forget unless I’m constantly checking my calendar.

3. Write everything down – NOW!

In the beginning, I would create a task for every single thing, even brushing my teeth and making my kid’s lunch the night before, things I would repeatedly have to do every day that shouldn’t need a reminder but when you have ADHD, even the smallest of tasks need reminding. Eventually, I would remove some items but it helped in the beginning to get a sense of time management in relation to the other tasks I set out to accomplish that day because when I had a busy day or things out of the ordinary to do, it wouldn’t be unlikely to reach the middle or end of the day and realize that in fact, I forgot to brush my teeth yet. Gross? Yes. ADHD symptom I can correct? Absolutely.

4. Keep lists and keep them close

In addition to writing everything down I need to do in my calendar, I keep multiple lists going in the Notes section of my phone for each area of my life. It’s like having multiple files open for everything that’s going on in my life at the moment. (My phone, if you haven’t figured it out, is like a replica of my brain.) Any time I have an idea or a to-do that can’t go into my calendar, I’ll add it to the appropriate list in my Notes. I even keep track of income and spending with Notes! And when I’m done with a list, I simply delete it. Again, having my phone with me 24/7 makes it easy to keep my Notes up to date and to record items right away before I forget. When I used to keep a hard copy journal, it would never be with me when I needed it and just didn’t have the organizational capacity to keep lists for me like a phone does. And when I’m turned over on my side in bed with my boob in my toddler’s mouth, you bet I can easily update my lists and check my calendar with one hand! Try doing that with a fancy bullet journal!

5. Triple check everything

Until you remember what’s happening five, ten or thirty minutes from now, my advice would be to constantly check your lists and your calendar to remind yourself of what’s coming up next. Maybe, after the 10th time, you’ll be able to comfortably put it down for a few hours, confident you’re not forgetting anything. And at the end of the day, go over all the items in your calendar and move stuff over to the next day or another day you weren’t able to get to.

Follow these five simple steps every day and you’ll be well on your way to managing your day and getting loads of shit done.

Note: Thanks to my simple management system, instead of staring off into space and cursing the world, in addition to writing this article today, I also managed to get my kid to school on time, clean the kitchen, look after my sick toddler, sell espresso cups, greeting cards, and a dehydrator, fix my broken VISA, pick up my taxes and whine to my husband how unfair it is that he gets a massive refund, pick up my kid up, deal with my super cranky toddler, make dinner, get my kid to swimming lessons, and get everyone home, changed and in bed by eight.

Not bad for a mom with ADHD.

Except that I forgot to brush my teeth. Damn. Time to add that back to the calendar.

What can I say? I’m a work in progress. And that reminds me. Make sure you prioritize and schedule in taking a break, or multiple little ones throughout your day so you don’t burn out.

Tomorrow, I’ll tackle the laundry and enjoy a lime creamsicle.

How about you?

What works for you?

Jessica Victoria
<p>Jessica Victoria, 24, is a writer and advocate for mental health, disability and LGBTQ+. She uses her personal experiences and knowledge to help and educate others.</p>

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