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Reducing Overwhelm with ADHD: Five Steps to Prioritise Your Tasks

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Overwhelmed. That’s how you feel right now. You stare at your boss walking away. She’s given you another task to add to what feels like your ever-increasing pile. You look around your desk at the lists, the post-it notes, the emails filling up your inbox. How the heck are you supposed to keep on top of this!?


Feeling overwhelmed is, unfortunately, a common emotion with ADHD. One of the reasons for this overwhelm is struggling to prioritise [1]–[5]. Looking through tasks and picking out important or urgent items often requires working memory, time visualisation skills and time estimation, which can all be difficult with ADHD [6], [7]. Below I have outlined a method that I have developed and tested in coaching to help ADHDers prioritise tasks in a way that allows you to externalise working memory and visualise urgency.


Step 1: Make a list

The first step is to list all your tasks, either digitally or on paper. Don’t hold back. Whether it’s a document due tomorrow or wanting to learn a new language, write it down!


Step 2: Assign your tasks colours

Tasks are often sorted based on what they are, e.g. home, school, work. In contrast, in this step, we organise tasks based on when they need to be done. This helps you instantly decide how you need to prioritise your tasks for the day or week. You can use whichever colours you like, but the most common are red, orange, green.

Red = due this week,

Orange = due this month,

Green = due in the future/no date.


Step 3: Place red and orange tasks in your planner

Once you have your tasks organised by colour, put your red and orange tasks into your planner system. Choosing a neurodiverse friendly planning system is something we cover in weeks 1 and 2 of time management group coaching.


Step 4: Move green tasks to a master list

Separate the green tasks from your planner. This will help you avoid being overwhelmed by too many tasks and help you resist the urge to focus only on what’s less urgent. Instead, keep your green tasks in a master document that can be easily adjusted (often a Word document).


Step 5: Review your lists

One of the essential parts of the system is reviewing your list. Set aside time weekly to look through your red, yellow and green lists, tick off what was done, change colours as needed and add tasks to your plan for the following week. Don’t forget to add some fun activities and dopamine to your week while you do this!


Hopefully, using this prioritisation system will help you feel more in control of your time.



Talk to you next week,


Skye.


ADHD can have a huge effect on daily life. But it doesn’t have to. If you’re looking for neurodiverse-friendly strategies you can use immediately, then book a free consultation with one of our ADHD Coaches.


They will help you understand your executive functioning struggles and learn how Unconventional Organization can help you. Plus, they also have ADHD!


Click here to book a free consultation.


References

[1] G. Stockigt, ‘The exploration of the management strategies used by educators working with learners presenting with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms in mainstream schools in the Western Cape’, 2016, Accessed: Jul. 09, 2021. [Online]. Available: http://etd.uwc.ac.za/xmlui/handle/11394/5001

[2] A. Vance, ‘Differential Diagnosis and Comorbid ADHD in Childhood’, in Handbook of Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders, D. McKay and E. A. Storch, Eds. New York, NY: Springer, 2011, pp. 121–134. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-7784-7_9.

[3] T.-J. Stewart, ‘Guidelines for the inclusion of ADHD learners in the classroom’, Thesis, North-West University, 2006. Accessed: Jul. 09, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://repository.nwu.ac.za/handle/10394/1055

[4] A. Sorensen, ‘Adult ADHD in private practice’, p. 11, 2010.

[5] M. Saviet and E. Ahmann, ‘ADHD coaches’ experiences with and perceptions of between-session communication with clients: a focus group’, Coach. Int. J. Theory Res. Pract., vol. 0, no. 0, pp. 1–15, Jan. 2021, doi: 10.1080/17521882.2021.1877754.

[6] R. Alderson, L. Kasper, K. Hudec, and C. Patros, ‘Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Working Memory in Adults: A Meta-Analytic Review’, Neuropsychology, vol. 27, pp. 287–302, May 2013, doi: 10.1037/a0032371.

[7] K. J. Radonovich and S. H. Mostofsky, ‘Duration Judgments in Children With ADHD Suggest Deficient Utilization of Temporal Information Rather Than General Impairment in Timing’, Child Neuropsychol., vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 162–172, Sep. 2004, doi: 10.1080/09297040409609807.

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