9 Life Hacks for Managing Adult ADHD

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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  • Nearly 10 million adults live with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and experience symptoms like disorganization, trouble paying attention and staying focused, poor memory and difficulty completing tasks. Not being about to prioritize and organize your thoughts can be frustrating and lead to anxiety and depression, especially for women with ADHD. Even with these challenges, there are specific tips and tricks you can incorporate into your daily routine to help keep you on track so you can achieve your goals.

  • 1
    Revamp your self-care habits.
    a man is running and checking his pulse on a watch

    Changing your healthy habits can improve some of your ADHD symptoms and keep your brain functioning better. For example, eating lean protein will give your neurotransmitters a boost. It’s also important to eat every 3-4 hours to fuel your body, even if your ADHD medication has reduced your appetite. Regular exercise will get those feel-good hormones flowing through your body to help alleviate anxiety and depression. Don’t forget to get enough sleep. Being well-rested improves your mood and helps your brain process information better.

  • 2
    Simplify your day-to-day life.
    Woman choosing clothes from wardrobe

    Once you get organized, it’s easier to simplify your daily routine. Make your regular tasks as easy as possible so you don’t have to put much thought into getting them done. For example, plan out all of your outfits for the week. Match your shoes, clothes and jewelry and hang it together or take a picture so you will always remember that this outfit works. On Sundays, make a meal plan for the week. Even better, cook your meals in advance and just grab and go when you need them. Don’t forget to always stash keys, purse or wallet, laptop, lunch bag and other daily use items by the front door!

  • 3
    Keep lists front and center.
    To do list

    Reminder notes can get lost in the shuffle, so experiment with writing your to-do lists in places that you can’t possibly miss them. Some people use erasable markers to make lists on the bathroom mirror, or keep them handy to jot down those great ideas that pop into your head while you’re showering. You can even use dry erase markers to write notes inside your windshield so you don’t forget to take your laptop or lunch to work. If you have trouble prioritizing, keep your lists short so you don’t have too much to deal with at one time.

  • 4
    Become a clock watcher.
    clock next to window in room

    If ADHD makes you late and lose track of time, arm yourself with clocks in every room. Even put a waterproof clock in your shower. Try to leave the house 15 minutes before you have to, just in case you need extra time searching for your keys or wallet. Watching the clock can also help you accomplish tasks. If cleaning the kitchen seems overwhelming, set a timer for 10 minutes and do as much as you can in that time slot. Or make it more fun by playing a favorite song and working until it’s over.

  • 5
    Create a hot spot for documents.
    woman holding paper and looking at computer

    Being disorganized and forgetful can take a toll on your finances and paperwork. Instead of letting bills and mail pile up, try to sort mail every day so the stack stays small. Open your mail over the trash bin, so you can immediately throw away junk mail. Then make a hot spot where you put all of the documents you need to deal with later. You can even make several hot spots for different levels of urgency. One for things that need to be dealt with this week such are returning messages, one for monthly bills and one for items like insurance policies that need reviewing once a year.

  • 6
    Hire a professional organizer.
    female professional counselor speaking with client

    When you have trouble maintaining attention and remembering things, a professional organizer can transform your life. Organizers are experts at creating organizational systems you can maintain for the long term. Plus, they’ll provide hands-on help with sorting, discarding and storing items at your home or office. The big win here is that once you get a good organizational system in place, you’ll pick up new habits for how to stay organized all the time. When you’re looking for a professional organizer, try to find one who specializes in working with people who have ADHD.

  • 7
    Enlist a parenting coach.
    father embracing his child

    Being a parent with ADHD can be extra challenging because you have to keep yourself and your kids organized. That’s a tall order for any parent. Don’t be afraid to ask for help understanding the best way to manage your family life with ADHD. There are coaches and programs that specialize in parenting with ADHD and can help you find practical ways to make chores fun, build structure into your life and keep your family on track day-to-day. Often parents with ADHD have children who have the same disorder, so the tips you learn can help your kids in the long run.

  • 8
    Learn to say no.
    Portrait of young man sitting at desk with mobile phone and laptop

    Adults with ADHD can be impulsive and often commit to too many social activities or projects at work. A busy schedule may make you feel even more overwhelmed and bring on anxiety and stress. When you’re asked to take on something new, wait 24 hours before saying yes to make sure you really want to do it. Practice telling people no by saying you need to check your schedule and you’ll get back to them with an answer. The more you say no to taking on commitments, the easier it gets.

  • 9
    Take care with conversation.
    Group of friends laughing drinking wine outdoors

    Having Adult ADHD can make it hard to control your impulses and your mouth. Do you often interrupt people? Stop and count to five before you jump in with your ideas. If you have a habit of saying things you wish you could take back later, be honest and apologize when you blurt out the wrong thing. You can simply say “I’m sorry I said that” and move on. Sometimes a sense of humor helps with a reply like “I apologize, my ADHD is acting up again.” Own your mistake, explain why it happened and promise to not do it again. Getting in the habit of saying you’re sorry will help you maintain your confidence and your friendships.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Sep 24
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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  2. For Adults. National Resource Center on ADHD. http://www.chadd.org/understanding-adhd/for-adults.aspx
  3. Attention Deficit Disorder Without Hyperactivity (ADD) in Adults. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/attention-deficit-disorder-without-hyperactivity-in-a...