ADHD and Me: Why Productivity Tools are Not Enough

November, 2022

There are so many productivity tools out there. A computer can do so many things these days, it almost renders a human brain unnecessary. They can help with some parts of the ADHD brain that struggle, yes – working memory, planning, sequencing tasks, even motivation … - so why don't they work very well?

Well, let's take the case of the Apple Reminders app, on your iphone. It's a great app, to help with working memory. So you set it up to remind you to take your meds. You even make it recurring and set a good time, like 8am. But the Apple reminder does not go off. Because your phone is dead and you don't know where your charger is. And when you finally find it, you're rushing out of the house to get where you need to go and when you see your reminder your meds are at home but you are not. They're next to the kettle, so you always see them. Later on, you might take those meds, but now you're taking them at the wrong time of day and they're not quite so effective. Or, even better, the Apple reminder does go off and the phone is charged and you get the reminder to take your meds, but can't remember whether you just did, a couple of minutes ago. You think you did, but you're not sure. Better not take them now, in case you double dose. Did you take your meds or miss them? You'll never know. You tried that pill box thing once with the days of the week on, but you never got around to refilling it, so you stopped trying.

Okay, so you set a reminder on your iPhone to charge your phone every night before bed, to solve the first problem mentioned. But the Apple reminder does not go off. Not because you didn't set it, but because you left your phone in the car, somewhere near the gear stick, and you didn't even realise you left it behind. Then you fall asleep on the sofa because you're so tired from the mental exertion of the day and when you wake up your phone is still in the car and still not charged and guess what.... that Apple reminder did not really help you at all.

Or let's take the 5-minute timer, this time on your Apple watch (which is a great tool for ADHDers). It's a great tool for helping with motivation and keeping you on task. You can set it for any task, like decluttering or emptying the dishwasher. But the timer goes off and you don't remember what it was for. And this can be as true for the one-minute timer, as it is for the five. It depends on the day. Because ADHD comes with good days and bad days, and some of them are very bad days.

What about Google Calendar? It's another great app. I actually love it. It can be on your laptop, your phone, can sync with your iCal on your watch... You can share it with a loved one. You can email yourself schedules and e-mail invites to others for days and dates. You can add the location of an event and get directions for it. This can all help. It's revolutionary. But for this to work it requires that you check your e-mail. It requires that you remember your password for your e-mail, or that you know where your phone is to get through the two-step verification process which is now Gmail. And when you do open your email, it requires you don't click the one entitled Boden: Winter Sale. Get your 20% Discount Now.

Enter: the Post-It system. This is a good one, and better than most. An urgent task can be noted on a post-it and put in full view, like above the kettle. It's neon and visible, so vital to the ADHDer. The post-it system works but, alas, it needs maintaining. The Post-it system doesn't work without Post-its. Post-its have to be bought, and then re-bought. This requires working memory. And a system. For it to work means that you don't wait until you've used the last Post-it to start thinking about when to order the next ones. It also requires a pen. This you have, and you've set it up in a glass jar near the kettle, but the pen does not stay there. And if it does, the ink does not last forever and this, too, at some point needs replacing. You need a system to support the system. How do other people do this? you wonder. Nay, you marvel. You decide to go back to the rapid logging system of the Bullet Journal, which you love. But you don't know where your bullet journal is, because you followed the advice of a YouTuber who told you to take it with you wherever you go. And you can't remember where you went.

Are you starting to see the pattern...?

Confusion reins. Mental fog wins the day. You reach for a coffee. And a Mars Bar. And try even harder to just focus. This shouldn't be so hard, you tell yourself. Maybe you just need a different app.

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