Living with ADHD is hard before you find your ideal rhythm and workflow. Staying organized is a challenge for everyone, but while mildly frustrating for most, organization can feel like a constant battle for people with ADHD. If you have ADHD, you’ve no doubt tried dozens of different hacks to stay organized and productive in both work and life.
Every single person is different, and while there isn’t a cure-all, there are plenty of organizational approaches that people with ADHD swear by to help stay focused and minimize those distractions that are always pulling your attention.
While ADHD is a disorder that affects your ability to focus, some of the most productive people in the world have it (hint: one just launched the first rocket plane mission to outer space) and have discovered how to harness their traits and behaviors to be absolutely successful in their personal and professional goals.
There is no cure-all solution that works for every adult that deals with ADHD, but the Reclaim team connected with busy professionals working with ADHD to compile the top 6 awesome organization tools to use to stay organized and productive throughout your week.
What is ADHD?
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a mental health disorder that is most commonly diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood, affecting more than 9 million adults in the US today. There are also many people with ADHD that aren’t diagnosed until adulthood, as the demands of life increase and can make symptoms more severe. This is particularly frustrating around executive functions, or mental processes such as starting a task, following through, remembering things, or handling complex directions.
While side effects are different for every person -- especially in their severity -- common symptoms are difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. These attributes can make it very hard to focus, causing additional frustration and anxiety. If unaddressed, they can make it challenging to excel or perform in your career.
While there are a lot of pharmaceutical treatments available, many people with ADHD also like to tie in time management hacks and tools to bring even more structure, focus and productivity to their workdays.
How can software help people with ADHD?
Is software the right fit to help you stay organized around your ADHD? While many people with ADHD are hesitant to try a new tool after countless failed attempts where you install, try out for a bit, and then quickly forget about the so-called “miracle tool”, don’t let your hunt stop there.
The problem is finding an organizational tool for ADHD that isn’t too hard to adopt and actually makes your big challenges easier -- having to abandon another failed software app only adds more stress to your quandary. Fortunately, there are some pretty amazing software tools that have launched in the past few years that can really boost your organization, overall productivity, and are easy to stick with, even for people with ADHD.
In fact, software may just be the future of managing and improving the symptoms of ADHD through digital therapy. In 2020, the FDA approved EndeavorRX, the first game-based digital therapeutic device to improve attention function in children with ADHD.
For most people, software has also become deeply embedded in your day-to-day life, especially around the workplace. So, leveraging software to help you stay organized around your ADHD is extremely beneficial if you can integrate it into your workflow and life routine. Particularly for young adults with ADHD who were exposed to technology at a much earlier age, it may feel much more natural to look for a software solution over old school tricks like post-it notes and dry erase board calendars. This is because software takes a lot of the complexity out of organizing and scheduling tasks, which can free you up to just focus on doing your work instead of having to get bogged down in organizing another short-lived, complicated to-do list.
So without further ado, here are the top 6 ADHD organizational tools to consider adding to your technology stack to become a rockstar in your productivity:
Reclaim is a smart time blocking tool for Google Calendar that helps you automatically schedule and optimize your tasks and daily routines across your work and personal calendars. This smart calendar app uses intelligence to analyze your schedule and prioritize your time blocks automatically to make sure you get through your important work before you run out of time, while still keeping those time blocks flexible for collaboration.
Additionally, Reclaim analyzes your calendar to provide productivity stats and weekly reports. This data helps you see where you’re allocating your time so you can make sure you’re spending your time towards your real work and life priorities.
So, how does Reclaim help people with ADHD? Staying on top of your daily demands, organizing your task list, and managing your calendar are intense strains on any working adult, but Reclaim unburdens all of these issues by integrating your task list and routines into your calendar. If you have trouble keeping focused, you should take a look at Reclaim, as it allows you to map out your day on your calendar so you can stay on task. This technique is also useful if you struggle with decision paralysis, have trouble switching between tasks or getting started on tasks.
If you have ADHD and have trouble concentrating or organizing your tasks, you probably feel a lot of frustration around unintentionally multitasking your way through projects because one task can easily bleed into another. Reclaim helps you stay focused because it allows you to break down heavy projects into individual tasks with their own time estimates and due dates so you can work through and complete one before moving on to the next. Instead of wondering where to start and go next, Reclaim automatically assigns your tasks and habits to your calendar based on the priority you’ve specified so your important work always comes first. It’s also very low-maintenance:just log in once a day to update your to-do list and routines,and Reclaim will take care of the rest. From there, you can jump back in at any time to add new tasks or modify your priorities if circumstances change.
Lastly, Reclaim also offers a Calendar Sync feature that allows you to not only sync, but merge your availability across all of your calendars so you can actually defend personal time on your work calendar. This is an awesome perk to help you stay organized in work as well as life, reduce anxiety around missed appointments, or losing time at important family events due to work impeding where it could easily have been prevented.
Truebill is a personal finance subscription tracking platform that helps you manage anything related to your finances: paying bills, managing subscriptions, and checking your balances and debts. Truebill encourages you to spend less, save more, and see everything that is happening within your finances. From month-to-month spending comparisons to recurring subscription breakdowns, you’re able to access an in-depth financial report without the hassle of having to comb through your bank statements every month.
How does Truebill help people with ADHD? Keeping track of bill due dates, balances, and subscriptions is hard, continual work -- plain and simple. Oftentimes, this task becomes so overwhelming it can lead to anxiety, and as a person with ADHD, you may decide you just can’t deal with that stress right now and push the task off. The problem is the task of personal financial management does not get easier, but usually harder as the bills pile up, and most of us can’t afford to push the task off while these unused subscriptions keep syphoning from our accounts. If you push it off enough times, you could be looking at late payments and missed financial goals that have been set.
According to Russel A. Barkley’s 2008 book ADHD In Adults: What Science Says,”People with the disorder are far more likely to miss loan payments (57 percent compared to 27 percent for people who don’t have ADHD); buy items impulsively (62 percent compared to 18 percent); have a poor credit rating (54 percent compared to 8 percent), and not save for retirement (71 percent compared to 42 percent)”. This problem among adults with ADHD can lead to some serious financial mistakes that could take years to undo.
This is why Truebill can be an absolute lifesaver for people with ADHD. Instead of stressing about sifting through all of your accounts, Truebill clearly outlines all of our subscription services so you can decide which ones you want, and ditch the ones you don’t. They even have a concierge that will cancel your subscriptions for you! You’re also able to automate savings towards specific goals, like an emergency fund or a vacation, and get insights on where you’re spending money outside of subscriptions, like your coffee habit or an unusually heavy month of Amazon purchases. This gives you the chance to be confidently in control of your finances, and peace of mind that you aren’t avoiding, or have completely forgotten, important bills that could be chipping away at your financial status and health.
3. Tile App
Tile is a bluetooth tracking app and device that you can attach to your keys, wallet, or any other important physical item that you want to be able to track and find with ease. These simple “tiles” are as small as a one-inch sticker up to a thin three-inch card that you can stick to a remote, slide into your purse, or attach to a keyring. Whenever you need to find these items, you just open up the Tile app and it will pinpoint exactly where your lost item is (duh, in the snowbank out front!).
Each Tile type is equipped with a minimum one-year battery, as well as a loud ringer so you’re not only tracking, but can ping the Tile to ring from its exact location. Additionally, the models have bluetooth ranges varying from 150ft up to 400ft, but if you go outside of the range, the Tile app will still be able to pick up on it’s last known location on the app. So, you’re not only saving yourself hours searching for your lost keys that fell out of your pocket at the park, but also all that time searching the house for your remote which fell under the couch one foot from where you left it.
How does the Tile app help people with ADHD? While everyone is guilty of forgetful placing, people with ADHD can encounter this issue more frequently due to frustrating symptoms around remembering small items or details. This is because your brain can actually be unable to create a memory of where you placed an item if you are not actively paying attention at that moment in time. Three of the key symptoms of ADHD can create the perfect storm around simply remembering where you put your phone: inattention, disorganization, and forgetfulness. When your brain isn’t really focused on the moment you’re in, you may only be giving half-attention to your physical actions and movements, which is why you might not remember half of what you were just doing.
So, instead of stressing and racking your brain for a memory that could quite literally just not exist, save yourself the time and stress, and find your lost item with your Tile bluetooth tracker.
There are other alternatives to the Tile app like the AirTag by Apple, so take a look around and see which one best fits your needs.
4. Brain Focus
Brain Focus is a time-management app that helps you get things done through a combination of the Pomodoro technique, and by preventing you from using your phone when you’re trying to focus on work. The Brain Focus app allows you to pick and choose which apps you’d like to block and silence notifications from during your work sessions so you can cut out distractions without becoming completely inaccessible. If you work better being completely cut off, you can even disable WiFi and sound through Brain Focus during your sessions.
Designed around the Pomodoro technique (or 52/17) time management method, the app works by setting a series of timers. The times are completely customizable, but the essential recommendations around this technique are to work for 25 minutes and then break for five minutes. After four work periods (or pomodoros), you take a longer 30-minute break. The mobile app is very easy to use, and lets you start a new work session directly from notifications on your locked screen. Brain Focus also offers analytics on your work productivity so you can track your time by task, and group tasks into your own unique categories.
How does Brain Focus help people with ADHD? Adults with ADHD think and approach time organization differently. Struggling with time management can make it difficult for you to be punctual, and oftentimes leads to procrastinating on important tasks. You may also notice that you tend to ignore assignments you consider boring, which only makes them boring and more complicated to catch up on down the road. Getting a stale task during the work day with no clear deadline is very easy to put off until someone follows up wanting an update and you haven’t found the focus to get it started yet.
So, if you struggle with ADHD, you likely know exactly how difficult it is to lock in and focus, and this is where Brain Focus can really make a difference for you. Instead of looking at your workday as one massive block of time you need to make it through, you can break down your day into simple, small time blocks with clear end times, and reward yourself with short breaks after each session. This is also an awesome app to pair with Reclaim.ai, as you can work off of your task list on your calendar, and time your distraction-free work sessions via the Brain Focus app.
Superhuman is a premium email client that optimizes your management and engagement with your inbox. It has a simple, minimalist design, yet feature-packed with advanced add-ons you rarely see (at least by default) in other email applications: AI, triage, undo send, social profile insights, follow-up reminders, scheduled messages, and read statuses.
Superhuman allows you to move through your inbox with incredible speed, and also more efficiently. It automatically detects and prioritizes your inbox so you can get to your most important messages first, push down the unimportant noise, and snooze a conversation until you’re ready to be reminded to pick it back up. The read statuses are also very insightful as you can see if, and when, a recipient has read your email to decide the best time to follow up on a project or business opportunity, and can even schedule out that follow up for the perfect moment.
How does Superhuman help people with ADHD? If you find yourself anxious every morning moments after sitting down at your desk knowing you have at least 50 emails waiting for you to read, prioritize, and follow up on, Superhuman is absolutely a tool you should consider. And not only around anxiety, ADHD can also cause lack of motivation, especially when encountered with a daunting task, so a disorganized and unrelenting inbox can quickly overwhelm and make it hard to start, and even hard to finish a task.
Another highly common symptom is again disorganization, which is where Superhuman really shines. Its clean, elegant interface is intentionally designed to cut out distractions and organize all of your inbox for you, by priority, based on your email preferences and behavior. So whether you’re starting your day, or just playing catch up after a few meetings, your most important emails are ready for you on top, along with all the information you need to build an awesome response - enhanced contact profiles with social insights, location, job roles, and more.
Once you finish up the previous workflow related to the displayed emails, Superhuman allows you to move to the next set of emails that are relevant to the next chunk of your task batch. Approaching your inbox with this tool helps you maintain focus and work through emails that need to be handled in that moment without the distraction of incoming mail and irrelevant messages.
Dragon is a speech recognition software by Nuance that allows you to transcribe your voice and words into text. Simply talk to the voice dictation tool, and the AI-powered transcriber will transform your speech into real-time words on your screen so you can speak freely, getting all of your thoughts out, without being weighed down by a keyboard. This tool is the world's best-selling speech recognition software and has been used by millions across all types of businesses.
What’s really great about Dragon is that you can use it anywhere, and really for anything. Whether you’re in an administrator role that’s responsible for diligent notes from every meeting, or a salesperson who needs to quickly document your thoughts and follow-up items after and between each sales meeting, you can use the technology the same, and across all device types. Even better, you can use Dragon to take action on your computer, such as opening a new program, running a new search, creating new reports, all via voice.
So, how is Dragon going to help you stay organized? People with ADHD are typically very expressive and love to talk -- you may oftentimes even find it helpful to talk to yourself through a task! Dragon is an awesome tool for anyone who prefers talking as their method of communication (or documentation) as you can literally blurt out your thoughts to a 99% accurate software that is capturing it all and turning your brilliance into real content.
Another symptom we’ve discussed a few times so far is also distraction, which can absolutely be present as you’re thinking through a topic. Having Dragon running in the background will capture everything you’ve already said so if you need to quickly jump back to get into your original train of thought, it’s there ready for you. You also don’t have to worry about looking back if you’re on a roll. Get all of your thoughts out as they’re fresh, and once you’re done, jump into your document to edit out any points you don’t want to make. It’s much easier to cut down on content than create it under the pressure of an empty page. Not to mention, it’s 3x faster than typing, so chat away and automate digitizing and organizing your thoughts via Dragon!
There you have it! The top 6 ADHD organizational tools for adults you should consider if you’re looking to improve your time management and productivity through technology.
Wondering where to start? Try one, or try them all! Just take your time to ensure you’re fully adopting the tool to get the most out of it, as going half-in or trying too much at once could lead you back to another search for a new organizational method.
We’d love to hear what you think - which organizational tools (here or otherwise) have been most impactful to you in managing your life around ADHD? Shoot us a tweet @reclaimai and let us know what you recommend!