Hi everyone! I just planned my next 4 years and I don't feel overwhelmed

Hi! I am Arianne, I’m 28, working on getting a PhD and I was diagnosed with ADHD about 4 years ago. I have been struggling to keep a routine and to work from home every day since Covid (obviously), but somehow managed to keep up appearances towards my supervisors. I have been honest towards them, but since I work on my own project, there isn’t much accountability and I have some interns doing great work, so there is some progress, but I am still reading the same paper that I started two months ago <_<

I got my 2nd vaccination a few weeks ago and it left me pretty much bed ridden for a week (I couldn’t stay in bed, I was on the couch watching netflix, but I didn’t have energy to do anything). I felt like I was just existing and when my energy levels came back, I was fed up with not doing anything and I had to take back control over my life. That is how I found HowToADHD and started implementing many of the strategies. Today I made a DOPA menu and came to this forum for inspiration.

Although I was only diagnosed a few years ago, the indication of my ADHD has always been there. In high school I had the option to get an official diagnosis, but I decided not to because the strategies I created for myself worked for me (make things you don’t want to do more fun, you can’t forget your homework if it is already done, you can’t forget your books if they stay in school etc.). Back then, I reasoned, if I am struggling with my ADHD, I can just look for help online and use those strategies. Once that wouldn’t be sufficient for me, I should get diagnosed so I can get the medication. This is exactly what happened during my masters. I really wanted to study for my courses, I was interested in the topic, the deadline is tomorrow, there is so much new things to learn, but I just could not get myself to sit in my chair and work on it, even if I was in the library with a study buddy. I just didn’t have the concentration to stay on task. So that was when I decided to get diagnosed, because I felt like I needed the medication to be myself (I started on ritalin, but now I have concerta, so I don’t forget to take the second dose).

I have been struggling with actually taking my medication because I do not notice that they work.
Let me be clear, I know that they work like a charm. As part of my diagnosis, I had a QbTest (I believe that is what it is called). It is ADHD’s cryptonite. You sit in a room, along with a laptop and a motion sensor on your head that measures your micromovements. The task is to sit still and press a button when the screen shows the same figure twice in a row (either a blue square, blue circle, red square, red circle, seemingly at random). The motion tracker measures your hyperactivity levels. This type of motion sensor is so sensitive that it can measure you wanting to move and then stopping yourself. Every time you forget to click the button shows that you were distracted and every time you click the button while you shouldn’t have measures your impulsivity. Ofcourse, everyone makes mistakes and moves during this test. But you can compare the results against average results of neurotypical brains and ADHD brains, which is, understandably, very different. Fun thing of this task is that it is noticably and measurably simpler when I am on my ADHD meds and without (they tested twice to see if the meds worked). I love how clear that difference was and I wish it was cheap enough to recommend everyone to know how well their meds work.

That being said, I don’t notice that my meds work because I am myself regardless. Sure, i have good and I have bad days with my ADHD, but I don’t see the correlation with it with my meds. For fun, I marked for a week whether I took my meds or forgot them and whether I had a good day or a bad day. Perfect correlation. Ofcourse correlation doesn’t imply causation, but given my experience with the test, I cannot be that naive. So meds it is for me and now that I have concerta and I take it in the morning with my vitamins, I manage to be more consistent for the last 2 weeks.

I started last week with making a schedule (like almost everyone here, I expect). I realized that I wasn’t doing much because I was overwhelmed by the scale of work that I need to do for the next 4 years. So, I created a word document with the goals I want to achieve in 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024. Goals that would take a few months to achieve, mainly about writing a paper, because that is how my success is measured as a PhD student. Then I made a table for the remaining months on 2021 and think about how I would write a paper before the end of the year. I picked a conference to submit to, so I had a deadline and I planned goals I had to achieve to reach that deadline for each month. Then, I did a similar thing for each week until the first week of september (when my courses start and I need to re-pivot). Now that I know what I want to achieve each week, I set up a Trello board (computer science thing where you can move todo-items from one list to the next). I added all the papers I had to read to a list so I won’t forget about them, I already picked 3 that I want to read soon and added them to a list called backlog together with all the things that I’ve had on a todo list for the last months. From the schedule I made I know what I want to achieve this week and next week, so I moved items from the backlog to a list “todo this week” and “todo next week” according to that schedule. I also added a list called “blocked” for tasks that I cannot do right now because of outside factors (supervisor on vacation, printing service temporarily disabled). I created 2 more lists: “today” and “done”. At the start of the day, I pick some tasks from the “todo this week” list and put them in the “today” list. When the task is done, I drag it to “done”. The last part is super important, because it helps me see how much I did this week. Trello has automations, so I set it up to automatically archive all the items in “done” on Monday morning. I also used the automations to make a button “I don’t know what to do” that randomly moves an item from “todo this week” to “today”. I feel a lot more confident about the future right now. Hope this strategy of mine helps some of you here!


Trello certainly is in general just phenomenal at organizing things in a flexible way, where you can visually just SEE things laid out in a sensible pattern, and then continue to reorganize them later into some new meaningful pattern (say going from organized by category, to organized by target date) - all the while keeping your notes and history intact. I love it. Glad to hear it worked for you here. I like the setup you’re describing. I should play w automation more.


i love trello used it for my school work for about 4 ish months id say but then i noticed when i opened my laptop to either do school work or to write it down i got drowned by everything else aswell.

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For me, the secret was to make sure the board only held the amount of information I could visually see all on one screen. No scrolling.

If there was more info than that, I’d put it into my “brain dump file” and get back to it later (or never).


Exactly. As a programmer, I have used Trello and similar tools a lot in the past, but never for my own life. The trick is indeed to have everything currently relevant in view (for the remainder, I have a backlog list). If you need to scroll, you will forget about it. I do have many many more lists than can fit on my ultra wide monitor, but I make it a habit to occasionally swipe left and right to see what all the big topics were again.

I currently have multiple large projects going. I noticed that I was struggling with working on them because I didn’t have a good view on what had to be done, so I made a checklist on the card. But then I noticed that the checklist isn’t a card and a card that takes half a year to complete will never end up in my list of tasks for today <_<
So I decided to make the checklist into cards, linking them to the project card and make a new list for projects that I am working on. But then I realized that I got overwhelmed with all the cards in the backlog. So I need some hybrid where I only create cards once I will work on that thing soon.

I also added the add Trello card widget to my phone, so when I think “I need to do this” I can make a quick card that will end up in a separate list of things to be scheduled that I also check regularly for incoming stuff.

On that not, I did get over my automations budget of 50 in the first week, so I turned all the routine like automations into reminders on slack.

Enough about Trello, I switched my email software to BlueMail which has a simple “read later” scheduling function where you get a reminder to read an email in the future with simple buttons like “in the morning” “later today” “tomorrow” “next week” or simply out a date. It doesn’t sync between devices, but I am now not worrying about unread mail in my inbox anymore (the UI actually removes it from the inbox if you are going to read it later :heart_eyes:). It’s not perfect, but I do recommend it!