The Apps and Tools That Run My ADHD Life
As an ADHD coach who has been diagnosed with ADHD, I couldn’t make it through the day without the right systems and tools. Apps such as Sleep Cycle and ScheduleOnce, and tools like Asana, help me be more productive and improve my time management skills.
Sleep Apps: A Key to Greater Productivity
The quality of our sleep makes everything easier — or harder, depending on how you slept. If you’re waking up by a regular alarm clock, and you feel like you were hit by a truck for the first three hours of the day, you probably were awakened during a deep sleep phase. I use a sleep-tracking app I love called Sleep Cycle. It detects which phase of sleep I’m in, and it wakes me during my lightest phase of sleep within a 20-minute window.
Sleep is key to my productivity during the day, so I turn on a white noise machine — the kind you might see at your doctor’s office — so I don’t hear my son when he gets up. He is good at many things, but being quiet is not one of them. I also purchased some room-darkening shades, and, during the summer months, I wear a sleep mask.
Calendar Apps and Tools for Time Management
Once in the kitchen, I take my medication, have my coffee and breakfast, and review my calendar. When I have my laptop with me, I look at iCal, which talks with my Google Calendar, my wife’s iCal, and my online appointment scheduler, ScheduleOnce. If I just have my phone, I use the calendar app Calendars 5.
I also try to check the following places each morning:
- Asana, for the day’s to-do’s. With Asana, you can set up your projects in one of two ways—as a list with headers, or as boards, sometimes referred to as KanBan boards. I like boards because they are more visual. I also like the fact that I can add a photo to the board and have a task exist in more than one place.
- Slack, for communication with everyone who is part of my team—from my podcast editors to my web guy and other administrators. With Slack, I can take all the conversations I have with people on my team out of my email inbox.
- Facebook and Linkedin, to see if I need to respond to anyone.
- WhatsApp, to see if there are any issues I need to be aware of in my coaching groups. WhatsApp is a great messaging app that makes it easy to have group chats without blowing up your regular messages app. It’s also easy to customize your notification settings. And as an added bonus, if you ever have to make international calls, you can do this on WhatsApp for free.
- Inbox for Gmail. Sometimes I’m not ready to respond to an email, but I don’t want it to bury it. With Inbox, I can swipe right and have an email return to my inbox, either when I arrive somewhere or at a specific time.
- I also rely on some low-tech tools. In our kitchen, we have a two-month, wet-erase calendar. This gives us an at-a-glance view of all our family events. Nothing goes on here until it is first added to our online calendars.
Medication, Exercise, Audiobooks: ADHD Productivity Necessities
Tech is indispensable in my career, but medication and exercise have the greatest positive impact on my ADHD symptoms. My morning exercise time is also my time to listen to audiobooks on Audible or Podcasts. If you’ve never listened to a podcast before, do yourself a favor. Take out your phone and search “podcast.” Chances are, you have a podcast app on your phone. Once you’re in the app, search “ADHD Experts” or “ADDitude,” or anything else you’re interested in.
When I go to the gym, I need to be able to see what time it is everywhere, including while I’m in the shower. The shower can do strange things to the passage of time. I have a dedicated sports watch for the gym.
Once I arrive at my office, and get myself settled — I open the blinds to let in some natural light, and fill up my water bottle with ounces marked on the side, so I know how much I am drinking. I put on my Bose noise-canceling headphones. I use them for podcasting and my online coaching groups. I couldn’t have guessed how well these headphones would eliminate auditory distractions. I usually start my day by logging into my first meeting on Zoom. I use this video conferencing platform for all my meetings.
As the day progresses, I use a large, two-sided, dry-erase board to capture the key items that need my attention. I review and update my calendar and to-do’s five times throughout the day. It does not matter which tool you use. You can use paper, a Bullet Journal, or an app. Planning and reviewing your intentions will always save you time later.
As you can see, I use a lot of tools and strategies, but I think the most important “tool” is self-compassion. Even on my best days, I know that everything is not going to get done. Hopefully, I do most of what needs to get done, and some of what I want to get done. And on those days when ADHD wins, I know I’m going to get another chance tomorrow.
Eric Tivers, LCSW, MSSW, is a coach and consultant in private practice. He specializes in ADHD and autism spectrum disorders and is the host of the ADHD reWired Podcast (adhdrewired.com/podcast), a weekly audio program that features authentic stories and helpful strategies from professionals and everyday people living with ADHD. He also has attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) and is the father to a spirited, neurodivergent second-grader.