Priority Matrix has an enthusiastic audience among people with ADHD, because it helps them better plan their lives. This is part of an article series that asks experts to share their prioritization tips and techniques. Most of these apply to just about anyone.
Make to-do lists
A tried and true technique that’s a good starting for most people is simply making to-do lists regularly, then crossing the items one by one. Julia Seraphine, CEO of her namesake social media agency, likes to make tons and tons of to-do lists: “Having ADHD, I find myself getting distracted and bouncing between many projects. Trying to keep all of my different projects, responsibilities and meetings in check is a Herculean task. The key to getting everything done, is to create different to-do lists. Mainly I create one for each day, week, month, and year. It makes it much harder to forget, and crossing something off my to-do list provides my brain some much-needed reward chemicals.”
That is similar to what productivity mentor Alejandra Marqués advises: “Pick your top 3 priorities for each day. Instead of having an endless to-do list, think about the 3 most important things you need to work on that day. I encourage you to not only consider the urgency and the importance of the task, but also the effort it represents for you, so that you don’t end up stretched too thin.”
Taking this a step further, Matthew Vitlin, a financial advisor with ADD, shares the concept of the “Prizefighter day”, which he learned from performance coach Ben Newman: “You come up with a list of no more than 5 things that you commit to doing. Every. Single. Day. Or at least every work day. Choose the top things that will set you on the path to the person you want to be and the life you want to live. It is another way to get my brain to focus on at least a minimum level of activity towards my goals, and anything above that is a bonus. Extra-credit points if you can do those things in the first half of your day, as that sets you up mentally and emotionally to have a great second-half.”
Use tangible props to help you remember
A to-do list is a good starting point, but if you put it away in a drawer and not look at it at all, it won’t be enough. Ted Mosby, a freelance architect and passionate camper, argues for the importance of visual aids: “Visuals help people with ADHD a lot, as they provide an idea of the results they need to complete. When done right, they also highlight key information, allowing better understanding of their workload.”
Sarah Spear is a business executive and the founder of Empowered Together. In her experience, it is important for neurodiverse individuals to identify and use the tools that have been successful throughout their life: “For example, an engineer with ADHD writes down all that he needs to do at work and at home. He will often remember the first requirement he hears but none of the following requirements. Writing it down has helped him, throughout his life, to incorporate all of his colleagues’ feedback into system designs. This enables him to maintain peace at home, since he can reference his notes to recall what his wife has asked him to do.”
Marketing expert Savannah Cherry prefers to go old school with things she can touch: “As someone with ADD and Anxiety, it’s very easy for me to get overwhelmed with my heavy workload. When looking for a good approach to manage that, I’m a very tangible person. I need to see something to understand it. It helps me a lot to use a paper planner. If I can write out everything I need to get done in a week, I can remember it and get it done.“
Your context should fit what you’re doing
Nettie Owens, author of the What Businesses Need To Know Right Now, argues for changing your environment to match the task at hand: “Your space is a big cue for your brain to know what kind of work needs to be done. Designate specific spaces in your home or office for different tasks. You might do reading in a cozy armchair by a window and prepare reports in your office while sitting with a candle lit. Moving from space to space gives you a physical and mental transition that helps you put a specific endpoint from one task so that it does not flow into the next.”
More tips coming 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.