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!


Time Is On My Side (No It’s Not)


Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

No, not the sound of a clock, but my head banging on the counter top. It’s a little hollow right now (my head) – hence the tick-tock rather than a bang-bang or thud-thud.

The elusive concept of time …. eludes me. I have always maintained that if days had more hours, my ADD would have half the challenges. You see, while I am a terrible organizer, haphazardly inattentive, and slow to get started on most things – I’m convinced that I would be none of these things if time simply waited for me. I can pay attention – but only after I get around to doing everything else on my list, so that a million things aren’t competing for my head space like an under-priced house in a seller’s market. I could also be more organized – if someone else’s deadlines didn’t dictate the time frame within which I must work. If this were the case, getting started would be a non-issue, because when I got started and how long it took – would be irrelevant.

The biggest problem with time is that it seems to be moving faster and faster. It could be a sign of the ages – too much to do and too little time. Or it could be a sign of my age. My dad always warned me that life is like a roll of toilet paper – the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. Funny guy my dad, he’s the Cliff Claven of sayings involving bodily functions.

But I don’t think it’s really going faster (quantum physicist’s post your arguments below). We are  going faster and time simply matches our pace. Every night before I go to bed, I review the day’s events in comparison to the next day’s itinerary and think:

“It’s too much”.

See, twenty-four hours in a day really isn’t enough, but since it is all we get, we need to pace ourselves accordingly rather than cramming more into each second. But with ADD, there are two huge barriers to doing this.

1. We have no concept of time.

We don’t know how long something should take or how much time we need to complete it. We have no idea how we spend most of our time, simply because we often aren’t “there” while we are spending it. But most of all – our biggest challenge with time is that we are overly optimistic. Most authorities on managing ADD will advise you to project how much time you think a task will take and double it, in order to get a more accurate figure of the time it will actually take. I am fully aware of that fact. However, when I look at how much I can get done in a day (realistically) and compare it to what I want to get done, there is a gross mismatch between the figures. Deep down I really believe I should and could get those things done, if I only I could find the focus.

2. We frequently take on too much.

Everybody takes on too much these days; busy-ness is not segregated to ADDers but seems to be a global dilemma. Next time you see a friend and ask her how she is doing, I will bet you a million bucks (the ones roaming the Boreal Forest, not the ones sitting in Bill Gates’ bank account) that she says “Oh, I am soooooo busy!” We ADDers don’t necessarily take on more than any other group of people, but we certainly do take on more than is good for us. Again, because of our optimism (I should and could) and because of this simple phenomenon:

When the going gets tough, ADDers … up the ante. (Click to tweet)


Yep. That’s what we do. For example, I started coaching last year and have been busily growing my business. Apart from my family, coaching is my priority numero uno because – it’s the thing I really love to do. Then, I started this blog, which has become priority numero dos because (as it turns out) – it’s the other thing I really love to do. So I do these two things joyfully, while coasting along with the “day job” and making time for my family and  friends. I could also pretend that I make time for housework to try and look good, but the amount of time I spend doing that is an inconsequential drop in the bucket.

The week that this blog went live was a crazy-busy, but totally exciting time. It seems a long time ago now but was less than a month (thanks to you again, elusive Father Time). The day after the blog was first published, I did the only rational and normal thing a woman in my position would do – I decided to relocate. Not next door or across town, but 840 km (522 miles) west of here. Wrapped up in the excitement and enthralled with the sense of completion the blog gave me, I was inspired to finally make the decision I had been postponing for nearly a year. Because that’s how my brain works.

When ADDers get busy, we have a tendency to take on even more. Being busy, harried, and hanging on by the skin of our teeth activates our adrenaline, aka mother nature’s Ritalin. However, adrenaline has serious side effects if we rely on it long-term, and while it gives us a boost in the short-term, it doesn’t really increase productivity. But its not just the adrenaline we crave. While other people can get their noses to the grind when they really need to, ADDers need to get into the right mental state to get focused and productively active. When that state hits us, we don’t want to lose our momentum. So we decide to take it all on. And that’s the reason we believe we should and could do it all : because when we’re in hyper-focus, we can and do. At times, we “can” and “do” do more than anyone else “could” or “would”. The problem is, the momentum doesn’t last forever. Yet we seem to think that because we can get a lot done in hyperfocus, we can get that much done at other times. It’s a faulty principle. Hyper-focus is the exception, not the norm. If it was, your life would be very one-dimensional and devoid of enjoyment and rest. In short, you’d burn out.

So yes, we need to project a realistic view of how long things will actually take. And yes, we should learn to take on only what we can feasibly do in normal times, not hyper-focus times. But more importantly – we need to learn to appreciate what we are doing, when we are doing it. And we need to appreciate why we are doing all that we are. Because without meaning and purpose, all busy-ness is wasted effort. Thinking about the purpose behind our actions can put more joy into the time we do have. It can even slow time down.  Being fulfilled and full of joy transcends the ticking of the clock and nullifies the relevance of the passing seconds. It is time well-spent, not time maxed out.

Being busy or pushed for time doesn’t matter when you make each minute an important part of your day.

In the next post, we will explore time more and try to harness it like a cowboy halts a bucking bronco. But for now, please leave me your comments and share your experience of time and its challenges. I want to know that I am not the only one who can’t get a firm grip on the clock!