Life with ADHD: Improving Efficiency with Household Tasks

Person in button-down shirt sits on stairs, holding a pen and looking thoughtfully down into small notebookFor many people with attention-deficit hyperactivity, better known as ADHD, keeping on top of the tasks expected of them at home can be an ongoing challenge. Among other symptoms, ADHD is associated with trouble focusing, forgetfulness, distractibility, difficulty staying organized, and general attention issues.

In order to improve efficiency with day-to-day tasks at home, the first step is to figure out what needs to be done. Then you can examine and streamline how each task is completed.

To get started, write out a list of the main tasks you need to complete. Here is a sample list:

  • Shop for food
  • Make dinner
  • Pack lunches for family members
  • Clean up around the house
  • Pick up dry cleaning
  • Do laundry
  • Walk the dog

Once you have your list, write next to each item when you will perform the task. For example:

  • Shop for food: Whenever I have time
  • Make dinner: Around 6 p.m.
  • Pack lunches for family members: In the morning
  • Clean up around the house: Whenever I have time
  • Pick up dry cleaning: Whenever I run out of clean clothing
  • Do laundry: When my children need clean clothing
  • Walk the dog: When the dog looks ready to go out

Now, evaluate each item on your list to determine how efficient you are with it on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being as efficient as possible). If the item is not a 5, write out possible ways to improve efficiency.

The following is an example of this process for the imagined list above:

Shop for food – 3

Suggested improvements:

  • Look at the schedule and pick a set time each week to go. Think about when it would be most helpful in the week to have plenty of food.
  • Have family members add items to the list on the refrigerator when wanted or needed. Alternatively, have them add it to a joint list on an app.
  • When and where possible, go online to preorder food and then pick it up or have it delivered. Some companies will send you reminders to order food if you request it.
  • Use companies that offer reoccurring shipment options for household goods such as paper towels, toilet paper, dog food, etc. This way, you always have enough items at home and don’t have to worry about running out to get more, provided you use about the same amount of each item each month.

Make dinner – 4

Suggested improvements:

  • On Sunday evenings, write out a list of meals you will prepare each night of the week, taking into account how long each recipe will take and when you will get home to begin cooking.
  • If it will save time, put the ingredients together the night before or in the morning.
  • Use slow cookers or other devices that allow you to prepare ingredients during the day.

Pack lunches for family members – 2

Suggested improvements:

  • On Sunday evenings, prepare lunches for Monday and Tuesday to the extent possible. On Wednesday, prepare lunches for Thursday and Friday. Make sure any food packed ahead of time will keep until it is eaten.
  • Make lunches with the whole family together and have each person fulfill a role in packing (i.e., one person packs drinks, another puts macaroni and cheese into individual containers).
  • Buy prepacked components to speed along the process.

Clean up around the house – 2

Suggested improvements:

  • After the children go to bed, clean up.
  • Alternatively, clean up each morning before leaving the house.

Pick up dry cleaning – 4

Suggested improvements:

  • Drop dry cleaning off on the same day each week so it will be ready at the same time each week.
  • Use a company that picks up/drops off clothing at your office.

Do laundry – 3

Suggested improvements:

  • Do all laundry on the same day each week.
  • Alternatively, do each person’s laundry on a separate day (i.e., child’s laundry on Tuesday, partner’s laundry on Wednesday).
  • Do one load of laundry each evening so it does not pile up.

Walk the dog – 4

Suggested improvements:

  • Walk the dog at set times or intervals if feasible (i.e., before eating breakfast or dinner, right after dinner).
  • Organize dog playdates, taking turns with another dog owner to watch/walk the dogs.

The idea is to evaluate each thing you have to do, whether it be when you do it or how you do it, and make sure you are being as efficient as you can be. You can measure efficiency in the amount of time it takes, convenience, and quality of task completion. I hope these suggestions prove helpful.

© Copyright 2016 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey A. Heller, PsyD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

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.

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  • Peyton


    December 2nd, 2016 at 8:56 AM

    If this is something that you struggle with then believe me, making a list for yourself is going to be your best friend.

  • Ned


    December 3rd, 2016 at 8:29 AM

    Although a hindrance at times this does not have to be the excuse for not getting things done that certain people tend to use it as.
    It is not a crutch and it is not an excuse. It is just a way to figure out to do things a little bit differently than maybe some other people without it have to do.
    I think of it as a way for me to learn to be more efficient all the way around, having nothing to do with whether or not I am worrying about my ADHD that day.

  • Audra


    December 5th, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    Seriously I rarely get all of the things done at once that need to be done because I have a hard time with completing one task before moving on to the next.
    Honestly for me I think that a lot of it is about boredom so even when I make a list for myself if I am doing something that really does not engage me at all I will start roaming over the list to see if there is something else that I might could do that would be more interesting.
    I know, it’s the kiss of death trying to get things done that way.

  • Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    Carey Heller, Psy.D.

    December 5th, 2016 at 11:30 AM

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Hale


    December 5th, 2016 at 12:50 PM

    You just can’t always rely on this as an excuse for why things don’t get done. Regardless of whether you have adhd or you don’t, there are things in life that you will find that you are responsible for and somehow you have to work all of that out so that all of your responsibilities are taken care of.

    It might be easy to fall back on this as an excuse but that might slide for a little bit, but it is not always going to hold water with everyone.

  • Trevor


    December 6th, 2016 at 12:29 PM

    I didn’t ever think that my life should have to be so regimented but like others have noted, without the routine and the consistency I am pretty much lost and get absolutely nothing done.

  • Marty


    December 7th, 2016 at 3:06 PM

    I don’t think that my wife quite understands the ways that this can hold me back and it really gets pretty exhausting when I try to explain it to her.
    I guess in some ways that I think that if she would just get to know me a little more then it could be easier for her to see the way that I work, how I do things, and what she could do to help me out with some of that.
    But she wants to turn a blind eye to anything that she might could do to help so that makes me feel very alone and isolated.

  • Tina


    December 8th, 2016 at 10:38 AM

    I think that I am better with it at home than I am at work.
    At work there can be so many distractions while I have a sense of sameness at home that doesn’t tend to be a disruptive to me as change can be.
    I can think on the spot and get things done, but it makes me feel a little topsy turvy inside when it happens. I guess that is coming from the inner anxiety that I feel as a result.

  • Phillip


    December 9th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

    THe ahead of time meal planning works remarkably well at my house

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