One of my favorite tools to stay organized and productive with ADHD.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble staying organized, managing my time, and prioritizing tasks. Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I beat myself up for it A LOT. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Everything, even easy tasks like unloading the dishwasher or moving my laundry to the dryer, felt like too much. I’d wake up early in the morning with all these grand plans and intentions for the day and then all of a sudden it was 5 p.m. and I’d barely even managed to shower and eat lunch.
Jeff would ask me to do a simple task, I’d agree, and then immediately forget. I’d have more than enough time to get things done before I needed to leave for an appointment, but I’d get distracted and end up rushing around to get out the door on time. I’d tell myself over and over, “make sure you remember to bring this VERY IMPORTANT THING with you when you leave,” and would realize halfway there that I forgot it and had to turn back or show up without it. I felt like a failure.
I’d be lying if I said I was diagnosed with ADHD and suddenly all of these problems disappeared. They didn’t. Of course they didn’t because getting diagnosed explained WHY my brain had trouble with all of these things, but since I was only diagnosed in March, I’m still very much in the ‘HOW do I deal with my life moving forward’ phase. Now that I have a diagnosis, I can research tools that will work with my brain instead of against it and help me lead more productive and happy days.
"Normal" Productivity Tools Don't Work for ADHD
Over the years and before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I’d tried multiple ways to get organized and stay on top of my life. I bought monthly planners, notebooks, and calendars but I had trouble keeping up with them. I’d forget to bring my planner with me or I’d lose my paper to-do list. Entering my appointments in my calendar app on my phone helped sometimes but setting up recurring appointments took too many steps and if I had to look in more than one place for my calendar and notes, I’d get flustered, overwhelmed, and give up. I routinely forgot things I was supposed to do because I’d forget to look at all the places I’d written things down. After I was diagnosed, I knew I needed to approach things differently if I wanted to stay on top of my day.
Back in May, after two-ish months on my new antidepressant, I suddenly had a ton of energy and motivation to get things done. Without OCD and depression taking up every last bit of my energy, I found myself wanting to wash dishes and do laundry regularly. At first, I was scared that I had too much energy and that I was going to crash. I even asked my therapist if it was possible that I was manic because I went from not wanting to do anything to doing ALL THE THINGS and I was scared it wouldn’t last.
I started waking up really early without an alarm and doing things right away like reading, unloading the dishwasher, and other tasks I consistently put off before. It felt great and also overwhelming. I started to write down the things I accomplished so I wouldn’t forget. After about a week, I had a ton of lists all over our dining room table and I knew I needed to find a better solution. Enter Todoist - my favorite to-do list app for my ADHD brain.
Todoist: My Favorite To-Do List App For My ADHD Brain
I tried out a few to-do list apps before Jeff mentioned Todoist. He’d used it for work in the past and said it really helped him stay organized. I was skeptical at first because after being with Jeff for almost 15 years, I didn’t need to know I had ADHD to know that our brains work very differently when it comes to getting stuff done. I decided to try Todoist anyway though and I’m so happy I did.
I signed up for the free version and almost immediately deleted every other to-do list app on my phone. The NUMBER ONE thing that sold me on Todoist was that I could type: “Walk Hudson every day at 8 a.m.” and it automatically set up recurring tasks for me. AMAZING.
I could also connect Siri to it and say, “Hey Siri, add my therapy appointment to Todoist,” which was HUGE because a lot of times when I open my phone to do one simple thing like add something to my to-do list, I get distracted by a million other things and forget what I opened my phone to do in the first place. Being able to quickly and easily add tasks and reminders to Todoist has been literally life-changing for me.
The way my brain works is that when I think of something that I need to do, no matter how important or unimportant it is, I need to stop what I’m doing and start it or else I’ll forget. With Todoist, I can think of something I need to do (like respond to an email or call my mom), enter it into my list, and be sure I’ll remember to do it.
Gamifying My To-Do List
When I say I put everything on my Todoist list, I mean EVERYTHING:
- Make coffee
- Take a shower
- Eat food (because I can get so hyper-focused that I’ll forget to eat)
- Go to a therapy appointment
- Take meds
- Reply to a text message
- Check IG
I have to include even the simplest tasks or else I’ll forget. If Jeff asks me to put a letter in the mailbox on my way out, I put it on my list because if I don’t it will completely slip my mind.
The feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment (AKA the dopamine rush) I get when I check an item off my to-do list is so great that sometimes I write in things that I’ve already done just so I can check them off.
That's why it’s pretty awesome that Todoist has these things called Karma points that reward you when you finish a set number of tasks. The more karma points you earn, the faster you move up to different Karma levels from ‘Beginner’ to ‘Enlightened’. Now, these points don’t really mean anything and you can turn this feature off if you want, but if you’re competitive like I am, they are a great incentive to get things done. I’m currently at the ‘Expert’ level and it’s just another fun way to track productivity.
Upgrading to Premium
After a month or so of using Todoist, I decided to upgrade to the premium version. I gave myself a solid month of using it to make sure it was something I was actually going to stick with and reviewed the premium features closely to make sure they were things I’d actually use before paying the $36 yearly fee.
There are a few reasons I upgraded that are specific to my ADHD traits and I want to outline them here.
- Having all my tasks in one place is GREAT but I have to remember to look at my app and that’s where reminders come in. With Todoist premium, I am able to set push notifications for all of my appointments and tasks that can be sent to my phone or email.
- Something I really struggle with is prioritizing and organizing tasks. With premium, I am able to add notes, labels, and filters to my tasks and appointments so I can look at them in the order they need to be completed. I apply labels to my tasks like Home, Work, and Self-Care, and can rank them in order of importance for my day. I’m also able to add different color flags to indicate which task is most important and that moves the tasks up in my list (this feature is included in the free version as well).
- With premium, I can sync my to-do list with my Apple calendar so if I need to see my tasks in a monthly view, I can. This has been really helpful for appointments and planning blog content.
- Todoist Premium integrates with several other applications like Google Drive and Dropbox so I can upload files and photos to my lists.
- Premium includes automatic back-ups, which is great for me because if I have to remember and take the time to manually save or back something up, it pretty much guarantees that it won’t be done.
These are just some of the premium features I have found extremely helpful. There are others that are just added perks in my opinion, like being able to change the appearance and theme of your lists, the ability to have 300 active projects which can be anything from grocery lists to housework to blog ideas. You can add tasks by email and create project templates to use over and over again. Plus you can assign up to 25 people to a project if you need to work with a team on something. There is also Todoist Business if you need something like this for your company.
*After using Todoist for a few months and recommending it to pretty much everyone I know, I filled out an application to become a Todoist Ambassador. What this means is that if you use my affiliate link, I receive a commission if you purchase a premium plan. It also means that I received an additional year of Todist Premium for free (I paid for my first year out of pocket). I wanted to work with Todoist because it has really helped me and knew it could be helpful for people whose brains work like mine. I wanted to help spread the word and share this amazing tool I’ve found.
I’d love for you to try Todoist and let me know what you think!
As always, thank you for reading!