If you are an ADHD adult and have a long and complicated task list, you could definitely benefit from using an electronic task manager. As it can be an important piece of the puzzle in helping you execute better. But, if you have thought about using one and are not using one now, there may be a few reasons.
One possibility, of course, is you have a strong preference for a paper planner. Maybe you like being able to write things down and check them off? You may also like to be able to see your calendar and task list in the same place. Even if you prefer paper now, I suggest you read on anyway. Because you might decide it’s possible to develop a hybrid system.
Alternatively, maybe you’ve tried using an electronic task manager. But you have not met with much success, yet. So, you’ve decided they just don’t work for you or they seem too complicated. And now you’re reticent to try again. Make sense. But you found this article and you’re curious if you can make one work for you, right?
As you read on consider how using an electronic task manager may help you to manage and execute on your important work so you can feel less stress and overwhelm.
Having Lots of Tasks Lists Is Overwhelming for ADHD Adults
Right now, when a task pops into your head, you might write it down someplace, anyplace. Because you don’t want to forget it, right? So, you have a sticky note on your desk, a list on the kitchen counter, a note in your bag, a text from your spouse, etc. But I bet having these tasks listed in random places isn’t really helping you execute better.
Because you may not remember to look at the note at the right time or you might even lose the piece of paper. Sure, if you’re lucky, you may come across the note at the right time so you execute on time. But you can’t be confident this will happen, of course. So, having all of these lists, rather than helping, is just adding to your overwhelm.
Because you know you have a lot to do. But you just can’t remember what it is. And you don’t know where to look to remind yourself of what you need to do.
Why ADHD Adults Find One Task List Overwhelming, Too
True, having lots of random task lists is not helping you to execute, and is adding to your stress and overwhelm. So, you might conclude by now that the answer is having just one list. And you would be right. Having one list is a step in the right direction, for sure. But, if all you do is compile all your tasks onto one list, you may not be much further ahead.
Because having one long list will remind of all your open loops. And, if you don’t know how you’re going to get all of the tasks done, it can feel just as overwhelming and stressful as having several lists. So, after compiling your list, you may start to avoid looking at it. Then you will lose confidence in its usefulness because it is not up-to-date.
And, subsequently, you may revert to your old way of doing things, like trying to keep your tasks in your head.
How ADHD Adults Use Electronic Task Managers Effectively
Luckily, there is a workaround to the challenge of either having task lists all over or having one long list that stresses you out. That antidote, yes, is having a process to effectively use an electronic task manager.
Step 1 – Experiment
Choose a “good enough for now” task manager. If you haven’t had a lot of experience with them, you may not know what features are important to you, yet. So, spend time learning how to use one. You can always switch over to another one when you learn more about your preferences. Asana, Todoist, Toodledo and Nozbe are a few good options that work on all mobile and computer platforms.
Step 2 – Inputs
Know where all your tasks come from (eg. meetings, email etc.). And decide how you are going to capture these various tasks.
Step 3 – Learning Curve
Know that it will be a learning curve and you will need time to figure out how to use it well. So, put aside a little time to play with it. But don’t worry about getting it to work perfectly. Because the beauty of electronic task managers is you can easily change what you put in there. So, be okay with it being messy in the beginning.
Step 4 – Categories
Decide what categories may be most useful for you. For example, you may use the categories, home, personal, work/business to start. Remember, less is more. You don’t want it to be too complicated.
Step 5 – Projects
Add all your active projects. Make sure you have at least one action step for each of your projects.
Step 6 – Tasks
You also have discrete tasks that are not related to a particular project. Add those to the right category.
Step 7 – Tend the Garden
This step is one of the most critical in keeping up with your task manager.
Because, you may use it a bit each day to put it tasks and to see what’s on your plate. But you don’t have time day-to-day and moment to moment to do a lot of upfront thinking. So, you’ll need to do a deep dive once a week to add tasks, check off completed tasks and check on the status of your projects.
But I Need to See My Tasks on Paper
By using an electronic task manager you can be confident all your tasks are in one place. That is, your task manager will serve as your master list.
But you can still use paper. For example, some people like to write down the 3 to 5 things that they must get done each day on a 7×11 piece of paper. And then place it prominently on their desk. One of the advantages of this hybrid system is not having to look throughout the day at your long list of to do’s in your task manager.
What Kind of Help Do You Need to Use a Task Manager?
Most of the people I work with really like using their task manager after they got through the messiness of the initial learning curve. If you think you might need help, find someone you know who is already using one. And ask them if they could help you set it up.
I think you’ll really like using one once you get the hang of it.