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Sam Barton

Sam Barton

6 Tech Tools to Combat ADHD

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Staying on track when using the internet for work can be a real challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools out there to help us fight for control over our attention.

In today’s world, many of us have to do our work on computers and use the internet. I don’t need to tell you this, but the internet is awesome. Sometimes, a little too awesome. The internet can be a portal that we disappear into and lose hours of time.

This is true for everyone, but it’s a bigger problem for those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Due to some differences in how we’re wired, people with ADHD have problems staying on task, remembering what to do and when to do it, and reigning in their impulses (among other things).

This means that using the internet in productive ways can be really tough for people with ADHD. With some of the greatest and most stimulating entertainment being a few clicks away and billion-dollar corporations doing everything they can for us to stay glued to their sites, it can seem like we’re fighting a losing battle for our attention.

Fortunately, the internet is filled with tools that can help us. What you’ll find below are a list of the ones I’ve found to be tremendously helpful in keeping myself on task and less distracted as I use the internet for work. You don’t need to have ADHD to benefit from this list, but for those of you that do, the interventions below may be a huge help.

Tab Limiter

You’re sitting on your computer doing work, and surprisingly, it’s going pretty well. You need to change to a different tab to reference some critical information for whatever your working on.

But you have dozens opened. While trying to find the right tab, you accidentally open up your Facebook feed annnnnd you’re done.

You’ve been sucked in.

10 minutes goes by before you realise that the productivity train you were on got completely derailed, and you can’t even remember where it was heading.

To help combat that problem, try using a browser extension like xTab. It allows you to set up a limit on the amount of tabs you have open. Give it a go and see if it helps! Your computer will probably thank you as well.

Calendar

Calendars are one of the most important items on this list. People with ADHD have troubles with remembering to do things, being on time, and living without structure in their lives. A calendar is the solution.

Every appointment, meeting, coffee-catch up, task — whatever — should go in the calendar. Set up each item to have a notification that comes early enough to get you to where you need to be on time.

For big projects, set up several of reminders or notifications.

Picture of notifications in a calendar.
Set multiple notifications up for bigger deadlines.

I set multiple notifications up for bigger deadlines.

It can be a hard habit to start, but you’ll thank your lucky stars once it has becomes routine and you get a reminder for an important appointment you completely forgot about.

HabitLab

Habitlab blocking the facebook app
An example of a HabitLab intervention

HabitLab, a product of the Stanford Human-Computer Interaction group, is a browser extension that helps you combat your bad browsing habits. It has a dozens of interventions to try and stop you from using the websites and apps that you’d like to spend less time on. From hiding feeds, removing clickbait, blocking videos, and terminating the time-sucking site you’re on after a predefined amount of time, HabitLab is a surefire way of keeping you in check.

Digital Planner and Task Trackers

“I’ll remember to do that.”

Yeah, right.

21-century life has burdened us with more to do than we can remember. Relying on our brains to record and remind us of everything life demands of us can be too much for them.

To deal with the complexity of our lives we can turn to to do list and planning apps to help us. There’s plenty of options out there, and some will work better for your circumstances than others.

One’s I’ve tried specifically include: Todoist, Notion, Wunderlist, Dynalist. The list of to do lists and planners is enormous. Many of these apps integrate with major calendar services, so you can see what you need to get done and when.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found one that works. I even made and printed my own daily planner to try and keep on task, but it wasn’t enough.

So I’m currently building an app called Lifewrite with my friend Kevin. Some of the features will include: weekly planning and reflection, data tracking, private journal, and, of course, task tracking. One feature that we’re adding that’s specifically targeted at people with ADHD is that it pops up every time you open up a new tab, as . That means that your most important tasks of the day are starting at you right in the face every time you hit ctrl + t . If you’re interested, sign up to be notified of when it launches.

Image of the lifewrite userinterface
A vision of what we're working towards with Lifewrite

Website blocker

The billions of us connected to the internet have access to an entire world of possibility at our fingertips. We’re a few keystrokes away from literally the greatest examples of humanity’s creative output.

For those impulsive people with ADHD, the wondrous stimulation that’s a ctrl + t away is an allure that can be too hard to not succumb to.

blocksite blocking a site with a disapproving look from grandma
Grandma says no. Not today, Sunny Jim.

Tab blocking browser extensions like BlockSite can help you stay on track. By pre-selecting websites you wish to avoid going to, BlockSite will throw up a disapproving picture like the photo of Grandma above to help keep you on task. BlockSite even allows you to block website with specific words in the URL. I think it’s a must-have in a distraction-busters toolkit.

Full-screen mode

Writing with full screen mode on.
Writing with full screen mode on.

The picture above is what I’ve got on my screen as I’m writing this blog post. I’ve engaged full screen mode in my browser, which means I can only see whatever is on the current web page. That means no tabs, no apps in my toolbar with circles of fire telling me that there’s something I need to see, nothing but the page I’m working on. This is a great way to help you remove distractions and zone in when you only need to use one page.

Wrap up

These are just some of the awesome interventions that are available on the web. Give them a go and see what works best for you. If you know of tools to help keep people focused and on task, please share them in the comments below!

Sign up here for early access.

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