This week, we talk with Arianna Bradford, an ADHD productivity coach, about the best ways for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to boost productivity in their daily lives. We cover a range of topics, from common symptoms of ADHD and organizational strategies to productivity hacks and the Pomodoro technique. Arianna shares her expertise on how to set specific goals and prioritize tasks, as well as how to use the right tools and resources to get the most out of your work mode.
We also discuss the importance of taking breaks and transitioning between tasks, as well as how to manage ADHD symptoms in the workplace or in your personal life. Whether you’re a project manager, creative professional, or simply looking to be more productive, this episode has something for everyone. So grab a cup of coffee, find a quiet spot, and join us as we explore the world of ADHD productivity with Arianna Bradford.
In this episode:
- Arianna Bradford, an ADHD productivity coach, shares her tips for building productivity processes that work for neurodivergent brains.
- Productivity for people with ADHD is not an arbitrary number or percentage, and should be set by the individual in regards to upcoming external deadlines.
- Keeping all tasks and deadlines in one central place is important for feeling in control, and regularly reevaluating task priorities is crucial.
- The ICNU method (Interest, Challenge, Novelty, Urgency) can help hack an ADHD brain and increase productivity, as can adding challenge and urgency, trying new approaches, and allowing for downtime.
- Mind shifts and meditation can reduce stress and increase mindfulness, while tracking patterns and cycles can help with planning and prioritizing tasks.
- Redefining productivity as satisfaction, not perfection, and taking breaks for self-care are essential for preventing burnout.
- Favorite productivity tools include Amazing Marvin, Motion, The Bright App, Tusk, ClickUp, Headspace, and simplemind pro.
- Using white, brown, or pink noise, binaural beats, and low-fi beats can help with focus, and starting new routines gradually can avoid overwhelming the brain.
- Multitasking can be beneficial for ADHD brains, and it’s important to remember that worth is not determined by external measures of productivity or success.
- Understanding monthly and yearly cycles, as well as circadian rhythms, can aid in productivity and introspection.
Building your skills
- Organizational skills, goal setting, and breaking tasks into smaller chunks of time can also be helpful.
- It’s important to prioritize mental health and self-care in both personal and professional lives.
- There is no one “best way” to be productive, and different options may work for different tasks or individuals.
- ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder, and those with ADHD may experience executive dysfunction and shorter attention spans.
- Pomodoro cycles, mind maps, and analog clocks can aid in productivity, and to-do list apps and project managers can help keep track of tasks.
- The ADHD community and employee resource groups can provide support and resources for productivity and navigating the work environment.
- Taking short breaks and allowing for transition time can also improve productivity and reduce anxiety.
- Mental health professionals, family members, and team members can also be valuable resources in building productive habits.
- Social media and mobile devices can be both helpful and distracting, and it’s important to set boundaries and prioritize privacy.
- TikTok users and creative people may have an uncanny ability to focus on certain tasks, but may struggle with others.
- The most important tasks should be at the top of your to-do list, and it’s okay to leave some tasks for the next time or for the last minute.
- Hard work and effort are important, but so is recognizing and accepting limitations.
* Rough Transcript *
Aurora: Hello. This week, I get to share a talk with Ariana Bradford on ADHD productivity. The irony is not lost on me, that we recorded an episode on ADHD productivity during my least productive month in a long time. Between burnout, extra work and lots of life changes both personally and professionally. I had to take the time to rest.
The good news is my summer is almost here and I have a lot of positive changes ahead. Outside of rest and recovery. My goal this summer is to hyper-focus on planner club and course content. So I have it ready to go for the rest of the year. You can find my executive functioning planner, prioritization tools and other printable planner content in my monthly planner club. And I’m building up the resource library for the full course membership. You can find them on my firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to finding Arianna on Instagram and YouTube, she’s also hosting a chase, the chaos summit in September. You can find the details in the show notes. Enjoy.
Aurora: So excited to have Arianna Bradford here with us today to talk about ADHD productivity. Arianna, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself.
Arianna: So, there’s a whole thing in my presentation here about who I am, so we’ll get into that a little bit more. But for right now, my name is Arianna Bradford. I am an ADHD coach and I myself have ADHD, so I’m amongst good company.
Aurora: Awesome. And a little background with Arianna. We actually met in real life in a networking group of moms, and she was doing photography and this project, the not your average mom project and a bunch of around that, which was great. And when I interviewed her and I made a bunch of shorts for stories, Of growing up basically neurodivergent.
And her story was one of the most relatable to me as a person with ADHD, but she didn’t actually have ADHD at the time. So, when she announced that she had gotten that diagnosis, I was not surprised. And I’ve loved seeing everything that you’ve done ever since. So,
Arianna: yeah, I don’t think anybody who knows me is surprised that I also have ADHD,
Aurora: But you do manage to do quite a lot. So, I’m excited to hear from you. So
Arianna: Thank you.
Aurora: Awesome. So, I’m gonna go ahead and mute everyone and let Arianna dive in.
Arianna: Cool. Before I get started, just a couple of things that I wanted to make sure that we all knew.
The first is a personal thing. I took a pretty rough hit to the head about a week ago, and I am still recovering from a minor concussion. So, if it sounds like I’m searching for words, if it sounds like I’m kind of to think. I promised you that I actually know this stuff. I’m telling you. It’s just, it’s taking me a minute.
The other thing is, just as a reminder for everybody here, for anybody who’s listening, nothing that I say is meant to apply to all ADHD people. One of my favorite things ever said to me was said by a therapist friend of mine. He said, if you meet one person with ADHD, you’ve met one person with ADHD.
Take what is useful
Arianna: So, if you hear something I’m saying and you’re like, that doesn’t apply to me, that doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean anything. It’s pretty, like, everything that I’m saying here is going to be very like basic. It’s kind of the foundation of how I think of productivity and how I teach other people with productivity.
But that does not mean that if it doesn’t work for you, that means that there’s something wrong with you or me. That just basically means that you need something a little bit different. So hopefully these are all gonna be concepts that you can kind of take and run with and make your own. But just as a reminder, because I’ve realized that.
A lot of us in the neuro divergent spaces tend to take things personally sometimes, and we’ll be like, this does not apply to me. How dare you. It. That’s okay. That’s okay. Okay. And with that, let me go ahead and pull up my thing here.
Arianna: All right, so, this is just like I said, what to know about ADHD and productivity. What I know about it, anything that might be able to help you guys out. So first we’re gonna start with who I am. That’s why I was very short because I was like, I already put this in there.
Just to let you know why you should be listening to me on this. I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2021 at the age of 35. And that came kind of as Aurora and I touched on it, came as a surprise to no one really. I had found out that I had ADHD thanks to looking up a diagnosis for my son. My son was five years old and he was starting to struggle at school and it just really felt like there was something going on there.
As we started looking into ADHD and I started looking into what ADHD looks like for adults. It really resonated with me. It made sense. That a lot of things I had struggled with as a kid made sense. So, I went and I got the diagnosis and it changed my life as you would imagine any diagnosis would, but it changed it in a way that I feel a lot of diagnoses don’t, in that it retroactively connected me to a lot of things that did not make sense, and suddenly they did, and suddenly they weren’t bad or wrong or shameful.
They were who I was, which was kind of mind blowing. And one of the things that occurred to me is that despite having ADHD, I didn’t really know what the
Exploring your ADHD brain
Arianna: The problem was with my brain, but I had figured out ways to do things that a lot of people with ADHD struggle with on the regular.
I wrote a book, I had started a couple of businesses by that point, I was growing communities, I was homeschooling my children, I was doing a number of things that supposedly people with ADHD weren’t supposed to be able to do. And I realized that a lot of that had to do with how I had built productivity processes and how I had come to think of productivity in connection with who I was with my brain.
And knowing ADHD made it so that I was even better equipped to figure out how to work with brains like mine. So, I decided to become specifically an ADHD productivity coach. Even though that is even kind of starting to encompass artists and things like that as well, because. As we all know, ADHDers cannot stay on any one thin line.
But now I work with people who have brands like ours to help them figure out productivity and task management processes that make sense for their brains. And uh, that, that’s what I, what I, uh, do where I’m at.
Arianna: I am in Costa Rica. That’s where I live. I live here with my two children and my husband. It is a sunny, awesome day outside. I’m hoping it’s going to rain. We are in the middle of rainy season.
What else? I am a musician, I am a writer, I am a host of things. And I try to also help ADHD understand that it’s okay to be multi-passionate and to focus on multiple things because we are not told enough that we’re allowed to do that, which we’ll get into later.
What is productivity?
Arianna: So, What is productivity? And we’re talking about this literally right now. So, the definition, if you look it up, is the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input. Sounds like it was written by a robot, right? Therein lies the problem because we take this and we apply it to human beings.
This kind of cold, heartless definition is applied to people who are warm and with a heart Therein, lies are a mistake, especially with ADHD. So, productivity when you are an individual with ADHD. So, productivity is different for everyone, but when you have ADHD, productivity is best defined by what it isn’t.
It is not an arbitrary number or percentage. Anybody who has worked in any sort of business anywhere, you know, you’re used to hearing 30% productivity. Productivity is up 50%, productivity is up 75%. You are not just this machine, you are not a robot, you are not a percentage. And especially with ADHD, that is not what productivity is.
Productivity for you is set by you. It is not set by anyone else. You have deadlines set by other people, but you are not responsible for what other people’s productivity levels are in. And it is not a measure of how many things you’ve got done. When I say this, a lot of people stare at me like, isn’t that the whole definition of productivity?
The world wasn’t built for ADHDers
Arianna: And I usually wind up saying, weren’t you listening? The answers no. It is not about how many things you’ve gotten done. Because as we all know, especially with ADHD, we can wind up getting a bunch of stuff done. That was not what we wanted to get done. We’ll say, oh my God, I did like seven things today and not one of ’em was what I actually planned to get done.
So, there is a difference in what productivity is and what it isn’t. For us and for people with the neurotypical, I guess be the term there, would be the noun remember that we are working in a world that is set up according to numbers and rules that don’t have us in mind, okay?
The world was not set up by ADHD people. What was expected of us was not set up by ADHD people. It was set up by people who do not have the same challenges and the same strength that we do. So, it’s really not fair of you to yourself to try to judge productivity according to what it is, when what it is as we understand it, is not built by people like us, right?
You’re setting yourself up for failure from the jump thinking that way. So, you don’t want to do that. So how do we measure productivity with ADHD? We’re going to do this in regards to three things, our upcoming external deadlines, okay? Not personal deadlines, and we’ll get into that more when we get older or when we get not older, when we get further on.
Honoring your commitments
Arianna: But your external deadlines are the important deadlines. The deadlines that you set for yourself are commitment, but they’re not the most important deadlines for your mental health’s sake. You’re going to also look into, speaking of mental health, how stressed or anxious you’re feeling about where you are with things.
If you feel like you are getting things done, but by the skin of your teeth, that’s important. If you feel like you’re getting things done and you feel like you have wiggle room, that is also important. And at the last, by the, for the last thing here, your satisfaction at the end of the day is how you’re going to measure your productivity.
And we’ll get into how to look at all three of these things. You’re gonna hear me say a few times that productivity is satisfaction, not perfection. A lot of us tend to see productivity as being able to knock everything off of our to-do list in one day. That is not what that is. That is the bullshit that I was talking about.
That was not made for us. Okay. So, all three of these things, we’re gonna start with the first here on how to make sure that you satisfy that first metric. And this is just a really cool picture. I don’t know, I wanted to add it.
Deadlines aren’t the problem
Arianna: So, first things first. Okay. Most ADHDers I know don’t struggle with deadlines, and if you’re sitting there like I reach deadlines, I’m fine.
That’s actually quite common, and that’s because there’s an urgency to our deadlines. Most of the people that I coach are doing great at work. They actually have no problem reaching work deadlines, getting things turned in on time. That’s not their problem. Their problem is that things that are going on in their lives that are not pushed urgently enough tend to fall back and not get done.
So, the problem that they tend to have at work, With deadlines, has to do with doing it comfortably and without stress or shame. Generally, they tend to feel like, yeah, I got that project done at work, but I am always burnt out by the time I’m finished. Or, yeah, I got it done, but I got it done without sleeping or eating for 24 hours and I just feel like it shouldn’t be like that.
And they’re right. It shouldn’t. So, what we have to do is we have to figure out how to continue to meet those deadlines the way that we do to be good with deadlines and urgency, but not in a way that makes our brains when we out of our ears. So, this is what you do first, these are all equally important, but I’m just doing it in order of if you received a project, okay?
Everything in its place
Arianna: And we’re gonna say at work, but if you own your own business, say that you’ve got a project for putting together at work, this is what you’re gonna do. First off, you have to keep all of your projects in one central place. A lot of the mistakes that I’ll see is that someone will go, yeah, I’m working on this project and Oh, oh, shoot.
Where is the notebook that I wrote it down in? Meanwhile, they have three notebooks that I can see, and then it’s not in one of those notebooks and it’s not on their computer. It’s in this notebook that’s over here that’s asking for trouble because you’re going to wind up losing details. You’re gonna wind up losing deadlines and it’s gonna make you feel less in control.
And one of the things that ADHDers hate is not feeling like we are in control of things. So, in order to feel like you’re in control, all of your projects and all of the tasks and all of the details that you’re going to have need to be in one spot. And that can be on your computer in a notebook, on a whiteboard.
It doesn’t matter. But if you’re going to keep them in that one spot, that is where they all go. Even if you feel like, you know what? I don’t feel like getting up right now. I’m putting it where it belongs. That’s fine. But put it on your to-do list is like a reminder for the day after. Do not just leave it someplace for you to lose track of.
Writing it down
Arianna: Okay. When you’re writing down your projects, you wanna make sure you list every task that you could think of that’s in connection with this project, and you could forget some tasks and remember them later. That’s okay. But what you wanna do is you wanna have in mind all of the things that you’re going to have to do to make this project hope.
Because one of the things that we do when we don’t do this, when we don’t write down all of that information, one of the things we run into is we run into unwelcome surprises. Now you’re always gonna run into unwelcome surprises anywhere, okay? People with ADHD don’t do great with surprises as it is, and it’s not like you’re not gonna run into ’em with regular everyday life.
But the worst is when we have an unwelcome surprise. We could have stopped that. We could have taken care of initially. So, what you wanna do is you want to make sure that you have in mind already as much as you possibly can about what’s gonna need to be done with this project. Then what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna list all of the deadlines for every task.
You’re gonna just go down. And at this point you are not worrying about prioritizing. I know that’s the first thing they always say, number one, prioritize. And it’s like, oh, is that all? Like my brain. That doesn’t prioritize that. Great. You want me to prioritize first thing? Thanks. You’re not prioritizing first.
Collecting the data
Arianna: Right now, you are collecting the data so that you can prioritize. So, you just wanna keep track of deadlines and this isn’t in there, but you wanna make sure that you keep track of how long each thing is gonna take. If you’re going to have to rely on someone else for an answer or for information, don’t forget to add a little bit of extra time as you are figuring these deadlines out.
Make sure that you’re giving yourself space for those unwelcome surprises that you can’t control. Okay, sickness, another surprise project, meetings, I don’t know, family emergencies. You want to allow yourself enough time to be able to get things done in between life, because life just happens.
After you have done those first three things, then you can prioritize. Then you sit down and you say, okay, this needs to be done first. This needs to be done second. These are dependent on each other, so I’m gonna have to do this first before I do this. And then as you plan to sit, as you sit and plan each day, you want to make sure that you reevaluate the priority of every task.
So just because something was not that important on Monday, maybe on Wednesday you’re realizing, oh crap, I have to go out of town on a trip all of a sudden, and I’m not gonna have time to do this thing. That was a lower priority. Now it’s a higher priority. So, you wanna make sure that you’re regularly checking in with that project, with whatever it is that you’re doing as well to make sure that everything is still in line.
Different types of deadlines
Arianna: And then, this is very important because I have had clients who have forgotten this, that a self-imposed deadline, it’s an important commitment to yourself. It’s a promise to yourself, but it is not as important as an external deadline. If someone is saying, I need something by Friday, or if you know that you have a deadline to get something done by Friday, I understand that maybe you told yourself you were gonna wash your car by Thursday, but that is not as important as the thing that somebody else is waiting for on the outside.
So, you have to ask yourself when you’re doing these things, is this really as pressing as I feel that it is? Or is this just me emotionally losing it because it’s bothering me to see this dirty car outside. One has some real results, some real consequences, and one doesn’t.
That’s what you also have to keep in mind, and it’s hard because we, you know, get wrapped up in those emotions and we know what’s frustrating us and we really wanna get to it now. But we have to kind of take that breath. We have to center ourselves and we have to realize, okay, but it can wait. It can wait and this other thing can’t.
So, doing that is going to better your chances of reaching the deadlines that you are wanting to reach. It’s going to better your chance of having time when you need time, when you’re not having like a great day and you just don’t feel like getting work done. It’s gonna help you feel like you’re reaching deadlines with a little bit more will over.
Arianna: Rather than feeling like you’re just on top. You gotta be on top of everything all the time because you can’t be, nobody can. And there’s ADHD, we ask, what about procrastination? That’s kind of part of the job, right? So first off, you gotta remember that everyone procrastinates, maybe they don’t procrastinate to the extent that we do, but everybody procrastinates.
Okay? Everybody has days where they don’t feel like doing anything and everything looks like a pain in the ass. That is ok. So, some of this is going to be mindset shifts, okay? Which is not as simple as listening to me talk about it. Some of it is going to probably involve therapy, or at least some, some work on yourself.
And that is one of those things, ADHD. A lot of us have spent our lives being told that if we procrastinate, we should be ashamed. And that is something that you’re going to have to start wrapping your head around. Everyone procrastinates, everyone looks at certain things. It’s like, I’m fully doing that today.
I’m gonna do it tomorrow. So, Hating on yourself and telling yourself that you’re stuck because you didn’t do this thing right now, it’s not helping me.
Arianna: The second thing is that you’re gonna try to, you can try to hack your brain with I C N U, which stands for oh my God, my brain, sorry. Interest, novelty.
I usually say I N C U, but you can say I C N U. It’s interest, challenge, novelty, or newness and urgency. And basically, these are all the things that a task can have to help an ADHD brain feel more interested in doing it. Does that mean that it has to have all four new, but sometimes if there’s something that you are really struggling with doing, you can ask yourself, which of these four things is my task missing?
Am I interested in it? Is it challenging? Is it new to me, or am I bored with it? Does it feel urgent? And if you ask yourself one of those four things, most of the time I will say probably this is me throwing a percentage out there. Obviously, I haven’t timed it, but most of the time asking yourself that about 90% of the time, maybe even more, you’re gonna find that you’re lacking one of these four things.
And then basically at that point, once you know which one it’s lacking or which two it’s lacking, the best thing to do is to try to figure out how to inject that into the situation. If you’re not interested in it, and it’s something where you can control how interesting it is, maybe try to inject topics into it that you like or try to play music that you enjoy that makes you feel pumped up so that you’re a little bit more interested in this situation.
Upping the challenge
Arianna: If it’s not challenging enough, you can try to time yourself. If there’s someone out there who you trust to play this game with you, you could try to have somebody Bet you that they could do it faster than you or bet dinner that you were gonna get it done by the end of the day. If there’s no novelty or newness, that’s one of the hardest ones to add.
But you could always try to figure out a new way to do it. Like, if it’s an essay that you have to write, maybe instead of writing out an outline and doing it first, you try sitting down for 15 minutes and just writing whatever comes to mind. And then, you know, going back through it, something to make it different.
If it’s urgency, that’s the easiest one to add because basically then at that point if you can get yourself to, to believe that it’s due tomorrow, tell yourself it’s due tomorrow. Or body doubling is an amazing way to include urgency because then not only do you have to show up for this thing that the other person is showing up for, but when they show up, they’re expecting to see you work.
So, then you kind of have this urgency to like work on this thing while this person’s watching. And those are just some ideas, but ICNU is a great, great way to hack an ADHD brain. It’s extremely helpful. And it’s helped a lot of people I know.
Allow for downtime
Arianna: And then you can allow for downtime. I know it sounds counterintuitive to be like, I’m trying to be productive and you’re telling me to allow to just sit.
And it’s like, yes, absolutely. ADHD brains. When we get overwhelmed, we’re even less likely to do what we want to do. However, sometimes when that pressure is moved and it’s like, you know what? I don’t have to do this right now. I’m not gonna do this right now. I’m going to allow myself to procrastinate a little bit and maybe I’ll get to it again in two hours.
Sometimes removing that expectation of I gotta get it done right now is enough to make you feel better about actually moving forward and even just doing a little bit of whatever it is that you’re working on. And then this is just to remind yourself, chances are you are going to get it done, okay?
Remember, most of the time when we procrastinate, it’s not that we don’t get it done, it’s just that we don’t get it done. Absolutely. When we would like to, and sometimes what happens is we start going into the spiral of, I’m not getting it done. I’m never gonna get it done. And that winds up making it so that you just don’t, you get frozen, you don’t lose.
Getting it done
Arianna: But if you remind yourself, no, the chances are I am gonna get it done. I’m going to get this done. I can get it done. I just don’t know when and that I need to figure out, but I always get it done. It just might need urgency, or I might need challenge, or I might just need a break. That way, when you get it done, you also don’t get it done, but feel it crap because you’re stressed and afraid of how you might have messed it up.
Which is a perfect segue into the next deal, which is that feeling less stressed is also key to getting stuff done. It’s super important to productivity that makes me wanna go to the beach. So, stress ruins your symptoms. It worsens them according to CHADD themselves, chronic stress makes symptoms worse and even causes chemical and architectural changes to the brain affecting its ability to function.
The more stress you are, which is why I said you need to give yourself breaks. The more stress you are, the worse you’re gonna do. That’s just how it is. You will get less done. The more stressed you are, you’re gonna feel less motivated, you’re gonna feel less focused, science. Okay, so that sounds really easy, right?
It’s like, okay, well you made that sound so much easier than it actually is, Arianna. So, I hope you have a plan. I don’t have a plan, but I have suggestions on how you can, what you can do about stress.
Arianna: The first is those mind shifts, and I know mind shifts are pain in the ass because it’s not an easy solution.
It’s not something that I can talk you into right now, but you have to understand that there is nothing morally wrong with taking a nap halfway through the day. There’s nothing morally wrong with not getting everything on your to-do list done. There’s nothing morally or ethically wrong with doing things a little bit slower than other people.
You have to understand that the way that we have been trained, okay throughout our lives, the way that we have been raised is bunk. It doesn’t work for our brains cuz we have basically been taught that if you are not doing everything the way everybody else is doing it, you should be ashamed, you should be sorry and you gotta fix it.
None of that is true. And once you are able to work on that mind shift, you won’t be quite as stressed if you have to do things a little differently. Some of that stress is just gonna take a mind shift. Sorry to say. It’s very important.
The value of meditation
Arianna: The second one, I know everybody hears and they kind of, oh my God, but no meditation is legit. It’s legit. And I am saying this as a person who used to roll her eyes with the idea too. What you have to kind of get to in order to feel comfortable with meditation is you have to realize that it is not just sitting there going, oh, for an hour without being allowed to think about anything else.
It’s a matter of getting to sit and just teach yourself to be in the moment. And it’s totally and completely okay if you’re outside of that moment. That’s natural. The most important thing is just remembering what the point was, which is to be. Mindful to be in the moment, to be in the present, which we are not great at.
So, by meditating, you do start learning little by little. It’s a slow process. Little by little you start learning to bring yourself back to the present more often. And doing that causes us not to stress over the future quite as much. And then the next thing is in ensuring that you allow space for mistakes, mishaps, low energy days.
I cannot say this enough, when you don’t do that, we don’t, especially if we’re feeling great, ADHD, tend to forget that there’s a future. And we’ll be like, I feel great right now. There’s no way that I could possibly need any breaks for low energy days. And then, you know, a lower energy day comes two days later and they’re like, shit, I didn’t do anything.
Allowing space for change
Arianna: You can’t, you have to be mindful of the fact that things might change and you have to allow yourself space for that. Now, I mean that on your calendar, of course. But I also mean that mentally, going back to that mind shift, allowing for you to have days where you are low energy and instead of saying, wow, I’m such a piece of crap.
I’m so lazy. Why can’t I get started today? Looking at that with curiosity instead and say, I’m low energy today. Am I hungry or do I just need a break? Or, what is the deal? I need to care for myself so that I can move forward. Right? And this is for anybody who has a cycle tracking cycle and looking for patterns is also going to help you out a lot.
It’s going to take a little bit, it takes usually on average, about three cycles to get yourself to where you wanna be with this. But after about three cycles, you’ll be able to look at when it seems you’re at your highest energy, when it seems you’re at your lowest energy. And generally, guess within two to three days if you have a regular cycle.
Of course. And that winds up making us so that you’re a little less stressed as well, because you’re able to say, okay, well generally around this time, I am lower energy, so I’m not taking on any bigger projects. No creative projects. I’m not gonna have that many meetings. I’m gonna go easy on myself.
Be mindful of your cycles
Arianna: Whereas maybe you like, wow, this is my time. I’m the month where I am creative and I’m excited and I’m extroverted, and this is my time to get a lot done. And then above all, okay, the very base of all this, if you walk away and you’re like, all I know this was completely useless, but I got one thing out of it.
The one thing I want you to get is that productivity is about working with your brain. It is not about working against it to make it fit into what people think productivity is. It’s about working with your brain to make it what you need it to be so that you get stuff done to your level of satisfaction.
Now, what if you get stressed again? We don’t wanna start going into this spiral of, oh boy, I’m stressed. I suck. I did it wrong. No. What we wanna do instead is we want to treat ourselves with compassion. So, remember that you’re not doing anything wrong by getting stressed. Everybody gets stressed. No matter how good you are at de-stressing, you’re gonna get stressed.
Life is stressful. So, if you wind up off that path, just like in meditation, that’s okay. You gently and compassionately bring yourself back. And then another thing that tends to stress us out is overwhelmed, because we tend to assume that we have way more to do than we actually do, because ADHD brains aren’t great at just mentally thinking things.
Arianna: A lot of us are what we call external processors. We need to see things. So sometimes we’re like, I have 18,000 things to do today. How am I supposed to get all this done? And the way. That you make yourself feel a little better about that. This has worked pretty much every time I’ve had my clients do this.
I want you to actually write down everything that you think you have to do right now today. And then I want you to actually look at it pragmatically and ask yourself, do you actually have to do all this stuff today? Or can some of it wait? And every single time I’ve had people do this, it’s gone from 18,000 things to three every single time.
We just tend, unfortunately, to have the inability to sift through the cloud of stuff that’s floating around our heads. And we just assume it’s all important. It’s all equally important. It’s all equally got the same deadline. And that’s not true, and that’s common for ADHD brains. So, what you have to do is you have to show yourself, give yourself that visual of what you actually have.
Arianna: Do what you actually have to do. And sometimes just seeing that, oh my God, I thought I had to do so many things, I only have to do these three things. That’s awesome. I thought it was so much worse than that. Feels so much better. And you feel so much less stressed. Right? And then lastly, you just wanna remember that when you sit down to do something, you don’t have to finish it all right then And here, a lot of us tend to think, well, if I sit down and I do this, I’m never gonna get back to it.
Yes, you’ll, like I said, you will get it done. You may need the urgency to get it done. You may need to give something else not to get it done. It may be one of those things that you gotta like, make sure that you set the intention for your energy to be spent on that one thing. Who knows? But the fact is, it’s okay to sit down for 10 minutes and get 10 minutes worth of things done a lot of the time, A lot more than we think.
So just, you know, when you get stressed, like I said, it’s gonna happen. But sometimes we stress ourselves out because we think we have way more to do than we actually do. And we think that we have to do more than we actually do because we feel like we need to make up for this constant feeling of not doing enough. So, this is how you circumvent that and you’re able to work a little bit further through.
Productivity is satisfaction not perfection
Arianna: And lastly, I told you, you were gonna hear it again. Productivity is satisfaction. It’s not perfection. It is. I cannot say that enough. Too many people think I haven’t been productive today. Cause I haven’t finished everything on my list.
I’m a total and complete loser. I haven’t. No, no, you are fine. What matters is how happy you are with what you’ve gotten done. And you have to start again with another mind shift. You have to redefine productivity and successful internet. Okay? Productivity is not your money or your time. Your money spent, your time spent, your energy spent.
You are no more productive than your neighbor next door if you are exhausted every single day. Okay? For people with ADHD, it is not about them. Instead, it’s about whether or not you feel like you finished the things you really wanted to finish that thing. If you feel like you’ve done that, then you were productive.
Even if that was just one thing. Even if it was one thing that took you 10 minutes, you did it, you were productive. Okay.
Making phone calls
Arianna: I know way too many ADHDers, myself included, who hate making like business phone calls. It’s even worse for me because I have to make them in Spanish. And my Spanish, like I, I’m great at speaking Spanish, like I can speak it, but my listening is really bad.
So, it turns into this awkward situation where I go over the sentences in my head and then I say it, and then for some reason it never cursed me that the person’s gonna answer me in Spanish. And so, then I’m like freaking out and I hate making those phone calls. I hate it. And sometimes my to-do list has literally just been make call to dentist.
That’s it. And I do it in Spanish, and I’m sweating through the whole thing. And it probably took me a couple hours to really get the energy to do it, but I did it. Productive. I was productive that day, I made the dentist appointment, I spoke in Spanish and listened in Spanish, and I’m done, I don’t, that’s it.
And that is okay. That is okay, because that is what works for your brain, right? So, when you’re asking yourself, was I productive today? Ask yourself these three questions.
What matters most?
Arianna: Did you take care of the things that mattered most to you? Okay. And generally, like I said, pretty much it almost never happens that anybody has more than three tasks that they need to get done in one day.
I think the most I’ve ever seen is five. And of those five, two of them were very short. So usually you’re gonna have about three things that really matter to get done that day.
Number two is did you allow for the least important things to take a backseat if needed? So, if you knew that you had about five things, but those last two things could wait till tomorrow, if you got to those two things and you said, you know what?
I’m tired. I don’t have it in me today. I’m gonna go ahead and I’m gonna leave that till tomorrow. That counts as being productive as well. Okay? Because your most important resource, your energy, your time, resources, I guess since I said two things, if you protected those, you’ve protected your productivity for the next day and that is productive.
Okay? Taking care of yourself is productive, which brings me into the third. Did you make time for yourself? This is the one that no one ever remembers. Everybody always says, yeah, I did this and I did that. But did you make time for yourself? Oh, no. Okay. Well then, we are missing that very important piece, okay?
Taking time for yourself
Arianna: And that’s not just neuro divergence as neurotypicals as well. People constantly think, if it is for me and it doesn’t make money, it’s not worth my time. And going that way automatically is going to lead you to feeling so burnt out. You cannot do that. So, when I help my clients think of like how there are days are gonna be structured, Every single time.
I’m like, even if we’re just starting from the beginning, I say, okay, you need to find 10 minutes in every day, even if it’s just 10 to do something that you like. I don’t care what it is, I don’t care. Even if, even if it’s just taking like a 10-minute catnap, find time to do something that reenergizes you, that you like, because you’re going to need that energy.
Otherwise, you know, what’s that saying? They’ve got like 9,000 of ’em. Can’t get blood from a stone, can’t work from an empty cup. You are going to go empty real fast. And I, I do not have the proof of this, but I do believe personally that ADHD makes it worse that we do lose the, I don’t wanna say liquid from our cup.
That sounds gross, but we do lose from our cup a lot faster than people who are not ADHD because we. Also have more of a tendency to have anxiety, comorbidities.
Arianna: We have a lot more likelihood to blame ourself for things that we shouldn’t. So, we’re already kind of running on half empty. And the more that you just continue to pull from that and you don’t take care of your yourself, the more likely you are to wind up in a situation where you are exhausted much faster than other people.
Also, I don’t know how many of you know this, and I apologize if you already do, but people with ADHD inattentive, especially women, have been shown to have more of likelihood to have fatigue because their minds are constantly running around in circles, and so that tires us out. So, you also just wanna make sure that you are making that time to bring some of that energy back into you.
I would say just in general, but if you want, you could also look at it like it’s important to make sure that you have it for other people, not just for other people, but you got what I’m saying.
Favorite Productivity Tools
Arianna: So, I just wanted to share some of my favorite productivity tools. These are tools that I use every day.
Amazing Marvin is a fantastic task management app. It is highly customized. It is so cool. You can basically decide to use any workflows or strategies that you want. You’re basically building your own personal daily dashboard for task management. It is best if you work mostly by yourself. Not great for if you work in teams or if you’re working, you know, it’s more for people who work for themselves, I think. But it’s incredible.
Arianna: Motion a lot of people have heard of. I do think it is an excellent ADHD tool. I’m not a huge fan of the advertisements because the advertisements, they’re lately being like, get distracted less. And it’s like, it’s not gonna distract you less, it’s just gonna help you with time management and helping you decide what comes next.
It helps with prioritization and time management. But it’s great. And for those of you who don’t know what it is, they market themselves as the AI powered resistant. So basically, you put in what your tasks are and when they’re due, the priority, how long it’s gonna take. All the things that I said that you need to make sure that you reach those deadlines without stress and it will calculate for you when you should be working on these things. And then it will also kind of recalculate every time something new comes up. Super, super helpful.
The Bright App
Arianna: The Bright App is actually one that I am in the midst of testing. They came up to me asking me to do a review on it. I told them that I would and I would be very honest, and I don’t go into these things.
You know, taking anything lightly, and I have been highly impressed with it. They’re still in their infancy, but it’s awesome. It really is. You get to, again, this is another one where you get to build your own daily dashboard, but they’ve also got a really great cell phone app and they include meditations in there, habits you’re able to split things into work and personal. You’re able to do things according to tags, according to priority, according to difficulty.
Great for ADHD, absolutely amazing. Tusk is another one that’s a favorite of mine, that’s a task management is, I think they now have a Windows desktop version, but it’s mostly on mobile, but it gamifies everything and so it makes it a lot more interesting to have to go in there to click off tasks. It’ll count achievements. It integrates with your Google calendar. I love it. I love it a lot.
Arianna: Click up. I personally, I know some people are like, oh, I hate click up. I prefer notion, whatever. There’s like this huge click up notion battle going on. Me personally, I prefer click up. I think for a lot of the more artistic people in, in the ADHD space, I feel like click up applies better because there’s a lot of colors, there’s a lot of customization, there’s a lot of playing with it that you can do, and you can basically make anything that you want with your space.
I keep leaving click up because I’m like, oh, I found something else. And then I get to a project that I have to manage, and I’m like, okay, I guess I’m back, you know? Which is super embarrassing, but to me, I’ve played with pretty much every other project management tool, and I love click up, keep coming back.
Arianna: Headspace has been very recent for me but I love it already. If you are a creator with Pinterest, okay, or if you know a creator with Pinterest right now, Pinterest is offering all creators six months spree with Headspace. They do not. And, and it will not auto-renew. So, you don’t have to worry about them like charging you money in the next six months.
And I took advantage of this and I love it. Headspace sets you up for three different types of meditation a day, one morning, one afternoon, one evening. It helps with sleep, has meditations for kids, has meditations for creative writing, has meditations for working from home and has it for just about everything.
And it’s very ADHD friendly in the way that they do it, and that they allow you to kind of choose how long these things are gonna be. It goes according to, you know, what you need it for. And it also has things like haptic assistance. So, you know, it’ll, you can put your phone down and it’ll buzz if it, if you need to pick it up to look at it for any point.
Many apps to choose from
Arianna: So, highly, highly suggest all of these. I use all of these. I think the only one actually now that I’m looking back that I don’t use as much anymore is task as Tusk rather, but I still suggest it to everyone. Oh, actually Tusk in motion. I no longer use motion just because I’m testing a bunch of apps and I just have like too many at this point.
But I never stop suggesting motion because it is amazing for people who need that time management help. And if you are looking for your own favorites, if none of those sound like your kind of thing. Okay.
I am a product of my generation and I very much love using apps. I know some people don’t, but if that is what you’re looking for, or even if you’re looking for something that’s not electronic, these are the things that you wanna look for if you wanna find your best process for you. Okay.
Finding your own process
Arianna: An ADHD process needs to be highly customizable. Because color coding is huge. Okay? But even if you’re not doing color coding, you have to be able to make it so that you can very quickly look through the data that you put into it and figure out how you need to feel about whatever, by priority, by difficulty, by how much you wanna do it.
Those are all important. You wanna make sure that whatever you have is going to remind you of what needs to be done. That’s why I do prefer apps because I can set up reminders. I do think that some of them go a little overboard with the reminders and you know, we have a tendency that once we’ve seen enough of ’em, we will ignore them.
So, you have to be kind of careful about that. But reminders are important. It has to be easy to integrate into whatever you’re already doing. So, part of the problem with paper planners, I feel, okay now, this is me just. This is just conjecture. So, if anybody is like, I disagree, that’s fine. But I am not a fan of paper planners.
Even though I have like an obscene number from back when I used to use them all the time, still sitting in my closet. I am not a fan because you cannot really integrate it into your everyday life unless you are going to drag a paper planner with you to the DMV. Okay? You’re not going to have something on you at all times for taking notes, for writing down.
Keeping track of things
Arianna: Very important information for keeping track of the things that you need to do before and after wherever you are. It’s not highly portable. And what I like about integration with apps is that, yeah, I have Google Calendar, but okay, I can integrate that with Bright or with Marvin or with whatever. I know that if I’m out and I check my Google calendar, something’s going to come up if I added it or if I am sitting at work and I suddenly have something show up on my calendar, it’s gonna show up in that app.
And I don’t have to do anything special to remember that. So, if I’m already having a low energy brain foggy day, I’m still taking care of, it’s still taking care of me. It needs to be portable. Like I said, if it’s not portable, if it’s something that you gotta return home to do, I think we all know there’s a good chance you’re gonna get home and not remember what it was that you were gonna write down.
Okay? So, what I will say is, if some of you’re out there like, but I like whiteboards and I like paper planners, and why, why must you destroy everything I love? Then what you gotta do is you’re gonna, you’re gonna have to add a second portable option, and that could be as simple as using the voice notes on your phone.
Arianna: Maybe you just, you know, you think of something out there, you put it in a voice note and you know, maybe you make sure that there’s like a sticky note or something that reminds you to write down whatever it was. It might be a little bit more. It might have a couple more pieces to it, but it’s possible.
It’s just that for me, I like convenience. And the most convenient for me is just being able to go straight to my phone since I have that on me anyway. Which brings me to the last one, which is simple. No matter what you do I would suggest that no process that you use has more than three moving parts to it.
You have it and it’s too complicated. You’re not gonna do it. It’ll be fun for the first week cuz it’s got that novelty, that newness. But after you have been like, ah, I’ve gotta do five different things to keep track, I’m gonna do, you won’t, you won’t do it. It just won’t get done. So, it has to be something that is easily reproduced and that is stable and that is sustainable.
White, Brown or Pink Noise
Arianna: And just some final tips here, just random miscellaneous things that I thought of. If you haven’t already, try using white, brown, or pink noise, especially if you are doing work that involves writing. Studies have found that people who use that tend to get more work done. And just from a purely anecdotal standpoint, I decided to test this with writing.
And I tested it with music, with silence, and then with white noise. I wound up doing, I think, my first day, 800 words. My second day I think I did 600 words. My third day where I used white noise, I wrote 2000. So, there was nothing different about those three days except for what I was listening to or not listening to.
I’m not gonna pretend to understand 100% the neurological, that’s not my job. But I am gonna say that it does seem to really have a strong pull on your brain in helping you focus. So definitely try that. You could also try, there are on YouTube, you can just look up low-fi beats to study too, and those apparently seem to help some people.
For me, it didn’t really make much of a difference, but I think that depends on the person. And also, some people use what’s called binaural beats, which is, you know, playing in each ear. That also seems to play really well with ADHD brains. But for me, I definitely have to say that the white brown pink noise thing has been a game changer.
Starting new routines
Arianna: When you’re starting new routines start low and slow. Too many people are like, I’m gonna start working out again. I’m gonna work out seven days a week. And it’s like, how much do you work out now? Not at all. All right. Well, you’re not gonna get to seven days a week from Not at all. And if you do the first week, I would be willing to bet money though, by the second week, you’re not gonna make it to seven days.
Why? Because you’re trying to force yourself to do way too much at once. Your brain, especially with ADHD brains, we do well with little bits. So even if you start with what sounds too easy, I just wanna work out one week, one day next week. Okay, great. Because what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna hit that one day.
Your brain is going to get that dopamine rush like I did it. And the next thing you know, you’re gonna be like, well, I could probably do two or three, you know, and then you’re able to move up from there. But we also, and I think we all know this, have a tendency that when things don’t go perfect to give up.
And if you try to just make yourself do something that you are not used to, that is too much already, you’re going to not get it done. And then you’re gonna feel really bad, and then you’re not gonna wanna do it anymore. So, when you’re starting a new routine, start low and slow. Start with something that, like I said, may seem too easy at first and move up from there.
It’s never too late to get back on track
Arianna: That being said, also remember that it’s never too late to get back on track. Maybe you’re doing really well for a while. You are working out seven days in a week and then you know you have a really bad month and you just don’t do it all month. Does that mean that all of the work that you’ve done so far doesn’t matter?
Not at all. It still means something. So, in that moment you can absolutely tell yourself, you know what, it’s a Wednesday, which really bothers me because I would love to start at the start of a week. But you know what? It’s not too late. Yeah, I want a home month off, but I’m back. I can come back. You can always come back.
Okay. So, don’t feel like because you didn’t get it done right away the first time where you messed up, that you cannot come back and fix it. Another one, Go for done instead of perfect. A lot of us try way too hard to perfect. It is okay for you to have something that is not perfect. Most times. I can’t really think of any time where it wouldn’t be, but I’m sure maybe you can, but most of the time it’s okay for you to just have something done and most of the time what you have done is way better than you thought it was gonna be if you didn’t shoot for perfect, so,
Arianna: and the last two here. So, you do not have to focus on one thing all the time in order to be productive. Sometimes ADHD brains like having a lot to focus on and it can be beneficial to do what your brain wants. When I’m talking about this, I’m talking about how some people will be like, remove all background noise while you’re studying ADHD.
Brains don’t always like that. Sometimes we gotta have TV on in the background, right? Sometimes I, I will sometimes be taking, I, I’m, one of the things that I really enjoy is herbalism and I’m learning to become an herbalist right now. I will be listening to my herbalism lecture and playing on my phone at the same time, but I’m still retaining that lecture.
It doesn’t mean that I’m not paying attention, it’s just that my sometimes ADHD brains like being in different avenues at the same time, that also works for interests. Okay. One of the big things that I am really trying to push right now is the comfort with multi-passionate personalities. A lot of us tend to feel like, well, I didn’t, I, I’m not ready to grow up yet.
I guess because I didn’t pick one thing and stick with it. You don’t have to, you don’t have to. You just have to figure out what things are going to be work, what things are going to be hobbies that you’re okay to come back to every once in a while, and what things are gonna kind of be in the middle there.
Arianna: But you can have a brain that is interested in multiple different things. And in fact, I have found just, and again this is purely anecdotal, but working with different people, I have found that those that try to force themselves to pay attention to one thing all the time hit burnout out a lot faster.
They tend to be a lot less satisfied and they’re much more likely to quit whatever job it is they’re doing. Whereas the ones who are like, yeah, I make time for hobbies and you know, maybe I have a side job, maybe I have two side jobs because I really like doing these other two things, they tend to feel a lot more fulfilled.
They tend to feel a lot more comfortable with who they are. And really that’s just how some brains work. That’s how our brains work. That’s okay. And lastly, finally, you are not a cog in a machine. Okay? No matter what I said today, again, if you’re just like, I want you to hear me, your output does not determine your worth.
Just because someone else wrote two books and you’ve written none, does not mean that your knowledge is not worthy. Try to remember that. I have to remind myself of that sometimes. But you are not a cog in a machine. You are worth more than what people try to measure you by externally. And with that, that’s all.
Arianna: So, thank you very much for listening to me ramble for the last hour.
Aurora: Awesome. Yeah, they’re, so that was jam-packed but the one thing that I did wanna follow up on that I thought I really appreciated that when you’re talking about the brain, like the cycle but also brain, like what your brain is feeling at the moment.
And one thing I’ve noticed the last couple years where I’ve been in an intense extended burnout mode is, I’ve learned that words are harder when I’m in that burnout mode. And so, I’ve found that there’s certain visual things that I can create. More easily than the words right now. And so that’s been really helpful for me is like understanding that there’s gonna be different cycles of when I can produce different things.
So, understanding that about myself, I can allow myself to do the more visual things and create those rather than trying to come up with like deep words or, you know.
Arianna: Yeah. And that’s, and you know, it can go even deeper about than that sometimes. Like, for example, for me personally, I have realized that once I get into my luteal phase of my cycle, I am a lot more introspective.
I tend to do a lot more thinking. So that tends to be the time where, I do a monthly check-in with how my business is doing. Am I happy with the way that it’s going? Do I wanna try something a little different? Where, where am I, you know, where am I on my feelings with how things are run? By doing it that way, you know, I’m thinking, I’m able to think a lot deeper because I’m thinking a lot deeper and slower.
Right? Whereas before that, during the follicular phase, I’m kind of, I’m all over the place. It’s not really a good time to be thinking about where I’m at in life. So yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of one of those things where it’s gonna take a while, right? Like, it’s, it’s very annoying because we really like to feel things in the moment.
So, you know, it’s kind of annoying that you have to wait, but it’s worth it because then you’re, you understand yourself so much better and you’re able to give yourself the tasks. And, and this works even if you work for someone else, right? Like, Yeah, maybe you have no choice over where, when you have your meetings, but maybe you know that when you’re going to be having these meetings during the time where you’re kind of slow, you know, your mind is fogged, that maybe that’s a good time for you to record the meetings that you can remember later.
Taking it all in
Arianna: Or maybe you know, that if this is a meeting that you have with a lot of people, maybe you’re not gonna ask as many questions and you’re just gonna sit back and, and, you know, write a bunch of notes. So, it just makes it so that you’re able to adjust better to what your brain is able to handle, and it makes you feel much happier with what you’ve done.
Aurora: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And for me, my cycle is more of a yearly cycle since I work in schools, you know? Yeah. So that’s, that’s the real cycle that, that affects me the most. And so those are, there’s all kinds of cycles. Not, you know, but Yeah. Yeah. And the one other thing I wanted to comment on was the multitasking piece where you were saying about, you know, sometimes it takes more energy when we’re trying to focus on one thing.
Mm-hmm. And I really had a clear demonstration of that during the pandemic because I had to do a training recertification training, that was two days. And the first day I tried just to focus on that and it was so hard and it was so exhausting and I wasn’t taking things in. Yeah. So, the next day I had my other, I had two computers going, and I was working on an illustration project for, for my videos and, and comic stuff that I was doing.
Engaging your brain
Aurora: And I realized I was actually participating even in the conversation more because I was doing that. And I think people think just like fidgets, but Yep. Don’t engage your brain in the same way. So, for me, it has to be something that engages just a tiny bit of my brain, but not the word part.
Arianna: Yes, exactly. Yeah. And I’ve, I’ve had the same thing you know, when I was talking about the herbalism classes, I still remember at one point I was, I don’t remember what was happening, but I was listening to one and I still remember the plant. It was licorice root, and I was listening to something on licorice root.
At the same time, I was playing a game on my phone, and I think I also like answered an email and I had it playing in the background and I was like, wow, I’m really not paying attention to this thing. I’m not going to retain anything. And they have a quiz at the end of every module. I took the quiz and that was, I got a hundred percent on it.
And I was like, you know, like, you like it. It’s, I don’t know, it’s almost like we have all parts of our brains. And again, keep in mind, this is conjecture. I’m not a neurologist, but it’s almost like we have all parts of our brains going at one time. And in order to silence those other pieces that we could pay attention to the piece, we want to, they have to be kept busy.
Arianna: Yeah. So, Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. I think it’s actually kind of neat.
Aurora: Yeah, totally. Well, we’re a little over time, so I’m gonna go ahead and let Arianna wrap, give any wrapping up thoughts, how they can find out more about you and anything else you wanna
Arianna: Yeah, so, I don’t have any ending thoughts. But if you guys wanna keep, keep tabs on me. I am on Instagram under the Ari Bradford. I am typing that in right now. And I also have a channel on, on YouTube called ADHDone where I talk about a lot of this stuff in connections with productivity and, and the like.
So, yeah, that’s about it. So, I just really appreciate you guys having me. Thank you very much and thank you very much for listening to me ramble Along and today. Appreciate it.
Aurora: Thank you so much.
You can find the full discussion and video recording in our guests call library in the embracing intensity membership at embracing intensity. Dot com.