Today, we tend to think of technology as the enemy. After all, it steals our attention and makes it harder to focus. And when you have ADHD, it’s hard enough to sustain your concentration. It’s hard enough not to get distracted every few minutes.
But adults with ADHD can actually use technology to their advantage. The key is to find what works for you.
Sometimes, adults with ADHD don’t employ strategies that work for them individually because they force themselves to do things the way people without ADHD do. Many compare themselves to others and feel shame for needing different tools. Many also assume that everyone else has an easy time accomplishing tasks—or doesn’t use any tools at all.
Social media makes matters worse, said Aaron Smith, a certified ADHD coach at Potential Within Reach who helps individuals with ADHD and executive functioning challenges to bridge the gap between their current performance and their potential. “Because people tend to share only their heavily edited, highly curated, and exaggeratedly positive accounts of their experiences.”
Either way, everyone needs support and guidance. Everyone—whether they have ADHD or not—needs a calendar, planner or app, Smith said. Everyone needs a system of strategies to thrive at work and at home.
Below are tech tools that Smith personally uses or his clients do. These might not work for you, but use this list as inspiration to think about what does—and to realize that there are all sorts of tools, tricks and tactics that can help you work through whatever challenges are getting in your way.
Alarmy: This is an app that “helps with the habit of hitting snooze 1,000 times or worse shutting off your alarm and going back to sleep,” said Smith, also co-host of Attention Different: An ADHD Podcast. It makes you take a photo of something before it lets you shut off the alarm.
Siri: “By using voice command on your phone or Apple watch, you can quickly input to-do lists and add reminders without having to open up your phone,” Smith said. This is important because we often grab our phones to do one task, and then end up clicking on other tabs, apps and notifications, he said. “We can find ourselves going down the rabbit hole very quickly with technology.”
Boomerang: This add-on for Gmail sends an email back to your inbox to remind you of important emails. It also schedules emails. For instance, you can draft an email at midnight and send it at 8 a.m.
Muse headband: Smith personally uses this mindfulness/meditation device, which tracks EEG brain waves and provides real-time feedback. For instance, the background noise—like the sounds from a beach—gets louder as your focus diminishes and gets quieter as you focus more on your breath, Smith said. “This is helpful because it provides stimulation and makes meditation into a more active, engaging experience.” It’s also helped Smith gain distance from his emotions and think before he acts.
Grammarly: This Chrome add-on program works in Microsoft Word and your email, helping to correct your grammar and spelling.
Tile: This is a tracking device that attaches to your purse, backpack, wallet, keys, or anything else you easily lose. Your phone alerts you when you’re getting close to finding them.
Alexa: “This neat device can read your calendar, play music, order groceries via Amazon pantry, and all sorts of cool things,” Smith said.
E-books: If you have a hard time focusing on reading an entire book, enable the narration option on devices like Kindle, which reads the text to you. Or listen on Audible.com.
Speech to text: Google Docs and Mac computers have built-in dictation. “This is a helpful way to write papers and get your ideas down on a page,” Smith said.
Location-based reminders: Many apps, including Google Calendar, will remind you of certain tasks when you’re in a certain place. That is, they’ll remind you to take out the trash when you enter your house, or attend your 10 a.m. meeting in the conference room when you enter your office.
Smartphone night shift mode: “Blue light has been shown to keep your brain awake at night because it simulates sunlight,” Smith said. Night shift mode changes the lighting on your phone to warmer tones, so it doesn’t mess with your sleep. You just need to swipe up to see the button. And you can schedule the times it works.
Again, be sure to focus on finding tools and tactics that work specifically for you. Sometimes, adults with ADHD fixate on what they can’t do. Instead, Smith encouraged readers to pay more attention on your strengths and positive traits. “Spend your time instead focused on what you can do about [your ADHD], how you can move forward, and employ strategies for success.” Which is probably the greatest ADHD tip of all.