How to stay motivated when you have ADHD

Increase motivation and productivity with these tips designed for those with ADHD.

Shiva Prabhakaran

Shiva Prabhakaran

Marketing Expert at Routine
Published on


Motivation is a limited resource, and staying motivated is hard enough but doing that with ADHD is a different ball game altogether.

Motivation can affect many things in our lives, including how well we do at work, plan our day, maintain our relationships, hobbies, etc.

Multiple research papers suggest that those of us with ADHD have lower dopamine levels, inherently changing how we view motivation.

So in this post, we will look at common ways people with ADHD can stay motivated and get things done. Let's jump in.

Tips for staying motivated with ADHD

Set realistic & small goals

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and drop essential tasks when they are huge. The key is to break them down into smaller tasks that don't feel intimidating that you put them off.

For example, take a complex task like filing taxes and break it down into 5-6 smaller tasks that will not take more than 10 minutes.

Now give yourself a goal to finish one of those tasks every day, and in 6 days, you'll have your taxes ready.

Break things down and conquer them.

Operate a to-do list

If you don't write things down, many things you are not motivated to do will fall between the cracks.

So pick up a small notebook, or even better, use a simple to-do list app like Routine to take down a list of tasks you need to achieve.

With Routine, you can go further and block time for those tasks on your calendar, ensuring they get the attention they deserve.

Alternatively, you can also use this ADHD template.

Click here to sign up for Routine

Get social with your plans

When you have something you can do with others, it would be great to involve them.

Social factors will help you complete a task you might otherwise drop.

Having a friend or colleague check on you and help you navigate a task can drastically improve your completion rates and keep you motivated.

Create reward systems

As mentioned earlier, people with ADHD have lower dopamine levels than the rest of the population. So you need to ask yourself how to deal with ADHD boredom and build a reward system to best serve you.

Hence, it helps to have external reward systems to push you to do things.

Design your reward systems so that when your productivity increases on critical tasks, so does your reward.

Remember that it is easy to fall into the busy trap of doing useless things instead of being productive on meaningful tasks. So choose your tasks and your rewards carefully.

Mix it up with your routines

Doing the same thing daily can get boring, especially with ADHD.

Hence, mixing up your routine to add spice to your day sometimes makes sense.

You can also experiment with different tasks at different times of the day to see if you perform well at certain times or not so well at others.

Based on your experiment, you can establish a baseline productivity level and see how it improves or deteriorates.

Visualize the goal

We are often not motivated to do something because we don't take the time to realize the reward of finishing a task.

Visualizing the possible result is an excellent exercise to keep you motivated while doing essential tasks.

Start by first picking tasks that will give you the most ROI and think about all the things you stand to gain and the stress you'll likely lose by working on them and finishing them.

Find your biological prime time

Biological prime time is one of the most popular productivity methods in the market right now.

Coined by author Sam Carpenter in his book "Work the System," the idea behind the method is that there are specific periods of the day when you are more productive than others.

For example, maybe you go through your tasks seamlessly between 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM, then that period could be considered your biological prime time, a.k.a golden hours. So pick your most challenging and important tasks and pursue them during these hours.

Figure out your chronotype

Your sleep patterns could also determine when you are motivated and times when you are not.

Using a free chronotype quiz, you can determine your chronotype based on your sleep patterns.

The diagnosis based on your answers can give you possible timings for you to work and times to eat, exercise, and go to bed.

If you have a bear chronotype, your schedule will be like most of us, but if not, you might have to make some changes to get more done.

Use the 2-minute rule

Getting started is often the most challenging part of a job; you can overcome that with the simple yet effective 2-minute rule.

The basic idea is that if a task takes more than 2-minutes, you do it then and there.

This method/strategy will help you take small things out of your mind and increase your output that you would have otherwise wasted time overthinking.

Don't rely on willpower or inspiration

One of the most common pitfalls of trying to stay motivated as someone with ADHD is the reliance on willpower and inspiration.

Firstly, willpower is a limited resource, and it is impossible to carry on with the same level of willpower throughout the day.

Inspiration, on the other hand, operates on the law of diminishing marginal utility where the motivation you get from it keeps decreasing, so you have to seek bigger and bigger inspiration which is not feasible.

Take power naps & strolls

If you feel a quick nap will help boost your productivity, your schedule should all you to take it.

A healthy strategy to keep your motivation up should budget for downtime so you can take strategic breaks to refresh and return in a better state of mind.

This is especially useful when you are working on challenging tasks and need to cool off a bit.

Some people also prefer taking a short walk to refresh, so pick what works for you and when.

As mentioned earlier, take your biological primetime and chronotype when planning for strategic breaks.

Keep your workplace and room tidy

A messy desk can make you not want to work there; the same goes for your room.

When your bed is not set right, it might feel like an invitation to fall asleep. So making your bed as soon as you wake up and going back to it only for sleeping can help you clearly define boundaries at home.

This is especially useful if you are working/studying from home.

Also, try to get a whole night's sleep whenever possible, and don't ruin it with hopes of catching up on your sleep during the day.


So those are some of the ways you can improve your motivation levels even if you have ADHD.

While some might seem simple, implementation of these strategies might require a bit of trial and error.

The key is not to give up and seek strategies that work; this mindset will help you figure out a system/ schedule that will help keep you motivated for longer.

Thanks for reading.

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