A common joke amongst ADHDers is, when some well meaning but misinformed soul says, “All you need is a planner/bullet journal/to-do list app,” the response is “OMG, I’m cured! Thank you!!” Cue laughter.
Many folks with ADHD have tried a variety of task management strategies and systems. Whether it’s handwritten or online, ever hopeful folks with executive function challenges sample these systems, reading articles and purchasing apps. And it may work-for about two weeks. That’s when the newness wears off, and the planner is chucked in a corner, ultimately collecting dust.
This is not a judgment of anyone, ADHDer or otherwise, who does not stick with a particular task management system – I personally have many, many apps and journals that didn’t last. But I will say this: if we know that the ADHD brain is interest based, and is going to pursue the new and exciting option, and will eschew something that has lost its luster, we need to work with that.
Enter my Many Systems System.
I use a variety of systems and tools to keep track of my tasks, and to get them done. And while there is some method to my madness, a lot of it is driven by my mood. Yup, I said it-my mood.
I use Todoist as my main task management system. It works well for me, as I’m able to schedule the many repeating tasks that are part of my coaching business-prepping for sessions, writing summaries, and reconciling my bank account.
But I don’t just use Todoist. For example, sometimes something will pop into my head-let’s say “get my oil changed.” Now if I was Todoist only, I’d stop what I was doing, and put this task into my app, perhaps in the “Inbox” section, which is kind of the brain dump area.
But sometimes, it’s easier to just write it on a Post-It note-or more fun (there are some very cute Post-Its). Or I’ll tell Siri to remind me at 4pm to call the mechanic and make an appointment. Or I might just make it a Google Task, and pop it into a specific day on my Google Calendar. Or I have an app called “Quicky Sticky” on my phone, which is basically a virtual Post-It-also a good place to jot something down. Whatever floats my boat in the moment.
If I have a task that I KNOW I will avoid, I put it into my Due app. Due will remind me of a task over and over, all day and night, until I either move it, or do it. So for things like “give the dog the flea and tick meds she hates,” Due is my go to. It is a silent but forceful nag.
Then there are the days that I have a lot to do, and I feel overwhelmed. On those days I like to write all of my to-do’s for that day on actual paper, and cross them off as I complete them. “But aren’t your tasks on Todoist? Isn’t this a waste of time and effort?” Yes, there is something less efficient in doing this. However, if writing it all down on paper helps me to feel less anxious, and allows me to get that “Zing!” from crossing off tasks, it’s worth it to me.
So, in case you are counting, I actively employ six apps, and two written methods-all being used simultaneously.
Now you might wonder if this gets confusing. Honestly-no, it doesn’t. There are a couple of practices that I’ve learned over time to help. First, tasks on apps all have reminders attached to them. This way, no matter where I’ve put the task, it will pop up. Also, I take two minutes at the end of every day putting any written to-dos, and those on Quicky Sticky, into Todoist or Due, so that they too are residing on my phone, with a reminder.
Having a Many Systems System can take some getting used to. But one thing for sure-I never get bored. And that means abandoning my task management system doesn’t happen very often. Which helps me to stay on task much more consistently. And that’s the goal, right?