Tips and Tricks for Managing My ADHD Life Without Medication

I think it is quite hilarious that I'm writing this when specifically my ADHD made me stop and start and procrastinate and I didn't get it written until now... And I also got up a few times while writing this.... But that aside....

I've known I had ADHD since I was a kid. Everyone in my family has ADHD, so it was always a part of me and my life. My siblings were on medication for their ADHD but I functioned well enough in school without it that my parents never attempted to put me on medication. 

When I was an adult, I went to a psychiatrist for the first time when my anxiety and depression got to such a point that I was no longer functional, and I realized that therapy wasn't enough and I needed medication in order to function. While at the psychiatrist the doctor said to me that it was very clear to him that I had ADHD (ya think?) but that if any psychiatrist would put me on ADHD medication it would be malpractice. The reason he said so is that however bad my ADHD is, my anxiety is so much worse, through the roof, and ADHD medication makes anxiety worse. Not only was I told absolutely no way, no how to ADHD medication, but I was also told that I need to avoid stimulants like caffeine, because that also worsens ADHD.

Tips and Tricks for Managing My ADHD Life Without Medication

Since I don't use medication I've needed to learn to function with my ADHD and I wanted to share a few tips and tricks I've picked up along the way. Of course ADHD affects people differently, and what works for one person might be hell for another, but I'm sharing this with the hopes that maybe some people might find these tricks useful. Or at the very least, they might understand someone with ADHD a little more.


Forgetfulness is a big issue with people that have ADHD. I always forget things. Like always, always, always. My memory is a sieve. But since I need to be a responsible adult, I've found some things help me a lot. And the main method is this: 

Keep It Digital

I use technology a lot to help me not forget things. I wouldn't function half as well without technology. I'm so glad that I can put things on the cloud and not worry about losing them! 

Calendars- Remembering what I need to do and when and where is one of my really big struggles. Having a calendar in front of me never really helped me because I'd never remember to actually look at my calendar. Too many times I've woken up in the morning and completely forgotten that I had something scheduled that day, and missed important appointments, etc. So to compensate for this, I started using Google Calendar, which syncs both my phone and my computer with everything else. I don't have to worry about losing a calendar, but that is just the first part of it. 

I make sure that everything that I put in my calendar gives me reminders about the upcoming event. I set everything on my calendar to give me notifications on my phone and on my email about upcoming events. In most cases, I have it remind me a day in advance, and then a few hours in advance, and then about ten minutes beforehand, but if it is a morning thing, I have it also remind me the evening beforehand. If it is an appointment or occasion that I booked a month or more in advance, I also have it give me reminders 2 weeks beforehand and a week beforehand, so I'm not caught by surprise the day before.

I don't just use this for appointments, but if there is something I need to remember to do, like make a specific phone call at a certain time, I also put it in my calendar with a notification when I need to do it. I started including these too because I found I'd forget to make those calls until it was past business hours.

Alexa- My Amazon Alexa has been so extremely useful for me in terms of functioning with ADHD and not forgetting things. Certain things don't make it into my calendar since they are daily things, but I still often forget them. So I set daily reminders on my Alexa for those things I am likely to forget. Mainly these are to remind me to give my daughter her Ritalin in the morning and for me to take my medication at night, but if I have something I need to do in the middle of the day, I often will ask Alexa to remind me to do things at specific times and that way I don't forget. 

Google Is My Friend- No, but seriously, I love Google. But specifically their cloud storage. I always, always lose things, especially papers and important documents. When I need to keep something, I take a photo of it and save it in my Google Photos, and/or I put it in my Google Drive, so that way when I need it, I have one place to check. When I replaced my phone screen protector with my warranty, I didn't have my receipt anymore, because I can never keep track of those stuff, but I did have a photograph of it on Google photos (and searching for receipt brought it up), but it works even better to have it in a specific folder on Google Drive. I also use Google Keep to make checklists of things I need to get done and keep it pinned on my computer so I always have it easily available and I can see what I still need to get done.

Finding My Phone- I'm sure I'm not the only person with ADHD who regularly forgets where I placed my phone and frantically try to find it, often with no success... because with my ADHD my phone can literally be anywhere. When my son showed me that you can have Google find your Android device by showing you its last known location, as well as ring loudly for 5 minutes straight even if it's turned to silent. I can't tell you how many times I use this in a week (I use my computer to type in Find My Phone). Best ADHD hack ever!

Cooking- I always forget to turn things off or check on things when baking or cooking. Stopwatches and timers are a life saver for me. I either use the stopwatch on my smartwatch, on my phone, or set Alexa to remind me to check on the food in a certain amount of time. If something isn't like rice that needs precisely 20 minutes, I just keep resetting it for another 3 or 5 minutes, depending, so I don't get distracted enough to forget.

Focusing Issues

Another aspect of ADHD and one of those things that can cause the most challenges in people with ADHD is the difficulty with focusing. This is an area where it is very possible that what works for me will actually do the opposite for someone else with ADHD, but still wanted to share so that if your brain works like me, it can help.

One Distraction to Rule Them All

Ok, this is probably a weird thing to title this but that really is what works for me. I legitimately have a hard time focusing on one specific thing. When I am trying to focus on one thing, my brain jumps around from place to place and doesn't know how to sit still and it can be extremely frustrating. 

When I'm trying to concentrate on writing this, for example, my brain will be trying to do another million things at once. So what I do is I give myself one specific distraction, a distraction that will distract my brain enough to be able to use the rest of my brain for focusing on what I need to do, namely writing this post. For this reason I nearly always put on "concentration music" or "study music" while working. This occupies my brain slightly, but enough that my brain isn't looking for something else to do, and I can then focus on writing. I can't just have any music playing- it needs to be something without words, because the second there are words my brain will focus on the words and what it is saying instead of on what I am trying to write. I also can't have it be instrumental versions of songs that I know, because then I will get distracted by trying to sing to the tune. It can't even be a repeat of specific songs, because then my brain will focus on "what am I about to hear?" instead of on "what shall I write next?" I usually just search Youtube for "concentration music" and have that going (but minimized!) while I work, or sometimes I have my Alexa play similar music for me. I've never heard of this specificly being a thing for combatting ADHD but it is seriously one of the most effective tools in my arsenal.

Though this isn't necessarily about distraction, since it is about work I thought I'd add it here. ADHD can make motivation to do something difficult, and I find pomodoro timers to be useful. If I tell myself that for 15 or 20 minutes I will be working and then I can do something else for 5 minutes, it often is enough for me to push any distracting thoughts away and say that I'll do it in 15 minutes. Same if I am having a hard time starting to work- knowing that in 15 minutes I can take a break helps me get into the work, because it doesn't feel as daunting of a task.

When I'm having a conversation with someone, I find my mind wanders often. The same happens when I try to watch a movie. Just sitting there and talking or listening is quite hard for me and my mind starts wandering. A trick I've found with this is that by slightly distracting my brain I can focus better on these conversations. To do this I play nearly mindless games on my phone, things like candy crush or similar, that I only need to use a small amount of my brain power on, so then the rest of my brain is free to focus on the conversation or movie.

I find my ADHD also makes it harder for me to fall asleep at night, because every little thing distracts me from being able to fall asleep. I hear a little sound, see a little light, feel something- basically it all distracts me. So I also listen to music or white noise to fall asleep. The same music that I use for working is fine, but I sometimes listen to relaxing flute music, but lately I've enjoyed white noise like rain or beach sounds or babbling brooks (my Alexa has these options). I make sure to put them on a timer so they turn off after an hour or so, because otherwise I won't hear my alarm in the morning. Again, absolutely nothing that has words, and nothing that is instrumental versions of songs I know, because the singing along in my head would keep me up, not allow me to fall asleep.


Ok, this is a short one, but I need to include it. By nature I'm always running late. I would never get anywhere on time if I just did things "according to my brain". But once I started therapy and needed to pay for the full time (and it's a large amount) even if I arrived late, I started making sure that I didn't arrive late. To do this, I plan to arrive at any meeting or appointment half an hour earlier than it starts. When I'm taking a bus, I put my "desired arrival time" as 30 minutes before I need to get there, and then take the bus before the one that would get me there 30 minutes early. Yes, that means "wasted time" before my meetings or appointments, but its definitely happened multiple times that I forgot something last minute and something happened and I ended up being delayed, but since I started planning to arrive earlier, even with my running late I usually end up on time. This also helps when buses are a no show or when there is traffic, but that has less to do with ADHD, though still useful.

Benefits of ADHD

I talked a lot about the struggles I have with ADHD and what I do to compensate, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the benefits I believe that I have because of ADHD. Again, I know this isn't everyone, but for me, these are things I find are a result of my ADHD.

I multitask amazingly well. People ask me how I can cook multi dish meals and not have it take forever, and I credit that to my ADHD. I can't focus easily on one thing because my brain wants me to focus on so many things at once, so I take advantage of that and focus on the many dishes I'm cooking at once, and manage to get it all done. My problem isn't multitasking, its single-tasking. :-D

I teach foraging classes and I have gotten a lot of really good feedback from them. Part of the feedback I get is that I'm really animated when teaching, and I think that is due to my ADHD. I can't tell you exactly why that is, but I think its the "hyperactive" part of my ADHD. When I was younger I was actually quite hyperactive, but now its mostly "inattentive" ADHD type, but the hyperactivity still comes across in my way of speaking and teaching. I also find I go from one tangent to another, which makes my classes more interesting and fun and less lecture like.

Lastly, I think my creativity goes hand in hand with my ADHD. I was trying to figure out why there is that connection, then I remembered that there actually was research on it. It is an official thing. So yes, my ADHD definitely is part of a reason for my creativity.

Do I wish I didn't have ADHD? Nope. Its such an integral part of myself and I like the self that I am. I don't think I would have been able to have this blog and come up with things to write for the past 12 years if I didn't have ADHD, nor would I be able to do a lot of the things in life that I enjoy. Do I wish I could use ADHD medication to help me focus? Sure, it would make my life easier in some ways, but I do feel that with my tools and techniques that I've figured out over the years, I've more or less got a handle on my ADHD. (Other than my being incredibly messy. I'd love a "cure" for that. Ha. I'm still hopeless there.)

Do you deal with ADHD? Do you view it as just a struggle or also a blessing? What would you say are your biggest struggles with ADHD? Have you figured out any techniques that work for you? Do you use any of the techniques I do? Do you take ADHD medication?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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