ADHD Solutions: How to Make a Daily To Do List You Will Finish!
If you have ADHD, there’s no doubt you’ve experienced the frustration of an unfinished to-do list. We’ve all been there. There’s nothing more demotivating than glancing over your list at the end of the day and realizing you didn’t finish half of the things on it.
You need to turn that frustration into encouragement. How? You guessed it; by making to-do lists you will actually finish.
To Do Lists Are Great But…
The great thing about to-do lists is that they allow you to clear your mind. Once you’ve taken a moment to write certain things down, you can let go of the fear of forgetting them. Lists also help you visualize your thoughts and keep track of where you are within your ‘action’ trajectory.
However, be careful. Don’t lose sight of the present moment. Don’t give the list control over your life. It is ultimately there to help you, not to become another source of frustration and stress.
Basics: Keep It Short, Fun, Clear and in Plain Sight!!
Of course, people with ADHD may require a slightly different approach to creating their daily to-do list – one that takes the ADHD brain differences into account.
After reading ‘How to Tackle the Daily Grind‘ and ‘How to Accomplish Your Main Goals‘, you’ll have a fairly clear idea of what your weekly maintenance tasks are and which main goals require the bulk of your attention. Use that information while making your daily to-do list. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Tip 1: Keep It Handy & Visible!
When you have ADHD, out of sight is usually out of mind. Whether you use index cards, a notepad or a notebook to organize your to-do’s, make it a habit to have your list with you at all times!
Remember to give your list a visually accessible, fixed spot in your home or office.
Keep it in plain view or you’re likely to forget about it. Apps are great too. However, I personally prefer the tactile nature of pen and paper.
Tip 2: Keep It Short!
People with ADHD tend to misjudge the amount of time tasks take. They have a tendency to make really long to-do lists that inevitably leave them disappointed at the end of the day.
Try to avoid putting more than 4 to 6 items on your list. If you finish your list with time to spare, you can always make a new short list or place some ‘optional’ items on the back. The trick is to feel relaxed about what’s on your plate… no matter what it is, every day.
Aim for short to–do lists. Long to-do lists can be forbidding and actually create stress. Short to-do lists will make you feel great because they’ll motivate you to get things done rather than overwhelm you. When you finish your (shorter) list you’ll feel satisfied and encouraged. That’s what you’re looking for.
Tip 3: Keep It Clear & Fun
- Make your list easy to read and understand. Use bold letters, a dark pen, clear large lettering with enough spacing between items.
- Keep items short – but not so short that you don’t remember what they’re about. Reminders like ‘order book’ might leave you wondering which book you were referring to.
- Place must-do’s first (see Tip 7)
- Use colored pens, underlining or exclamation points for things you want to draw attention to.
- Make use of Post-its. They’re great for little reminders and ideas you may want to transfer to your next to-do list. Like things you need to follow up the next day.
Tip 4: Balance Out Easy And Taxing Tasks
Some tasks are easy. You’ve done them a million times before. They require no forethought. Other tasks are challenging, complicated and taxing. Find a balance when approaching these two task types. Don’t cram all your taxing tasks in one day. Lighten them up with some simple tasks or spread them over a few days.
Tip 5: Stay On Target!
People with ADHD tend to have lots of miscellaneous or random thoughts running through their head. Some thoughts may be important enough to write down, others may not.
Use a separate notebook or a digital recorder to keep track of ideas. I scribble spontaneous thoughts and ideas at the bottom of my To-Do List and transcribe them to my miscellaneous list later. That way I don’t forget them while avoiding the risk of being thrown off track.
The main objective is to stay on target and finish your daily to-do’s. Don’t get sidetracked by all of your other ideas, they’ll still be there when you’re done. Once you’ve written them down, get back to the task at hand.
Tip 6: Give It Thought!
Prioritizing can be difficult if you have ADHD. Many things on your to-do list can falsely present themselves as priorities. These items, in reality, can effectively be postponed or even be eliminated. Many things on your to-do list may ‘seem’ to require immediate attention, while in reality they can wait or even be eliminated.
At the start of each day (or the evening before) take a moment to sit down and look over your list. Spend a few minutes to review items and give each some thought.
Base your daily to-do list on the things that really matter to you. Be selective. Ask yourself why something is on the list. Whatever the reasons are, they should be on your list because they matter to you – get rid of the fluff. Keep your main goals and priorities in mind.
Don’t stuff your list with trivial things that will have little importance in the long run. Think of ways to simplify. Identify tasks you can delegate.
Tip 7: Separate Must-Do’s From Could-Do’s
There are many things you could do with your time. But there will always be a few things you absolutely must do. Place the must-do’s first. I usually place a few could-do’s on the right side of my page or between parentheses.
Sometimes I get around to them, sometimes I don’t. The key is to know what is crucial and not let the less-important items get in the way.
Tip 8: Get the Tough Stuff Out of the Way
People with ADHD tend to avoid tedious, difficult or laborious tasks that require sustained mental effort – till the last minute. Unfortunately this avoidance strategy can leave you with a constant feeling of discomfort throughout the day or week.
I tend to use the opposite strategy – I like to get the tough tasks out of the way. Once the toughest jobs are done, I feel relaxed because the rest of my to-do’s go quite easily. I look at it like this. When I attack those ‘yucky’ tasks first, I find myself sailing through the rest.
Tips 9: Leave Time for Play & Relaxation
Leave time for one or more fun activities during and/or at the end of your day. You don’t need to put them on your list but make sure you have something to look forward to at regular intervals. These ‘rewards’ don’t need to be terribly involved or complex. Do something that will replenish your energy and make you feel warm and happy inside.
Tip 10: Give Your List a Rest!
You may have multiple daily responsibilities to manage. Staying occupied is good, but don’t take it too far. If at all possible, implement a ‘No List Day’.
I realize this is a luxury for many people, especially if you have kids, but it does the soul a world of good to be allowed to fully let go once in a while. Take my word for it. You’ll finish your to-do lists more quickly and easily when you regularly allow yourself some quality chill time.