Updated 17 July 2017

Manage your ADHD and your time

Living with ADHD can be difficult, especially when it comes to managing your time. Fortunately there is help available.

Let’s face it, we’re all busy. There’s work, school, meals to prepare, the house needs cleaning… For most of us it is a challenge to manage our time and get things done. 

But for adults with ADHD these daily tasks are even more challenging − especially because people with ADHD have difficulty managing their time. 

Dr Renata Schoeman, a psychiatrist based in Bellville in the Western Cape, shares a number of strategies for employers and employees: 

1. Have more frequent check-ins and feedback sessions.
2. Use visual and auditory reminders to draw employees back to the task – like wall calendars and flowcharts, computer-based reminders and personal digital assistants.
3. Use reward systems – for example break longer-term projects down into shorter term deadlines with verbal or tangible rewards to keep up motivation. 

Staying focused

Adults with ADHD frequently have difficulty staying focused during mundane and boring tasks or lengthy meetings,” says Dr Schoeman. “They often have difficulty switching their focus quickly but can become hyper-focused when required.”

She suggests establishing defined periods of concentration where tasks are scheduled according times of alertness, interspersed with planned movement breaks (e.g. walking to meetings, getting coffee, walking to a co-worker’s desk rather than picking up the phone, and using the stairs rather than the lift).

Using fidget toys or stress balls for “intentional fidgeting”, note-taking for lengthy instructions, recordings of meetings and the use of a notebook to jot down “intrusive ideas” are useful.

Decreasing distractibility

You can also decrease distractibility by using noise cancellation headsets, a private workspace (open-plan offices are problematic for adults with ADHD), working flexi-time, using telecommuting or working from home where there is access to a quieter environment.

“It is crucial to manage technology,” explains Dr Schoeman. “A valuable intervention is to have ‘off-line’ periods where emails can, for example, be addressed and sent later during a scheduled ‘on-line’ period.

“Switch off all alerts on messenger and social media platforms. Phone calls can also be rerouted to voicemail, and responded to during scheduled times during the day. Multitasking should be avoided as far as possible – it merely moves procrastination to within the allocated time.”

Do you have ADHD? How do you manage it? Let us know – email

Read more:

ADHD - a life lived in chaos

From 8 to 80! ADHD has no age limit

Exercise may help ease adult ADHD symptoms


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ADHD Expert

Dr Renata Schoeman has been in full-time private practice as a general psychiatrist (child, adolescent and adult psychiatry) since 2008, currently based in Oude Westhof (Bellville). Renata also holds appointments as senior lecturer in Leadership (USB) and as a virtual faculty member of USB Executive Development’s Neuroleadership programme. She serves on the advisory boards of various pharmaceutical companies, as a director of the Psychiatric Management Group (PsychMG) and is the co-convenor of the South African Society of Psychiatrist (SASOP) special interest group for adult ADHD, and co-founder of the Goldilocks and The Bear Foundation ( She is passionate about corporate mental health awareness and uses her neuroscience background to assist leaders in equipping them to become balanced, healthy and dynamic leaders that take their own and their team’s emotional, intellectual, social health and physical needs into account. Renata is academically active and enjoys research and collaborative work, has published in many peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at local and international congresses. She is regularly invited to present at conferences and to engage with the media. During her post-graduate studies, she trained at Harvard, Boston in neurocognition and neuroimaging. Her awards include, amongst others, the Young Minds in Psychiatry award from the American Psychiatric Association, the Discovery Foundation Fellowship award, a Thuthuka award from the NRF, and a MRC Fellowship. She also received the Top MBA student award and the Director’s award from USB for 2015. She was a finalist for the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Businesswoman of the Year Award for 2016, and received the Excellence in Media Work award from SASOP during 2016.

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