Having ADHD is paradoxical. There are amazing highs and soul-crushing lows. You can be on top of the world, while secretly sure you can’t accomplish a thing. Thunderous applause by thousands is drowned out in a heartbeat by the single naysayer.
More importantly, you can hyperfocus like a laser beam for hours on end, but somehow forget to take the trash out three days in a row, or take a company from idea to launch in under a week, yet be unable to remember where your lunch meeting with your investors is being held.
After I sold my third company, I sat down and took inventory of my life, trying to figure out why the things most people found difficult came so easy to me, yet I’d screw up the most basic of tasks on a regular basis. What I discovered from that self-evaluation was my series of “life rules,” which have been integral to all my successes, whether I realized it at the time or not.
The beauty of following these life rules is that they’re not just for those with ADHD. In fact, my ADHD productivity guide is for anyone who simply wants to get a little more productivity back in their life on a daily basis. Here are 8 ADHD productivity life rules to increase daily productivity in anyone’s life.
Eliminate choice as much as possible
Choice will kill you. I know I have to exercise each morning, or my brain won’t function as well as it could. (ADHD limits the amount of dopamine your body produces, and dopamine helps you focus. Exercise boosts that dopamine back up again. Think “runner’s high.”)
In order to ensure I make the right choice first thing in the morning and win the battle against the alarm clock, I go to sleep in my gym clothes, and set my bedroom lights as a timer. It’s hard to hit snooze when you’re already in your gym clothes and the lights are bright. I know that once my workout is done, I’ll feel amazing, so I eliminate the possibility of not doing it.
Take pointless decisions — and distractions — out of your day
I have two sides to my closet. The left side is labeled “office/travel” and has t-shirts and jeans. The right side is labeled “speaking/TV” and has button-down shirts, blazers, and jeans. That’s it. My suits, sweaters, vests, all sit in another closet in another room. I look at my calendar and either pick from the left or the right and I’m done with thinking about what to wear. The lack of decision prevents me from winding up sitting in my living room an hour later, still undressed, looking up an ex-girlfriend because I found a sweater she’d given me.
Never miss a chance for dopamine
If I have a meeting, I make sure to do something physical right before it. It can be as simple as walking up a few flights of stairs, or dropping for 20 pushups in my office. But I do something to fundamentally change the chemistry in my brain, and give me the “attention chemicals” I need to focus.
Meetings: One day a week, and primarily standing
My meetings are limited to one day a week. I know that day I won’t get “real” work done, and I’m ok with that, because the other four days are head down and focused on creating. Additionally, my meetings are almost all standing up, or “Aaron-Sorkin style” walk-and-talks. Besides, even as we come out of COVID, who wants to be stuck in an office breathing in other people’s germs all day? Outdoor walk-and-talks give you not only dopamine, but sunshine and vitamin D as well!
Embrace the early
I start my day at 3:45 a.m. I’m not saying you have to do this, but getting up, exercising, checking email, and having coffee long before the rest of the world has even woken up is, hands down, the No. 1 way to own my success. It means I go to bed early, sure, but in all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve yet to see my professional life suffer from not going out late at night. Quite the opposite. The power players? The market makers? All at the gym at 5:15 a.m, waiting for the doors to open. At my gym, we call ourselves “the door club,” and there’s always more than one powerful CEO waiting to get inside and get the job done.
Avoid the triggers
Most people with ADHD only have two speeds: “sleeping,” and “1000% on.” Because of that, when we’re on, we have a tendency to go a lot faster than normal, and if we’re not careful, this can cause issues. So we avoid those triggers which can cause us to derail. I personally don’t drink, because I can’t have just “one drink.” One drink is like leftover pizza for me. It’s simply not a thing. I also know that nothing good comes of me having nothing to do for an evening in Las Vegas, so I make sure my speaking contracts allow me to give lunchtime keynotes in Vegas, getting in and out in one day. Know thyself. PS: Same thing goes for virtual speeches. Do it, get it done, do something else. Unplanned downtime can kill you.
Find your Zone of Focus
Chances are, you’re not the most productive in your office. For me, my ZOF is an airplane. My last three books have been written on flights to and from Asia, because that’s where I can sit down and do nothing but write. No internet, no distractions, just my computer, my headphones, and me. Find where your Zone of Focus is, and embrace it.
Finally, don’t apologize for who you are
I grew up when ADHD wasn’t a thing yet. For me, it was called “Sit down, you’re disrupting the class” disease. All the things I do that others think are crazy (skydiving, Ironman triathlons, public speaking in front of thousands), I started doing as a way to self-medicate. I used to be an emotional cripple, convinced that everyone thought I was strange and different. Now? Hey, what I do works for me. Why should I care what others think? I’m doing my thing, and it’s been very successful for me. You do you, and leave the haters by the side of the road as you fly by them.