Simple Tips to Thrive With Adult ADHD

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on January 16, 2022
4 min read

When you have adult ADHD, everyday tasks can be tough to tackle. Every person has their own challenges. But along with your treatment, a few basics can help you keep symptoms in check in everyday life.

To get started, think about these strategies at work, in social situations, and at home.

Avoid distractions. When you need to focus, drown out noises or co-worker conversations with white noise earphones, or listen to classical music while you work. Send phone calls to voicemail and check them at the same time every day. Turn the sound off on your computer and cellphone.

Divide big tasks. Major projects can be a challenge for your organizational skills. Try breaking them into smaller pieces. Give yourself a due date for each task, and reward yourself when you accomplish them. The rewards can be small, such as a walk outside, a cup of tea, or downloading a new song.

Move more. Adults with ADHD who have desk jobs or have to do repetitive tasks may find themselves feeling bored or restless. Look for ways that you can move a little more throughout the day. For example, take breaks to get up, refill your water bottle, or walk up and down the stairs a few times. Bring lunch and eat at your desk so you can go for a walk or exercise during your lunch break.

Use memory aids. Take lots of notes during meetings, or record them to play back later. Jot down things you need to remember on sticky notes or on your smartphone, and put them somewhere you’ll see them. Use a day planner to keep track of events, and check it often throughout the day.

Prioritize. At the start of each day, make a list of the three most important things you have to do. Ask yourself, “If I only accomplish three things, what should they be?” Then make those items your priority.

ADHD symptoms, like being impulsive, forgetful, or having trouble paying attention, can make some social situations hard. Try a few tricks to keep yourself on track:

Repeat information. To help yourself pay attention and remember new details, repeat information to the person. For example, repeat someone’s name when you first meet them -- “It’s nice to meet you, Mary.” Or confirm details, “I heard you say we’re meeting at 8:00, is that correct?”

Watch others. You can learn a lot about how to manage social situations by watching how others do it. If someone at work or even on TV has a social skill you admire, notice what they do and try to apply what you learn in your own life.

Look for cues. Listen to what people say, but also try to notice other cues. This includes their tone of voice, body language, and word choice. When you pay attention to all of these different things, it can help you better interpret what they’re saying.

A few tricks around the house can keep you organized and more efficient. That might help you feel less anxious, too.

Do a quick pickup. If there’s too much clutter at home, you might feel overwhelmed or stuck, which can keep you from getting things done. Each night, set a timer for 10 minutes. Go through the house (or just a room at a time), pick up items, and put them where they should go.

Have a place for everything. When every item has its place, you won’t have to waste time looking for them. Some helpful storage ideas include:

  • Use over-the-door organizers in each room to store smaller items. Put a different type of item in each section, such as makeup, jewelry, pantry items, diapers, toys, gloves, hats, art supplies, and more.
  • Always have a "donate box" on hand. When you have an item that you want to get rid of but someone else might use, place it in your donate box. When the box gets full, take it to a donation center or bin.
  • Store items in clear boxes. This way, you can quickly see what’s inside.
  • Create a spot for your everyday items. Place a small table by your front door with a basket or dish for your keys, wallet, phone, and glasses. Drop them there when you walk in the door so they’re there when you need to leave. Place briefcases and backpacks there, too.

Unsubscribe from store emails. You won’t be tempted to buy something new every time they send you a new message about a sale.

Meal plan. Take a few minutes on one day to decide what you’re going to eat for the week. One way to do this is to put your family’s favorite meals on index cards. If you know you’ll cook five dinners at home in the next few days, pull out five cards to come up with your weekly meal plan.

Make a grocery list. Before you head to the store, check your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Make a list of the ingredients you need to buy. Be sure to eat something before you go to the supermarket. You’ll be more likely to stick to your list and not get distracted if you aren’t hungry.

Prep ahead. Weeknights are busy. When you have more time on the weekend or a day off, try to prep some foods ahead of time so you can quickly pull together your meals. For example:

  • Clean and chop fresh fruits and veggies.
  • Cook and freeze soups and stews, and thaw them when you want them.
  • Bake muffins or other goodies to have on hand.