65 Tips and Tricks to Better Manage Adult ADHD (Without Meds)
We've compiled a list of ADHD tips and tricks for boosting productivity, sleep, beating procrastination, improving your mood, and much more. Let's jump right in.
Table of contents
A wall calendar: A dry erase wall calendar is a great way to keep on top of things. You can write appointments and deadlines in bright colors and cross off each day that goes by– this helps a ton with time blindness.
Use color: People with ADHD are often visually oriented. Use colors to help things stick in your memory, such as highlighting important dates, color-coding files, putting to-dos on bright paper, and adding stickers or color to virtually anything that needs your attention. You can also use color-coding on Google calendar to make things stand out.
Break down tasks: Have a goal or deadline? Create mini-deadlines along the way. This can help boost confidence and keep you from feeling overwhelmed,
Try the Pomodoro Technique: Set a timer for 20 minutes and begin working on your task. After 20 minutes, take a 5-minute break and repeat again. Give yourself a check mark for every cycle completed.
Reframing: Combat unhelpful thought patterns by reframing tasks in a positive or more realistic way. For instance, if you are delaying beginning a project and your initial thought is, “there’s so much work it’ll take forever,” try checking yourself with a less negative and more realistic thought like, “if I begin this today, I’ll feel better, and there will be less work tomorrow.”
24-Hour Hot Spot: Have a designated area somewhere like your desk where you can place your “need to-dos.” Place anything there that needs your attention within 24 hours so that it doesn’t get lost.
Pocket Notes: Writing on your hand is risky; try writing important things on notes and putting them in your pocket. Make sure it’s your dominant side pocket, so you’re more likely to reach in there and find your reminder.
Get Smart(phone): Utilize your notepad, reminder alerts, and calendars to help you meet deadlines. Don’t be shy about setting several obnoxious reminders leading up to your deadline.
Sleep better with ADHD
Set a Wind-down Alarm: Most smartphones allow you to program your bedtime and will alert you an hour before you intend to be sleeping. Use this alert to power down electronics, dim the lights and begin your bedtime routine.
Happy Lamp: Many people with ADHD have physiological differences in their circadian rhythms that make it hard to get consistent sleep. Using a happy lamp or getting 20 minutes of early morning light exposure is a great way to help boost your circadian rhythm.
Melatonin: Many people with ADHD have lower levels of melatonin. Try a supplement (0.3mg is the ideal dose) or have melatonin-inducing snacks like tart cherry juice.
No Late Lattes: It takes your body up to 12 hours to fully metabolize caffeine. Skip caffeinated beverages within 5-7 hours before bed for better sleep.
Quiet your mind: Racing mind keeping you awake? Using techniques like progressive muscle relaxation can help quiet your mind and ease you into sleep.
Get Noisy: Noise machines, especially pink noise (think ocean waves and raindrops), can boost sleep and improve sleep stability.
Keep it Cool: Turn the temperature in your room down to 65-68 °F (18-20 °C), the ideal temperature range for sleep and melatonin production.
Wake up at the same time every morning: Your body’s sleep system thrives on consistency. Keeping a regular wake time is the most realistic way to maintain a consistent schedule and regulate your sleep hormones.
Sleep Mask: Using an eye mask or blackout curtains can completely transform your sleep because darkness is key to keeping melatonin flowing.
Only use the bed for sleep: Doing non-sleep activities in your bed can create unhelpful associations like bed + work, bed+ horror films, or bed+ existential dread. Only use your bed for sleep (and intimacy); sleep therapists call this stimulus control.
Get chores done
Start small: Give yourself the luxury of tiny tasks that bring you closer to your big tasks. Need to clean the kitchen? Start with one section of the countertop. Some progress is better than none. Always start one room at a time and narrow it down to one section of that room if needed.
Grocery apps: Apps like Out of Milk help you track grocery lists using a simple scanning system. You can even sync your list with other people in the household.
Home routine calendar: Keep things simple by building out a chore list that you can follow each week. Use a wall calendar and lots of colors to remind yourself which chores you should be doing on which days.
Let your plants live: Keep house plants alive with apps like Happy plant that help you track your watering schedule.
20-minute rule: Before you allow yourself to indulge in some “downtime” (aka Netflix binge), earn the privilege with the 20-minute rule. Simply set a timer for 20-minutes and use that time to tackle a task. You can do the same task every time, such as cleaning up the clothes in your room. Try making a game out of it if you have a spouse or kids!
Make it fun: Chores can feel daunting, but they aren’t actually that bad. Set the tone by adding fun tunes, putting on a cute “cleaning outfit,” and set your focus on one single task at a time.
Invite people over: Nothing motivates you to tidy up quite like a guest. Make an attempt to have people over for dinner or drinks regularly and use it as motivation to tidy up.
Ask for Help: if you feel overwhelmed, ask for help. Reaching out to a loved one can make it feel less overwhelming, and sometimes all you need is a little encouragement to get started. Plus, maybe they have time to lend a hand.
Make it fitness: Put on your pedometer and vow to use chores as your workout for the day.
Hunt for old food: Pick a day of the week where you empty old food from the fridge (feeling seen now, aren’t you?).
Control & reduce ADHD impulsivity
The 24-hour rule: Whenever you go to make an impulsive decision or impulsively sign-up for something, give yourself a mandatory cooling-off period. Aim for at least 24-hours before diving in. If it’s actually something you “need,” the desire will still be there.
Where will this live? When shopping and feeling compelled to buy, ask yourself, “where will this live?” Stopping to visualize its place in your life can lead to a humbling moment of clarity.
Repeat before speaking: Impulsive reactions are hard to control. When listening, make an effort to paraphrase what was said before going ahead with your response. It will not only clarify any potential misconceptions but will also give you a second to mull over your response.
Analyze yourself: Practice labeling your impulsivity by writing out the situation, how you felt before you acted, and what you need to do next time to stop the impulsive behavior. Approach it like a logical scientist trying to solve a puzzle.
Elastic Band: Put an elastic band around your wrist, and whenever you feel the urge to act impulsively, snap the band. It’s a technique that brings your senses back to the present moment and can help break unhelpful patterns.
Note it: Before speaking up in meetings or discussions give yourself a moment to write it out. You can use a notepad or your phone to quickly note what you want to say and bring it up later if it’s still important.
Meditate: Daily meditation practice helps improve your ability to pause before acting. You can start with as little as 2-3 minutes a day and aim to work up to 10-20 minutes.
Exercise: Daily activity is an excellent way to get rid of feelings of angst and restlessness that feed impulsive behaviors. Aim for 20 minutes a day and do something you enjoy. Even a daily walk is enough for major benefits.
Practice pausing: Make an effort to carefully listen to every word when someone is talking and then take a three second pause before speaking. You can start out with someone you trust then try it out in the wild.
Apologize: Interrupting happens. If you cut someone off acknowledge it, apologize, and give them a chance to finish their thought. Explain why you did it if you feel like it.
Lock Box: Phones are one of the biggest distractions, especially for people with ADHD. Use a timed lock box to put away your phone when you have important tasks to do! Tik Tok will still be there when you’re done.
Look around you: Creating a clear space that is void of distractions is pretty important for productivity. Do your best to have a clear space or use baskets to hide distractions while you’re working.
Just do the thing: Whenever possible, do things immediately. When life gets busy or distractions come along the ADHD mind has a hard time regrouping. No matter how annoying it may feel, take a deep breath, put on your disciplined pants, and just do the thing.
Get stimulated: ADHD minds often feel understimulated which can lead to dropping boring tasks for more exciting ones. Add in a fidget spinner, soothing music, slime, exercise, a podcast or anything that helps you get going. It’s perfectly ok to pair activities as long as it helps you move closer to your goal.
Try L-Theanine with caffeine: Supplementing L-theanine with Caffeine can help boost the “focus” effects of caffeine while lulling anxiety. Studies show this combo helps improve sustained attention and cognitive performance in people with ADHD.
Positive Self-talk: Meet your negative inner voice with an encouraging one. Try phrases like “I tried my best and that’s enough”, “nothing is perfect, it’s ok to be human”, or “I am strong, capable, and I can get through anything.”
Hug your inner child: Many people with ADHD grow up feeling misunderstood, so, positive reassurance from your adult self to your inner child can go a long way. Imagine your inner child and give them an little encouraging hug. Try cheering them on and letting them know that you’ll do your best to guide them through life with acceptance and understanding.
Clarify your goals: Clarify your final goal and then break down the “mini” goals you need to meet along the way to get there. Focus on the very first mini-goal, set a deadline, and work on that alone. If you still feel overwhelmed, break your mini-goals down further. The point is to just get moving ahead.
Better manage your mood
Schedule downtime: Set aside some time every week (or even a slot every day) to just do whatever the heck you want. You can blast music, zone out on your phone, indulge in a hobby– whatever brings you joy. Scheduling in this “do whatever I want” time brings structure to much-needed downtime, so you don’t end up wasting hours then feeling guilty.
Accept the highs and lows: Learning to accept the emotions that you experience without judgement can bring a ton of relief. When you feel extremely sad, frustrated or anxious, try not to fight it or seek a reason. Sit with the feeling, allow the thoughts to come and go without judgement, and remind yourself that everything passes in time. Emotions aren’t the end of the world; they’ll just make you uncomfortable for a little while.
Journal it: Writing out your thoughts and feelings every day, or when upset, can help you work through what you’re experiencing and find calm.
Breathwork: Feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, and anxious is a common concern with ADHD. When you feel these sensations, try to focus on your breath and take a few deep breaths in through your nose and slow breaths out through your mouth. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which calms down your body’s stress response.
Take a time-out: When you feel angry, frustrated, overstimulated or ready to lash out – take a time-out. You can choose a walk, sitting quietly, headphones and soothing music, or anything that brings you calm. Feel empowered to remove yourself from situations in order to take care of your mental health.
Learn to be kind: Your brain is wired in a way that makes planning, attention, biting your tongue and execution of daily tasks challenging. Instead of being mean to yourself when things go wrong, try to develop an open dialogue. You can try phrases like “ok, ADHD, you win this round.”
Find like-minded people: Being surrounded by people who understand you is important. If your current circle is open, try sharing articles about ADHD or telling them what it’s like. You can also find support groups online, ADHD forums or Instagram accounts that help you feel seen and understood.
Get a therapist: Therapy can be a huge help for learning emotional regulation skills and self-acceptance. Think of therapy as personal training for your brain– sometimes, you need a little guidance to whip things into shape. There are many online options available now which makes therapy more convenient and affordable than ever.
Identify triggers: Knowing what triggers you is important. Identify sounds, situations, and even people who cause you to feel overwhelmed and frustrated and plan for it. It may be as simple as carrying earplugs or headphones.
Schedule a meal: Skipping meals and binging is a hard habit to break. Do your best to get in a protein-rich meal or shake early in the day, no matter what. It will help regulate your appetite and make sure your body has what it needs to make things like dopamine.
Hygiene: Staying on top of hygiene routines can sometimes be hard, yet other times you’re pulling off 25-step skincare routines. Try simplifying when you’re struggling, use dry shampoo, seek an accountability buddy, and be kind to yourself about the ups and downs.
Stains happen: ADHD is a life of stains. Become a stain-removing guru using tips from this site and save your favorite clothes.
Add yoga: Even just 10-15 minutes a day of yoga can make a huge difference for your wellbeing, frustration tolerance, and stress levels.
Add a mantra: Sometimes, you’re going to have a hard day. Try repeating a mantra like “Now is not forever. Be here now.”
Practice Gratitude: Add a reminder on your phone for the same time every day to practice gratitude. Stop what you are doing when it goes off, and think of one thing you are truly grateful for in that moment. Do your best to sit with it for just 60 seconds.
Indulge when down: Give yourself permission to put on a face mask, have a hearty snack, and watch your favorite show at the end of a hard day. Sometimes you just need to treat yourself to a dream date…with yourself. Take the time you need, and don’t feel like you’re being selfish.
Build boundaries: It’s hard to say no. Avoid burning yourself out by giving yourself permission to not participate or to bow out if you’ve agreed to something without thinking it through.
Take off your cape: Being a superhero is fun, but you can lose yourself along the way. You don’t have to take care of everyone, and you don’t have to be perfect. Try to stay realistic in how much you can balance and repeat the phrase “I am human.”
Love yourself: Write a positive affirmation on a sticky note and place it on a mirror you see every day. Make sure it’s placed where you’ll always read it. Start with something like “I am enough” and switch it up regularly to create subtle inner self-hype and love. You deserve it.