Six Key Management Tools for Adult ADHD: Time, Tasks, and Memories

Key adult ADHD Management Tools

Is that all it takes—six key ADHD  management tools?  Well, not exactly. But they can create a strong foundation.

Highly organized people are made—not born. At least that’s what I’ve observed.  And guess what? The most organized people I know happen to have ADHD.

They definitely weren’t born organized, though. Just the opposite. They struggled mightily for years with managing time, tasks, priorities, and stuff. Then they took that most universal ADHD challenge—chronic disorganization—and overcame it to the point of being models to us all.

A few weeks ago, Jaclyn Paul explained the genesis of her new book, Order From Chaos, in this post: Creating Order from ADHD-Fueled Fallout.  The first step, she says, comes with recognizing the pain that disorganization is causing you or your loved ones. The next step: Adopting a meaningful philosophy of life that guides all future actions.

Next week, you’ll hear from another uber-organized woman with late-diagnosis ADHD. Business owner Andie Katschthaler will share her amazing #ADHDTechStack for handling everything from business appointments to meal planning.

Psst: Great Holiday Gifts, Too

In this post, I present six essential tools—all supporting organization. Of time, priorities, memories, and stuff. They let you build environmental supports and “scaffolding” so you can spend your time doing rather than trying to remember.

People with ADHD especially benefit from these tools.
 But all of us navigating this speeded up and highly distracting 21st Century need help to focus on goals, managing time, and practicing good habits that support our health, our relationships, and our futures.

Hence my motto: “The tools and strategies that work for people with ADHD work for the rest of us, too.” My friends with ADHD are leading the way.


Key ADHD Management Tools
Tools 4 Wisdom Planner — sample page

1. Paper Task Planner/Calendar

The central, foundational, pivotal Adult ADHD mnagement tool: a planner.

There’s the obvious benefit: remembering appointments and commitments. An electronic calendar can do that, of course.  You might find electronic calendars suit your needs exactly.

For others, especially in the first year into diagnosis and treatment, consider a paper calendar, even if only as an adjunct to your electronic calendar. That’s because it’s physical. It’s not hidden away in the recesses of your electronic device, where you’ll have to go searching for it.

Of course, setting electronic reminders remains an important strategy, too—on your phone, watch, or calendar. But a paper planner—whether or not you use it to guide you through the day—provides a concrete receptacle for fleshing out your goals, dreams, and desires. In print. Not floating around in your head taking up important bandwidth.

For example, a paper planner helps you to:

1. Visualize the passage and allocation of time, to make time “real”—no small task for ADHD “Time Blindness.”

2. Tackle “big-project overwhelm”—by allowing you to break down big tasks into smaller ones and schedule over time.

3.  Feel productive—you are physically checking things off! Long after you completed the task, you have a reminder of accomplishment on those days when you feel stuck in spin cycle.

 4. Focus on and track your larger goals and priorities for the year, the month, the week—with special features to help you map it out.

Paper planners have mushroomed in variety and expanded in all kinds of creative directions. You have your pick of sizes, binding, cover designs, categories, and features that help you to break down your goals, consider life balance and priorities, and reflect. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or taken by fanciful designs, so think about your needs before you start shopping.

For example, I was drawn to the Tools for Wisdom line (above). There are various sizes and presentations, including spiral bound.

 I picked an 8.5 x 11 and was quite taken with it—until I realized it just took up too much real estate on my desk. I should have gotten the 5 x 8. Turns out the free calendar-planner from my local paint store suited me perfectly.

The Legend Planner
The Legend Planner: sample page


Among the many other options: this 6 x 9 feature-rich Legend Planner (sample page above).

There is even the Bullet Journal method, where you create a planner in a plain paper book. Several friends who have ADHD swear by this method. Others say they spent too much time designing and decorating!

As with all things ADHD, it boils down to individual preferences.

Key ADHD Management Tools

2. Command Center

Every home needs a logistical headquarters—a “command center” where you build in the structural supports you need on a daily basis. You’ll find no shortage of inspiration on this Pinterest page.

In general, the idea is to dedicate a spot (near the door, preferably) for:

  • Whiteboard – to communicate important messages
  • Family calendar
  • Drop-off/Pick-up point for keys, phones, papers, mail, handbag, kids’ backpacks, library books, outgoing dry-cleaning, etc.

Key ADHD Management Tools

3. Charging Station

Speaking of command centers, here’s a vital component. Why spend 30 minutes each morning annoying yourself and everyone else in the house frantically hunting down your smartwatch, phone, or laptop—or risk being caught later with a dead battery?

My husband (he’s the one with ADHD in our house) loves this compact model for his home office (above). In the bedroom, he uses this model, which also accommodates his watches, keys, and so forth.

Pomodoro Technique for ADHD

4. Pomodoro Technique

That’s Italian for tomato. But you don’t specifically need a round red timer to employ this technique; any timer will do.

The idea is coaxing yourself out of procrastination and into a task by setting a time limit (e.g. 10 minutes toward clearing off your desk). In The Pomodoro Technique, creator Francesco Cirillo details his strategies.

 Key ADHD Management Tools

5. Keychain Pill Container

Remembering to take medication can be a challenge.  While you work on daily reminder strategies, always keep an emergency stash of medication at the ready! These waterproof aluminum containers are one good option: Ten 2-inch waterproof containers for under $10.

ADHD memory jar

6. Jar of Successes

This is more of a psychological tool—but I find it essential nonetheless.

Especially in the early days of diagnosis and treatment, it’s easy to get discouraged. Progress can feel like two steps forward and one step backward—or even three steps backward. 

Without an active strategy in place, a setback can sink your mood and self-esteem, paving the way to an attitude of “why try?”

The antidote? Plan for these times. Jot down successes large or small (“A student thanked me for understanding her” or “I completed a report in record time!”) and drop them in a memory jar.  Later, dip in and read as needed!

You can adapt this strategy to enhance your relationship, as I wrote about in this blog post: ADHD & Relationships: Three Simple Strategies

What are your essential strategies? 

—Gina Pera

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