A few neurotypical people will understand this concept, but for most people with ADHD, preparing to focus on something that HAS to get done is not only helpful but an activity that can serve as an actual part of the doing the-thing-I-have-to-do. I work best when I envision some grand big picture, so my setting myself up for successful productive time includes pretending the following strategies are some prequel to a scene in the movie of my life.


By getting ready for action, you can actually amplify your productivity rather than leaving it to chance. One of my favorite super-heroes is Stacey Turis, author and overall ADHD extraordinaire. In an article she wrote for ADDitude Magazine, she addresses one struggle that many with ADHD have, accurately determining how much time any one activity, or task, actually takes to do. (She claims she multiplies her guesstimate by 5 and that she’s usually dead-on.) Following are some helpful strategies, including some of her suggestions.

  • Have a clear goal in mind before you start.

For example, if you intend, ahead of time, to transfer information from post-it notes to your iPhone calendar, state what the end result will look like so you will know when you get there. That may be, “When these 7 pieces of paper are transferred, I am done.” This way, when other sparkly items come into sight, you will be less inclined to see them as an extension of the project. Get ‘er done and then go play.

  • Be realistic about how long it takes to do something.

For example, if you are going to get gas in your car, that does not take 2 minutes, or even 10. On average, it takes 30. You have to count the time it takes to walk out the door, get in your car, drive to the gas station, position your car in alignment with the pump, fuel, pay, drive home, and go back inside. In fact, shockingly, just getting my keys, putting on my shoes, walking to my car, and starting it up takes 2 full minutes, 5 if I have to find my purse and take it with me.

  • Know that everything does not have to get done perfectly.

If getting groceries before the kids come home means going to the store in your pajamas, so be it. Sorry, Stacy and Clinton! There isn’t much to say on this mostly because there is no such thing as perfect anyway.

  • Prepare to focus. 

There is no one-way to do this. I like to work in silence; others need white noise in the background. However you minimize distraction is what you need to do. Make sure you have all necessary supplies like a pen, paper, and the computer. Also, keep a beverage near by, a water bottle, or tea, and make sure you are not hungry before getting started. Go to the bathroom first, turn off your phone’s ringer, or put a sign on the door.

  • Do the ‘fun stuff’ first.

Contrary to popular belief, if you do the fun stuff first, you can get a dopamine boost, which will help fuel doing the ‘boring stuff’…that which MUST get done. Fun stuff is subjective, so it’s whatever you enjoy. For me, that’s just walking around my house with a Diet Coke in my hand.

  • Pre-plan breaks.

In order to be the most productive you can be, take intentional breaks rather than starting a break, restarting, taking a break. An intentional break is one that is planned ahead of time and scheduled during or after a specific point of completion. For example, after I type this article, I will go eat lunch or when I get to Chapter 5, I will take a 10-minute break.


This article was adapted from How to Light a Fire Under Your Brain’s Butt by Stacey Turis in on April 9, 2014. 

photo credit:  Harris, D. (2014, March 17). » Advocacy AASL Blog. Retrieved April 10, 2014, from

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