Last but certainly not the least is Priority Matrix – a powerful, yet super easy-to-use task management app. Priority Matrix is ideal for people with ADHD who need a visual view of their tasks. The app can sort out tasks into one of four quadrants: Critical & Immediate, Critical but not Immediate, Not Critical but Immediate, and Uncategorised. He writes at the blog The ADHD Nerd, is a technology addict, and loves everything pumpkin flavored. When I look at the newest productivity system or the latest time management tool, I get very excited. I look at the boxes that can be checked, the grid system, or the priority matrix, etc.
You’ve got a lot on, right? And you don’t know where to start.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has three subtypes: Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive. 4.Priority Matrix. This app is great for organizing specific projects or managing multiple projects and responsibilities and, most important, for prioritizing your actions. Priority Matrix – This is a highly rated app that will help you and your child to work together towards the same goal. It allows you and your child to keep track or their tasks and help them to get them completed. You can easily keep track of all of your child’s completed tasks and even receive progress reports.
If you’re a regular reader (hi) you might have seen my posts on using a star chart, upping your star chart game and how a schedule helps you get things done.
But even if you do all that, you still need to prioritise. You need to know what to put on your star chart, and what needs to go on your schedule.
There are a few different ways of prioritising your “to do”s. Which one you choose will depend on what you’ve got to do, how much you’ve got to do, and how you feel about it. Have a read of the different ways you can prioritise your tasks below, pick one, and give it a shot.
These are listed in order of complexity – with the simplest being first and the most complicated being last.
Priority Matrix Web
Way 1: Just pick something
The simplest way. Just pick something.
Those of us with perfectionist tendencies find this really hard. Perfectionism is common amongst those with mental health issues, particularly anxiety.
The “just pick something” method is also difficult if you have trouble making decisions – autisics in particular can find decision-making hard sometimes.
However, sometimes we don’t have a choice. Sometimes we don’t have time. Sometimes we don’t have the energy to prioritise. Technically, “just pick something” isn’t actually a method of prioritising, it’s a way of taking away that decision-making load so you can use your energy to actually do the task.
If you just pick something, you can get started. Even if it’s not the most important thing. Often, if you choose something less important, like tidying, it gives you the momentum to do something more important later on, like paying a bill.
You also get the feeling of achievement. It might not be as intense as when you do a bigger or more important task but it’s better than nothing. And sometimes “better than nothing” is all we can manage.
Way 2: The ABC method
My accountability partner taught me this one! On your “to-do” list (if you have one), assign each task A, B or C.
A is Absolutely must be done today.
B is Be nice if it got done.
C is Can wait.
You do your “A” tasks first, then the “B” ones and the “C” ones get done if you’ve got time.
This is a great technique if you like simplicity but feel you need to prioritise a bit, rather than simply picking something and doing it.
It’s quick, it’s simple and it forces you to focus – which is useful if you have ADHD!
Way 3: Using a priority matrix
You’ve probably seen one of these before. It looks like this:
You grab your list of what you need to do (or just think of your tasks if you don’t have your “to do” list written down), and write the tasks on the matrix according to how urgent and important they are.
You can write them anywhere on the matrix – you may have two important and urgent tasks, for example, but one is slightly more important and the other is more urgent.
Here are some examples.
The things you need to do first are in the urgent and important section. The most obvious examples of urgent and important tasks are ones where you will suffer financially if you don’t get it done now. So paying bills will go here, or finishing work you promised to a client. You might also have something like making a medical appointment or doing a favour for a friend (not everything is about money!)
Something that is urgent but unimportant might be to book yourself on to a course. It’s urgent, because you have to book it before the course starts, but it’s not particularly important because if you miss it, there’s another one in a few months. You could also have something like buying a new printer – it needs replacing now but it’s not vital, because you have alternatives.
Something that is important but not urgent could be to fill in a form that doesn’t need to be in for another month. Or you might have a longer term project that you want to get started on, and there’s no particular deadline. Finding new suppliers could also go here, or networking.
Finally, we have the unimportant and not urgent section. Work you end up doing for other people can go in here – fulfilling a favour you promised in a moment of weakness that won’t actually benefit you. Perhaps a project you aren’t that excited about and are not even sure if it will pay off. This stuff should get done last, and you may find that you don’t end up doing it at all.
A priority matrix can be a really useful way of clarifying what actually needs doing, and also what needs doing first.
You can download a priority matrix here. (A4, pdf)
Way 4: Using a benefits and consequences “to do” list
I developed this “benefits and consequences” technique during therapy. I still use a benefits and consequences worksheet for myself and my clients to help in making decisions, and I realised you could use it for a “to do” list as well!
It’s fairly simple and like the matrix above, it helps to clarify your thoughts around the tasks you have to do. It’s especially useful for people with ADHD who tend to be driven by instant rewards. If there’s no instant reward, they can use this list to see how they will avoid future punishment, which is sometimes more motivating!
You begin by writing down your tasks. Then you write out the benefits of doing each one and the consequences of not doing each one.
So for example, task one might be “Phone Rob”. The benefit of it might be that he can find you more clients. The consequence of not doing it could be minor (you could find clients elsewhere) or major (you could run out of clients). Fairly straightforward.
Let’s look at another example. Your next task is to “Pay your tax bill.” There’s very little reward here! You have to watch money leave your account, it’s boring and you don’t feel good about doing it. So let’s fill in the consequence of not doing it. You will have it hanging over your head, you will get a snotty letter from HMRC, you might get fined. And you’ll still have to pay it!
You might find you suffer emotional consequences from not doing something as well, particularly if you have ADHD or a mental health issue. You could find yourself anxious about doing it and the anxiety gets worse the longer you put it off. And that anxiety can seep into other areas of your life, or come out in weird ways, like when you get angry at nothing.
Using a benefits and consequences list for your tasks helps you bring clarity to your “to do” list, particularly with seeing the rewards and punishments that come with doing (or procrastinating with) each task.
You can download a benefits and consequences list here. (A4, pdf)
Way 5: Listing your tasks, ranking them by importance and fun
“To do” lists often include how important something is but not how much fun a task is.
If you have ADHD, “eating the frog” (doing the most difficult task first) doesn’t always work. In fact, it sometimes doesn’t work even if you don’t have ADHD! You can try but you end up procrastinating and not getting anything done, because the difficult task makes you so anxious.
So sometimes, doing the fun stuff first can help. It gets the momentum going so you can build on it. It can get you excited about your work and projects too. Motivation comes from doing, not thinking about stuff, so the sooner you can actually do something, the better.
This is where the fun and important list comes in.
You list your tasks, then you assign each two numbers. One is for how fun a task is, and the other is for how important it is. I rank them out of 5, but you can choose your own system. 5 is good because it’s quick and easy and it doesn’t matter if two items have the same number.
You can also rank them in reverse order if it makes more sense to you (ie number 1 is the most fun or important).
Look over your list. You should find a few tasks that are both fun and important. These are the ones you start with, then you can move onto less fun, or less important.
I use this one for the big lists I make that are to do with each project. I list the tasks for each project on different coloured paper (colours make it easier to see at a glance what bit of paper is for which project) then rank them by fun and importance. For these project tasks, none are particularly urgent, which is why this way works.
You can download a “to do” list with importance and fun columns here. (A4, pdf)
If you want to step it up a bit, you can do the same list but estimate the time for each task, then track the actual time it took. Estimating the time means you have an idea of what project task you can do in the time you have available, and it also helps with getting a few of those 5-minute tasks done.
Tracking the time it actually took and comparing it to the estimated time is incredibly useful, especially if you’re time blind (which you will be if you have ADHD). You will be able to see if you’re consistently over-estimating or under-estimating the time it takes you to do things. This will help you plan better in the future.
You can download a “to do” list with fun and importance columns, plus estimated time and actual time columns, here. (A4, pdf)
Way 6: Calculating importance, fun, and time taken
This is the most complicated way of planning and prioritising what you’ve got to to, and will appeal to you if you’re autistic and/or you just like spending more time planning than actually doing work!
It is very similar to Way 5 above, but with more fiddling about with the numbers. This is enjoyable and relaxing for some people, which is a good way to start! Also, it brings much more clarity to a list if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Not so overwhelmed you can’t think about it (if that’s the case, Way 1 is for you) but if you feel sorting stuff out would help you think clearly and approach your tasks more carefully.
So with this one, you start by writing your task in, then ranking it out of fun and importance, like in Way 5. But – this is really important – you have to do it in reverse order for this one, or it doesn’t work.
So 1 is the most fun. 5 is the least fun
1 is the most important. 5 is the least important.
Then you estimate how long the task will take, in minutes. You write this in the third column.
You now have 3 numbers. You add these together and put them in the Task number box.
Adhd Priority Matrix Examples
You start with the lowest number on the list, then work you way up. By doing this, you will have sorted your tasks so you’re doing the most fun, the most important and the quickest, first.
So the most fun and the quickest help to build your motivation, and the importance brings that sense of accomplishment.
There’s a final column too – that’s the actual time taken for the task. As in Way 5, this helps you to see if you’re over- or under-estimating the time you need for each task, and it will help you plan your time better for future tasks.
You can download the complex “to do” list here. (A4, pdf)
Prioritising everything you have to do
I have always had difficulty prioritising what I need to do, and I find using one or more of the ways above really helps. I actually enjoy the planning side of it – and not just because it puts off the tasks that I don’t want to do!
Planning and prioritising like this brings clarity to what I need to do, which helps reduce anxiety, and helps me get motivated as well.
But all of us need to remember – motivation doesn’t come from doing. It comes from action.
If you need more help getting stuff done, drop me an email.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neuropsychological disorder characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and dysregulation (NIH, 2020). While commonly thought of as a condition that only affects children or adolescents, ADHD actually impacts individuals across the age spectrum, from childhood through adulthood.
Most individuals with ADHD face challenges with executive functions (EFs)—planning, organizing, focusing, shifting attention, self-regulating, solving problems, and other mental functions. These functions continuously work together, coordinating across the “superhighway” of the brain, to help us accomplish tasks and work towards goals. Having trouble with EFs can set individuals with ADHD up for a lot of difficulty at home, school, work, and in daily life. While there is no one specific technology for managing ADHD-related challenges, using varied apps to support common EF challenges may make life easier for individuals with ADHD.
The sections below provide an overview of select apps that address each of the six core clusters of EFs identified by ADHD experts (Brown, 2020).
Organizing, prioritizing, estimating time, and addressing procrastination can be assisted by apps such as Evernote, Trello, Asana, Slack, Todoist. Some of these offer team-based collaboration, useful for coach/client, family members, or other groups.
Maintaining routines and habits can be a significant challenge with ADHD. Developed by a clinical psychologist, MotivAider helps build habits by sending vibrating signals through your phone to help keep your goals in mind throughout the day. Several other apps to consider are: HomeRoutines, Routinist, The Fabulous, and Productive Habit Tracker.
Sustaining and shifting focus is a “hallmark” symptom of ADHD. [email protected] offers users a number of scientific validated audio tracks that are said to improve focus by 2-4 times. Popular meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace also have audio tracks to improve focus and attention.
Be Focused is a well-designed app using the widely popular Pomodoro Technique for time management and productivity. Engross also builds on the Pomodoro Technique, and includes scheduling, reminders, and app blocking features. 30/30 employs a surprisingly simple, user-friendly interface guiding effective management of tasks and time.
Blocking access to other programs and apps may also assist focus. Freedom is a blocking app that syncs with all your devices, supporting better focus on the task at hand. RescueTime has similar features and can help analyze how your time is being spent, improving productivity. Forest is a unique, fun app that “grows” a forest on your phone the longer you stay focused on a task (virtual coins earned can be put towards an organization planting real trees!).
Effort & Regulation
Regulating effort over time is difficult for many individuals with ADHD. Priority Matrix provides a powerful visual method for project organization and determining task urgency. Mind Mapping apps can also be useful, catering to the visual strengths of many individuals with ADHD: MindNode, iThought, and SimpleMind are some to consider.
Waking up is a significant obstacle for many individuals with ADHD. FreakyAlarm and Wake N Shake offer novel approaches for getting you out of bed. Sleep Cycle tracks your sleep and wakes you when you are in a lighter stage of sleep. The American Sleep Association outlines some of their favorite apps for sleep here.
Mindfulness is a research-backed tool that can help manage emotions as well as improve executive functions. Calm; MyLife Meditation (formerly Stop, Breathe, & Think); Insight Timer; and Headspace are just a few excellent mindfulness apps.
Mood-tracking is another way to assist with emotion management. By tracking how we feel regularly, along with other events that may affect our mood, tracking apps can help users see patterns over time and identify things that help them feel better. Apps can facilitate mood-tracking quickly and discreetly; check out Daylio, Sanvello, and MoodPath.
Working Memory & Recall
Working memory (i.e., holding several bits of information in your mind at once) is a common challenge for many individuals with ADHD. An awesome app for help managing this challenge is IFTTT (If This Then That) which syncs all of your apps to improve your overall efficiency.
Brain training apps, used as an adjunct or alternative to stimulant medication, can strengthen working memory as well as improve focus. MindMed’s ADHD Treatment: Brain Training builds on years of existing research supporting neuro-cognitive digital training for ADHD. Other brain training apps not specific to ADHD include Elevate, Lumosity, Cognifit, and Peak.
Individuals with ADHD often seek excitement and have difficulty with low or non-stimulating tasks. EpicWin and Habitica both turn the humble to-do-list into an adventurous role-playing game in which you tackle tasks in animated battles and earn points for your character as you progress through your list. Brainsparker provides a virtual creativity coach that can help bump you out of a rut.
Priority Matrix Appfluence
A wide variety of available apps can support managing common EF challenges seen with ADHD. However, the choice of specific apps is a very individual process, and different things will work for different people. The plethora of currently available mental health apps provides a wide variety of options for supporting the unique challenges and needs of individuals with ADHD.
Classroom Interventions For Adhd
I always advise clients to give a new app some time. With so many different to-do-list apps, for example, it can be tempting to try them all at once or for a few days each. Using one app long enough before deciding if it is useful will help gain a more accurate picture of its efficacy—and also preserve your sanity!