The Productive Adult With ADHD: 20 Tricks to Get Boring Things Done

Your to-do list weighs-in marginally lighter than a New York City phone book. Your daily accomplishments could be written on the back of a matchbook but your home looks like a Tasmanian Devil’s sweatshop in the aftermath of a hurricane. Friends assume your car’s been hijacked by the penguins of Madagascar, while the accountant wonders if your preschooler earns an allowance through bookkeeping.

Never mind what the dentist thinks, he reckons you died years ago from tooth decay.

Life is too short and you only live once … so why not watch TV instead, right?

Because the TV doesn’t wash dishes, take the car for an oil change or do your taxes. That’s why not. It can’t find your keys when they go walkabout and it’s virtually useless at performing root canals. It can’t even call the dentist to schedule you in for one.

No one wants a big to do-list, full of incomplete tasks. However, most of us would much rather watch Kitchen Nightmares than face the nightmares lurking in our own kitchens.

It’s quite the conundrum. But it needn’t be.

I advocate for outsourcing these kinds of tasks whenever possible. Pay a cleaner, hire a virtual assistant or indenture your grandma – whatever works. But if your budget or conscience won’t allow for that, here are a few tips that can get you psyched for getting stuff done, no matter how boring the task.


1. Shake Your Booty

Activate adrenaline (nature’s Ritalin) by going for a run, a brisk walk in the park, or belly dancing in the queue at the checkout stand. Exercise is the quickest way to wake up and focus the mind.

2. Make it fun(ner)

Put on some music and dance around while you are working, or listen to an intriguing podcast or audio book. Stimulate your mind by getting it interested in something, even if it’s not particularly interested in the task at hand.

3. Break It Down, Baby

Most boring tasks become ominous when they also feel “big”. Break tasks down into smaller chunks, focus on completing the chunks (or steps) one at a time, rather than tackling the whole task. One by one, baby steps will become giant leaps.

4. Use Your Double

In the movies, a body double is someone whose body is displayed (usually in nakedness) instead of the actor or actress’s body.

If you can get a celebrity to do your chores in the buff, go for it. What I mean by body double, though, is something completely different. In the ADD world, a body double is someone who simply sits with you while you get a job done. Their job is to gently remind you to keep on task.

5. Hmm, Interesting, Very Interesting

Tasks that are traditionally considered boring can be made more interesting in the way you approach them.

Unless you’re an accountant, doing your taxes could never be considered fun. (I wonder, how many accountants have ADD, do you think?) But it could be considered interesting, in a kind of way. Make speculations about your financial situation and then use the act of doing taxes as a scientific method for testing out your predictions. Treat it like an experiment or fact-finding expedition.

Okay, that’s a bit of stretch. There’s no way to make taxes interesting. But how about this…

6. A Teaspoon of Sugar 

While we may be short on time management and organizational skills, the one thing we ADDers never lack is imagination. Sugar-coat the boring tasks to make them tastier.

The unique art of pretend is not limited to children. Rather than washing up the dishes, pretend you are the baddy in a crime thriller, getting rid of the evidence. If you cook the way I do, this crime association wouldn’t be too far of a stretch.

Doing online banking and scheduling appointments? No, you’re not. You are one of the finalists on The Apprentice. The whole country is watching to see if you will win the coveted position.

You get the idea. Just keep the whole operation covert or your family will think you’ve gone doolally. Which, come to think of it, could make things a lot more interesting too.

7. Blitz It

Dishes piled up in the sink, two weeks of laundry on the closet floor, and brick-a-brac strewn all over making your home feel like a Cairo bazaar … who could be bothered to start, let alone finish?

Don’t bother finishing. Just focus on the start. Set a timer and go full tilt, seeing how much you can get done in your limited time. Challenge yourself to exceed your own expectations.

In our house, we call this doing the “mad-dash-clean-up” or “blitzing-it”. Admittedly, you won’t always finish the whole task, but you could get a sizable chunk done.

On the other hand, you may find yourself so inspired that you carry on until you’re done.

Warning: this is best done when small children and pets are out of the way. If you’re not sweating, you’re not doing it right.

8. What’s it all Mean?

Cooking can be boring. Fueling your family’s bodies with the kind of nutritious fare that keeps them happy, healthy and wise … is a very nurturing thing to do. Paying bills is tedious. Being paid up on your bills is a sign of being responsible and having your act together.

If you must do something because what it brings is important to you, then make it more meaningful by remembering why you are doing it.

9. Meditate

Meditation is a great way to get focused. It clears the mind of worries and trains it to disregard distractions.

Let’s ponder a minute on the thought of meditation.

Feeling focused yet? (I’m hoping that reading this post isn’t one of those things for which you are trying to conjure up focus by … reading this post. That would be ironic and create an unintended layer to this story.)

10. Monkey Be, Monkey Do

Let’s imagine your monkey-brain is too wild to sit calmly meditating, even for ten seconds. Not hard to imagine, is it? Don’t dismay, this creates the perfect opportunity to try out mindfulness while you go about your business.

Mindfulness means focusing on presence by using your senses. Notice the way your fingers move intuitively as you type, or the pitch of the lawnmower as it chews up the grass.

Focus on the being part of doing and the very act of doing will become a lot more intriguing. (Click here to tweet that!) When your attention wanders (as it will inevitably do), simply bring it back again. And again. And again.

11. Dessert First

While it may be a good idea to save ice cream for dessert, leaving the fun stuff for later may not be as productive as it sounds.

In order to fully focus on a task, the ADD brain needs to be engaged. The best way to engage our minds is to get it busy doing the things it likes best.

Doing the interesting stuff wakes up your brain and readies it for other tasks. Be wary of getting too engrossed in the fun stuff, though – the idea is to get your brain switched on, not zoned out.

12. Pay Yourself

When you go to work everyday day, do you do it for free?

Then why should you work “for free” outside of work? Pavlov trained his dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell by ringing one every time food was presented. Eventually, the dogs began to salivate at the sound of the bell, even when no food was in sight.

Train your brain to engage by rewarding it with stuff it enjoys afterwards.

13. Create Your Space

Make your environment conducive to getting things done. Get help getting organized so you can find what you need, move distractions out of sight, and limit interruptions by turning off your phone or putting up a do-not-disturb sign.

Before you get started on a task, predict what distractions may come up and create a plan for how you will manage them.

14. Or Change Your Space

If home is not where you work best then by all means, go and work somewhere else. The advent of smart phones and laptops has made it easy to work from virtually anywhere, so why not take advantage of it?

I write best when out at a café. It stops aimless wandering and the buzz of other coffee drinkers is the just right kind of white noise to help me focus.

Be curious and notice the types of environments in which you are most alert. If you can’t create that environment in your work-space, bring your work-space to that kind of environment.

15. Attack Chaos Creatively

If you are overwhelmed by a huge list of menial tasks (I’m thinking about the disaster site at home again), conjure up creative solutions to git’er done. The crazier and more creative the solution, the more engaged you will be. You are speaking to your love of novelty here.

I don’t get around to washing my kitchen floor often. But often, I do get around to creating clumsy tidal waves spilling on to the floor as I wash up the pots. One day, I realized a rag under the foot to clean up the spillage was also (Oh, look at that!) a good way to mop the entire floor as I cleaned the counters.

Not a graceful or overly thorough approach to cleaning a kitchen floor, but definitely a creative one. My floor wasn’t spotless, but cleaner than it would have been otherwise. Just be careful not to slip!

16. Its My Way or the Highway

Just because everyone else does it one way, doesn’t mean you should too.

If you consistently force yourself to do something in a certain way because you believe you should, at some point you’re going to give up doing it all together. Or at least put it off until you can no longer ignore it.

Do it the way you like doing it, and you’re more likely to actually do it.

 Remember this always: the only strategies that work are the ones you actually use. 

17. Easy Peasy, Pleasey

Create momentum by getting the easiest stuff done first. Seeing a few scratched off items on your monumental to-do list will help you see progress and encourage you to keep going.

Here’s an embarrassing admission for you. On my own list, I always add a few things I have already done and scratch them off straight away. It’s silly, but it makes me feel more productive.

18. Hit the Hard Stuff

Just to clear this up, I don’t mean the bottle!

If ruminating on one dreaded task stops you from getting started on anything get that thing done first. Once it is out of the way, the relief and sense of accomplishment you feel will make everything else seem like a breeze.

19. Watch Your Language!

“I’m so busy.”

“There’s too much to do and not enough time.”

“I’ll never get it all done.”

Has telling yourself these things ever helped you get things done?

Feeling crazy-busy has never made me focus or pick up the pace. But it has made me feel exhausted, which does nothing but slow me down.

Stop telling yourself, or anyone else, that you’re busy. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A sense of overwhelm with responsibilities will incapacitate you with inaction.

20. Don’t Get Too Productive

Productivity is a great thing. But it’s not the only thing.

Getting too tied-up in the day- to-day stuff can sap your creativity and leave your mind tired and unable to think of anything else. This I have learned firsthand recently.

Give yourself the time and space to do the things that feed your soul. Enjoy the company of your family and friends. Lose yourself in a good book or movie. Spend some time daydreaming or working on your loftier goals. After all, the day-to-day stuff becomes meaningless if that’s the only thing you ever do.

I hope these tricks have helped you tackle some of the boring stuff left undone in your life. More to the point, I hope they’ve managed to make a few of these tasks less boring! If you try any of them out, I would love to hear how it goes!

I am always on the look out for interesting or creative solutions for getting things done, so please share your own tips in the comments below. And go ahead and share this post on Facebook or Twitter if you relate to any of the suggestions I’ve offered!