What ADHD Taught Me About Productivity

These tools help me to maintain my focus even when it’s an uphill battle

Gabrielle Smith
Forge
Published in
5 min readOct 5, 2020

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Photo: naruecha jenthaisong/Getty Images

I was diagnosed with ADHD a year ago, but I probably always knew on some level that this was part of my makeup. After I completed college two semesters late, I attempted to begin my writing career, but I’d find myself spending days trying to write 800-word articles. I missed deadline after deadline. My brain just couldn’t stay focused on the story.

Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD, you probably relate.

With many of us now working from home, productivity is suffering. Yuko Nippoda, psychotherapist and spokesperson for the U.K. Council for Psychotherapy, says, “the confined environment of the office can be disciplining.” Inevitably, it’s a lot harder to focus when you’re tucked in a corner of your bedroom, especially with the siren song of your bed calling. Without a dedicated workspace — or anywhere to go — it can be hard to stay accountable.

Living with ADHD has helped me to understand the power of tools and systems. Here’s what I use on a daily basis to keep me focused:

The power of dedicated spaces

ADHD requires a high level of organization. Everything needs a place. Where do your pens go? Where do your files go? If they don’t have a space, create a space. If you’re without much space, use drawer dividers and shelving. When everything has a home, it’s easier to find what you need.

It’s also important to organize your digital life. I used to spend far too much time catching up on the news and reading articles in my field. At first, I was leaving them open in my browser… but then I would get lost in a thousand tabs. Instead, I started using my web browser’s bookmark feature more intuitively: bookmarking a list of shortcuts to websites that I frequently use, resources, and whatnot. What I found most useful is that you essentially need a way to save things “for later.”

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Gabrielle Smith
Forge
Writer for

Brooklyn based poet and essayist. Queer & Afro-Latina. Writing about love, sex, mental illness and intersectionality. // bygabriellesmith.com