Strategies for Adults With ADHD

When you have ADHD, even simple tasks like grocery shopping or paying bills can sometimes feel overwhelming. Anyone can have mood swings, loss of focus, and trouble staying organized, but you might deal with these each day if you have ADHD.

Your doctor can suggest medication or other treatment to help you focus better, but you can use a few tools and strategies to calm your busy mind and keep your emotions even.

Make a schedule: Choose a time that’s quiet and unhurried -- maybe at night before you go to bed -- and plan out the next day, down to the task. Use a reminder app, timer, or alarm to help you stick to that schedule. Alternate things you want to do with ones you don’t to help your mind stay engaged.

Be realistic about time: Your brain is wired differently than other people’s, and it may take you longer to get things done. That’s OK. Figure out a realistic time frame for your daily tasks -- and don’t forget to build in time for breaks if you think you’ll need them.

Quiet your mind by quieting your space: When it’s time to buckle down and get something done, take away the distractions. Use noise-canceling headphones to drown out sounds. Put your phone on silent. Work in a room with a door you can close. If you can do your job from home, set up the space in a way that helps you focus.

Control clutter: Another way to quiet your brain is to clear your space of things you don’t need. It can prevent distractions, and it can help you stay organized because you’ll have fewer things to tidy up. Go paperless -- take your name off junk mailing lists and pay bills online. Get some organizational helpers like under-the-bed containers or over-the-door holders. Ask a friend to help if it seems like you’re swimming in a sea of debris and you don’t know where to start.

Move your body: Exercise is good for everyone, but it can do more than improve your heart health if you have ADHD. Even a little regular exercise can ease ADHD symptoms. After you exercise, you’ll feel more focused and have more energy to stay on task. Shoot for 20 to 30 minutes a day. If you work in an office, a brisk walk during lunch may be the ticket to beating your brain’s afternoon slump.


Learn to say no: Impulsive behavior can be a side effect of having ADHD. This means your brain might bite off more than it can handle. If you find yourself overwhelmed, try to say no to a few things. Ask yourself: Can I really get this done? Be honest with yourself and with others about what’s possible and what’s not. Once you get comfortable saying no, you’ll be able to enjoy the things you say yes to even more.

Reward yourself: Sticking to a task can be easier when there’s a mood booster at the end. Before you tackle a project, decide on a reward for yourself once you’re done. Positive reinforcement can help you stay the course.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on April 18, 2019


Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada: “ADHD in the Workplace.”

CHADD of Northern California: “How Adult ADHD Affects Relationships: Strategies for Coping.”

CHADD: “Organization and Time Management.”

News Release: University of Georgia.

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.