What 8 successful ADHDers want you to know about how they get stuff done.

Whenever I'm working with my family, friends, or colleagues, they always ask me how I'm able to get so much done.

My answer: "I have ADHD."

That might sound confusing, but realistically, people with ADHD don't always have problems with attention — at least, not when we're working on something that excites us. In fact, ADHD often means that we can hyperfocus on awesome things for hours on end, although sometimes that comes at the expense of all the less-thrilling things we’re supposed to be doing. (Why wash the dishes when you can build a rocket ship out of a cardboard box and a disassembled vacuum cleaner?)

Most people with ADHD have to work 10 times harder to achieve seemingly basic organizational and time management skills — skills that other people develop naturally over time. While medication can certainly help, it doesn't do all the work by itself. As a result, we pay more conscious attention to life hacks, memory tricks, productivity shortcuts and other mental managerial systems ... because we have to.


Some say that people with ADHD are much more likely to start their own businesses, perhaps because we’re built to tackle creative and entrepreneurial challenges.

While other people don’t need to learn the same tricks that we do, they can benefit from them. In fact, I’d argue that ADHDers have some of the best advice and practices for getting stuff done — even if we don’t always listen to that advice ourselves.

GIF from "Bruce Almighty."

Here are 21 productivity tips from people with ADHD that even non-ADHDers can learn from:

1. Habits are things you get for free. So get into 'em.

Even though I’m not a natural creature of habit, I always start my day with meds, then a shower, then pants, then breakfast — otherwise I know that I’m going to forget one of those steps. Habits are essentially self-automation, which means less brainpower spent on the little things.

2. Always have a backup (or two, or three) and know where to find it.

I keep extra cables, chargers, adapters, medicine, and other things in my bag at all times. That way, whether I’m going to the grocery store or on vacation, I don’t have to worry about keeping my phone charged.

3. Reminders and alerts: love them and use them.

I even have a recurring 2 p.m. notification on my phone that says “EAT SOME LUNCH, YOU IDIOT” because, erm, I need the reminder more than I’d like to admit. (Also: IFTTT triggers to automate actions and sync between apps and accounts make life way easier.)

GIF from "Despicable Me 2."

4. Keep a calendar, and schedule in the time it takes for you to do things.

If it takes you extra time to keep a calendar or get into the headspace for a meeting? Factor that in when you’re planning your day too.

5. Pay attention to the your day's ups and downs, and use them to your advantage.

Do you get sleepy right after lunch? Then maybe don’t dive into that intense project at 1 p.m. Are you better when you answer emails in the morning and get active tasks done later? Then do that. Figure out what works for you, and follow that schedule.

6. Find your rhythm and stick with it.

Even if you’re not the slow and steady type, a regular pattern of sprint and rest can still help you reach the finish line. "Sometimes I'll start counting beats in my head to create a rhythm," says TV writer/director Hadley Klein. "It sounds crazy but for whatever reason, it helps me think through things in a different way."

7. Make a list. Check it twice. Then make another list. And another.

Graphic novelist Tyler Page says, “I keep one main to-do list on my computer in a Sticky or TextEdit file. Bigger projects get their own lists where they get broken down into smaller and smaller components. The lists also help with prioritizing — something that needs to be done right away goes on the daily to-do list."

GIF from "Monsters University."

8. “Prioritize action over accomplishment. Doing the thing.”

This one comes from Patty Carnevale, head of revenue at Man Repeller. Measuring your progress in a tangible way can help you feel even more successful, which will then give you the drive to keep going.

9. Reward yourself for your accomplishments — no matter how small.

If you're someone who needs frequent feedback to get the necessary dopamine boost, then you can fake it by sticking a carrot in front of yourself to keep you going. Alysa Auriemma, an English instructor, gives an example: “I can read that awesome online fanfic IF I get three papers graded!”

GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

10. Turn the boring parts into a game.

“I use a fitness watch which monitors how many steps I take in a day and how many flights of stairs I climb. It’s fun to make the numbers go up,” says Nalo Hopkinson, an award-winning author. She also reports her daily word count on Twitter, so that people can cheerlead her along.

11. Don't dread the boring stuff. Just get it done. It's faster that way.

Focus on the satisfaction that you’re going to feel once you’ve finished the task, instead of on the time it’ll take to get it done — which, let’s be honest, is probably less time than you think. (Of course, even though I know this works for me, it's still easier said than done.)

12. The more you let things pile up, the easier it gets to ignore them.

Find a way to keep it fresh. I’m a compulsive inbox zeroer because the longer that little red notification bubble sits there on my phone, the more inclined I am to ignore it. So I mark all my emails as "read," then use an IFTTT trigger to remind me later of things that actually require a follow-up or my attention.

GIF from "Community."

13. If things slip your mind, visual cues can help.

You know that mantra, "Out of sight, out of mind?" For people with ADHD, that's pretty literal — to a fault. So it helps to stick things right in our own faces so that we can't miss them. “When I was in college, I taped a postcard to my apartment door with the times I needed to leave by to make it to morning classes on time,” says Rebecca Eisenberg, Upworthy’s senior editor.

14. Work with your brain, not against it.

Do you tend to lose your keys in the bathroom? Then make a new home for them in the bathroom, where you’re already inclined to leave them. That way, they’re always there. Don't fight your instincts. Use their momentum to your advantage. And on that note…

15. Embrace your idiosyncrasies and find a way to make them work for you.

Everyone’s brain is different. A lot of ADHDers need to figure out on our own what works for us, rather than having someone tell us what’s the “right” way to do things. For example: If someone else leaves me a list of instructions or things to do that's organized by their mind, it only makes me frustrated and confused. I have to create my own to-do lists in my own way — even if it does take more time.

GIF from "Adventure Time."

16. Take a break. Move around. Do a little dance.

Movement helps your brain work better. As tempting as it is to put the emphasis on measurable actions, it’s just as important to not do things and give yourself a chance to breathe. Sometimes a little distance can give you a lot of new perspective.

I use a portable adjustable standing desk and a pair of bluetooth headphones so that I can basically dance in place and write at the same time. My wife thinks I'm weird, but it works.

17. Know when to call it a day.

It’s important to accept when you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. Don't be afraid to give your brain a rest, and come back to it fresh the next day. This'll save you time in the long run too — because the more you power through your exhaustion, the longer it'll take to recover.

18. Identity your flaws and strengths, and communicate them to others.

"My colleagues know that in exchange for tolerating all the things I do that make me less reliable, they get a guy who can think outside the box, that can create on the fly, that can wear many hats at once," says Upworthy's fearless editor-at-large, Adam Mordecai.

"They also know that if they want something from me, I'm far likelier to get it done if they ping me immediately on chat rather than on email. Let your peeps know how to get the most out of you."

19. Keep your eye on the prize, but forgive yourself — and others.

Everyone’s fighting their own uphill battles, and you're not going to get anything done if you're too busy beating yourself up. (You’re not going to help anyone else be more productive if you externalize it and pick on them either.)

GIF from the SAG Awards.

20. Set your goals, but stay flexible.

Maybe you didn’t get as much done today as you had hoped, but that’s OK. Regroup, come up with a new strategy, and try to figure out what went wrong so you can do it better next time. Which brings me to the last, and perhaps most important, lesson:

21. “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

This is actually a quote from Samuel Beckett, but it also makes for an excellent productivity mantra. The bad parts and failures are inevitable, and you’ll never overcome them all. But that’s OK. Accept it, learn from it, and keep going anyway.

But you do have a brain. So use it. GIF from "The Wizard of Oz."

ADHDers understand one thing better than most people: Success is not a stationary target.

There's no "one weird trick" that will actually bring you any closer to success.

Instead, the best we can hope for is to embrace ourselves for all our strengths and weaknesses, and keep finding things to work toward. Perhaps that's a new business endeavor, 15 simultaneous hobbies, or simply remembering to put your underwear on before your pants.

If that last part is a measurable indication, then for me, today was an extraordinary success.

Family
Gillette

Jim and Carol lived an active, exciting life together as husband and wife. But when Jim was struck by a car while cycling near his home, their life changed dramatically. Jim was left needing round-the-clock care, and Carol, a retired nurse, took on the role of caregiver.

Every day, Carol helps Jim through his physical therapy and personal grooming routines. "If we don't do what we do on a daily basis to help him move forward, he'll become more and more dependent," Carol says. "Some days the challenges are very difficult."

More than 40 million Americans are in Carol's shoes, providing unpaid caregiving to loved ones who are disabled, elderly, or otherwise in need of assistance. With baby boomers getting older and people living longer, many middle-aged people find themselves caring for aging parents or grandparents. Others may have a developmentally delayed adult child at home, or a family member who has become disabled due to an accident or illness. From cooking to cleaning to bathing, caregivers help others do everyday tasks they aren't able to do for themselves.

RELATED: These glimpses into the lives of caregivers prove they're real unsung heroes.

Hygiene and grooming are a big part of a caregiver's job, and anything that makes those tasks easier is a good thing. That's why Gillette's new TREO razor, specifically designed for shaving other people, caught our eye.

Keep Reading Show less
Family
via Ria Tan / Flickr and Kevin Walsh / Flickr

Climate change deniers often mock the claim that gas expelled from cows, either through the mouth or the bottom, is a major cause of global warming.

It was even a point of debate when Republicans were discussing the Green New Deal.

But it's true. According to the United Nations, livestock farming produces about 18% of environmentally damaging gases — and about a quarter of that chunk comes from cow emissions.

When cows digest food in their intestines it ferments, which causes them to expel methane. When methane is released into the atmosphere without being burned off, it absorbs the sun's heat, warming the atmosphere.

Keep Reading Show less
Planet
Facebook / RoseMary Klontz

The couple that dresses together stays together, or at least in the case of these two lovebirds.

Francis and RoseMary Klontz, who will celebrate their 68thwedding anniversary next month, have been coordinating their outfits since they first started dating in high school.

"My mother got us matching shirts when we were in high school – well, I picked them out — and we've been matching ever since," Rosemary told CBS Sacramento.

The Plumas Lake, Calif. couple, who've served together in ministry at churches throughout the West for decades, first met in middle school.

Keep Reading Show less
Family

Today, I'm a 35-year-old man with a flame shaved into my beard. If the '80s movies I love so much are any indication, this is a sure sign I'm going through some kind of existential crisis. Next week, when the semester starts and I begin teaching again, it will not be strange if my colleagues start to worry about me just a little. A sports car or a neck-jerking pivot to physical fitness — that's an understandable response to the realization that life is fleeting. But a large meticulous flame carved out of facial hair? What does one do with that?

At this moment, though, I'm showing my face proudly to a woman wearing a swimsuit with a taco cat on it. We have only recently met, but she's telling me that she's so into my "fade" that she wants to kiss it. Then she does, blowing a raspberry into my cheek so hard that her hat falls off. Neither of us can stop laughing.

"Live Mas!" she yells with the excitement of someone who's never had trouble fully seizing the moment.

"Live Mas!" I shout back without any irony. There is no irony here in Palm Springs, where, for four days only, hundreds of people celebrate their love for Taco Bell.

Here, there's only swimming and hot sauce-themed leisure wear, and the warm pleasant feeling that comes from eating too much and knowing that you're with your own people. Even if the only thing that connects you is a love for a fast food giant that feeds you when you're hammered and shameless at 2 a.m.

We drank the Baja Blast! My Taco Bell fade and my friend's specialty manicure!Mark Shrayber

What does it mean to Live Mas? This is a question I am forced to ask myself over and over during my 24-hour stay at "The Bell," where I have stowed away as a friend's plus-one. We are, of course, both politely pretending that I'm a full-on guest with all the perks that entails, but we also both know that I wouldn't be here eating unlimited quesadillas poolside without her.

So maybe that's the first thing Live Mas means: To build strong lifelong connections which you can, with some luck, exploit to your benefit. :) :) :)

But this is too cynical an interpretation, because everyone here is so happy. Happy that they've gotten a reservation; happy that they can cool off in a room themed after an iconic Mountain Dew Drink, and happy that they can share their own personal story of what Taco Bell means to them. (Though there's no formal essay contest — I've checked.)

Me: This room won't be that cool. Also me: OH MY GOD, THIS IS THE COOLEST ROOM I'VE EVER BEEN IN!!!Mark Shrayber

Snatches of this story float around the "Fire" pool, where all the entertainment is concentrated: One couple canceled their trip to Prague because "Prague will always be there" — a brave stance considering climate change; another met last year on Tinder after the girlfriend's Taco Bell senior photos went viral; at the opening ceremony on Thursday, where sauce packets were cut instead of a ribbon, a city official brought others to tears with both her Taco Bell fashion and a memory of how her parents would feed an entire family with 19-cent-tacos from the first-ever Taco Bell in Downey, California.

Oh, I forgot one: The guy who skipped out on Prague? He got a giant bell shaved into the side of his head, so he might have to miss out on a black-tie event happening later this week. But it's all good. Bring on the nacho fries.

I make fast friends with four women who are here for a bachelorette party, the bride overwhelmed with good vibes and prosecco. This year, for her 30th, she rented a party bus. Inside? $100 worth of Taco Bell that her fiancee was worried might not be consumed.

"But little did he know," she shouts in the hot tub where we're "cooling off" after a long day of 108-degree sunning, "we ate it all!"

A bachelorette party and a birthday! We're really living it up (but also staying hydrated.)Mark Shrayber

Others whoop it up at the twist, but we all get it. Though there's no essay contest, I don't mind telling you that when my first boyfriend dumped me 14 years ago, I stuffed my face with chalupas. When I lost a job I really loved four years ago, I once ordered so much Taco Bell that the delivery app of my choice informed me I'd exceeded the maximum number of items they could comfortably fill in one order. We get it — though none of us can truly explain it.

There are, if you look at the The Bell from a literary perspective, many other writers who deserve this experience more than me. They could talk about the blue of the pool. Or the insouciance of youth. Draw parallels between marketing stunts such as this and the end-stage capitalism. Or envision a "Demolition Man" future where Taco Bell is fine dining and none of us know how to use the three shells in the bathroom to get ourselves clean.

And I wish these writers could be here to paint you these landscapes, but what you've got is me, a literal Taco Bell super-fan, and what I'm doing is eating and getting sunburned and taking a synchronized swimming class with the Aqualillies, who refer to themselves as "the world's most glamorous water ballet entertainment," but have very little idea of what to do with 10 eager recruits who can't stay afloat or on beat.


G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S!!Photo courtesy of Taco Bell.

"It's okay," one of the instructors comforts me just before the Tacolilies (the name of our "team") are invited to perform our watery version of "Senorita" — which was supposed to be two minutes long, then 1:15, and has now been judiciously cut down, due to talent, to about 45 seconds — in the bigger pool. "We regularly teach five-year-olds. And you're doing much better."

Usually, I would take offense at such blatant reads, but today I'm unbothered. I'll continue to be so right until I get home and discover that I've left all my electronics on United Flight 5223 (if anyone wants to get them back to me). And even then, I rage at myself for all of five seconds before checking that I've still got what's important: A certificate that says I did not drown while doing water ballet.

It's still there. As is my phone, which is blowing up with messages from people who took pictures of me in what Taco Bell calls its "power suit," and which is best described as "cult outfit, but kinda make it fashion." I bought my husband one, too, and I look forward to the argument we're going to have about holiday cards later.

This is "Live Mas."

I've never been so happy to match with someone else in my life. MaMark Shrayber

Or maybe it's the moment another stranger tells me that we'll be friends forever. Such friendships are forged quickly when you've got less than 24 hours to make lifelong connections and I'm pleased to get the full experience.

"We may never meet again," he says while we're swimming, "but we'll always have this time together."

Then we establish that he lives just across the park from me in San Francisco.

"Aw, man," he says, floating away to take pictures of the people he came with, "I've got lots of close friends I never see because they live across that damn park."

But the sentiment holds.

We Live Mas it on.

Culture