Making decisions of any kind can be a challenge for ADHD adults. You get that. This is true of deciding how and when to do your myriad of tasks. To more easily make these types of decisions the first step is to create an effective to-do list. Because it just doesn’t work for ADHD adults to keep your to-do’s in your head.
One reason, of course, is you just won’t remember them. Also, it is incredibly difficult to make decisions in your head. For these reasons, a central place to keep your tasks — a to-do list — is indispensable. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series for strategies on how to create an effective task list.
But, be careful, you don’t want to spend too much time in this stage of planning — making your list.
Having a list without enough follow through will cause you more overwhelm. Because it will remind you of all your undone tasks. Then the stress of all your open loops will likely cause you to stop using it regularly. When this happens your task list will not be up-to-date. You will lose confidence in its usefulness. And this loss of confidence will just further your resistance to using it.
You don’t want that to happen, right? 😊
You want to execute, of course. After all, that is the purpose of having a list. So, once your list is good enough, it’s time to figure out how to complete the tasks. Not easy, I know. You can do it, though. First, breathe, really. Then take your time using some of the strategies below. And, of course, if you need help, reach out to a family member, friend or colleagues to help you as you practice.
#1: Choose Where to Focus in The Upcoming Week(s)
To keep your to-do list in good enough shape so it helps you execute on your important work you’ll need to do upkeep 1x a week. Of course, this regular upfront thinking will include adding and checking off projects/tasks. Doing this will allow you to be clear on what is on your plate.
The other part of this upfront thinking is deciding how to follow through and complete your tasks. Otherwise, you can easily get lost amidst meetings, emails, and other people’s priorities. And, as you are swept up in whatever current you happen to fall into, you might fail to chart your own course.
You can change this, though.
Hands down, a weekly review and planning session is one of the most important cornerstones of your task/time management system. It’s a time when you slow down and do the upfront thinking you need to be more deliberate in planning how to follow through. For example, during this time you can schedule blocks of time on your calendar to do your most important tasks (MITs).
As you don’t have time day-to-day and moment to moment to do the necessary thinking. This weekly time will also keep you connected to your master task list. As a result, you will be more confident you are keeping it up-to-date. And this will provide you with the encouragement you need to keep on using it. Nice, right?
Check out The ADHD Adult’s Guide to the Weekly Review for suggestions on how to create your own weekly review. I know it may not be easy to keep up this routine. So, think about incorporating an accountability partner as part of your practice.
#2: Batch Similar Tasks
It’s impossible, though, to schedule time on your calendar to do all your tasks. For example, do you really know a week in advance you’ll be able to go to the cleaners at 3:30 PM next Thursday? Probably not. If you’ve tried, you know it doesn’t work, right? So, how do you make sure these tasks get done?
One way is to batch similar types of tasks to do at once. Rather than jumping from one type of task to another. For example, you may decide to set aside a few blocks of time during the day to do email, instead of doing it throughout your day. Similarly, you may identify a theme for a block of time, such as home finances or errands.
The advantage of this strategy is:
- As long as the tasks are on your list you don’t need to worry about whether you’re going to remember them.
- Also, you don’t have to decide when you’re going to follow through on them. Because you can be confident there is a time when you will tackle these tasks.
- In addition, you will not feel compelled to jump from task to task for fear you might forget to do whatever pops into your head in the moment. So, you will have fewer transitions.
- When you jump from task to task is easy to get distracted by something entirely different than what you intended to do. With fewer transitions, you can also minimize the chances of getting distracted.
Not sure how to batch your different tasks? But you’re curious how this could help you? Experiment with a general administration time — one for work and one for home. Just be sure to define what you will do during this time. It could be a catchall time to do all those tasks that don’t neatly fall under other projects.
#3: Choosing Which Task(s) on Your To-do List to Focus on Each Day
Scheduling your most important tasks (MITs) and batching similar tasks are two strategies you can try to make it easier to execute. But, if you’re like most people, these techniques won’t work for all you need to do. And not knowing when or how you’re going to follow through on these additional tasks can be stressful, for sure.
One way to address this is to decide the 1 – 3 tasks on your list you must get done each day. The key is to keep coming back to work on these throughout your day. Being intentional in this way will help you follow through. Even amidst all the distractions, including interruptions by colleagues and others.
But it’s not enough to decide at the beginning of the day. You need to remember them throughout your day. Not easy, I know. So, it’s important to make sure they are visible. You might put them on a whiteboard, a piece of paper on your desk or any other place you will likely see them. Keeping them front and center will help you remember to work on them when possible.
While you might be able to tick more off your to-do list, at a minimum you want to make sure these ones get done. That way, by the end of the day, you will feel like you did what was most important to you. Instead of riding the currents of whatever washes up to your shore each day.
Wouldn’t that feel good?!
#4: Honor Your Natural Rhythms as Much as Possible
Of course, you likely must do work at times that are not optimal for you in terms of your energy and attention. So, when using the above strategies to decide how to tackle your to-do list ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the best time of day for me to work on this task?
- How much time will I be able to focus and attend to this task?
- Which task should I leave for times when my energy is likely to be low?
- How can I batch these tasks so I can minimize the number of transitions?
- Other considerations?
When you take the above into consideration you will minimize the chances of haphazardly working on whatever pops to mind as the mood strikes you. If you don’t yet have a good understanding of how your energy and attention typically ebbs and flows in a typical day, experiment for a while.
You’ll figure it out. Need help? Reach out to friends and family who know you well. They can be a mirror and reflect back what they may have observed about how you operate. And, remember, this isn’t an exam. You can’t fail. As you experiment and collect more data you’ll learn more about how you operate best.
And then, with this new understanding, you’ll be able to be more strategic about how to tackle your to-do list effectively.
ADHD Task List Follow Through
It’s easy to get stuck tweaking your task list to make it look just “right.” You may even do this as a means of procrastinating because you’re not sure how you’re going to follow through. But by now, if you’ve read all the articles of this series, you know it’s not enough to have a task list. After all, in the moment it might feel like it’s helping you.
But at some point, you have to move on to executing, right? So, what will you do this week to move from working on your task list to executing more often?