manage technologyTechnology for ADHD can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it helps adults with ADHD stay productive. After all, you can use technology to remind yourself of important appointments, meetings and deadlines. You can use technology to keep track of your tasks and help you structure your day.

On the other hand, technology can be incredibly distracting. ADHD coach and therapist Eric Tivers, LCSW, finds it to be a big challenge for his clients, who often don’t realize that it’s actually making things harder for them. They don’t “realize that every time they shift their attention, they’re killing their productivity and depleting finite resources of executive functioning.”

One of his clients runs three businesses and has two cell phones. He wants to be notified of everything all the time. But he’s constantly behind because of the overload of incoming information.

Technology is tempting because it’s stimulating. Social media messages, for instance, shift within seconds. “This feeds our stimulation-searching brain because of all the thousands of topics we can choose to read about, and because it is always changing,” said Terry Matlen, MSW, ACSW, a psychotherapist and ADHD coach who also has ADHD. “It’s immediate gratification, like an ice cream bar is to a toddler (and well, to many adults, as well).”

Managing technology isn’t easy for anyone. But with some good systems, it’s absolutely possible for adults with ADHD. Tivers and Matlen shared their suggestions below.

Track your tech use.

Tivers, who also has ADHD, always tells his clients that before they even attempt behavioral change, it’s vital to know where they stand. When it comes to technology, it’s important to know how you’re using your devices and for how long, he said. Because people with ADHD tend to be time blind. When they’re doing something fun, time flies. Forty-five minutes can feel like 15 minutes.

Instead of guessing, use an app that tracks your tech use. Matlen suggested RescueTime (which also alerts you when you’re spending too much time on your smartphone, blocks the internet and more).

Turn it off.

Unsurprisingly, it’s much easier to check your email or Facebook feed when your computer is on. It’s also much easier to play games and visit 10 different websites. That’s why it’s important to “get into the habit of turning off your devices, including your computer,” said Matlen, author of two books on ADHD, including The Queen of Distraction: How Women with ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done. You can even set a reminder on your computer (or smartphone) to tell you when to shut down. 

Designate check-in times.

Set specific times when you’ll check email and social media, Matlen said. This is by no means easy, but the more you do it, the more of a habit it’ll become.

Use apps effectively. 

Like the above app, there are many others that help with self-regulation. Tivers referred to it as “outsourcing your willpower.” Instead of depleting your energy and attention on forcing yourself to stop or figuring out how you’re going to do that, you already have systems in place that make this automatic.

Matlen suggested these additional apps:

  • Freedom blocks the internet.
  • OFFTIME turns off notifications, calls and texts.
  • AppDetox turns off your apps to give you a digital detox.

Get a time-blocking container.

This tip comes from Tivers, who leads the ADHD reWired Coaching & Accountability Group and hosts the podcast ADHD reWired. It’s a simple, tangible way of restricting your access to digital devices. Basically, you put your smartphone, tablet or anything else inside a clear container; and set the timer to lock the contents for a particular period of time. Here’s one such product.

It isn’t that technology is bad, and you’re bad or weak-willed for using it. Tivers noted that adults with ADHD can feel a lot of shame. You might feel embarrassed for doing something you “shouldn’t” be doing. But technology is stimulating by design, so it’s totally understandable that you’d want to use it—and use it often.

The key is to “find ways to incorporate [technology] into your daily life so [it doesn’t] interfere with your emotional and physical well-being.” And try to be patient and compassionate with yourself. ADHD makes getting things done harder. You’re no doubt doing the best you can.

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