Psychiatrist Writing in Notebook

July 28, 2019

If you’re one of the 11 million adults in the United States with ADHD, you know how hard it can be to avoid distractions, get organized, and work efficiently. These simple behavioral strategies can help you manage your symptoms and stay focused.

Strategies for Adults Living With ADHD

Inattention, impulsivity, disorganization, restlessness, and other symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) typically emerge early in life — often before the age of 12 — and evolve as time goes on.

That means that while children with ADHD are more likely to be affected by impulsivity and hyperactivity, adults with ADHD are more likely to experience memory problems and lack of mental focus.

If you’re one of the estimated 11 million adults in the United States who lives with ADHD, you know just how challenging it can be to avoid distractions, get organized, and work efficiently.

Even though you may find that evidence-based treatments like medication and psychotherapy go a long way in helping you manage your condition, learning effective behavioral strategies can give you the power to control your ADHD symptoms in the moment. Here are a few useful tactics:

Get organized

If you often spend your day trying to figure out where to start but wind up getting very little done by dinnertime, try creating your schedule the night before. Whether you have to go to work, run errands all day, or tackle household chores, it can be helpful to write down your top priorities so you can start your day out strong and refocus when you lose momentum.

To maximize your chances of success, cluster similar tasks together under the same time umbrella. Answer emails and return phone calls once in the morning and once in the afternoon, for example, rather than throughout the day. Also, make sure you create a bit of space in your day to allow for unexpected obstacles.

Follow a routine

Once you’re comfortable organizing your daily schedule, try establishing an overall routine that helps your day run smoothly, no matter what may crop up. Depending on your needs, this may include creating a place to put your keys, phone, purse, or wallet when you get home, so you won’t have to search for them later.

It may also include developing protocols that help you tackle regular chores with less effort. To feel less scattered and more accomplished when you go grocery shopping, for example, it can be helpful to develop a standing list of weekly staples, and then take a few minutes before you head out the door to add whatever else you may need for the current week to your list.

Make big tasks more manageable

If you have to complete a long assignment or an overwhelming project that requires multiple steps and great attention to detail, break it down into smaller, more manageable steps that are easier to accomplish.

Using a detailed checklist or writing out the separate components of your task essentially gives you a way to create a step-by-step roadmap that helps you stay on course from start to finish. Initially, it’s not important to put these actionable items in order, or even get them all down on paper. After you’ve gotten started and have some momentum, you can add additional items and put your list into A-to-Z order, if you like.

Minimize distractions

When you have work that requires a higher level of concentration, minimizing distractions can help you keep your focus for longer stretches of time. That may mean starting work earlier in the day or staying later than normal, when it’s quieter at the office, or it may mean keeping your workspace clear of clutter.

You may also try using noise-canceling headphones if you work in a busy or loud environment. Besides helping you reduce audible interruptions, research shows that listening to music when you work can help you stay focused on the task at hand.

To find what works best for you, it’s important to be honest with yourself about your primary distractions at work (Social media? News alerts? Email? Texts?) and come up with a way to curtail those specific diversions.

Respect your personal limits

If you start each morning feeling optimistic about how much work or activity you can incorporate into your day, you’re not alone. Many people overextend themselves by taking on more tasks than they can handle or underestimating the amount of time they need to get things done.

Nothing creates more pressure than committing yourself beyond your personal limits day after day. Failing to deliver on your promises, whether you’ve made them to your boss, your family, your friends, or yourself, can take the wind out of your sails and leave you feeling even more scattered than usual. When you take time to understand and respect your own limits, you empower yourself to commit to less and deliver more often.

Here at Advanced Psychiatry Associates, we know that ADHD is a complex disorder that affects each adult in a highly individual way. If you’d like some guidance to find the strategies and solutions that fit your life, we’re ready to help. Call our office in Folsom, California, or schedule an appointment online.