ADHD (or ADD) is a popular topic amongst the general population as well as my client base. Many of us have been clinically diagnosed, self-diagnosed, or possibly have a trait or two that sounds like ADHD.  Because getting things done is usually a challenge for those with ADHD, I’ll share some strategies that can help anyone keep track of their to-do list and get things done.

Distracted adhd

ADHD Defined

So we’re all on the same page and not just self-diagnosing, let’s start with a definition of ADHD. (ADHD is a diagnosis that replaced ADD.)

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. (Source: NIH)

Three major types of ADHD include the following:

  • ADHD, combined type. This, the most common type of ADHD, is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors as well as inattention and distractability.
  • ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive type. This, the least common type of ADHD, is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors without inattention and distractability.
  • ADHD, inattentive and distractible type. This type of ADHD is characterized predominately by inattention and distractability without hyperactivity. (Source:

To-Do List Options

Initiating and following through on tasks are just a few skills that are challenging for those with ADHD. Below I’ll share some resources on how to get things done when you have ADHD or even when you don’t!

I talk regularly with clients about tackling their work using a to-do list. This list can be in whatever format floats your boat, as long as it floats toward the finish line in a relatively straight line! The mechanism for tracking your tasks needs to speak to you and tickle your brain. The tickling your brain piece is even more important if you are a highly distractable person because your brain needs to light up to get things done. Other people may be able to push through a mundane task without external stimulation.

Good System Quote Emerson adhd

For me, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Outlook’s task manager. I bet many of you use Outlook at work but never noticed the task manager module! What I love most about it is I can manage my calendar, email, and tasks all in one application. I can receive an email, turn it into a task with one click, and attach the email and any other relevant files right to the task. This way, when I’m ready to work on the task, I have everything in one place. If you have never given this task manager a look, I highly recommend checking it out. Microsoft offers an app for your phone in addition to the desktop application.

For those of you who don’t use Outlook, there are many other options. Google has a task manager built into its email and calendar platform. This task manager is not as robust as Outlook but it may work just fine for you if you’re already steeped in Google world.

There are a ton of apps for your phone that you can also use. I suggest looking through the top ones and trying them for a day to see if you like the way they operate, how it looks, and how it feels. That’s probably the only way you’ll know it is for you. This article walks you through how to find the one for you and covers some of the top apps. Find the Perfect To-Do List App

Of course, good, old-fashioned paper works to track tasks as well. I have a couple of issues with paper lists, though. First, as you work through your list, it will start to get messy and hard to read and this will necessitate rewriting regularly. I find this a waste of valuable time. Second, you cannot attach the pertinent email or spreadsheet to the paper list in an orderly way. Third, what happens if you lose the list?? Yikes!

Oftentimes, we have a larger task that is really a project. Just simply writing, “write term paper”, on your list is not appealing. It freezes our brains because it is a multi-step process to write a term paper. Where do I start? How do I manage the timeline? For these types of tasks, you’ll need to break it down into smaller pieces and shorter deadlines so you can propel yourself forward and not be intimidated. I have a blog post dedicated to project management tips that will give you some good information.

Task Initiation

If you find yourself not wanting to get started with your work, read my post, “The Art of Keeping Up with Yesterday-12 Procrastination Beating Tips“. You may also benefit from learning which type of procrastinator you are in this post, “Procrastination Types“. I’ve cultivated some of the best strategies for ADHD and executive function deficiencies from reading and seeing expert speakers. You’ll find some of the top ideas in my posts!

Please keep in mind that if you have ADHD, task initiation is often a huge hurdle. Don’t beat yourself up. When you do find something that helps with initiation, keep using that strategy!

Here are two more good reads:

ADHD Productivity Hacks

Monotask Your To-Do List

What is your most effective way to manage your to-do list? What is your method to track your tasks?

Procrastination Quote procrastination types