February 7, 2023

My Top 5 ADHD Productivity Hacks

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I used to think the following were productivity hacks: a jam-packed schedule, 60+ hour weeks, making high-stakes decisions daily, and high stress. I couldn't have been more wrong about all of them. Maybe at one point in time these were markers of high-powered success stories, but in 2023, we now know that’s a high-speed train to Burnout-ville. In fact, what I learned about ADHD and productivity over the last 15 years since I was diagnosed is that the more time you can save, the more things you actually get done. Funny enough, this applies to everyone, not just neurodivergents.

Productivity has nothing to do with working harder; it has everything to do with working smarter and shaving off time whenever possible. That doesn’t mean we do this half-ass or do more things at 2x speed, it means working less. From Warren Buffett to Tim Ferriss to James Clear to Naval Ravikant, these are the time-saving hacks I see repeated over and over and over again.

1. Eliminate Swiss Cheese Schedules.

One of the biggest time-sucks is adding unnecessary transitions to our day. 

two schedules: what most people do vs. time blocking. Batching is the ultimate productivity hack.
Image credit: https://marketing-invoicera.medium.com/

There’s a reason today’s most successful entrepreneurs preach about batching: it buys you back hours of time. One of the easiest ways to implement this is to set specific themes for the day and specific times of day to check email and social media. 

Rich Webster is one of my favorite sources of productivity hacks and he has a one-day meeting policy that I think is genius. He’s a solopreneur who earns 500k a year from his design agency and instead of scheduling meetings every single day, he reserves Tuesday as his meetings day. It took him about a year to get all of his clients switched over, but now that it's his thing, it’s saved him countless hours. 

Think about it: prepping and running meetings is time-consuming and you have to be in the right headspace. If you set just one day a week as your meeting day, its puts you in that mindset for that day, rather than having your brain jump around from meeting to deep focus work to planning all week long. 

Another reason why this works: it forces you (and people who want to meet with you) to eliminate unnecessary meetings and makes the real meeting time more valuable. Often people meet just to meet and things can be shared asynchronously (such as with Loom) or via email. Replacing a meeting with an email often saves both parties 15-30 minutes or more. 

Why a 1 hour project takes 3 hours. Let go of your Swiss Cheese schedule to hack your inner productivity.

Image credit: Rich Webster @richwebz on Instagram.

Other things you’re likely doing while you’re supposed to be working: checking email, checking news, refreshing your inbox, reading articles, watching videos, work “emergencies.” It’s not that you can’t do this things, but your day would be much shorter if you did the same activity all in one shot. 

2. Turn on Do Not Disturb or Airplane Mode. 

The average person is distracted every 13 minutes and it takes 15 minutes to get back on track. Slack. Texts. Emails. News. In our modern society, our phones are both a tool and a poison. They’re the number one source of distraction keeping us from deep focus work. The best way to keep it from overcoming you is to create more friction around it. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode. Better yet, put it in another room. 

If you absolutely need your phone with you like I do (I use it for my favorite binaural beats app, Brainwave), you can use an app blocker like OneSec. It’s free for use on one app (like Instagram or TikTok), and the paid version is only $14.99 for the year. It by far the easiest and most effective app blocking tool I’ve ever tried, paid or unpaid. 

3. Say No. It's the ultimate productivity hack. 

If you try to do everything, you’ll do nothing. The easiest way to eliminate tasks from your to-do list is to not agree to them in the first place. I know it’s often easier said than done, but when you say no to the things that don’t matter, you’re saying yes to the things that actually move the needle in your life. 

Remember this: there are only 10,080 minutes in a week. If you don’t guard them with your life, someone else will. 

What does this look like in a practical sense?

You have a million urgent things you need to work on for your solopreneur business. Joining LinkedIn. A revamped website. A regular weekly blog post. Social media posts. Speaking engagements. 1000+ unread emails. Say no to the things that would eat up time with no return (revamped website, unread emails) and yes to the things that build a successful brand: a consistent blog post, a manageable social media schedule. 

Someone reaches out to you about being a guest on their brand new podcast. Unless you have literally nothing else important to do that day (which I sincerely doubt will be the case), say no. Or simply tell them to reach back out to you in 6 months. Most podcasters quit within the first year. Don’t waste an hour or two of your time that you can never get back unless the interview will serve your long-term goals.

A client wants to meet for coffee to chat business. Say “no” to coffee. Say you’re busy. They won’t know if you are or you aren’t. If they have a specific project they want to chat about, they can book a 30 minute Zoom call with you. This will easily save you 90+ minutes.

Your boss asks for volunteers to take on a new project. Unless this project directly translates to more of the things you want out of your career, say no. Or ask if you can take something else off your place in order to take on the project. If your salary is fixed, working more or longer hours does not make sense for your well-being.

A friend asks you to go white water rafting. You hate white water rafting. Don’t say yes out of obligation, say you already have plans that day. Protect your time.

Say “no” to unnecessary meetings. Instead, use asynchronous communication to your benefit. Loom is an excellent and free option (unless you need more than 25 videos). 

4. Write your MIT daily. 

One of the executive functions we struggle with most is prioritization, but what you may not realize is that prioritization is a muscle you have to flex daily, ADHD or not. 

Identifying your Most Important Thing (MIT) of the day and sticking to it is a skill that takes practice. A key part of this is that your most important thing can only be ONE thing. If you have ADHD or are an overachiever, that might seem like not enough things, but that’s part of the skill, when you make too many things seem important, your brain either gets overwhelmed or doesn’t see the urgency in it and nothing gets done. 

One of the ways to hack productivity is to hack your phone by using a widget to remind you of your MIT every time you unlock it. This removes the friction of having to check a calendar, planner, or to-do list and lets you practice the very important skill of identifying what’s most important. Solving anything but your #1 problem is a distraction.

Want a quick tutorial for how to set up your MIT on your phone? Watch this demo on TikTok or Instagram:

5. Sunlight, exercise, sleep >>> for ultimate productivity

Your brain is like a car. If you run out of gas (or if you don’t charge an EV), your car dies. It won’t run. Doesn’t matter if you wash the car. Wax it. Make it “look” pristine on the outside. It still won’t run. Your brain is the same way. Without the basics (sun, sleep, exercise), you cannot function optimally no matter how many biohacking tricks you have up your sleeve.

Sunlight sets your circadian rhythm, makes it easier for you to focus during the day and fall asleep at night.

Sleep repairs crucial brain tissue and allows you to access all parts of your brain. 

Exercise releases endorphins, dopamine, and other feel-good chemicals that motivate you to get sh*t done.

So there you have it, my top 5 time-saving hacks for productivity: batch your schedule, turn on DND, say no, write your MIT, and get plenty of sun, sleep, and exercise. Don’t expect to start doing all of these things at once. Be patient with yourself. Take baby steps. You can’t go backwards if all you do is put one foot in front of the other.

Priority Planner Listing

Did you know I created an ADHD planner chock full templates based on neuroscience and wisdom like this? It’s designed specifically for neurodivergent brains. It’s an intuitive digital daily planner + ADHD workbook with over 200 pages designed to teach you the organization, planning, and time management skills you need. Get it at lifesprettywild.etsy.com

Currently use a paper planner and wondering whether you should go digital? Check out this post.

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