Adults with ADHD: Prioritizing Tasks

Health Writer

For adults living with ADHD, prioritizing tasks and managing the most important things on a to-do list can be a major problem. Executive function difficulties can cause an overwhelming feeling when someone with ADHD is faced with a list of tasks to complete -- which can often lead to nothing being completed. The following are six ideas to help adults with ADHD more effectively prioritize.

Write it down

You might typically default to a, “I will remember it” strategy, which more times than not fails you each day. This can leave you feeling deflated, thinking once again you didn’t get important tasks completed. Instead of relying on a faulty ADHD memory, set aside time each evening or morning to write down what needs to be completed. Keep your list in a place you will frequently view it through the day, checking off items when they are done.

Choose threeIf you haven’t already written your daily list in the evening, jot down your daily tasks in the morning. Once finished, circle or highlight the three most important tasks, or the three that must be completed that day. Then, Once you have finished your list, circle or highlight the three most important or three that must be done today. write down these three somewhere where you can easily see them - on a post it, on your bathroom mirror, in your phone calendar.** Put the main list away and don’t look at it again until these three have been completed.** This helps minimize distractions that can happen when you try to do too many tasks at once.

Consider your most productive time of the day

Each person has a “most productive” time of day. If you’re an early bird it might be morning. For others their most productive time is the late afternoon or evening, but there is no right or wrong time of the day to be most productive. However, you will be able to accomplish more if you don’t fight your internal clock. To find your optimal productivity, keep track of what time of day you get the most accomplished over a few weeks. Once you get a good sense of which time works best for you, schedule your most important tasks or meetings during that time of day.

Schedule time for tasks

When you have an important task (or even an unimportant one that you want to complete), schedule time for it. Use your calendar or an app to schedule your time. Give yourself a specific time and time-frame to complete the task. This helps avoid procrastination and hyperfocus. By winging it and saying, “I will get it done sometime today,” you increase the chances of the task going undone.

Set goalather than simply listing a task to be completed, give yourself a goal. Make sure your goal follows the SMART rule: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. By having a specific goal in mind, you are more apt to achieve it.

Break it down

When you have a task that has several steps, consider each step a separate task. This provides you with an outline of what needs to be done and you can set a specific time and goal for each step, making it easier to follow through to completion.

You can choose to use one or more of these techniques to help you achieve your goals and complete your daily tasks. Give yourself plenty of time to try out each strategy, follow through for a few weeks before deciding whether it works for you.** See more helpful articles for  managing adult ADHD:**

Adults with ADHD: Tackling Paperwork

6 Ways Adults with ADHD Can Benefit from Hyperfocus

Understanding Brain Fog in Adults with ADHD

10 Tips for the Newly Diagnosed Adult with ADHD

8 Ways to Manage Adult ADHD with a Planner


ADHD and Being More Proactive, Not Reactive

The Brown Model of ADD/ADHD

Prioritizing and Procrastination with ADHD