Developing habits: What to do when your ADHD clashes with productivity

Developing certain rituals and habits can help you overcome your limited attention span

Priyong Sabastini
Published : 19 Jan 2023, 01:31 PM
Updated : 19 Jan 2023, 01:31 PM

For as long as I can remember, I’ve found concentrating on anything for an extended time impossible. My inability to keep track of conversations or classroom lectures for more than 15 minutes at a stretch was simply seen as “spacing out due to boredom”. My inability to work on anything till the very end of the day was just me procrastinating, like everyone else. Being in a deadlock mentally and being unable to do anything at all without a routine was also believed to be a lack of motivation. 

It came to a head in my final semester in university, when the very suggestion of a routine went out the window, and I realised there was an underlying cause for these issues. Not having actual classes in my thesis semester truly threw off any semblance of structure in my life. I had, essentially, become my own boss, and there was no impending deadline to boost my adrenaline. At first, it felt like I had unlimited time to finish my thesis until, suddenly, I did not. Time had zapped by while I sat and pondered about all the work I had to get done without actually getting anything done. 

It was then, when I was at my procrastinating peak, that I realised all my mental impediments were just not me being lazy, but the result of an actual mental health disorder. It was my ADHD that made me procrastinate. It was my ADHD that made it hard for me to concentrate on multiple things at once. And, it was my ADHD that made me unable to function without a set routine. 

With the diagnosis of what was holding me back and my increased understanding came accountability and control. It was no longer “just how I was” but it became a matter of what I could do to fix it. Little by little, I started to make small adjustments to my everyday routine, which has helped me make the transition bit by bit. 

Here are some of the most important practices that helped me overcome my ADHD:

CHANGE UP YOUR WORKSPACE

One of my biggest problems has been falling asleep in bed while working with my laptop. It was only recently that I recently realised how much of a difference a change of environment can actually make. Leaving my room and working outside at a cafe forced me to concentrate on my work and my work alone. Of course, there still is the occasional glance at social media, but unlike at home, where the glance would turn into 3 hours of endless scrolling, I would resume working after a few short minutes. The friction of stepping out of your usual comfort zone ensures you do not procrastinate for too long. Additionally, your ‘changed’ environment really does not need to be anything fancy or too far from home. It can even be your own living room, your sibling’s desk, or anywhere that is not the same place you always work and especially NOT the same place where you sleep. Separating and compartmentalising where you work and where you rest is truly paramount, which I learned the hard way.   

 SET A ROUTINE AND STICK TO IT

This tip might seem rote and common sense, but this is probably one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself if you have ADHD, or just suffer from severe procrastination tendencies. Creating and maintaining a daily routine which accommodates both your work and favourite hobbies, will help instill a mental blueprint that will make you more likely to be productive. Designating specific times of the day to specific kinds of work or activities and breaking your day up into chunks that include work and fun will make it feel less mundane and keep things from getting overwhelming. Work will not just be your main (unwanted) focus but a part of a broader day, encouraging you to finish your tasks as soon as possible. 

DEVELOP SMALL RITUALS

One thing I did not realise until I researched my ADHD symptoms online is the way rituals, no matter how small or mundane, boost my daily mood. The more these rituals became a matter of habit, the more at ease I felt with the semblance of a ‘routine’. And a better mood leads to higher productivity. So, I would suggest anyone suffering from a lack of productivity introduce small rituals, work-related or otherwise, to enhance their day. It can be anything from noting your thoughts in a journal at the end of the day to drinking coffee at a specific hour or listening to a specific kind of music for specific tasks. Building small rituals in tandem with maintaining a routine will lead you to accomplish your daily tasks and add enjoyment. 

DON’T LEAVE THE WORST FOR LAST

Last, but not least, the worst thing I ever did for myself and my ADHD symptoms was normalising being a “night owl”. Leaving the tasks that I dreaded the most for the end of my day made my entire day a procrastination bubble tinged with the fear of work at the back of my head. Not only did this always take away from the activities I would take part in during the day, but the end of my day would be a rush to finish all my work in one go. Doing this every single day embedded the idea that ‘work’ is something I ‘did not want to do’. But now that I (finally) shifted work to my daytime routine, leaving the rest of my day open to do anything else that my heart desires, work has started to become enjoyable. Mildly blasting some Lo-Fi jazz tunes while I click away at my laptop keys, work has become the first thing I tackle every morning before I move on to my other tasks!

Things may differ from person to person, but setting yourself these tasks can help overcome a tendency to procrastinate and revitalise your attempts to get things done. While it won't happen in a day, it is worth a try to take the first step.

This article is a part of Stripe, bdnews24.com's special publication with a focus on culture and society from a youth perspective. 

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher