As somebody who thrives (read: lives in sometimes reluctant symbiosis with) ADHD, I often find it difficult to complete my favorite hobbies. They’re time-consuming, and there’s little by way of instant gratification. I am a writer who is often paralyzed by my own ADHD when I sit down for a writing session, so I have to work with my ADHD to maximize my productivity. These are my tricks for staying motivated and productive, and working with my ADHD.
- Set small, achievable goals
One of the biggest challenges for writers with ADHD is the ability to stay focused on a single task for an extended period. Your ADHD will lead you to believe that you can write an entire novel in one sitting. That is a lie. Part of ADHD is the need for a finished product, the love of an end goal. But you can only get there by breaking a big task into smaller tasks to avoid frustration. This way, you can stay motivated by achieving regular progress and completing tasks. For example, set yourself the goal of writing 500 words a day. It’s achievable, measurable, and will help you stay on track.
- Use timed writing sessions
Another way to stay motivated and focused is to use timed writing sessions. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and during this time, write without any distractions. Once the timer goes off, take a five-minute break. This technique, known as the Pomodoro Technique, can help you concentrate on your writing and increase productivity. It’s also a useful way to manage your energy levels and reduce the likelihood of burnout. If you’re writing at home, or in another unshared space, I highly recommend not using your phone as a timer. There are too many temptations and distractions on your phone. I love this timer for my writing sessions. This timer also comes highly recommended by productivity experts.
- Create a routine
Creating a routine can be a helpful way to stay motivated and consistent with your writing. This could be as simple as setting a specific time of day to write or creating a ritual that signals to your brain that it’s time to write. For example, you could make yourself a cup of tea or coffee before starting, or light a candle. Creating a routine can also help you to switch into a writing mindset and feel more focused and productive. My writing sessions always start with chai and one of several writing playlists. My first novel was written entirely to the soundtrack to the musical The Last Five Years because that’s the routine that worked for me. Find your routine and stick with it.
- Use visual aids
For many writers with ADHD, it can be challenging to organize thoughts and ideas. Using visual aids, such as mind maps or flowcharts, can help you to see the structure of your writing and make connections between different ideas. These tools can also help you to break down your writing into more manageable pieces and reduce overwhelm. I have used everything from a plot chart to post-it notes on the wall to a notebook filled with doodles and ideas and writings. It depends on the day and the project as to what helps me the best.
- Take breaks
It’s essential to take regular breaks to avoid burnout and stay motivated. This could be as simple as getting up and walking around every hour, taking a ten-minute break after a writing session, or taking a day off when you need it. Taking breaks can help you to recharge your batteries and stay focused and motivated when you return to your writing. What you are doing is hard–you are creating something from nothing. Treat your brain and your body with kindness, and take the breaks you earn and deserve.
- Find an accountability partner
An accountability partner can be a great way to stay motivated and accountable for your writing. This could be a writing buddy, a coach, or a friend who is also a writer. You can set goals together and check in regularly to keep each other on track. Knowing that someone else is counting on you can be a powerful motivator. If you don’t know where to start, there are several groups on Discord and Facebook solely for this purpose. Get plugged in and find a community. A partner is a valuable asset, not only in staying on track but for bouncing ideas off of and fleshing out ideas. Set up in-person or virtual writing sessions and develop a practice known as body doubling. It is invaluable to the ADHD brain.
- Celebrate your successes
Finally, it’s important to celebrate your successes, no matter how small. One thing to note about ADHD is it hinders the brain’s internal reward system. Because of the way ADHD impacts dopamine production and absorption, you must plan ways to reward yourself and create your own rewards. When you achieve a writing goal or make progress on a project, take a moment to acknowledge your hard work and give yourself a pat on the back. Celebrating your successes can help you to stay motivated and feel more positive about your writing.
Staying motivated as a writer with ADHD can be challenging, but it is possible. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself, and don’t give up. With these tips and exercises, you can achieve your writing goals and become the writer you want to be.
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