If you were to search the internet for “how to get more done”, chances are you’re going to receive thousands of results claiming to offer the best advice to becoming a productivity wizard. I’m sure most of them are great. If you’re anything like me though, well, that many
options can be overwhelming. Where do you start?

Well, look no further! Not that I claim to have ALL the answers, but I have done some self-work. I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult (18 is still considered an adult right?) with zero explanation of what ADHD was or why the medicine prescribed helped. I went over 10 years
not ever thinking about how  DHD affected me, how it played into my anxiety disorder, or how it played into my life.

I’ll spare you the life details, but once I teamed up with a really good therapist, I started to learn more about ADHD and how it worked with my brain. Through that, and offering myself grace, I picked up a few tricks when it comes to productivity that helped me make progress towards my goals and manage my ADHD better.

So without further ado, here are my, Elizabeth Cheney’s, 4 Simple Productivity Hacks to help you in a bind.

#1 Manageable To-Do Lists

Your brain is flying a million miles a second, thoughts swirling around. I’ve gotta do this. I’ve gotta do that. Oh crap, if I don’t do “this” then “that” won’t ever happen! To try and find some sense of stability in the mental chaos, you start jotting down all the things you need to do, whether it’s chores, whether it’s your kids, whether it’s your business, the list reaches a length no normal person can accomplish in a week, let alone a single day. Maybe it’s not always that dramatic, but you catch my drift. 
My brain spiral would lead me to think that if I didn’t get ALLLLLLLLL of this done, then I would be [insert intrusive thought here].

When you’re looking at a list a mile long, you don’t know where to start, and then boom…. You’re immobilized. I raise you: Manageable To-Do Lists (I know I know… WHAT?!?!)

Believe it or not, you do not have to complete everything at this moment. What you can do is take that mile-long list and pull 4 to 6 things that you can actually accomplish in a day. Maybe it’s tasks for three days. Who knows! It’s about what works best for you. There is an actual dopamine release when you scratch something off your to-do list. It’s a feeling of accomplishment. So instead of overwhelming yourself with the daunting to-do list, pick a handful of things off the list (that are reasonable, people!), and feel that sense of pride when you scratch them off for the day. Sometimes I get off track myself and that list starts getting a mile long. Take a beat. Remember it won’t all implode if it isn’t all completed TODAY and give yourself grace.

#2 Breaking Down Bigger Projects into Smaller Tasks

Ok, so this one is an extension of the first one. My theory is if you can train yourself to manage your to-do’s better, then my second tip will be easier to adapt.

So you have a big project ahead of you – renovating a home, preparing for a baby, starting a business, looking for a new job. Big projects have many steps and that can be overwhelming on where to start. Cue that immobilization (damn, you!!).

Let’s take the example of launching a business. Do you have to create your logo, start your website, roll out your robust social media campaign, and pitch yourself to sponsors all in one day? One week? Absolutely not! You break those big chunks into smaller tasks. I used to think procrastinating was the way to get things done because all that added pressure spikes your adrenaline. Well, that’s not wrong, but that’s also not healthy and definitely not helping your anxiety. On the flip side, it’s doing more damage than good.

So if procrastinating isn’t the right way to accomplish huge chunks of long-term projects, what helps? Tools like ChatGPT can help give you the framework or starting point on how to break these larger projects down into more attainable goals. You can type into ChatGPT, “Help create a 3-week project plan, broken out into 30-minute increments, for building a website.” In a matter of moments, voila, you have a starting point. Most often the issue is we don’t know where to start.

#3 Two-Minute Rule

This one helps not just with productivity, but it’s a helpful tool to work on building better habits. Ever heard of Atomic Habits by James Clear? Well, I picked this up from his book.

The idea is that anyone can do anything for two minutes. If you are stuck on something, you don’t know where to start, and the task feels overwhelming, whatever the case may be, give yourself two minutes to explore the task at hand.

You want to write a blog post, but you’re not much of a writer, so you’re overthinking what it needs to say. Set a timer for two minutes and simply begin to write. Two minutes! Before you know it, it’s over and maybe you wrote three sentences, but that’s three sentences more than you had before.

See how that works? When in doubt, lower the stakes and give yourself two minutes.

#4 Listen to Music

This one may sound simple in theory but don’t doubt it’s magic. As someone who often needs to decompress, sometimes silence is necessary. Now when I need to focus, especially on something I know is going to take some mental strength to start, there is nothing like a “creative focus” playlist.

There are so many different types of playlists, but for me personally, I like non-lyrical ones. I can vibe to the beat, and it keeps me focused. It tunes out all the thoughts running around in my mind by giving me a focus point.

Try different types – maybe you want more of a jazz feel, maybe today you’re looking for something a bit more up-tempo. Maybe you even want to listen to a podcast! If so, I have a great one for you to check out (Ahem, it’s called The In-Between with Elizabeth Cheney). 😉

In Conclusion
Life is distracting! There is ALWAYS going to be a million things to do. Remember you do not have to have it all completed today or even tomorrow. As you find better ways to manage your productivity, you will gain more self-awareness on what you should spend your time on.

What matters right now? What matters today? What can be moved to tomorrow or next week? Everything will still be there for you. 

You can listen to The In-Between podcast episode on productivity hacks here.