Getting the Most Out of Your Smartphone When You Have ADHD

Close-up of hands at office desk using mobile phone, computer, and planner to schedule An overwhelming majority of people in the United States—95%—own a cell phone of some kind. Seventy-seven percent of people have a smartphone. For many individuals with attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) and executive functioning issues, using a smartphone can be daunting, especially beyond call and text message capabilities. Even those who feel comfortable using certain types of apps (such as calendar or Facebook) may not be getting the most out of their phone in terms of using it to organize themselves or limit distractions from it.

If you struggle with ADHD, here are some suggestions to help you maximize your smartphone:

1. Calendar

  • Use the calendar on your smartphone or download a different calendar app. If you do not like the presentation of your standard calendar app, try one of these: iCalendar, Google Calendar, Calendars, or Fantastical.
  • Make sure your calendar automatically backs up somewhere, such as iCloud or Google Calendar, so you do not lose everything if you lose or break your phone.
  • Insert addresses of events when possible. Map apps can send reminders of when you need to leave based on traffic conditions.

2. Task List

Not all task lists are intuitive, and people have different needs. Some like as simple of a list as possible, while others need options for subtasks, viewing tasks on the calendar, etc. Here are some suggestions for task-list apps:

  • Standard task list such as Reminders app (location- or time-based reminders)
  • iCalendar, GTasks, Fantastical (view task list and calendar together)
  • Todoist: works on most devices and can view tasks from an app or web browser so lists are displayed even when you’re doing other things on the computer
  • Do! (simple list)
  • Wunderlist: subtasks and sharing features

3. Notes

You can always use the standard Notes app, but if you want more features and options, try one of the following:

  • MobisleNotes: create checklists and view/edit notes on the computer
  • Evernote: save articles and connect other items to the note

4. Reducing Distractions

Getting distracted by a smartphone is common even among people who don’t have ADHD. Here are a couple of ways to address this:

  • If using social media apps and you’re concerned about losing track of time, save them in a folder next to a timer and activate the timer before using those apps.
  • Use app blocker programs such as Freedom to either manually block apps during periods where you need to work or have specific apps automatically blocked during typical periods of work.

5. Wellness

  • If you have trouble going to bed at a reasonable hour, try using an alarm clock app that sends you reminders when you should go to bed.
  • Use an app to track how long you are sleeping and the quality of your sleep.
  • Use apps to keep track of food if you want to see how healthy you are eating, lose weight, etc. Lose It is one example of an app you can use.
  • If you want to meditate regularly, use an app and get daily reminders at set times to do so.

Setting up and using the resources mentioned above may be difficult initially. Thus, I would suggest picking one or two items to incorporate into your daily routine and then gradually including additional items. If you need assistance or technical support, seek out a phone store or technology specialist. If your issues are more on the executive functioning side, enlist the help of a mental health professional who can help you use your phone to improve your overall functioning.


Mobile Fact Sheet. (2017, January 12). Retrieved from

© Copyright 2017 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey Heller, PsyD, Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Chelsea

    April 21st, 2017 at 7:48 AM

    Surely i am not the only person out there who would be totally lost without the calendar on my phone? I’m not even ADD and those reminders and alerts and calendar reminders keep me on task. I know that this would be big help for someone who really does struggle with those issues.

  • Creighton

    April 24th, 2017 at 9:42 AM

    ugh but one day my phone crashed and I hadn’t backed up, so you can imagine the lost events and contacts that I will be doing good if I recover them

  • Davey

    April 24th, 2017 at 2:00 PM

    I suppose they can be good but I think that they don’t teach you to be responsible about things the way that we used to have to be.

    I can’t remember one person’s phone number anymore, because they are all in my phone so why should I have to memorize them? I don’t have to remember anything because basically my phone will ding and tell me that I am supposed to be doing something.

    Don’t get me wrong, I rely on mine as much as the next person does, but is it too much? At times it can feel that way.

  • tia

    April 26th, 2017 at 1:32 PM

    I know that there are times when I get on my phone and then am astonished to see that I have accomplished nothing hours later. I have just been mindlessly scrolling and reading and have gotten nothing remotely important done.

    I am looking for real ways to break this habit and even though my phone is a necessity for my job, I am trying out giving it completely up on the weekends.

    I am thinking that if someone needs me that much they can call me, but no texting, games or social media. I just need a break to get back to the way that life somewhat used to be before we all had this computer at our fingertips.

  • Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    April 26th, 2017 at 4:10 PM

    Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  • Rhetta

    April 27th, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    For me the phone is more of a distraction than it is a device that keeps me on track. I wish that I could achieve a higher degree of functionality from mine but I just end up distracted and unfocused. I still do better with the old fashioned calendar and list… maybe one day I can graduate to being comfortable with the technology, but for right now I have to sit tight with what still feels right for me and my current mindset.

  • Richard

    April 27th, 2017 at 11:51 AM

    iGotThis is a new solution that is designed specifically for ADHD families that is currently in beta testing and should be publicly available in May 2017. It is an app, a community, and a mission designed to help families get stuff done while building self-esteem in ADHD kids. You can read more about it at
    Full disclosure: I am the founder of iGotThis.

  • Pressley

    April 28th, 2017 at 11:31 AM

    Would it be too much ta ask for more schools and IEPs to have things written into them that better help prepare students? This is where most of their organizational flubs are happening anyway, related to school and schoolwork completion so if the IEP that they have for that purpose would do more to address that then maybe just maybe they could learn better coping and time management skills along the way.

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