The chronic conditions of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), are one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. In the United States, about 9.4% or 6.1 million children are diagnosed with ADHD, and this condition may decrease or become severe as the child ages. Additionally, it is estimated that about 4% to 5% of U.S. adults have it, but few get diagnosed or treated for it. Some of the symptoms of ADHD are daydreaming, forgetting or losing things, squirming or fidgets, talking too much, making careless mistakes, having a hard time resisting temptation, having trouble taking turns, and having difficulty getting along with others. Although there is no cure for this disorder, here are 10 tips to help individuals manage ADHD and improve the symptoms as the years go:
Create the right work environment: Find a comfortable and relaxing place to do school or work assignments. For example, you should do the tasks in a place other than your bedroom, like a designated office, a coffee shop, or the library. According to a study, the participants used daily reminders, assistants, and support from employers or coworkers to mitigate workplace challenges.
Take one step at a time: Break up large tasks into smaller ones. Smaller tasks will help the child or adult be less intimidated about the workload. Doing one thing at a time will also help create momentum to move on to the next assignment. The next step would be to write the smaller steps down and check them off the list once completed. This will create a feeling of accomplishment and determination to finish the tasks.
Don’t multi-task: The idea that multitasking will help accomplish more things at once is a myth, especially when getting things done at a specific time. Some activities can be done well and efficiently, like cooking and watching TV, but other activities that require more focus will suffer while the individual is multitasking. A study proved this idea in which children with ADHD were assessed and concluded that there was a specific deficit in generating helpful strategies for task completion. This means that time management is a big issue when it comes to completing tasks simultaneously.
Build-in Breaks: Since individuals with ADHD/ADD have difficulty maintaining mental effort for an extended time, it is helpful to plan breaks while studying and working schedules. A study explained that breaks were used to refocus their thinking, refresh the mental energy needed for task completion, and serve as a motivator. A popular method is the Pomodoro Technique.
Have a set routine: By building a routine, it lays the foundation for time management skills. A study was done to illustrate different strategies that help individuals with ADHD and described that habits and routines reduced cognitive load and improved efficiency and/or the accuracy of task performance.
Make lists: Write a to-do list every day of the many different tasks you must complete for that day. List the order from highest to lowest priority. This idea was demonstrated in a study where a participant says “As far as my homework, I usually do what’s due first and… if the task is like a really hard task, I’ll put that first also. So, the most important class, get that work done first” and this demonstrates the idea of placing tasks in order from high priority to low priority.
Stop for a moment and move: Individuals with ADHD have many thoughts and ideas swirling around in their heads throughout the day. Therefore, it is essential to establish a habit where they take a moment to reflect on their thoughts by either sitting down, taking deep breaths, or going for a walk. This habit is a way for these individuals to try and calm down. A study explained this as the reframing strategy where the process involved learning how to reframe challenging or frustrating experiences, such as not accomplishing a task or not managing one’s time and expected by themselves and others. The reframing strategy began with (1) self-evaluation, which then aided participants in (2) reframing their learning disabilities (LD) and ADHD challenges for both themselves and for others. The reframing strategy was used by participants as a means of protecting their minds against the internalization of negative self-thoughts or perceived disappointment from others.
Use a planner: It’s hard to remember everything that you have to do during the day. Writing things down and having a hard copy of what needs to be done is a great way to keep someone on track. A study had shown that a planning system was necessary for helping participants manage schedules, goals, tasks, and expectations in both the immediate and distant future.
Have a set sleep schedule: Like having a routine for everything else, having a set sleep schedule will do great for individuals with ADHD to stay on track and be productive. A clinical study involving adolescents with ADHD established that children with good sleep hygiene which include environmental (cool temperature, low noise, and ambient light levels), scheduling (a regular bedtime, sleep-wake schedule), sleep practice (a bedtime routine, no television viewing at bedtime), and physiologic (exercise, the timing of meals, limited caffeine use) factors which promote optimal sleep. These studies suggest that this was adequate to treat sleep initiation problems in children with ADHD.
Don’t overbook or overschedule: Even though it is a great thing to have a schedule, taking on too many tasks could lead to a significant amount of stress, making the plan counterproductive. Therefore, breaking the high and low priority tasks day by day or knowing when your body (or mind) is tired can help you maintain a stable and efficient schedule.