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How Helping My Daughter Manage ADHD Made Me More Productive

Sometimes we cup our hands together and pretend we have a cup of hot cocoa that we need to smell (breathe in) and cool (breathe out). This simple breathing exercise helps us both decompress and stay grounded.

y bronze Author: yasmin
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About a year ago, my 7-year-old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD. It was a relief to know that all of the random, erratic behavior that we were seeing daily was justified. More importantly, it put a name to it and sent me down a rabbit hole of trying to understand exactly what ADHD is and how to help her.

At its core, ADHD is a delay in executive function, which means that your brain manager is a little sluggish. This makes it difficult for you to control your impulses, set priorities, stay focused, follow through on tasks, and manage your time. It also affects your working memory, which helps you remember what you need to do over short periods.

As I read more about ADHD, I realized that today’s fast-paced world creates ADHD-like symptoms in many people. Everything from the constant stream of notifications on your phone to getting jacked up on coffee to not eating at the right intervals and not drinking enough water can put you on edge. I also realized that using these tools myself could help both of us. So I decided to adopt some of these methods to see if they could make me more productive.

These are some of the tools that I’ve used to help her–and me–to manage stress, be more productive, and be happier in general.

1. Keep a notepad handy

One of the things that helps people with ADHD manage their symptoms is creating a release for the constant stream of thoughts and ideas that flow through their heads, which often come too fast. Some experts recommend keeping a journal or a notebook handy to take notes during classes or while other people are talking.

I took a page from that book and started keeping a notepad at my side while I was working, and it has helped me a lot.

It works like a net, helping me jot down random thoughts that come to mind, from article ideas to business prospects to tasks that I need to address. If you meditate, you know that it’s wise to intercept thoughts, sit with them, and then let them go so you can get some clarity. Having that notepad allows me to capture nagging thoughts so they don’t keep coming back to distract me.

2. Make your tech work for you, not against you

I’ve always been a night owl, but having kids and a daytime job doesn’t accommodate that. While evenings are still the best time for me to be creative, come up with new ideas, and catch up on work, I don’t want to sacrifice my evenings every day.

I took a step back and realized that one of the things I love about working in the evening is the lack of distractions. The constant stream of notifications, including emails, messages, and social media notifications can help you stay informed, but they can also divert your attention away from the important stuff–getting work done.

I started using my phone’s focus mode when working on a project that needed my undivided attention. At other times, I flip on Airplane mode to mute all incoming information. Using my tech to help me block out distractions helps me achieve a state of flow–that place where ideas and thoughts flow freely.

3. Set a time–and a timer–for busy work

Busy work or make-work, that thorn in everyone’s side that includes everything from administrative tasks to microplanning to following up on emails and responding to requests, often consumes our most productive morning hours.

Instead of wasting your brain juice in the morning, block half an hour twice a day to handle requests, emails, questions, follow-ups, etc. so you don’t find yourself occupied with them instead of your priority work.

Remember that notepad? Use it to jot down those tasks as you remember them so you don’t lose track of what you need to do. Once you sit down for that half hour, you will be in a better position to finish those tasks faster.

4. Keep your workspace distraction-free

One of the challenges that people with ADHD have is managing clutter and resisting distraction. Set aside 15-20 minutes in the evening after you’ve finished to organize your workspace, clear out any clutter, and remove potential distractions. If you have the space, create a home office that you can use as a base for when you need to get work done, even if you don’t work from home. Creating a controlled workspace helped me minimize the number of external factors that could disrupt my work.

This works even if you don’t have a dedicated office at home. A desk in a corner will do, as long as it’s clear that this is a space that is dedicated to working and organizing any work-related thoughts.

5. Break down tasks

This seems pretty intuitive, but given that one of the biggest challenges that people with ADHD have is starting and finishing projects, it makes a lot of sense that breaking tasks down so that they have a clear beginning, middle, and end can help anyone get through their to-do list.

After you clear your desk at the end of the day, take 10 minutes to plan your tasks for the next day. It will help you start the next day with a clear idea of exactly what you need to do, and when.

While you do that, figure out what goes into completing a task and break it down into smaller pieces. Add them to your list, and cross them off as you finish them. Allow yourself to enjoy the hit of dopamine that comes with completing a task, but don’t dwell on it. Finish, check, and move on.

6. Pay attention to your body chemistry

Diet, exercise, and sleep can help people with ADHD immensely. Eating the right kinds of food and getting time to move around help to balance their body chemistry and manage their symptoms.

This is true for all of us, to a greater or lesser degree. This means listening to your body’s cues. Are you drinking enough water? Too much coffee? Are you eating enough of the right kind of food at the right intervals or are you munching on carbs midday? Are you taking a proper lunch break or are you eating while staring at your computer? Are you listening to your body when the midafternoon slump kicks in or are you powering through it and leaving yourself feeling burned out?

Listening to these cues will help you find ways to deal with them that will help you be more productive–and less stressed.

The other key thing is exercise. As difficult as it is when you’re busy, staying committed to a workout routine helps everyone stay fit and productive. It also helps you focus on another task so you can come back to work helps me focus when it matters, whether that be with my kids or at work.

Last but certainly not least, make sure you get enough good quality sleep daily.

7. Practice mindfulness

Sometimes, I find myself working mindlessly. And sometimes, that’s okay. Not all tasks need your full engagement all the time. But to be productive, to think creatively about how to solve problems and even to find new ways to tackle old tasks, you need to declutter your head.

I had always meddled with mindfulness before I learned that my daughter had ADHD, but when I learned about the benefits of it for helping her to deal with it–and helping me to deal with her–I started to be a bit more conscientious about my practice. I still don’t do it every day, but when I do I feel the difference.

I also set aside time to do it with my daughter in an age-appropriate way. Sometimes we play I Spy, which helps us focus on the things in our immediate environment. When we’re feeling jumpy, we do walking meditation and spot everything in a certain color every step of the way. Sometimes we cup our hands together and pretend we have a cup of hot cocoa that we need to smell (breathe in) and cool (breathe out). This simple breathing exercise helps us both decompress and stay grounded.

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