Many people struggle to get started, to stay on task, and to get things done without taking all day. But that struggle is amplified when you have ADHD. Moms with ADHD have an extra difficult time.
There’s always an unending litany of things to do as moms, and we can’t even keep track of them all, much less do them all. So keeping our attention on one task is even more difficult than it is in a workplace or school setting. No one else is giving us a list and deadline. No one is grading us or giving us a check based on our performance. So knowing what matters and making ourselves stick to it without any external structure is difficult, a skill rarely practiced before we become homemakers and hardly taught.
Add ADHD to the situation and you have a perpetual struggle bus. But just because you haven’t been taught the skills, or haven’t practiced the skills, to be a diligent homemaker doesn’t mean it’s impossible for you.
There are actually 5 simple tricks that can help us stay on target with our self-directed plans and tasks at home.
Whether or not you’re a mom with ADHD, you’ll find these 5 tips will help you get more traction in work that is often discouraging.
Start with a brain dump
Counter-intuitive as it might seem, you need to start by writing down everything that’s going on in your head before you begin a project. Start with a brain dump.
By writing it all down, you’ll clear your head and free it up to focus. Trying to hold on to a boatload of obligations, ideas, and tasks all at once contributes greatly to feeling overwhelmed and distracted.
When you know you have a lot to do, you feel overwhelmed, but you know you need to do something, start by brain dumping everything you’re thinking you ought to do. Usually, in the process, you can separate the truly important and the optimistic overly-enthusiastic overcommitments.
Get the free brain dump guide:
Have a go-to start task for traction as an ADHD mom
Most of the time, the hardest part is starting. That’s true for most of us, but it’s doubly (or triply) true when you have ADHD or other focus-related troubles. The job you’d like to accomplish seems too big to even begin. On top of that, when it’s a job you’d rather not do, like clean the kitchen or the bathrooms, not knowing where to begin becomes paralyzing.
The solution is to have a predetermined, consistent starting task. In my kitchen, I call it my “island of sanity.” I always started a “clean the kitchen” task by cleaning the island. If nothing else got done, I felt better when that smaller, central area was clean. Plus, I never had to make the decision about where to begin because I always began with the island. While clearing and cleaning the island, I could look around and decide what was next, but I already had momentum and could just keep going.
In a bedroom, a standard starting place might be a chair that collects things or a dresser top. In a bathroom, the counter is a small, significant, and obvious place to always begin.
The real secret to this standard starting place is not merely stalling out the decision fatigue. Beyond that, even if you get called away or distracted from finishing the “whole” job, when the starting place is clean the whole room feels better. You’ve made visible progress, even if you haven’t finished.
Plan your day the night before
Sitting down and making a list for the day with your coffee might feel normal and natural, but it’s not the most effective option, especially for those with ADHD. At first, it might seem that planning the night before is too much of a time delay for something who has a hard time with attention. Shouldn’t the list be made right before you start it so you don’t get distracted?
The reality is that making your to do list and going over your calendar the night before puts your subconscious to work for you. It gives you hidden attention advantages.
When you make your plan the night before, writing down your top 3 most important tasks and looking over your calendar, you then have a chance to sleep on it. The information is in there, and your brain works on the material while you sleep.
An additional benefit is that when you get up and start your day, you already have a go-to list. You know where to start. You’re ready to go.
Making your daily plan the night before will pay you dividends in productivity and mental focus.
ADHD moms should use a timer
Many of our tasks at home have no clear finish line. When can we call ourselves “done” with cleaning the kitchen or with laundry?
Women with ADHD have an extra struggle with these always-ongoing tasks. When there’s no clear finish line, there’s no hook to stay with it. Attention is easily grabbed by something with more promise, something that can be done and checked off or something that is more fun.
So, instead of thinking of housework as tasks to work at until you can check them off the list, give yourself an amount of time to work at them. Put “spend 15 minutes doing laundry” on your list instead of just “laundry.”
Then, don’t just look at the clock. Actually set a timer. Stop when the timer goes off, no matter where you are with the process. Pick up another time with another 15 minute round of laundry.
You’ll find you make more progress and stay on track longer when you work with a timer. It gives you a visible and audible signal that you can and should stick with the task, and the finish line is always just within reach.
A tangible win like completing a full 10-15 minutes of a task – no matter how far you got – is incredibly motivating for moms struggling with ADHD. Even if your focus troubles don’t stem from ADHD, this tip still works well – and for the same reasons.
Having actually finished and accomplished the small and clearly defined task will give you hope and momentum for doing it again with another time chunk. Instead of feeling defeated by the ongoing chores, you’ll be excited to finish another successful round.
Find a friend for accountability
We all need to know we’re not alone. We all need community, camaraderie, and accountability. But women with ADHD can benefit from it even more than most. Keeping motivation high is extra difficult when you have ADHD, but having another person who knows and cares about your tasks and progress and goals helps us all stick with them better because there’s more of a personal tie and connection to them.
Accountability can be hard, but I have another post all about setting up friendship and accountability around getting our housework and home responsibilities done.
Check that out here: Accountability through Camaraderie and Care
- Get gospel-focused advice and encouragement.
- Level up your plans and progress, one step at a time.
- Find accountability with likeminded women without any social media drama.
- Experience the homemaking mentoring you’ve always wanted.
(or save with a quarterly or annual plan)