There are thousands of articles that will tell you how you can “hack” your life to be more productive, happy, successful, etc. Furthermore, it seems like the Internet is awash with hacks that claim to help people with ADHD manage their lives. But what does “ADHD hack” really mean?
A life hack is a simple recommendation that is specific and easy to implement. Oftentimes, an ADHD hack is merely a common sense piece of advice. While there is nothing inherently wrong with advice, a hack is supposed to help with a specific problem. I find most so-called hacks to be far too general, difficult to actually use, or even just plain false! To help you separate the weat from the chaff, I have combed through a number of websites with ADHD hacks and compiled the most useful ones below (sources listed at the end):
- Associate tasks: What do you do if you keep forgetting your wallet or your keys? Well, I bet you never forget to wear shoes. When you take your wallet out of your pocket at night, instead of placing it on the table by your bed, put it in one of your shoes.
- Take a picture: If you have trouble remembering everything you need to get done, take a picture of your to-do list. If you don’t, then the first thing on your to-do list will be to find the to-do list!
- Buy extra: If you find that you’re locking your keys in the car on a regular basis, have spares made and keep one in your bag, one hidden outside your house, even one in your sock drawer!
- Take notes and keep moving: Keep a pad of paper by your keyboard at work or at your desk at home. When you have a persistent thought that’s not associated with what you’re doing (e.g., “Call the plumber,” “What kind of tree is that outside?”, “I should wear more red.”), write it down and make a plan to think about it later. This will let you acknowledge the thought and move on.
- Block distractions: Try to block out sensory distractions when you’re doing a task that requires focus. Pick a quiet spot away from windows and monitors when you need to hunker down. Earplugs are helpful, and so is white noise.
- Try text-to-speech: Oftentimes people with ADHD can be slow readers. On top of that, people with ADHD tend to have lower rates of reading comprehension. Using a text-to-speech phone app to read PDF files out loud can be a big help. Neurotypicals can reap the benefits of this technology as well! You can listen to articles and readings while you drive, go to the gym, walk to class, or even tidy up! The mobile app EZ-PDF reader is a good example of a text-to-speech app. The interface is easy to use and the app is available across all mobile platforms.
- Take a screenshot: You’ve forgotten your Facebook password more times than you can count, and now you can’t remember your new email password to reset it. This time, when you change your passwords, take a screenshot and save it on your computer or phone. Obviously this poses some risk of others getting access to your accounts, so unless you’re pretty sure of your computer’s security, limit it to sites where the privacy concern is low.
- Do not answer your phone: Stay off the phone until you have written down your plan for the day. Technology is wonderful, but it can destroy your productivity if you let it. Use paper and pen to make a daily plan of everything you’d like to get done. This creates a visual of your goals, allowing you to envision what the day will look like before the allure of technology can interfere.
- Text yourself: If there is some important data you need to be able to remember, text it to yourself. It will be easy to retrieve when you need it, either in your sent messages or your received ones. Also, many smartphones will allow you to receive constant notifications about unopened text messages. Simply leave the text message closed until you need it, and your phone will remind you when you’re ready.
- Set timers: If you need a break, and you decide that you can spend 30 spare minutes playing video games, set a timer for 25 minutes. It’s too easy to lose track otherwise, and you may find that hours have gone down the drain.
I hope you find these ADHD hacks helpful. If you have any other hacks that work for you, share them in the comments!
- Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager