Help for ADHD and larger-scale time/project management?
March 2, 2018 10:28 AM   Subscribe

I have ADHD and I struggle with managing the projects on my plate. I understand the "micro" stuff for staying on task in the moment (Pomodoro technique, playing fun music, etc.). The "macro" stuff is still a huge challenge to me, though: project planning and time management over weeks and months, keeping track of what projects are actually on your plate, and so on. What help is out there for people with ADHD trying to manage the big picture, not just the minute-by-minute focusing? All tips, resources, books, websites, personal anecdotes welcome!
posted by cadge to Work & Money (4 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
3 giant whiteboards for keeping track of projects, errands, shopping, to-dos
1 small whiteboard for today's top 3 tasks
1 bulletin board for pinning stuff
1 mail sorter for papers, incoming & outgoing correspondence
1 pocket size book for jotting notes, ideas

1 google calendar for events, with different colors for: "life" "work" "travel" "maybe i'll go"
1 todoist for my budget with headers for: "this month" "future purchases" "debts"
3 trello calendars to keep track of digital work: "paid projects" "digital research" "overflow tasks"
1 notes app
posted by fritillary at 11:01 AM on March 2, 2018 [6 favorites]

I don't have ADHD, but I am very interrupt-driven. Here are some things that work for me:
  • Everything that has a hard date goes on a Google calendar. I have a plethora of different calendars that are all shared with different people.
  • I use an app called Blotter (Mac only), which gives me ambient awareness of what's coming up. This has been hugely helpful for me.
  • I use Trello. One trick I've started using recently is forwarding key e-mail messages to my Trello board (every board has its own e-mail address) so that the message gets posted as a card in an "inbox" list where I can use it as the kernel of a task. I've got my mail app set up so that I can do this in two keystrokes, so there's almost no friction. I also have a "parking lot" list for stuff I know I don't need to work on urgently
  • One thing I've found that has helped me maintain better situational awareness is to maintain a text document with a list of key planning milestones, with subheads for every month (these are mostly annually recurring tasks that don't necessarily have hard dates, and often involve a bunch of sub-tasks). So I can just look at the next month or two occasionally and be reminded "oh yeah, that is coming up." There may be ways to get Trello to do this, but this works for me.
  • Freeform notes and most of my longform writing goes into NValt on my Mac, and sync via Dropbox to an editor on my phone. NValt has a number of benefits, the first of which is super-fast search.
  • Another of NValt's benefits is that it support Markdown, and that is a big productivity win. It takes a little getting used to, but becomes second nature quickly enough. You can export to PDFs, or Word docs, or HTML and have it look smart without spending time frobnicating a word processor's formatting buttons.
  • I avoid using paper as much as possible, and stick to electronic tools. Much harder to lose information. I do have meticulous backups.

posted by adamrice at 3:15 PM on March 2, 2018

So, I suffered through a day-long “Getting Things Done™️ Method” training recently, with my lifelong semi-managed ADHD and insufficient caffeine/Ritalin support, as well as the after effects of multiple TBIs, and the excruciating knowledge that I was losing a day of actual productivity to the training. “Sit still and listen about getting work done” when you have a bunch of work you can’t physically do is torture with hyperactive-type, so...

Anyway, what was I on about? Right...

The single most valuable thing I learned: have a maximum of two “parking spots” for ALL your to-do stuff.

For me, I’m not quite there, but I’ve whittled it down to two pairs of parking spots:

Physical realm. I have an in-tray and an out-tray at my day job. The out-tray is currently stuffed with things other people need spoon-fed to them; the in-tray is stuff I need to figure out how to explain. I cannot put things in drawers or cabinets — out of sight equals out of mind.

Digital realm. Outlook and Gmail have one rule: flagging for follow-up is meaningless, it just becomes a tiny red flag in a clear-flag, any “action required” message gets marked “unread” until I have satisfactorily Dealt With The Thing In It.

I’ve tried Trello and Carrot and a million apps, and it was too much effort to turn them into habits. I’ve tried writing down lists and making index cards, and the entropy (plus my terrible handwriting) disgusted me. If a page of hand notes needs action, it goes in the work in-tray. If anything digital for day job/side hustle/Church/running/household/etc needs action, it stays “unread” until it is DONE.
posted by armeowda at 10:30 PM on March 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am currently running three kanban boards at home for three large, long-term projects I have to deal with (+ ordinary average things like "file taxes"). My kanban boards are literally pieces of A3 that I drew two lines on, to create columns for to do, in progress, and done. Each task is written on a slice that I cut off of a regular square sticky note (except for large things with lots of related subtasks which earn their own whole sticky note, like all the docs I have to collect before I can file my taxes). It's the lowest of low tech, it requires basically no effort, has only one rule: "as soon as you think of something you write it down" (either on a sticky note right there, like opening mail after I get home, or for things I think of at work/out and about, I jot down on a handy piece of paper or email to myself from my phone, then put it on a sticky note when I get home, and slap it on the todo column for the appropriate kanban board), and I LOOOVE moving flags to the "done" column.

I work in tech. I deliberately chose a non-tech solution because it's overkill for what I want, and I don't want to deal with an extra layer of effort to get access (like, if my browser update kills some plugin and I can't load my Trello board or whatever, it's just going to derail everything. It's hard to derail sticky notes). YMMV.

With all these balls in the air, I think those three pieces of A3 are the only thing keeping me from melting down right now!
posted by sldownard at 5:24 AM on March 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older Any suggestions on a future course for a 50yo...   |   What is the name of this type of electronic... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.