If you have ADHD, daily tasks and to do lists can be annoying at best and nerve-racking at worst.
There’s no avoiding it. Daily chores will pile up if you don’t effectively manage them. Basic responsibilities like cleaning, paying bills, cooking, gardening and general handiwork absorb time and require a minimum amount of effort.
Why do Maintenance Tasks Matter?
Effective daily task management ultimately benefits your long-term goals.
Because neglecting the small things can slowly add up to big problems.
If you keep plugging along without taking care of that pile of unpaid bills and that broken laundry machine, for example, you could end up without any clothes and on the street.
On the other hand, some people with ADHD fixate on the little things to the point where their larger goals fade away.
In the end, either of these behavioral patterns will leave you overwhelmed, frustrated or both.
Go for the middle ground. Give your maintenance tasks a prominent place in your daily schedule but don’t get lost in them. After all they’re just maintenance tasks. What you don’t do today, will still be there tomorrow.
Curb your Enthusiasm!
In your excitement, you may dream of creating the perfectly organized system, where everything runs smoothly at all times. This is the kind of expectation that will drive you nuts.
So, before you begin, accept that things could get messy. Know that life doesn’t have to be perfectly organized to be enjoyable. Keep this in the back of your mind and you’ll feel the stress melt away.
And now for the fun bit…
How to deal with Maintenance Tasks
Step 1: Making Lists
Making a list is a great way to get an overview of your situation. You can’t make a daily to do list without knowing what your to-do’s are. So, first:
Make a WEEKLY To Do List:
Make a list of your most important weekly to-do’s.
This should be a list of the most important daily and weekly maintenance tasks. Include as many tasks as you can think of but don’t go into too much detail.
Your weekly list should only include the most important weekly maintenance tasks. Use basic labels like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, gardening, paperwork, etc. This list doesn’t have to be perfect or all-inclusive. You can always make adjustments later.
Make a LESS-FREQUENT or ONE-TIME-ONLY List:
Obviously, this list includes the less frequent or one-time-only maintenance tasks like:
• fixing the garden fence
• renewing your driver’s license
• buying a better toaster
Make a MISCELLANEOUS List:
This list includes everything else you need or want to do.
This can be anything from hooking up with a friend to buying a new sofa. Anything you may think of that doesn’t fit on the other two lists goes here. I find that most of my non-work-related to-do’s go on this list.
Any to-do’s that pop into my head during the day also go on this list. You may want to separate this list into subcategories like:
• WHEN I FEEL LIKE IT
Use post-its to make more urgent to-do’s stand out.
The examples in this list are focused on household tasks but you can also use this 3-List-Technique for work if applicable. Also, if there are very few items on your LESS-FREQUENT or ONE-TIME-ONLY List, just put them on your MISCELLANEOUS LIST.
Keep Your Lists Clean!
Whether you use pen and paper or a dedicated App, make it a habit to clean your lists up regularly. Be sure to regularly remove all the completed, crossed-off to-do’s. This keeps your overview up-to-date and removes unnecessary visual clutter.
Step 2: Creating a Flexible Week Schedule
Place all reoccurring to-do’s in a week schedule and hang it in a visible place like on the refrigerator door. Use a dry erase board or something similar so you can easily make adjustments. Take a moment to contemplate which tasks would be best placed on which days and why.
I call it a ‘flexible week schedule’ for a good reason. People with ADHD can easily feel trapped when confronted with strict schedules. The only purpose of this week schedule is to create a reference for your visually-oriented brain to hold on to.
Give each task a specific place in your schedule, but keep in mind that you can be flexible. Go ahead and change things around whenever necessary. It’s crucial for people with ADHD to build some adaptability into the process – there will always be days where you won’t be able to manage certain tasks as well as others.
Note: Unless you experience a dramatic lifestyle change, a time may come where your reoccurring to-do’s will no longer need to be kept on your week schedule. I’ve created a mental list of my weekly to-do’s and can now schedule them how it suits me. In the beginning, however, I highly recommend making a written daily schedule. I used to hang mine next to the bathroom mirror.
Step 3: Creating a New Habit
Do you sit down in the morning and create a little list of your daily to-do’s?
If not, it’s time you made it a habit.
The thought of making a to-do list might make you cringe. But use caution if you think you can function effectively without a list strategy. Remember the consequences of allowing tedious maintenance tasks to fall by the way side.
Until you’ve made it into a routine, it’s important to remind yourself – with alarms or visual cues – to create this new habit.
The importance of using a daily reminder app on your smart phone or keeping an easily accessible, daily to-do notepad is a critical step towards achieving your goals. I can’t emphasize this fact enough.
Step 4: Creating Your Daily To-Do List
There are usually three kinds of to do’s contained in your daily to do list:
- Things required to accomplish your long-term primary goals – the ones you covered in “ADHD and Long Term Goal Setting”.
- Regular maintenance tasks – the ones you covered in your Flexible Week Schedule.
- Less frequent or one-time-only to-do’s – the ones you covered in your Less Frequent or One-Time-Only To-Do List and your Miscellaneous List, obviously.
Now go over your lists and choose which tasks you will focus on today. Before you approach this step, make sure to read: “How to make a Daily To-Do list you will finish”!
Note: Reviewing the 3 above-mentioned lists every day will also help commit them to your subconscious memory. This can come in handy in various, unplanned situations.
Step 5: Visualize The Process
Once you’ve created your to-do list, take time to visualize yourself going through each task. This shouldn’t take more than 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t stress about every minute detail of this visualization.
Do the best you can.
Pre-visualization is a powerful means of encouraging success and establishing the best possible conditions to achieve your goals.
Imagine the whole process and how it will look from beginning to end. Don’t be surprised at what shows up during these visualizations. In some cases your subconscious mind will reveal preventable obstacles or even emotional barriers that are causing you to avoid certain tasks.
Stay tuned to your personal energy as you go through this process. Work out if you can adjust a few parameters in order to make things more agreeable, easy or pleasant. You may want to take notes while visualizing because it will help you remember what appears.
Once you’ve taken the time to go through this process, be sure to imagine the finished result and ‘feel’ the satisfaction you get when it’s done.
Important Note: Pre-visualizing your to-do’s may seem tedious at first, but I guarantee that it’ll save you a lot of time not to mention frustration and long-term trouble. There are a multitude of benefits to be enjoyed by using your visualization skills. As time goes by, the process will become natural, automatic and will take very little time.
Step 6: Set the Scene, Jump In and Wrap it up
Set the scene
The process of visualization allows you to anticipate what you need to do in order to prepare. This includes identifying tools you may need or other requirements involved in the task.
Don’t wait for the perfect time or even the right kind of motivation, even when you feel resistance. You don’t actually need motivation to begin something if you just allow your body to start going through the motion. You’ve done all the preparatory work. Don’t over think it. Just start. (see “How to stop procrastinating and get things done”)
Wrap it up!
This is a step that many people with ADHD overlook. They tend not to consider cleaning up at the end as part of the task. Tidying up can be tedious, yes. But rest assured, it’ll save you oodles of time and frustration in the end. Prioritize this step so that it’s as important as the rest of the process. This way you’ll spend less time searching for misplaced items or falling over the clutter in your home.
Step 7: Adjust the System to Suit Your Needs
Since everyone’s situation is unique, you may need to find more ways to keep track of your to-do’s.
An extra notebook for tasks involving your children, a hobby or a weekly dinner plan etc. might help you keep things under better control. You may also require a monthly calendar to keep track of your appointments and so on.
How to Avoid Getting Overwhelmed
No matter how many to-do-lists you have, keep this in mind:
Your daily-to-do list is the ‘business end’ of all these other lists! Once you’ve made your list for the day, let go of your other lists and focus on your chosen daily priorities.
The most important thing is to keep your to-do’s visually accessible. Remember to place your notebooks, folders and to-do lists together in a visible place.
Use a calendar that provides a monthly overview vs. giving only a weekly snapshot. This way you get a clear picture of what’s coming. Use post-its for urgent and immediate reminders. Use Apps with reminder alerts.
Use anything and everything to keep things visually accessible and in your face!