A study by the WHO uncovered that untreated adults with ADHD lose an average of 22 days of productivity every year.
That’s almost a month doing nothing of significance!
And that’s not even the scariest part.
Another study found that individuals with ADHD were less likely to be employed full-time and had lower average household incomes.
Now, I am not stating these gruesome facts to scare you or anything.
In fact, quite the contrary.
If you or anyone you care about is suffering from ADHD, there is no reason to lose hope.
This definitive guide will show you why and how, despite living with ADHD, you can be more focused, productive, and motivated.
Before we begin, a quick note.
1. Break down your to-do list tasks
Breaking down large, intimidating tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces can work wonders for productivity with ADHD.
Instead of facing a towering to-do list the first thing in the morning, chunk things down into bite-sized steps.
Use an app like Sunsama for efficient and automated task management.
Once you have created a list of prioritized tasks you want to check off, open a free online tool like Magic ToDo.
It uses AI to instantly break down your main task into a series of easy tasks (I call it easy wins).
And it’s very simple to use.
Just enter your main task, and adjust the spiciness level (the higher spiciness level is directly correlated to breaking down a task into many smaller tasks.)
Then hit the plus button and the task will be added. Now click on the magic stick symbol located at the right of your task name. Within a few seconds, you’ll have this.
This simple strategy helps reduce feelings of anxiety and being overwhelmed, making tasks seem less tedious and easy to begin with.
A 2008 study showed choice paralysis is more prevalent with ADHD, so isolating one less tedious task to break down can help.
2. Set alarms and reminders
Setting alarms and reminders can be a game-changer for people with ADHD struggling with time blindness and forgetfulness.
The auditory and visual cues grab your attention and prompt you to take action, providing that external scaffolding when your internal time perception is not that reliable.
For example, set a daily alarm (same time every day) for taking medication—it’s astonishing how such a simple reminder can improve adherence.
You can also set calendar alerts for appointments, meetings, or deadlines at work so you never miss critical commitments.
Over time, the consistency of reminders can help train your brain, alleviating anxiety and boosting productivity.
3. Have a designated workspace
This is especially helpful when you are working from home. I really like and follow Aayush’s approach when it comes to having a designated workstation.
Aayush suggests we can “trick our brains” by creating patterns and associations. This is highly effective for managing ADHD.
Have a designated workspace to help the creation of such positive patterns.
For instance, associate your home office solely with intensely focused work.
As Aayush recommends, decide on your most critical daily task requiring concentration and commit to tackling this immediately upon entering your workspace.
Use tools like website blockers to avoid digital distractions. Allow nothing but full engagement with the high-priority task anytime the office door closes.
To further drive home the association, vary this focus of activity by period—e.g., writing in the morning, and research in the afternoon.
PRO TIP: Create a routine around not just tasks, but also equipment: such as reserving your laptop solely for creative writing without multitasking.
Over a couple of months, trick your brain by sticking resolutely to these associations. Soon, entering your workspace triggers a hyperfocus state.
The key is to avoid temptation and not “slip” on the rules, so your mind maps the workspace to diligence.
FURTHER READING: To learn the expanded version of Aayush’s method and more practical productivity tips, read this article next.
4. Set up a brain dump
Setting up a system to regularly dump everything in your brain onto paper or a digital app helps a lot.
It is especially useful for managing ADHD symptoms like poor working memory and mental disorganization.
Doing regular brain dumps throughout the day reduces the feeling of mental chaos that comes with racing ADHD thoughts.
Getting those ideas out of your head brings a sense of calm and control when things feel disorganized or overwhelming.
Once your ideas are compiled in one place, you can methodically look at the brain dump to prioritize what’s most important and make plans to systematically tackle tasks.
Making brain dumps part of your daily routine can optimize your mental clarity, focus, planning abilities, and workflow.
5. Take regular breaks
This is a clear paradox.
The more breaks you take (conditions applied), the more productive you will feel while working.
Our brains are not designed to focus for prolonged periods, and this is especially true for those with ADHD (source).
Without periodic breaks, our cognitive capacity becomes drained, leading to mental fatigue and poorer performance.
I highly recommend using Rize.io to schedule periodic 5-10 minute micro-breaks every 25–30 minutes during mentally demanding tasks.
The best part?
Rize automates all the hard work. All you need to do is work and after working for let’s say 30 minutes, Rize will prompt you to take a break with a notification.
FURTHER READING: Learn how to use Rize here.
Your breaks could involve relaxing your eyes while gazing out a window, doing some deep breathing, or listening to an enjoyable song.
American Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman explains that taking regular “attention breaks” by consciously relaxing your eye and gaze muscles helps reset your attentional blinks.
Those with ADHD often resist taking breaks due to hyperfocus tendencies. However, scheduling mandatory mini-breaks leads to higher overall productivity compared to longer occasional breaks.
The ideal cadence for an ADHD brain is a 5-10 minute break every 25–30 minutes (source).
6. Find an accountability partner
By checking in with someone who provides support, motivation, and structure, the likelihood of you staying focused and accomplishing your goals increases.
Studies have shown that pairing up with an accountability partner leads to better outcomes for things like achieving goals, completing tasks, and overcoming executive dysfunction.
One study found that university students with an accountability partner were significantly more successful at accomplishing their academic and personal goals compared to a control group without a partner.
Accountability partners enhance productivity in several key ways:
- Checking in with a partner utilizes things like the Hawthorne effect and “intentional body doubling” to make it easier to start tasks.
- They help limit distractions and unnecessary hyper-focusing to ensure progress toward priorities.
- Regular progress reviews make it easier to spot and troubleshoot obstacles getting in the way.
The key is finding an accountability partner that is supportive, consistent, relatable, and mutually beneficial.
Consider recruiting a friend, family member, therapist, coach, or even joining an ADHD support group to be matched with someone.
7. Figure Out Your Peak Productivity Hours
These are the times of day when your energy and focus levels are highest, making it easiest to tackle demanding cognitive tasks.
The free PsychCentral chronotype quiz quickly assesses whether you’re naturally an early bird or night owl based on a bunch of questions related to sleep-wake cycles and energy levels throughout the day.
Knowing your peak productivity window allows you to strategically schedule important work during those precious hours.
For example, if analytical tasks come easiest to you from 10 am-12 pm, dedicate that block to working heads-down on complex reports or financials rather than getting derailed by emails or calls.
During peak hours, consider going into “deep work” where you minimize all distractions for ultra-focused productivity.
Check out YouTube videos by Rian Doris (Steven Kotler’s business partner) on getting into this optimal state.
Conversely, schedule simpler or repetitive admin tasks during natural energy slumps later in the afternoon.
According to the Sleep Foundation, Working against your chronotype can lead to social jetlag, sleep deprivation, and negative impacts on health, productivity, and well-being. Working with your chronotype allows better sleep and aligns with your body’s natural rhythms.
8. Prioritize self-care
I believe this is the most important step you can take towards getting more done with ADHD.
There are several lifestyle factors we can optimize to support healthy dopamine function and thus attention, focus, and drive.
Exercise gives the brain a dopamine boost while triggering neurogenesis.
Getting sunlight early in the day helps set our circadian rhythm and cortisol levels.
Consuming a protein and antioxidant-rich diet while limiting refined sugar stabilizes energy and mood.
You can also try targeted supplements like:
- Omega-3s (300 mg/day)
- Phosphatidylserine (200 mg/day)
- And acetylcholine boosters like Alpha GPC (300-600 mg/day)
Dr. Andrew Huberman recommends prioritizing sleep, nutrition, exercise, and meditation as the four pillars for supporting cognitive functioning.
Practicing mindfulness meditation for even short periods (e.g., 12 minutes per day for 8 weeks) has been associated with increases in gray matter density in certain regions of the brain related to attention, emotion regulation, and perspective taking (source).
An elimination diet helps identify problematic foods that worsen ADHD by triggering inflammation or allergies.
Finally, Dr. Andrew Huberman believes that even a few minutes of alternate nostril yogic breathing can aid focus all day (source).
9. Play background sounds/music
Experimenting with environmental sound changes can be an effective way for people with ADHD to improve focus.
Playing gentle background music or calming nature sounds like rain or ocean waves creates a pleasant auditory atmosphere that redirects our tendency towards distractibility.
Multiple studies have shown that having steady white noise playing subtly in the background boosts concentration, memory, and on-task behavior for both kids and adults with ADHD (source).
Upbeat instrumental music with a strong, constant beat can also be helpful for those of us with ADHD to strengthen the auditory, visual, and motor areas of our brains during tasks requiring concentration (source).
While lyrics can be distracting for an ADHD brain trying hard to focus, lyric-less tunes allow you to take in the audio stimulation without processing words.
Apps like Brain.fm offer streams of music algorithmically designed to enhance concentration.
FURTHER READING: Read our definitive Brain.fm review to understand what it is, how it works, and how you can use it to get the best results.
10. Maker schedule > Manager schedule
Paul Graham popularized the idea that makers and managers operate on fundamentally different schedules.
While managers have days filled with meetings and interruptions, makers need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get into a state of deep focus or “flow.”
This makes total sense for the ADHD brain, which craves stimulating and interest-driven activities, and can hyperfocus when conditions are right.
Shifting your schedule to prioritize maker time over reactive manager time is brilliant for working with ADHD.
Structure your days around blocks of productive focus rather than constant task switching.
Protect a few hours for maker time before you get drained.
To defend maker time, ruthlessly cull distractions. Silence phone alerts, use website blockers, and grab noise-canceling headphones.
11. Don’t shy away from coffee
As a stimulant, caffeine works similarly to some ADHD medications by increasing brain levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, which regulate attention and activity (source).
Research in animal models finds that caffeine administration improves symptoms like inattention and hyperactivity.
While prescription stimulants are more powerful, caffeine may provide a small helpful boost when you’re having trouble concentrating.
The key is not overdoing it—too much caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and other unwanted effects.
Have no more than 400 mg per day, equivalent to about 4 cups of coffee (source).
Track how different caffeine doses affect your productivity and mood. You may find that just one or two cups provide the focus benefits without the jitters.
IMPORTANT: Caffeine is not a substitute for ADHD meds, but can be a helpful supplement when used judiciously.
12. Use ADHD-friendly productivity apps
Leveraging technology specifically designed for the ADHD brain can make a world of difference in getting things done.
Customizable reminder and alert features in apps like Akiflow and Todoist help ensure important tasks do not fall through the cracks.
Timers and Pomodoro technique features in apps like Llama Life boost focus.
Gamified motivation and habit trackers like Habitica incentivize progress through reward systems.
Similarly, there are a lot of different apps and software you can use to make things a lot easier. Check out our ADHD hub to find the best tools exclusively for ADHD.
Bonus Method: Certified Psychedelic Dosing
Microdosing psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms may help manage ADHD symptoms.
Small doses of about 1/10th to 1/20th of a complete psychedelic dose can reportedly enhance focus, concentration, and creativity while reducing impulsivity and hyperactivity. For LSD that would be around 10–20 micrograms, and for psilocybin mushrooms it would be 0.1-0.5 grams (source, source).
Surprisingly, microdoses seem more effective for ADHD than full psychedelic doses (source).
More research is still needed, especially controlled studies on microdosing specifically for ADHD.
The legal status also varies, so proper medical guidance is essential for safety if pursuing this unconventional strategy.
The evidence is promising but early.
With a lot of information overload, I empathize with you if you’re lost and don’t know where to begin.
Here’s a quick and easy recap to help you take the next steps:
- Break large tasks into smaller, manageable pieces to make getting started easier. Tools like Sunsama and Magic ToDo can help automate this.
- Set reminders and alerts to compensate for forgetfulness and time blindness.
- Create designated workspaces to trigger positive associations with focus. Be disciplined in reinforcing this pattern.
- Do regular brain dumps to declutter your mind. Capture all ideas in one organized place.
- Take mandatory 5-10 minute micro-breaks every 25–30 minutes. This prevents mental fatigue. Rize helps automate scheduling breaks.
- Find an accountability partner (body doubling method) for motivation and oversight on priorities.
- Identify peak productivity hours and protect them for deep work. Schedule simpler tasks for natural energy slumps.
- Prioritize sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness as lifestyle pillars that support dopamine function and attention.
- Play gentle background sounds/music to provide pleasant auditory stimulation that counters distractibility. Brain.fm helps here.
- Structure days around maker time over reactive mode. Ruthlessly defend periods of deep focus.
- Use caffeine as a stimulant that mimics some effects of ADHD meds. Maximum 400 mg per day for adults.
- Leverage technology like reminder apps and productivity tools designed specifically for the ADHD brain.
- Consider microdosing psychedelics only under proper medical guidance, due to mixed evidence.
Implement even a few of these with consistency and you will likely see benefits.
Support makes the journey easier, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You’ve got this!