How to be Productive with ADHD?

Before officially being diagnosed with ADHD, I felt comfortable working at night. It felt more normal to me. I don’t hear noises from the outside world, like car honking while stuck in traffic or any noise from neighbors or even public transportation. Things changed when I received my official diagnosis having ADHD. I realized so many things, like why I always explored different interests or hobbies, then left them when I lost interest. Nevertheless, being productive with ADHD can come with challenges. Are you ready to take a deep dive?

Life with ADHD

A photo of me taking a look at Mayon while thinking how to be productive with ADHD
I was looking at the majestic Mayon Volcano.

Let’s take a step back and check that I have different mental health issues. I’m diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and Persistent Depressive Disorder. I’m not sure if there’s a shortcut for the last one. 🤣

Naturally, I’m more productive at night. I stay up late scrolling on my phone, reading, or browsing casually on Pinterest or other social media platforms. Before the whole Twitter stew, I used to hang out on the app and read various articles and materials I encountered. Yet, that changed because I limited myself from accessing social media. If I had the liberty of doing so, I’d stay up until the morning people woke up and prepare themselves for work.

It was during the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic that I pushed myself to consult and seek professional help. Initially, I was diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder, but it should only be up until six (6) months. My doctor friend was dismayed that it’s almost been a year, and my diagnosis never changed. When I encountered one of the most cataclysmic events, I found a different and better psychiatrist to help me navigate my illnesses.

2021 was the year that I officially learned of my diagnosis. My psych and I worked on my anxiety and depression before tackling my ADHD. I took meds that helped me balance the chemicals in my brain so I could sleep and function because I still had work. My previous prescription was 10 mg of Escitalopram and a lower dose of Quetiapine. Honestly, I forgot what was my first dosage of that since I’m on 100 mg of Quetiapine now.

Nevertheless, I also took meds to help me function while coping with ADHD. It was 18 mg of Concerta, which I took when I needed to work. But while I gained focus, I still got distracted, so I built a routine or habits I could adhere to when I worked.

So, the million-dollar question is, how to be productive with ADHD?

ADHD and Productivity

Various articles and content lurk around the internet about ADHD and productivity. It is said that people like me struggle with productivity because we either don’t pay attention, is bored, or both. In my experience, I usually get distracted by the things around me, especially when I feel an itch in my brain. That’s what I call it. When I feel like rearranging my desk all of a sudden in the middle of doing something else, that’s a brain itch. It’s hard to ignore because it keeps coming back until you do what it tells you.

In another sense, think of it as an earworm. You hear an excellent sound or music, it gets stuck in your mind, and you’re hell-bent on knowing what song it is. Then once you know, it fades away. The same goes for me.

Once I adjusted to my ADHD meds, I started plotting and thinking of how I could use the focus and weave it into my habits. I usually put my meds near my keyboard or in front of my monitor so I see them immediately and remember to drink them. My Kindle is within reach, so whenever my eyes need a break, or my brain does, I quickly reach and recharge myself.

So, how does that play into my productivity routine?

How to be Productive with ADHD?

When thinking about productivity, it’s tough to insert something new into your routine. I struggled with this bit, especially whenever I joined a different team. It took me a while before I could feel comfortable, especially with the required tools or the people I needed to work with.

I now have a digital journal and planner to help me organize. I tried tools like Notion, Coda, Asana, and many more, but all of those needed considerable brain power. These are excellent tools, but my brain doesn’t want to work intensely. So, I researched and found the right one that I needed. I use Microsoft OneNote for my journal, trackers, planner, and notes. It gave me a straightforward experience without any complexities. It was what I was looking for!

Disclaimer: Here are productivity tips that work for me but might need adjustments for you. Remember, these may not all fit well into your lifestyle but may be of help as a reference.

(1) Using a Pomodoro timer

I installed the Forest app as my Pomodoro timer on my phone and browser. Yet, since I usually have routines scheduled on my phone, it works for me from time to time. Another thing, I use Discord and set my Pomorodo timer there, which uses a bot that reminds me if it’s time to focus or take a break.

I added the Leo bot to my Discord server and a section solely for productivity. There’s also a bot that lists my priorities for the day. By the way, feel free to join my server if you’re looking for productivity buddies! 😉

For people with ADHD, it’s always a good thing to have a reminder that you need to take a break. Because if we don’t, we’ll spend hours on something we’re working on, which leads to time blindness.

(2) Listening to Lo-Fi music

Music is one of the most significant help when it comes to productivity. When you plug yourself into the music, everything seems to blur. My favorite genres to listen to would be classical music and lo-fi music. I cannot function well when I listen to songs that I can easily jam to.

Since I mentioned using my Discord server, I also added a bot that joins a voice channel that plays Lo-Fi music 24/7. It leaves the track when you go, also. It’s helpful since it works well with the Leo bot for the Pomodoro timer.

Here are some Spotify playlists that help me boost my productivity:

The good thing about Spotify, there are a lot of playlists, albums, or content in general that you can use as your focus music or background noise. I stumbled upon a white noise playlist not long ago, and it helped me focus, but I realized that it’s better when I put it on when I want to sleep.

(3) Listing down my priorities for the day

Another thing that helps me become productive while having ADHD is to create a list of priorities for the day. The list keeps me grounded, and I easily navigate through the tasks. Before, I only listed the things I need to do for the day without organizing them according to priority. That created a mess in how I did something.

Later on, while reading and watching different ADHDers (the term we use for people with ADHD), I learned that it helped them function when they made a list with a rank on how to do things. Of course, I tried that.

Since I created a digital planner on OneNote, I list down the priorities I need to do per day. I try not to add so many to avoid feeling overwhelmed. For an ADHDer, it’s hard to function once you feel overwhelmed. It’ll result in what we call ADHD paralysis.

Here’s a look at my digital planner:

I created different variants for a daily planner or weekly planner. The reason for that is I try to spice things up while maintaining its aesthetic so I don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s need, clean, and whimsical — just how I like it.

All of these are available in my Ko-fi shop!

(4) Preparing accessible snacks and hydration

There are times when ADHDers get into their hyperfocus cave. They lose sight of eating, hydrating, and even taking breaks. There must be accessible snacks within reach, preferably lurking on the desk.

From my experience, when I take Concerta, I hardly feel hungry. Then, I’ll handle all the hunger when it wears off, leading me to binge eating. I talked to my psych about it, and she advised me that I should still eat small meals during Concerta even if I hardly feel hungry. Through that, my body will still get the nutrients it needs. But it’s hard to prepare and cook all the meals for myself, so I have my favorite cereals and soy milk as my quick meals!

Okay, so if you can do meal preps, I suggest you do that so you can reheat your food quickly. If not, you can order food but don’t stick with fast food all the time. It’s also good to have a meal shake to nourish you if you don’t feel like eating.

You can add candies or gummy worms near your workspace or desk. These are good snacks but give high sugar, so limit your intake also.

(5) Find your most comfortable focus spot

My workspace

One of the most essential things about productivity and ADHD (for me) is finding the right spot to boost your focus. As we tend to get distracted by various things, it’s easier to feel grounded when we dedicate an area in our homes where we only do productive things. For example, you can assign a chair specifically to reading only. Hence, call it your reading chair.

Another instance would be, assigning a particular table solely for work. Whenever you’re using that table, you’ll only do work-related things, no other. That way, it helps train your mind to associate things with tasks or something you like to accomplish.

So, find a nook or corner in your home,; if it feels right, it’ll be your productivity nook. You can setup your workspace there, and decorate it with motivational quotes, or however you please. Plus, I find it better to distinguish and separate your bedroom from your home office so that you won’t feel the urge to work when you’re in bed.

What’s next?

Being productive with ADHD brings a different sense of challenge and fun. At one point, you might feel it’s a curse (like how I felt) because I couldn’t finish my tasks and end up procrastinating. Another, you might think it’s a gift because the ideas are neverending in your mind. It’s like a dam filled with ideas that would be useful for work, hobbies, and any of your interests.

Nevertheless, it’s up to you to find that sweet spot on how to perceive ADHD. Only you can find the right groove for yourself on how to be productive with ADHD. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for neurodiverse people like us. We may pattern our habits or routines from other people but at the end of the day, you’ll notice that you added your flavor to it; to make it yours.

Anyway, there’s that underlying thought in my mind that I might be overtalking and it’s a tendency for ADHDers too. I hope that this blog post has enlightened you in some way if you stumbled upon it.

I hope you enjoy finding your productivity routine soon!

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