For some people, a deadline, whether for school or work, is cause for anxiety. This can be especially true if you have ADHD or other problems that affect how well you focus. But a few simple strategies can help anyone get a job done on time:

Make a plan: Think of your final goal and make a list of everything you can think of that you’ll need to get the job done. Then break the project up into smaller tasks with estimates of how long each one will take. Most people underestimate the time it will take to complete a task, so double or triple your estimate to be sure you’ll have enough time to do it. You can always re-adjust later.



Put tasks on a calendar: The one on your phone or a simple paper version can do the job. Once you’ve marked your deadline on the calendar, work backward to fit each task into a time slot that will help you meet the deadline. Allow yourself a cushion for emergencies or problems you may not predict.



Set a timer: Decide how long you’re willing or able to work at a stretch before you take a break. It’s easier for some people, especially children, to focus if they know how long they have to do it. It also helps you get a handle on how long it takes to do certain tasks, so you’ll know how to plan better in the future.



Take breaks: Once you put in your planned time, plan a snack or a chat with a friend or something else pleasant before you get back to work. Just be sure to time the break as well, so you know when to start work again.





Organize your workspace: A careful setup of your area for the task at hand can save you time and anxiety. Make sure you have often-used tools close by and return them to the same spot after each time you use them.





Get rid of distractions: Is that notification on your phone calling for your attention? Put it in a drawer. The same goes for video game consoles, the TV remote, books or magazines, and anything else that might distract you. If you don’t have room in a drawer, get a simple plastic storage container. You can put it under the bed or elsewhere out of sight.



Let others know you’re working: Put a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your workspace door or office when you want to focus on a task. You can also tell your co-workers or household members that you need blocks of quiet time in order to complete something for an important deadline.



Use ear plugs: If you have no choice but to work in a noisy environment where conversations or other sounds distract you, try a set of earplugs or noise-blocking earmuffs to keep out the noise.





Keep moving: Daily exercise helps many people to focus, especially kids with lots of extra energy. Don’t force yourself (or your child) to do something you don’t like. If you don’t like team sports or gyms, try jogging, or hiking, or a bit of heavy gardening if you prefer. The form of exercise doesn’t matter, just as long as you raise your heartbeat for a bit each day.

Show Sources


American Academy of Family Physicians: “Time Management and ADHD: Day Planners.”

Psychological Bulletin (American Psychological Association): “Underestimating the Duration of Future Events: Memory Incorrectly Used or Memory Bias?”

Attention Deficit Disorder Association: “Organizing Your Time & Space.” “Organizing the Home and Office Space,” “Time Management and ADHD: Day Planners,” “ADHD & Rarely on Time? It’s Not Just About Time Management.”

Child Mind Institute: “School Success Kit for Kids With ADHD.” “Tips to Overcome ADHD Time Insensitivity.”

Medscape: “Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Two Case Studies.” “The difference between sensory processing issues and ADHD,” “6 ways to help your child focus.”

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