5 Times You Don’t Need to De-Clutter


What the heck is it with all this sycophantic love for the art of de-cluttering!? I know they say that cleanliness is next to Godliness, but the only people that can know that for sure are dead, and I don’t trust dead people, do you?

I know that most of us in the western world have way too much stuff. The upkeep of said stuff can weigh us down, no doubt. But the pendulum can swing the other way. This obsession with de-cluttering can make us feel like the only right way to live is to sell everything we own and spend the rest of our lives living out of a backpack.

I did that once, by the way. And it was AWESOME. But it couldn’t last forever. I had kids. And having kids means having a home and all the things that come with it. It means ferreting away rock collections, half-coloured drawings, and bits of shiny-sparkly shrapnel found on a walk – to the back of the cupboard. It means waiting for the precise moment (of exactly 21-days to the minute – the time from whence they last mentioned those items) to signal that it’s safe to throw those things away without suffering the wrath of hoarder-children.

Personally, I love throwing stuff out. Or recycling or donating it. It makes me feel good. It frees my mind. But it’s a delusion really. My stress doesn’t come from having too many clothes or knickknacks. But for some odd reason, getting rid of excess stuff makes me feel like I’m shedding stress. Even though I’m not, really.

On the other hand, I know many people who struggle with de-cluttering. Its hard work for them and completely overwhelming. They like their stuff. They don’t feel better by shedding it – in fact, they feel weighed down by the very notion of getting rid of it.

To those people I say, consider this post a permission slip. It’s not always a good thing to de-clutter your home. And actually, there are a few occasions when it’s actually a bad idea:

1. When it doesn’t actually bother you or the people you live with

The whole point of the de-cluttering movement is to make our busy and stressful lives easier. If your stuff isn’t getting in your way or bogging you (or anyone you live with) down – then leave it alone.

2. When it’s an organized mess – you know where everything is

Assuming point number one is true for you, then another reason to leave your clutter alone is when it’s what we call an “organized mess”. Personally, I can’t cope with too many visual distractions. Visible clutter invades my brain and makes it hard for me to think clearly. But that’s just me. I know many people who know exactly where everything is in their piles and heaps. Those people, often, struggle to find things when they do put stuff away.

If you can access the stuff you need, exactly the way it is – don’t worry too much about changing it.

3. When your mess inspires your creativity

Creative people are often connoisseurs of the artefacts they have created, or the works of others that inspire joy. That’s what a home should be about – inspiration and joy. If you feel those things from a minimalist palette – then start de-cluttering. But if you’re more of an eclectic who’s inspired by many different things – keep your collage of stuff and don’t worry about it.

4. When de-cluttering is procrastinating on getting the real work done

I’m super guilty of this. Usually, when I start de-cluttering, it’s because I have something difficult I need to do, and I just can’t face it. Cleaning makes me feel like I’m taking charge, but really I’m just avoiding the thing I really need to do.

Avoid the procrastination trap. If you can work in the mess, then… work in the mess. You can always de-clutter later.

5. When it costs more to de-clutter than it’s worth

It should be cheap and easy to get rid of stuff, but that’s not always the case. I know that most experts say that if you haven’t used something in a year, you probably don’t need it. Sometimes, though, you might need that thing once every two or three years, but that thing would cost far too much to replace each time you needed it. So keep it.

Likewise, if its going to cost and arm and leg to de-clutter, by way of expensive storage systems or hired advice from an organizing-professional, then maybe it’s not worth it. This is especially the case if all the previous statements I’ve made are true for you.

While de-cluttering can be a godsend for many people who are struggling to keep on top of their lives, it’s not a panacea. Sometimes, the best way forward is to learn how to navigate around or through the mess, rather than simply getting rid of it. What are your thoughts on clutter? Yay or nay? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Two REAL REASONS to Keep a To Do List

to do lists

If you hate to do lists, let me share with you two reasons you should think about them differently.

Many people don’t like to do lists. My guess is they’re commitment phobic. Or, like one of my clients, they did poorly in English class. Writing a list feels tantamount to a condensed eleventh-grade essay on Shakespeare. Only there’s no one around to reprimand you for poor grammar and punctuation. Hopefully.

But I haven’t met many people who can be effective without a list of some description. Some people have excellent memories. But I mostly hang out with ADDers who don’t.

Frankly, there are only two REAL REASONS to keep to do lists. I classify REAL REASONS to mean this: the way they benefit you because they actually do (benefit you) – not because you “should” keep them, or because everyone else keeps them.

Here they are:

To Do Lists Free your Mind

Think about how much grey matter is consumed by trying to remember all your commitments. When you don’t write them down, they occupy space in your cranium. Dump them out onto an external storage device and suddenly prime realty space becomes available.

A list is like an external hard drive for your computer, or building an extension on your house. Writing things down frees your mind to think about far more fascinating things. Like why this bubble bath is listed to be gluten-free but doesn’t actually tell you how many calories are in it.

To Do Lists Cheer You Up

We ADDers spend a lot of time chasing our tails. Scratching things off our lists make us feel like we aren’t going in circles. They prove that we have been effective, at least on some level. A list full of scratched-off things is like a mini-celebration. They scream “Yay, I got that done!”

We don’t often congratulate ourselves on being effective, quite simply because we think productivity should just be a given. To do lists do the celebrating for us.

I keep all my past lists, the ones I’ve already done. I’ll admit, I’m a geek. But when I feel woeful that I haven’t been very productive lately, I take out my lists to remind myself of everything I have accomplished. It’s like reminiscing over old family photos. Except my lists aren’t as cute as my baby learning how to do house chores for the first time 🙂

Do you like to do lists or loathe them? No matter how you feel about them, don’t forget the real reasons they benefit your life.


Productive ADDers Manage Expectations to Be More Successful

manage expectations

Synopsis: Getting things done and finding more success when you have ADHD comes down to how you manage expectations. 

Are you exhausted by the myriad of things you do each day, but go to bed feeling disappointed that you didn’t accomplish quite enough?

ADDers have a hard time feeling satisfied with their achievements. We have a lot of interests and ideas we want to put into action, and we want to get them ALL DONE (even when it’s not realistic). And sometimes, we get so distracted by our voracious goal-appetites, we end up “grazing” all day – on this and that – but we don’t really do anything substantial.

Right now, I’m working on a few different projects. I am co-editing an online magazine for ADDers. I am developing on an online course for Adult ADHD, to be published on Udemy in February (fingers crossed). I am also halfway through writing a book, though I’m not sure I should even mention it in this lineup, as I’ve been “half-finished” since January of last year. Oh yeah, and then I’ve been writing for this blog, too.

Some days, I’m on fire – I get in a few uber-productive hours of work and make real headway on these projects. Other days (in fact, more days than not) – I get little to none done. It might even be weeks between bursts of super-powered productivity. It used to depress me. The term “long on will, short on skill” comes to mind. I do everything the productivity gurus prescribe – get up early, remove all distractions, work hard for defined periods of time.. How is it that I can be so motivated, yet still so inefficient at times?    

I’ve come to realize that it all boils down to how we manage expectations.

I wish I could be more productive on my goals each day. It’s kind of disappointing that I can’t work as fast as my head imagines things getting done. But when I EXPECT myself to be more productive – to write 5 blog posts in a day, to publish an e-course within a month, or to write, edit and publish a book within 6 months of its conception – well, it’s downright devastating.

When it comes to being satisfied with your daily output, it’s crucial to distinguish between wishes and expectations.

Take these two examples from everyday living. Example A – When my Internet connection is poor and my search leads me to the dreaded “Internet Connection Timed Out”, I nearly explode in frustration at the sheer incompetence of my Internet service provider. I expect it to work after the first click. Fifteen years ago, I didn’t care that a webpage took 5 minutes to load while the modem dialed up – the Internet was such a marvelous novelty then.

Now take example B – I really wish that I could be a millionaire (who doesn’t?). I would spend half my time engaged in charitable occupations and the other half doing wonderful and exciting things with my family. But I get over it pretty quickly when the lotto fails to come up with my numbers.

Although I dream of winning the lottery, I don’t expect it. Yet taken at face value, surely the loss of millions of dollars (even if only just the potential) is far more devastating than the inconvenience of a timed-out Internet search! The difference lies in my personal appraisal of these two events: one is an expectation and the other a wish. I hate to imagine how I’d react if I expected to win the lottery.

Yet, for so many ADDers, what we expect from our daily accomplishments is about as realistic and likely as winning the lottery. We need to better manage expectations.


Here’s What Happens if You Don’t Manage Your Expectations:

  • You’ll never be satisfied by what you do get done
  • This feeling of disappointment lends to a “what’s-the-point” sense of futility
  • Feelings of futility make it less likely you’ll keep working at something (after all, what’s the point?)
  • Your work rate suffers – you’ll either give up easier or give up all together

Before, you weren’t getting as much done as you wanted to get done. Now, you’re getting nothing done at all. A lifetime of Facebook and Game of Thrones it is for you then!

Success breeds success. Dwelling on positives inspires more positive action in your life; the more satisfied, fulfilled and successful you feel in your efforts, the more likely you will be to continue applying more effort. Be warned, though – the opposite is also true.


Manage Your Expectations to BE and FEEL More Successful

1. Play a Game of Semantics

This tactic is the verbal equivalent of diazepam. Instead of saying “Ugh, I didn’t get anything done today!” say:

“I wish I would have got more done, but I guess it just didn’t happen. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

When that ping of frustration bubbles at the surface, check in with yourself, decode expectations and translate them to wishes. Unfulfilled wishes are disappointing but manageable, while unfulfilled expectations are devastating.


2. Set the Bar Lower and Surprise Yourself

We know ADDers have a lot of desire to bring ALL our diverse ideas to fruition. Often, it’s not physically possible to get everything done.

In a world that offers so freely a plethora of stresses, frustrations and even tragedies, why add coal to the fire by heaping on unrealistic and incalculable personal expectations? If you scrutinize and exam your expectations closely, you will likely find that many of them are not only unreasonable, but also unachievable.

Plan, intentionally, to do less than you think you are capable of doing. If you exceed expectations, you’ll feel all the better for it. If you simply meet those lowered targets, you’ll still feel satisfied because that’s what you set out to do.


3. Under-Promise, Over-Deliver

In the same spirit as #2, many ADHD Coaches (myself included) work with their clients to develop this principle. Commit to less than you are capable of. If you give more than what was expected, other people will be delighted. Over-committing and not following through – because you set the bar too high – disappoints everyone – including yourself.


4. Work towards a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

In the start-up industry, the MVP is a pivotal starting point in accelerating growth. In brief, an MVP is a “product with just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development.” (Wikipedia) In the ADD world, we refer to this as “good enoughness”. ADDers are prone to perfectionism, and we see things in black-and-white terms. Either something is done or it’s not. We see no in-between.

In reality, there are multiple steps between coming up with an idea and bringing it to life. Work towards achieving a minimum viable product or good-enough effort each day, knowing that continued application of these principles will lead to eventual completions.


I don’t propose that learning to manage expectations is the only way to be more successful with ADHD.  There is no one-sure-path to success – it’s more like a system of interconnected highways, byways and even a few grid roads. But by becoming aware that expectations do not have to be fulfilled in order to be successful, and in fact can be limiting, takes you a small chunk of the journey closer to that destination.


If you want more strategies for productivity, success and bringing your ideas to life, make sure to sign up for free tools and updates in the box below, or contact me to find out how ADHD coaching can help you.

P.S. If you’d like a free year’s subscription to the online mag I co-edit, email “editor at everydayADDvice dot com” and mention that Andrea sent you!


Sometimes… Don’t Write Things Down

write things down

Productivity experts may be able to motivate the masses, but they know nothing about the ADHD brain.

Success gurus say to write down goals in order to make progress on them. They also suggest creating itemized lists of all the steps involved in getting to completion – a sort of road map to guide us from none to done.

For the most part, I understand the logic. But normal logic does not apply to the ADHD way of doing things.


Why NOT write things down?

Most of us are rebels. We have big ideas and sure, we really do want to achieve success with those ideas. But we don’t want to be told what to do.

When you write things down, it can feel like being told what to do. Itemized lists are grown-up versions of self-imposed homework. Many of us are super wonderful at making lists and creating strategies… that we never actually use.

Why? Because making lists and developing strategies tricks our primal brains into thinking we’ve already done the work. Our attention bank is already spent by the time it comes to putting the work into action.


Play to Your Rebel-You

Every single time I have developed a robust strategy for moving forward on say, my writing or coaching goals, I’ve sabotaged the plan within 48 hrs. I simply drop it for something shinier or easier.


Every single time I’ve decided to do something without thinking too much about it (referred to by some as impulsivity) – I’ve got it done.

ADDers can be over-thinkers and over-planners. We try to get things “right”, but this cripples us. Harnessing our impulsive streaks can be a lot more productive than trying to focus more. Nike says “Just do it”. I say “Hell yes!”


How to “Just Do It”

Elaborate plans are overwhelming. We give up before we’ve even started.

Simple plans are easy to stick to because we don’t really have to think about them.

To get back into regular writing and posting, with double the amount of output I previously achieved, I had 2 simple steps to my mental plan. First – read one research-esque thing (news feed, blog post, book chapter) every day. Second – write 500 words on a related topic 5 days a week.

That’s it. Easy. Realistic. Achievable.

And I don’t get bogged down with written plans, detailed by multiple steps that make me feel like I’ll never get to “done”.

Sure, have a goal. Make it simple and achievable. But you don’t HAVE to write it down or have a detailed plan in order to tackle. Etch it in your mind and embed it in your heart. Work on that goal everyday. If it’s simple enough, you’ll do it. Stick to that mental plan for as long as you possibly can. And then, a bit longer.

There may be a time down the road when you WILL need a written out strategy. Goals have different phases on the road to completion. But by the time the next phase rolls around, you’ll already be rooted in the achievement habit and won’t be fooled into thinking that the plan is all you need.

Impulsivity can be an ally just as much as it can be an adversary. But it doesn’t want you to write out a plan for your goals, it wants you to go for them!


One Goal Wonder

one goal

Which of your children would you give up if you had to?

Maybe you don’t have kids. Okay then- which of your limbs would you sacrifice in order to save the rest? I mean, if you HAD to.

Can’t make a decision?

Thankfully, most of us don’t have to. But we do have to make important choices about our goals. And sometimes when I ask people to do that, they react as if it’s an offspring or appendage I’m asking them to relinquish.

By the way, that’s not what I’m asking at all. I’m not a prehistoric deity or the psycho out of Saw.


I am asking you to juggle your goals differently. One ball (goal) at a time.

But I have many… why should I choose just one goal?!


All too frequently, my coaching clients want to change their agenda every time we meet. They try to relegate whatever we talked about last week in favor of this week’s shinier (more urgent) topic.

I get that. We live in the moment. Whatever is on our mind right now feels like the most important thing. Ever. And sometimes it is, so we refocus our priorities and switch gears.

But other times, our vacillation is really just a symptom. We can’t hold on to our goals and priorities just like we can’t keep track of our thoughts, our keys or the passing of time.

In other words, goals can be distractions.

To pick one goal out of a bunch and focus solely on it feels like neglecting some of our kids in favor of one. Sometimes, though, one kid needs more attention. And then when that kid is okay, you can turn your attention to the rest.

And just so you childless people don’t feel left out, rest assured – the same applies to limbs. Sometimes you have to favor one of them (i.e. an injured one). That doesn’t mean the others aren’t important.

How do you choose one goal?

It really depends on your circumstances. There may not be one right answer. You may have to simply pick one and stick with it, until it doesn’t need your attention any more. You’re not going to say no to your other goals. You are going to say: not now.

Your other goals benefit by proxy from your discernment. Success breeds success. When you feel successful, it will make you more apt to tackle your other goals with vivacity and enthusiasm.

When your space is more organized, you’ll feel more focused when you write. When you’re managing time better, you’ll be able to grow your business. When your finances are in order, you’ll start saving for the round-the-world trip you’ve been dreaming about.

But if you try to tackle them all simultaneously, you’ll get nowhere on any of them.

So maybe that’s the best reason of all to stick to the one goal strategy:

Its better to get somewhere on one thing, then nowhere on everything. 

Check out Ramit Sethi’s interview with Noah Kagan for more on how focusing on one goal can accelerate your productivity.


Are You a Simplifier or an Optimizer?

The way you approach the multitude of tasks in your life makes all the difference between being a champion of effectiveness or a casualty of complete exhaustion.  If the latter sounds more like your description, you may be making life unnecessarily hard.

Simplifiers vs Optimizers

According to Scott Adams of Dilbert fame, a simplifier is someone who will choose the straightforward (sometimes easier) way of completing a task, even when he or she could have achieved better results with more effort. An optimizer, as he defines it, is someone who will take the extra effort to get better results, even at the risk of unexpected contingencies sending the whole plan south. (See Scott’s book – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.)

The Uncomplicated Path

A simplifier leaves on time for a meeting, arrives at least 5 minutes early and uses that waiting time to check his or her emails on a smart phone. Someone who simplifies their tasks and goals will take the most direct path towards achieving them. It’s not automatically the fastest route or the strategy with fewer or easier steps, but it’s the course least likely to have hassles along the way.

Because of its straightforward nature, it often does turn out to be the fastest or easiest option.

The Ambitious Path

An optimizer combines tasks that pair well together – either by proximity or likeness – and that, when executed well, will lead to higher levels of achievement and efficiency. An optimizer leaves on time for a meeting, but gets gas and drops books off at the library en route, in order to save time later. He or she may make phone calls at red lights or check share prices on the toilet.

In essence, an optimizer sucks every grain of sand from their hourglass, until its nothing but an empty shell.

When the optimizer’s strategy works, it’s a buzz. To clear essential tasks off your list and still get to your date in the nick of time – it makes you feel like a supercharged, productivity dynamo. That’s what makes it so compelling.

But when unpredicted glitches upset the delicate equilibrium required by optimizing – it’s stressful and deflating. Not to mention relationship-damaging.

For the record, I am an optimizer who is schooling herself in the art of simplicity. It’s not exactly a fine art, but it takes quite a bit of practice.

Driven By ADHD

I hypothesize that many ADDers are optimizers. We see opportunities to maximize productivity and we take them. Sometimes it makes sense. Getting gas on the way to the grocery store is efficient. Getting gas on the way to your wedding, however, is stupid. The problem is, we don’t always make the correct distinction.

Sometimes when we are “optimizing” though, it’s because, ultimately, we are terrified being bored and having to wait for something or someone. Have you ever heard of  “just-one-more-thing syndrome”? As in:

“I still have 5 minutes. I’ll just do one more thing (or two, or three), then I’ll go.”

It’s the effect of optimizing, but the cause of much tardiness and white-knuckle fever. One-more-thing can be efficient, but then again – it might not be. The passing of time, how long something will take, potential interruptions… all of these things are estimated by great optimizers. Most of us aren’t great estimators.

Which Approach Should You Take?

Adams suggests that if you can’t predict all the variables in a situation (red lights, traffic stops, old ladies crossing the road), choosing simplicity over optimum is a better choice.

But if punctuality doesn’t matter, optimizing your tasks may be the way to go. Sometimes, it may be your only choice, like if you run out of gas on the way to your meeting.

On a whole, however, I think most of us could benefit from learning the art of simplicity. Recently, I started working with a man whose life has been turned upside down from the hot mess created by not dealing with his ADHD challenges earlier. Let’s just say his life has suddenly become very complicated by court dates, immigration procedures, and financial crisis. It’s overwhelming.

His life has never been more complicated and there certainly are no simple solutions. And yet – there are. In fact, he has never needed simplicity more than he needs it now.

The most monumental of tasks can always be broken down into simpler steps. My client can’t control the judicial system. He can do what it expects of him: abide by his conditions and show up to court on time. He can’t control immigration procedures. But he can clarify the first step in the application process. He can’t reverse his financial problems. He can start by dealing with one debt.

There’s a Time for Both

Optimizing is about getting as much done as possible, with maximum impact. It’s an alluring tactic when you have a lot to do. Plan your tasks carefully and be mindful of the time each will take. Prioritize them according to their importance and urgency and be prepared to let some of them go. Ask yourself if each task is a “must be done” or a “nice to be done”, then prioritize accordingly.

Sometimes, you are at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. You can only optimize so much. The compulsion to get things done, when you can’t get things done, will only make you impatient, frustrated, and wear you down. Let it go and simplify.

Simplifying turns a problem or a goal into a series of manageable challenges. It removes overwhelm by focusing on what is possible: show up, do the work, repeat.

Pay attention to how your days usually go. Are you trying to fit in as much as possible, sometimes to the detriment of your (or someone else’s) sanity? Or are you streamlining too much, and not getting enough done? Maybe you need to up your game.

Adams makes inferences that people are either an optimizer or a simplifier – but I think it’s possible to be both, depending on what the situation calls for. It takes a little awareness and self-reflection, but learning to shift between these two approaches can bring more calm, focus and productivity to your day.

For more about this and some surprisingly profound insights from the cartoonist himself, check out Adams’ book here.

In the spirit of “cartoonistry” (its a word, albeit not a real one), I thought I would commission a cartoon as the image for this post. A BIG THANKS goes out to my 8-year-old daughter “Zee” for her excellent work – love ya sweet cheeks! xxx


An Oath of Fulfilling Productivity (What Will You NOT Do Today?)

It’s been a busy summer. Like every summer, the days have slipped past me faster than the plummeting price of oil.

I love having the kids off from school. No lunches to pack, no early morning alarm bells (for them, anyway). No arguing over what to wear or when to go to bed. Just pure, blissful, organic, moment-to-moment living.

I treasure these stolen moments with the kids, to laze around and (yes, I’ll admit) watch videos on Youtube. It’s guilt-inducing that I allow them to pollute their minds with pointless tripe, but redeeming to find communion over a shared sense of humour.

Admittedly, there have not been enough “stolen moments” like these. (I count stolen moments as extra moments to do out-of-the-ordinary things that can’t be done within the confines of your normal schedule).There have been even fewer quality moments doing things of substance and value. Because, like I said, we’ve been busy.

Work, business, blogging and website building. Basement renovations, deck building, hardware shopping and garbage dump deliveries. New puppy, summer parties, sleepovers and play dates. Garage sales and grocery shopping. Carpet cleaning and yard clean up (like I said – NEW PUPPY!). Company from afar and from across the road…

All the things that occupy the stolen moments supposedly called “free time”.

And yet with all the busyness, it’s hard not to focus on what hasn’t been done. It’s easy to feel unfulfilled.

Yes, we have a new deck – but it’s overshadowed by the proliferating weed-monstrosities overtaking the garden. The neighbours must hate us.

Yes, the basement is now finished after twelve grueling months, but the spot-washed carpet is a mere homage to the cleaning that remains to be done. What the company must think!

Yes, the kids have had fun with so many of their friends and the puppies have been exercised and fed. But what none of them have had is enough of me. Because, you know – the new deck, the basement, the company and ++ more.

I started out the summer with a master list of everything I wanted to accomplish during these respite months. What I forgot to include was list of everything I didn’t want to do. Being happy and productive is as much about what you won’t do as it is about what you will do.

So with a month left to go, time is of the essence to make that list right now.

My Oath to Fulfilling Productivity

  1. I vow that however I spend my time, I will do so by being fully present and in the moment with that activity. When I am working in the yard, I will work in the yard. When I am with the kids, I will be with the kids. I am one person, with one my mind. I can’t split my body into two people, so why should I spilt my mind?
  1. I promise that I will give equal time to activities of substance and productivity. Guilt will not rob me of fulfillment in either. I need to spend quality time with my family and I need to get things done. These needs are not mutually exclusive and they both deserve my attention.
  1. I assert that I will let some things go. Busyness will only be allocated to activities I endorse as valuable, regardless of how others may perceive me. So yes, the garden will remain overgrown. I am busy with other things this summer, and that’s nobody’s business but mine.
  1. I commit to making productivity a by-product of fulfillment, rather than the other way around. Getting things done is not important activity in and of itself. On the other hand, fulfillment as a precursor to any activity lends itself to greater focus.
  1. No matter how busy I get, I will always make time for stolen moments. In fact, I will get myself busier by making more of them. Renovating or yard work can be interrupted to laugh and love more freely. Work and business can be punctuated with impromptu cuddles and smiles and silliness. Company can be stalled or sent home sooner than anticipated because nobody should get more of me than my family does, and nobody should get be more of my family than me.
  1. Before I engage in any activity of productiveness, I will start with a clear sense of a good-enough outcome for that moment. Aiming for a “finish” often means other important things (i.e. family) get relegated to second place in pursuit completion. Finishing is mot more valuable than balance.

You can make more money but you can never make more time, warns Randy Pausch. But you can make more of the time you have by choosing to spend it in fulfilling ways, even if that means learning to find your busyness more fulfilling.

I know that if I took more time to write this post, I would certainly think of at least a few more oaths I would like to make. But for now I am practicing “good-enough”.

I’m interested to hear what oaths you would make to create more fulfilling productivity in your life, and more specifically – what you would start “not doing” in order to achieve it. Let me know in the comments below 🙂


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!