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Microsoft

October is ADHD awareness month so we wanted to take a moment to reflect on how To Do can benefit those of us who are neurodivergent. MVP Loryan Strant, who was recently diagnosed with ADHD, talked to us about how he uses To Do to combat the productivity challenges that come with the diagnosis.

 

Hey Loryan, tell us about yourself.

My name is Loryan Strant. I have two beautiful daughters with my wife and live in Melbourne, Australia.
I’ve been in IT for nearly 25 years and have had a variety of different focus areas. For the last decade and a half, I've been focused on helping people work better with Office technologies, and the last 9 years have been exclusively focused on Office 365.
My day jobs have me working with many different organizations on how to deploy, manage, govern, adopt, and get the most out of Office 365.
I say “jobs” because there are three versions of me: the community and MVP guy, the independent consultant, and the Product Manager (part time) for a Microsoft partner in Australia.

 

We’d love to hear more about your ADHD diagnosis and how it affects your day to day life.

I was only officially diagnosed with having ADHD earlier this year, so it’s been a rapid change in how I see myself and what I do.
ADHD affects me in several ways: impulse control, inability to concentrate and getting distracted easily, insomnia, lack of inner monologue and thought processing, struggles to remember things, and challenges with management of time, tasks, and priorities.
A lot of these affect everyone, but with ADHD it’s concentrated and can result in anxiety, stress, and anger. It can affect our jobs as well as our personal lives.
On a day-to-day level what I experience is that I say yes to too many things, underestimate how long things take to do, get flustered when I need to do things as I haven’t thought them through, and can get grumpy when I’m working through them.

top tips.jpg

What are your top tips for staying productive with ADHD?

How ADHD affects people varies based on their personality and circumstances both past and present. Aspects of today’s modern life also tend to “flare” things up more than in the past with the influx of interruptions or notifications, so we need to constantly adjust based on what works and what doesn’t. Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Cut yourself some slack. This is an important one, and something I’m not very good at doing and never have been. At times I push myself hard and get disappointed when something doesn’t work the way I like, which can trigger an emotional crash and me becoming disheartened, and possibly giving up. It takes a lot more mental effort to recover from this and try again than just shrugging it off from the beginning.
  2. Go slow. Give yourself more time to review and reflect on work. One of ADHD’s superpowers is that we work fast – damn fast. This leads us to have different expectations of time and when things can be completed by us and others around us. This can lead to frustration with peers and stress on ourselves when we’re not meeting our self-imposed expectations, which leads into the previous point about the crash. So, to help be productive we need to pause, breathe, and give ourselves more time to do things. Taking a moment also helps us to finish things (a common trait is to only get to 90% and then do something else), and time to check over it to ensure a higher level of quality.
  3. Take a step back. Look at what you’ve got on, prioritize, and then slot things into place. We tend to run at what’s in front of us, and almost thrive on the urgent deadlines as opposed to a more manageable timeframe in advance – so we should swap this around.
  4. Set timers to keep you on track. If you say you just need 10 minutes to do something, ask Siri/Alexa/Google/Cortana to tell you when the time is up.
    Hyperfocus is not a bad thing but it too needs to be managed. One thing I’m finding works well is the “Pomodoro technique” – effectively I work for batches of time focusing deeply on just one thing with absolutely no distraction, then I come up for air and do whatever else I need (ie. messages, YouTube, whatever), and then go back into a task again.
  5. Consider your environment. The workplace can make it difficult to work with your ADHD challenges on top of everything else going on around you. I use work from home days to shut out the world and have more control over my environment and day when I need to focus on major deliverables and hit those deadlines.
    Also, wear headphones and play music that can help quell your active mind. I’ve tried background music with speakers – it’s not enough. I find listening to music without lyrics through headphones helps “trap” me inside my active thought, which ultimately helps me see it through to completion.

And how do you think To Do has helped you?

How To Do helps me is that it’s interconnected with other aspects of my work, like Outlook, Planner, and OneNote – so it’s not a task list in isolation.
I’ve used Outlook Tasks, Wunderlist, and other task management apps over the years. One of the issues with ADHD, however, is that we often start something and don’t stick to it. Initially, To Do was no different for me as it allowed me to track tasks but fell down on the challenges of focus and follow-through.
To begin with I used To Do as a dumping ground for ideas and tasks which would then never get acted on (a common trait for people with ADHD who use task management tools).
By applying a logical structure and adjusting my behavior, I can make any task management tool work. The specific ways that To Do helps me is in features like My Day, supporting multiple accounts (for the multiple versions of myself), the daily reminders, and the “pling” sound—holy moly that “pling” sound triggers the dopamine hit that I need.

 

How do you arrange your To Do lists? What features do you use most?

I separate my To Do lists into different accounts based on where they apply. Personally, this causes a little bit of bother for me because there are some things like personal tasks that I’d like to float between accounts – but I get that not everyone would need that.
I tend to have my client tasks grouped together and my MVP tasks grouped together, all in separate lists. So, for MVP stuff I would have separate task lists of blog posts, videos, presentations, other community things.
For clients, I use a task for pieces of work, then steps for all the sub-tasks and deadline dates. If it’s something major with multiple phases and smaller items, then I might break them out into their own task list.
I use the emoji feature to add some color to my task lists as it also helps to differentiate them visually.
I love the fact that I can move tasks between lists as it helps when I start something in one place and then realize it should be somewhere else.
Also, the fact that I can duplicate lists – this is great for creating “templates” for things that get repeated such as projects.

 

When is your Ignite talk? And what can we expect from it?

My session at Ignite is an unconference – so it’s a little bit presentation with mainly workshop and discussion sessions. I’ll be running it with two other ADHD and Microsoft folks – fellow MVP Christina Wheeler and Microsoft Teams community manager Laurie Pottmeyer. We all have different working scenarios and histories with ADHD to bring to the table.
The focus of the session is to get us to learn from each other (not just us, but the attendees) and how features in Office 365 can help. How do people use To Do in their daily lives, their Outlook calendar, their phones, OneNote, Windows 10, etc.
It will be on Wednesday from 4:00 to 5:45pm. Register here: https://myignite.techcommunity.microsoft.com/sessions/83553?source=sessions

 

Let us know if you have any other tips in the comments below or over on Twitter or Facebook. Heading to Ignite? Then be sure to check out Loryan’s unconference. We’ll see you there!