The ADHD Productivity Hack That Works for Everybody

As an adult, back in the 1990s, I was diagnosed with ADHD—Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

This is a stupidly named disorder.

As I have written previously, referencing’s Martha Bridge Denckla, M.D., those of us with ADHD don’t have a deficit of attention; we just have problems controlling the allocation of our attention.

Accordingly, “core symptoms” of ADHD include issues with maintaining attention and staying on task. But there are nuances to this. A number of us with ADHD also have “hyperfocus”—the ability to stay intensely focused on things that really interest us: things that are fascinating or fun.

Clinical psychologist and ADHD expert Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D., explains this well in a Psychology Today interview by Lybi Ma and Hara Estroff Marano:

ADHD looks like a problem with willpower, but it really isn’t. It’s a problem with the dynamics of the chemistry of the brain. It’s like having erectile dysfunction of the brain. If an activity really turns a person with ADHD on, they’re “up for it” and can perform. But if that activity doesn’t turn them on, it’s really difficult for them to perform.

Boring chores like, say, house-tidying, are basically psychological kryptonite for people with ADHD.

After 20-plus years in the place, I was being crowded out by piles of research papers, books, and “URGENT!” Post-its Notes from, oh, 1998.

I couldn’t find anything, I couldn’t have anyone over, and I was miserable because of all the mess everywhere.

Something had to be done.

What I figured out is helpful both for people with ADHD and for you “normies” out there with odiously dull tasks on your to-do list.

Transform dreaded, tedious chores to make them fun:

Habits you want are more likely to become habits you have if they’re easy and even fun.

The thing is, many boring chores you dread can be given a game aspect that makes them fun—even like racing to do something within a particular time period (and trying to beat your record).

Consider that I rarely vacuumed because my vacuum was hard to get to (in a semi-inaccessible closet), and the cord made it hard to move around from room to room.

Unfun! Drudgery!

Realizing this, I made an investment: This Fall, I bought a hand-held vacuum for about $60 that’s basically a cordless, rechargeable dustbuster with poles, brushes, and other attachments that transform it into a four-foot-high vacuum, as needed.

Cordless means I can zip around my house with it. No more leash tying me to an outlet. The attachments fit in a large shoebox in a cupboard, so no more fighting to yank some giant beast appliance out of a closet. Easy!

Using this thing is basically like a real-life video game—like having a hand-held, chargeable anteater, except that it eats lint, crumbs, and particles off your floor (and everywhere in your house).

It also has a clear barrel which shows me all the stuff I’ve picked up (less gross than I thought it would be). This is strangely satisfying, in the vein of watching Dr. Pimple Popper.

Now, I basically go on particle patrol every day—throughout the day. I love it. Vacuuming is now FUN.

So, I still have the same ADHD brain—that’s a little hard to change. What I’ve changed is the nature of the vacuuming chore from a chore to something fun.

And seeing my house get cleaner and cleaner, in turn, has motivated me to start picking up and filing (and circular-filing) all the papers everywhere. Over a period of about a month, I’ve transformed Home Sweet Landfill into something very close to Home Sweet Home.

You can follow my lead, too, even as a “normie.” Just recognize that there’s no reason to let boring chores you dread remain boring chores you dread, if you just bring in a little problem-solving creativity.

The problem you need to solve is this: What does it take to make a chore you seriously hate fun?

Feel free to leave your dreaded chores and your ideas for transformations in the comments.


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