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If you’re thinking that ADHD productivity struggles can be solved with the right planner or system, then you’re probably thinking about it all wrong. In this post, I’m sharing 5 “rules” for being more productive that has nothing to do with planners or systems.
Instead, it has to do with how you decide to spend your time, how to measure it, and what to aim for. If you struggle to be productive, you probably aren’t thinking about these elements which are critical to living well – not just “being productive”.
Why ADHDers Struggle with Productivity
I typically coach women with ADHD or ADHD-like tendencies. They tend to be very driven, with fast brains, and generally want to do all the things, but they can’t seem to get it all done. So they come to me with a desire to learn….
Does any of this sound familiar to you? It sure does to me!
So when it comes to how to live a more productive life, here’s five ideas I’d love for you to consider….
What does “being productive” actually look like for you and how would you know if you were being productive?
In my practice, I find ADHD clients are so consumed with their racing minds that they are rarely present enough in the moment to have a clear idea of how much they’ve accomplished in a day.
So when we hold this belief that we’re not being productive enough, how do we know if that’s really true? We might actually be doing more than the average person, but our expectations of “enough” aren’t achievable, ergo, we call ourselves unproductive.
So I think it’s really important to understand that the idea of living a productive life is very “squishy”. The reality is that you probably are living productively in many areas of your life, but you’re disregarding it because you’re focused on the areas where you’re falling short of your own expectations.
To that end, I feel it’s important to point out that productivity is not a measure of how much you’ve done compared to somebody else.
There’s a lot of ways that we can look at the people around us and see how we’re falling short and call that a lack of productivity because we’re not as advanced as they are in certain areas. But the thing is, we tend to advance in the areas that are most important to us, and that’s different for everyone.
So when you think about the things that you have accomplished in your life, those are probably the things that are important to you versus what somebody else has done. And that brings me to my next point….
Be clear on what’s important to you
Knowing was important to you so that you can put your time, energy and resources in the service and pursuit of that thing is essential. Because very often we do a lot of different things throughout the day. Some of it’s important, some of it’s mandatory and a lot of it’s just a waste of time – like scrolling Instagram.
Let me ask you this – if you intentionally dedicated 10% of your waking hours every day pursuing what is most important to you, how much more productive would you be?
How much more productive would you feel if you were able to give 30% to what was most important to you?
Even if that other 70% of your waking hours was dedicated to things that just had to get done, if you could just carve out 30% of your waking hours to dedicate to being productive and advancing the things that are important, I think you would probably feel like a much more productive person.
And that brings me to my next point, which is….
Being clear on what’s NOT important
As a society and a culture, we are so bombarded with distractions and options and choices and things that we can be putting our attention towards.
We have so many distractions to weed through every day. So when we’re not clear on what’s not important, we can end up putting a lot of our time, attention resources towards the noisy but unimportant things that capture our attention.
So when you get super clear on what’s not important, you give yourself the opportunity to be more productive in the areas that are important, or that require your attention, rather than the extraneous noise that we deal with on the daily.
Get Crystal Clear on How Long Things Take to Complete
If you can get really clear on how long things actually take for you to do in a day, you would improve your sense of productivity immensely, because you will be clear on what is actually possible to do in a day.
A lot of our beliefs around productivity are that “more is better”, so we try to do more. But the reality is that time is not infinite. Neither is our energy and resources. So we try to cram in a lot of stuff, but we can’t complete it all because we’re human.
As a result, we end up berating ourselves for not doing things that were not realistic in the first place. Conversely, when we focus on being super intentional about what we put on our to-do list in a day, knowing exactly how much time something’s going to take, then our day can be so much more productive and satisfying because it’s realistic.
Productivity is not the goal
The last point I’ll make about living a more productive life is that it’s not what we’re here for as a human being.
We are put on this earth for some reason. And I don’t know what that reason is, but it’s not just to pay bills and to check things off a to-do list.
So I urge you to spend some time thinking about what’s most important to you in this life, and what are the experiences you want to have during this precious time on earth? I bet it’s not crushing your to-do list.
Much like you, I am a sucker for a good daily planner. I love to do lists and calendaring things out. But I have to remind myself again and again, that is not the purpose of my existence.
Anything I commit to my calendar has to actually add to my life or add to the lives of the people or critters that live with me and around me, because if I’m not creating a meaningful impact, then who cares how productive I’m being at accomplishing things that don’t matter.