8 Apps to Help You Conquer Your ADD

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The first 27 years of my life were controlled by my ADD, and not in that adorable puppy-dog-way like how Dug from Up always gets distracted by squirrels. My ADD kept me from accomplishing practically anything, sent me spiraling into dangerous depressions, and forced me to spend almost all my time looking for things I’d lost. Not anymore, though! I finally found ways to cope with and combat my Attention Deficit Disorder, and I’m conquering it nearly every day now. Here are 8 apps that help me. They might help you too!


1. Simply Noise and/or Simply Rain

One of the most frustrating things about ADD is how it screws around with the way your brain processes noise. Complete silence can be worse than the sound of an entire brass band in your bedroom. Foreground noise and background noise flip-flop around inside your noggin. You can’t listen to everything so you can’t listen to anything. I’m mentally and physically incapable of writing a text message if someone is even talking near me. White noise is the answer to all your ADD noise-related issues! It blocks out every distracting thing and allows your brain to relax so it can focus.

Simply Noise offers white noise, pink noise, and brown noise. You can oscillate it or keep it still. And you can set it on a timer, in case you doze off while listening to it. Simply Rain is my favorite nature sounds app. You can choose the how hard you want it to rain and add in thunder at three different intensities, if you want it.

2. 30/30

A timer is an absolute must-have for people with ADD. You can break up long tasks into shorter work periods. You can convince yourself to do practically anything for half an hour. If you know a timer is counting down, you’re also much less likely to go clicking around to the other 30 tabs open in your browser. I often just use the timer on iPhone’s built-in clock, but recently I’ve fallen in love with 30/30, an app that lets you make a list of things you need to get done and assign a time to each one. 15 minutes for email, 30 minutes to catch up on Slack, ten minutes for coffee, 15 minutes for a shower, 15 more minutes for email. Then you group the tasks together and the timer guides you through your next few hours. You can even share your lists with other people for extra accountability.

3. Clear

Many folks with ADD are visually oriented, so color coded to-do lists are extra helpful. Clear is a simple, quick task management app that offers a variety of synch options across different devices, and color codes for you. I’ve tried about a zillion task management apps and this is the least cluttered top tier one I’ve ever used. You can set deadlines or reminders for tasks, but you don’t have to if alerts stress you out.

4. Habitica

Formerly HabitRPG, this is my all-time favorite task management app, for all the reasons Ali recently wrote about. Also, though, if you were a kid who grew up with ADD, you know the consuming sense of defeat you and deflation you feel when you think about Getting Shit Done. It was so impossible for so long and your teachers and your parents probably punished you for it. So, as an adult, rewarding yourself for seeing things through is a big deal. It’s such a morale booster! Habitca provides those rewards in the form of dragon eggs and coins to buy armor and swords and potions to hatch your own golden wolves! The app synchs to the web-based platform and you can play with your friends (without them seeing that you need a daily reminder to shower). It’s really fun.

6. Due

I have to write down every single thing I agree to do and every single thing I think of during the day that I need to pick up at the grocery store and every birthday and every anniversary (oh, hey! Happy anniversary, Stacy!), or else those thoughts will float out of my ears and up into the sky and out into the solar system and I will never even remember that they happened. Due is a fast way to write down everything you’ve agreed to participate in, and also it will remind and remind you to do it until you promise the app you’ve taken care of it.

7. MindNode

Another great visually stimulating app that helps super creative ADD-ers map their brainstorms. You start with a central idea, add thoughts as they come to you at any time, and then connect them together and grow them into an accomplishable project. You can use different fonts and colors to keep track of themes inside each individual project, and even export your mind map to a PDF to print and hang on your wall or hold in your hand.

8. Priority Matrix

You can train yourself to stay on task, but it’s a lot harder to prioritize the tasks you should stay on. Priority Matrix helps you divide your tasks into four quadrants — Critical, Critical but not urgent, Urgent but can be delegated, Uncategorized — so that you can tackle them in an order that makes sense. It’s easy to organize and also allows you to feel out your day at a glance. Again, you can color code with this app. You can also assign icons to tasks to help your visualization and share your projects with other people who use the app.

Okay, now you tell me: Which apps do you use to crush your ADD?


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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, the Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter, and Instagram.

Heather has written 1245 articles for us.

27 Comments

  1. Habitica sounds really intriguing, though I’m concerned that, given how I am with conventional checklists, I might get fixated on the dopamine squirt that comes with accomplishing my task and start rushing through them, thus making me *less* mindful in the process.

    Due and Priority Matrix could be really helpful- are they available for Android?

  2. My favorite is Forest, an app that lets you plant a tree, and if you leave the app before your timer is up, your tree dies. It’s been a super motivating way to keep my off my phone while I’m trying to accomplish stuff, it’s super aesthetically pleasing as well and I love the visual of a little forest of trees that I’ve grown through the day by staying focused. You can designate a category (work, study, etc) on each tree you grow, and add a note. You also earn coins for growing trees, which you save up to unlock new types of tree (lemon, tree house, has a bird in it, etc). Forest is available for iPhone and Android, and there’s also a chrome extension version that involves a blacklist of sites that will kill your tree if you visit them. I love it.

  3. I found stuff like HabitRPG untenable because I’d forget to update them. I’ve been using an app called Habit Streak (on Android) that just asks the next morning what you did the last day. I really like it!

  4. I have gone to a paper system called the Bullet Journal that has been really helpful with organization. I still feel that “consuming sense of defeat you and deflation you feel when you think about Getting Shit Done” (a perfect description, btw, of so much of my life)but I feel much more in control because everything is in one place. It’s also a really flexible system, which is good for me. I use a 5×8 moleskin grid notebook and the ideas on the Bullet Journal website. I love it.

    • yes yes yes! I’ve started bullet journaling in the last two months, and have found it tremendously helpful. I combined it with a travel notebook set up (separate moleskins inside a leather cover) and finally feel like I’ve got a handle on my Big Pile Of Brain Stuff.

  5. I got to Habitica/HabitRPG through the recent article.
    I was registered before but I found the site so overstuffed and confusing that I didn’t have the will to set it all up. But when I read the article here I sat down and took the time to do it.
    There’s a really good wiki to learn how to use everything but for me it was quite an effort until I was happy with my tasks, lists, etc. I had a last day of a trip and many hours of airport waiting to spare for it.
    But it’s good! It is really good! Totally worth the effort!
    I have been using it for 2 1/2 months now. I never had a To Do-Manager that lasted so long. Usually it’s only setting things up, planing all the stuff, but as soon as have to work on the third or fourth item, I have already lost all motivation.
    Habitica is no instant cure for everything, it is still hard to do things, and a lot if times I’m not managing everything that planned to do. But it kept me motivated to try again, every day, since the day I started using it!
    Customisation is very important for me. I found out how to add little images to tasks, how to use those as pseudo tasks to divide and arrange my lists. Custom rewards and Challenges are also great and Quests are a big kick in the butt because you’re responsible for the health of your whole party.
    So to everyone who wants to try it, give yourself a couple of days to make it fully yours.
    And I’m going to check out the AS guild. :)

  6. As someone with diagnosed ADHD since 4th Grade, I super appreciate this post. I was embarrassed and ashamed of it for years and years. There were lots of parts about it that I struggled with as the years went on. I got a little scared when I read the title and thought it might be offensive, but this was super helpful. I just love autostraddle.

  7. I love 30/30! I use it when I have a lot of competing deadlines to stay on track, not everyday, but it really helps when I want to have a mindful work session. It reminds me of the pomodoro method, but more specific, and I like that I can easily pause or add or rearrange time to a task if my day doesn’t turn out like I thought it would.

    Will have to check these others out. I love productivity apps and hacks.

  8. I downloaded a couple of these after reading this article yesterday, and so far Habitica is my favorite! I’ve been trying to find a method that works for me to stay on top of the minutia that tend to get forgotten in my day-to-day, and it’s a super supportive community with lots of incentives to keep up. It can be simple or complex, however you like it. Also, the website is the main interactive tool even though the app is really helpful and handy too. I’ll be trying out a couple more today, but just wanted to say thanks for the recommendations!!

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