Experts on ADHD recommend Priority Matrix because its methodology helps people with ADHD better plan their lives. This post is part of an article series that asks experts to share their prioritization tips and techniques. Most of these apply to all of us, independently of our relationship with ADHD.
Design a daily routine
If you don’t proactively design your day, you are tacitly letting others plan it for you. Steve Anevski, CEO of and Co-Founder of staffing platform Upshift, forces himself to “stay organized and develop structure into my routine. My routine entails daily chores, home maintenance, making a to-do list, creating calendar events. I also perform tasks right then and there. Whatever takes 2 minutes, do it.” This tip, reminiscent of the Getting Things Done methodology, is a suggestion we have seen time and time again.
Find your most productive hours
Some of us often identify as “morning people”, or “owls,” in reference to the time of the day during which we feel more energized and effective. Rebecca Tolbert, an ADHD-specialized psychotherapist and coach with Conscious Strides, advocates for dialing into your zone of genius. “Set aside two hours a day during which you only focus on your most important tasks, that align with your highest skill set. Once you delegate your weaknesses, don’t allow urgent but unimportant tasks to consume your time. It is extremely easy for people with ADHD to go from one fire to another because of the adrenal and dopaminergic benefits of crisis management. If your job is crisis management, manage the crises. However, if you are running a company or have other responsibilities, lean into your particular creativity and don’t allow people to interrupt it.”
At a fundamental level, productivity and balance mentor Alejandra Marqués recommends getting to know yourself, in order to make up an optimal routine: “Start gaining awareness of your patterns and what you do each day. When are the times that you get more distracted? When are the times that you feel more creative or more focused? By knowing yourself and how you work, it will be easier to create a routine that better serves you.”
Review your plan every day
As they say, no plan survives first contact with reality, so it is important to review our expectations and adapt as needed. Abe Breuer, CEO and owner of VIP To Go and John To Go, likes to make a new to-do list every day. “Make a list of the tasks you wish to do that day every morning. Keep your to-do list as short as possible, so you have a decent probability of finishing everything. Arrange your chores in priority order, with the most critical ones coming first, and assign a specific time of day to each job. When you have finished each task, cross it off of your list.”
On that topic, financial advisor Matthew Vitlin likes to take some time the night before to plan the day: “What are you going to wear? What will you eat? Out of the dozens of things on your to-do list, what are the 3-5 items that are most important or most urgent to accomplish? Doing this helps me prioritize. My ADD brain tends to get overwhelmed by my to-do list to the point I don’t know what to do first and therefore do nothing. This lets me focus on knocking out a few critical things first.”
Sofia Souiri, an integrative psychotherapist and wellness coach, also asks her clients to always plan their day in advance: “Before starting a busy day, it is essential to sit and prioritize various tasks to be accomplished. Starting with the most important one and leaving the small tasks for late afternoons. A time management chart could be useful. Creating a routine is not something that can be done overnight. It is thus important to break goals into smaller ones. Baby steps.“ She also comments on the importance of work-life balance: “It is important to leave some spare time for self-care, hobbies etc. This enables one to enter more easily in a state of flow, increasing productivity. It fosters not only the performance but also satisfaction at work, and at home.”
Eating is often an overlooked part of or busy work lives.
Focus on what you’re good at
Ben Spielberg, the founding neuroscientist and CEO of TMS & Brain Health, has more to add on the topic of identifying your areas of excellence: “No one is good at everything, and some people are particularly bad at certain things! When you understand what you excel at, you further hone your expertise. When you spend time on things that you’re particularly bad at, that time is often spent in misery. Figure out a way to get assistance from the people who excel at what you fail at.”
Choose what works for you
Nettie Owens, author of the What Businesses Need To Know Right Now, adds to this sentiment: “Don’t try to recreate someone else’s perfect system. You’ll see, hear, and read about what works or has worked from others. Consider these ideas as inspiration, and allow yourself to choose from the buffet of options. Make a list of the times that you felt productive and in flow. What worked about those times? Use this as a starting point to craft a system that will work for you now.”
Time boxing helps you stay on track
Speaking of interruptions, Mike Howard of Jetsetter Charter Jet Service recommends limiting their duration to avoid losing focus: “Stick to a routine and stay consistent with it. When tired, take mini breaks, but set a time limit, so you know when to get back to work. I have ADHD, but the only time I feel I get off track is when I do not stick to a schedule or routine.” This approach is similar to the popular Pomodoro technique of time boxing, only Mike centers on the duration of the breaks, instead of the periods of work.
On a similar note, Sarah Spear, founder of Empowered Together, recalls when “an educator with ADHD was building a school for students with special educational needs. The mere idea of that project was overwhelming, but she wrote out individual steps and progressed through them, one by one. She used a timer to help her focus for 25 minutes on work before taking a five-minute break, [known as the Pomodoro technique]. The time-bound nature of the project and steps motivated her to keep going.” Break big projects down into bite-size steps and use time as your friend to accomplish those steps.
Don’t forge to eat!
You must have read stories of highly motivated people getting in a state of flow so deep that they even forget to eat. For most of us, however, eating periodically is important because it helps keep sugar levels stable. Registered Dietitian Jackie Silver advises setting timers to remind yourself to eat every 2-4 hours: “It’s common for folks with ADHD to get into a flow with their work and go several hours without eating anything. Try setting timers to remind yourself to eat every 2-4 hours or so, to ensure you are nourishing yourself throughout the day. This will give you energy to remain focused on your work.”
Come back soon!
As part of our current article series, we will continue sharing tips and recommendations from successful professionals living with ADHD, as well as experts who help them make the most of their busy lives.
If you haven’t tried Priority Matrix yet, take a look now. You might like what you see.