When you have ADHD, you might feel bad — frustrated, angry, ashamed — that you can’t accomplish certain tasks like everyone else. Why is it so hard to make a meal? Why do I forget my wallet every time?
You might feel bad that you can’t use the same methods. Why do I need a creative approach just to do laundry? It’s so simple!
“The ADHD mind is wired differently than someone without ADHD, and it’s not fair to assume they should do things the same way,” said Nikki Kinzer, a certified ADHD coach dedicated to helping people with ADHD build positive life habits, reduce stress, and take back control of their lives. “You can’t force a circle into a square.”
Psychotherapist and ADHD coach Terry Matlen, who also has ADHD, tells her clients that shortcuts aren’t a crutch or personal failure. “It’s no different than folks with hearing impairments wearing hearing aids; wearing glasses for improving vision, or using a cane for unsteady gait. All these things make one’s life easier to manage and decrease stress and anxiety. It allows for more emotional freedom and saves time, too.”
Finding unique solutions that work best for you is really a smart approach—whatever the solutions look like. Below are eight shortcuts you might want to try.
Use Post-It notes.
“Post-Its are one of my best friends,” said Matlen, author of two books on ADHD, including The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done. “We cannot easily hold ideas, plans and to-do lists in our brain, so we must rely on external reminders.”
For instance, you can put Post-Its on your fridge listing the meals you’ll be eating that week. You can have a Post-It on your laptop with three things to tackle that day. If you need to run an errand before work (and you’re worried you’ll forget), put a Post-It note on your steering wheel the night before.
(Matlen’s other best friend is a large bulletin board where she tacks important papers so they don’t get lost on her desk.)
Similarly, checklists are great because you don’t have to rely on your memory. You can create checklists for your morning and evening routines, and they can be as detailed or as broad as you need, said Kinzer, co-host of Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast. She suggested identifying the tasks you need to do and then putting them in the order they must be completed.
For instance, your morning checklist might include: wake up; exercise; meditate; wake up kids; shower; get ready; eat breakfast; make lunches; double-check backpacks; drive to school; drive to work.
Matlen suggested taping a checklist to your door at home with reminders of what to bring to work. This might include: lunch, bus ticket, briefcase and keys. “It’s awful starting your work day missing essential items from home.”
Also, be sure to set boundaries around distractions. For instance, you only turn on the TV after your routine is done, and check email when you get to work, Kinzer said. Also, include buffer time in your routine for distractions, she added.
Kinzer suggested using alarms and notifications as reminders. For instance, set multiple alarms—to ring an hour before, and then 10 minutes before—to remind you that it’s time to attend a work meeting, take a break, eat lunch, or pick up your kids from school.
Have a mail inbox.
Have a basket or bin close to your front door where you put all the mail or incoming paper, Kinzer said. “This eliminates mail being scattered around your home.” It makes it much easier to review all together.
Make breakfast for dinner.
“Meal planning happens to be one of my biggest areas of ADHD-related challenges,” Matlen said. It is for many adults with ADHD. To simplify mealtime, Matlen often makes omelets with leftover vegetables and cheese. She shares other excellent shortcuts in this piece on her blog.
Use a restaurant-delivery service.
Katherine Ellison, author of ADHD: What Everyone Needs to Know, who also has ADHD, uses services like Dine-in Marin, GrubHub and Caviar. “[I]t actually can be a budget-cutter sometimes because of all the little impulse purchases I always make in grocery stores,” Ellison said. And another bonus is that her older son trained himself to be a terrific cook.
“Twin” your tasks.
Matlen loves the idea of “twinning,” which is simply “managing two tasks at the same time.” This not only helps you get things done. But it also helps you tackle tasks you normally procrastinate on.
For instance, while watching your favorite sitcom on Monday nights, you also do your laundry. According to Matlen, “before the show starts, throw the laundry in the machine. During commercial breaks, move the clothes into the dryer, then into baskets and you can then fold laundry while still watching your show.”
Have extra essentials.
Even if you have a system for laundry, you still might not get it done on some days. And you might wait until the last minute to do it. Which is why Matlen suggested buying 2 weeks’ worth of underwear and socks for your family. Try to get the same brands and colors so it’s easy to find and put away, she said.
“Adults with ADHD tend to be a creative bunch,” Matlen said. She recommended reflecting on the areas in your life that trip you up and creating your own shortcuts. Again, this is not a weakness. Far from it. It’s actually a strength. It’s “actually a terrific, creative way to solve problems,” she said.