ADHD Action Strategy: Task Switching

People with ADHD have difficulty engaging in action and sustaining action to a point of completion. With awareness that ADHD directly affects their ability to be productive, they can learn strategies that work well with their special brains. I love sharing the strategies that they discover on their journey to manage their ADHD.

I recently received an email from a client with inattentive ADHD and autism who was very excited to have made good progress clearing clutter. This client has typical ADHD challenges with sustaining focus and completing tasks. In that email he shared the “Task Switching” strategy with me, a strategy that has helped him keep going despite his ADHD challenges. He gave me permission to share his description of the strategy.

“I’ve mostly discovered task switching when I’ve been unable to just step away from work entirely.  When I was on deadline for comics, twice each week, for 5 years, for the VCU student newspaper, I learned to switch from drawing with a pencil to inking the words, to inking the lines, to shading, to bordering, and back around, when possible.

On my research assistant job. . . , I would switch from researching one state to researching another, or researching on another project in progress, or (with kind permission and encouragement from my Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services job coach) about 5 minutes with a game.

At home, I can switch from walking around to sitting, from papers to dishes, from one room to another, or from clutter to a computer game.”

About a recent success he wrote. . . “I helped myself along by listening to a comedy podcast, then watching some extra features for “Doctor Who” Season 8 [of the 21st century reboot], and also playing a computer game, for a few minutes at a time, now and then.”

Task switching is a great way to keep moving even if your attention wanes for your current focus. It is a way to work with your ADHD brain that is wired to seek stimulation to function effectively. The switching creates the stimulation.

There are also risks to the task switching method. One risk is that the ADHD brain can get stuck (hyperfocusing) on tasks that are particularly stimulating, new, fun and/or exciting. Because awareness is also an ADHD challenge, you might get stuck hyperfocusing and not even be aware that you’re stuck and eating up time doing a particular activity.

Another risk of task switching is that you could lose awareness of the important task(s) you are trying to get done due to ADHD deficits in working memory (holding in memory one task while working on another).

The above challenges, however, could be addressed with a timer to break any hyperfocus and a written note with the important task(s) to be done located beside the timer. When the timer goes off, you are cued to pause, refocus and shift back to anHand check mark the list important task.

Do you already task switch to get things done with your ADHD brain? If so, let me know how it works for you. If not, give it a try. Working with your ADHD brain’s normal tendencies is easier on your brain, prevents discouragement when non-ADHD productivity strategies don’t work, and can lead to greater productivity and success.