Rethinking ADHD Productivity Systems with ClickUp & Airtable
If you have met me or known me at all, you’ll know that I am the mother of two ADHD super-powered kids, and have recently been diagnosed as neuro-spicy myself. Little did I know that for the last 30 years, I have been figuring out how to operate in life with a brain that likes to go 50 directions at once, and can’t focus enough to get 1 thing done if I don’t set myself up for success first.
To be honest, one of the main reasons I have dove into and take serious pride in the systems and productivity work that I do is because I use to be the WORST when it came to getting things done. Nothing came easy to me, I had a hard time and had to scratch, crawl and climb my way through my classes at school, and excelled at things like piano and music because it didn’t require the same type of concentration that studying for a history test did.
I am one of those people who LOVE the logic of math but can’t hold onto the concepts long enough to apply the logic during a test. This is why I tested as gifted in math but went from AP. down to Honors and then down to College Prep math within 1 year in high school. This is something I was always embarrassed about at the time, but age and understanding have brought me back around to accepting and embracing my neuro-spicy superpower.
It took me a long time to figure out the systems and processes that work best for my brain and today I’m going to share with you why I constantly recommend ClickUp and Airtable as the power couple that not only acts as my “second brain”, but also is the central gear to many individuals businesses productivity and can be set up to match almost every brain type out there.
Below I will take a deep dive into the key features of ClickUp and Airtable that are beneficial for ADHD business owners and provide real-life success stories of businesses using both tools together. By the end of this post, you’ll have the knowledge and tools at your fingertips to improve your business operations and increase productivity.
So let’s get started.
Can an ADHD productivity system be customized to fit individual needs?
Yes, an ADHD productivity system can be customized to fit individual needs. Remember that everyone with ADHD experiences unique challenges and preferences, so it’s important to have a system that can be tailored to address specific needs throughout the team to manage time, tasks and priorities.
Why is it so hard to be productive with ADHD?
If you have met someone with ADHD… you have just met one person with ADHD. Just like all individuals, we have different personalities and needs, but there is a deeper connection having to do with how we process information (or don’t in some cases) and how our executive functioning works. Generally speaking, we have a harder time focusing on just 1 thing because there are so many other stimuli wanting our attention. Sometimes if we DO find that one thing that we are good at, we often lose ourselves in it and don’t come up for air for hours at a time.
Both of these situations can and are detrimental in a business where others are depending on you to provide leadership, approvals or tasks completed in order to keep the customers happy.
Let’s dive into this a bit more.
Understanding ADHDers Productivity Challenges
Living with ADHD symptoms can present unique challenges when it comes to staying focused and organized.
In fact, it can be downright maddening at times.
The symptoms of ADHD vary from person to person, highlighting the importance of finding personalized productivity strategies, but in essence, because those with ADHD have issues with Executive Functioning (mental skills that help us stay on track and manage our time and emotions), it can feel like we are pushing a boulder uphill every day.
This is why it’s so important to have a system in place that helps with time management and task prioritization struggles,.
With the right tools and techniques, it’s possible to improve productivity and achieve success.
Common Productivity Challenges for ADHD Business Owners
ADHD business owners specifically can face common productivity challenges in their daily operations.
Because there are always multiple projects for clients, or internally going on at the same time, it can be extremely overwhelming for brains that can’t even keep track of where their keys are if they aren’t on the hook next to the door!
Sustaining attention is a long-time struggle also making it difficult to stay focused and meet deadlines for themselves as well as their clients.
Delegating tasks to others requires the skills of passing on information, estimating the time it takes to complete and making trusting others to handle responsibilities which can be difficult when you feel pressure to ensure quality work.
Distractions, such as emails and notifications, disrupt focus in the best of us, makes it doubly hard to maintain productivity. (it causes what I like to call “squirrel brain”.
And lastly, balancing personal and professional lives can be a challenge for anyone, but particularly for ADHDers.
How Digital Apps Address ADHD Productivity Issues
So what can we do?
Luckily, we live in a time where there are many types of productivity systems and programs designed to improve productivity and help us focus.
Some popular ones that come to mind are:
When it comes to running a business, you also need tools that can speak to your team as well. This is when finding a tool or tools that works with how your brain works, helps you focus on the tasks that need to be done and in a way that makes sense is extremely important.
The ADHD brain needs structure, accountability, and prioritization in order to function optimally. (Despite the fact that so many neuro-spicy people out there say they don’t like ANY of these things. Liking and needing are two totally different things.)
Interestingly enough this is ALSO what a business team needs regardless of the types of individuals on it.
So what does this mean?
Well, it means that the tools you use to organize your business must have characteristics that allows it to keep structure, while still being flexible enough for the team member to get their information quickly and easily.
The following is a list of ADHD-specific requirements that I have always looked for with my clients when it comes to the tools they use
- It must be easily customizable to the team AND the user
- It must play nicely with other tools
- It must load quickly
- It must support templates
- It must be able to relate activities to other activities
- It must have automation or work with 3rd party automation tools
- It must have a solid repeating task system
- It must have decent mobile versions
All of these ensure that the tool will be beneficial to everyone in your company. Not only will it alleviate confusion, but it will help focus and allow you and your team to thrive.
Deep Dive into ClickUp for ADHD Productivity
So, all of that is to say that I keep coming back to ClickUp (especially with the new 3.0 version) as the quintessential project management tool for productivity for business owners.
If you haven’t heard of ClickUp, you may be living under a rock, but if you are new to the scene here is a quick synopsis of the tool. “ClickUp is the ultimate productivity platform to connect all of your work across apps, in one place. Users, teams, and even entire businesses rely on ClickUp for its rich set of fully customizable features.”
You can check it out here: ClickUp for ADHD Management
Initially, ClickUp was just a project management tool, but in recent years it has expanded it’s capabilities to include other features like documents, whiteboards, mindmaps, and prebuilt templates to kick-start your system.
Some individuals, ADHD and neuro-typical alike can find this a bit overwhelming at first, but if you start small, and discover HOW to use each of the additional tools as you grow and expand, you start to understand how all of these features can come together for your whole team.
Key Features of ClickUp that are Beneficial for ADHDers
ClickUp does offer a range of features, but there are also cons that individuals should be aware of as well. Even though I’m a huge fan, I fully admit that no system is perfect (well, unless you build it yourself, which is a WHOLE other blog post).
At first glance, ClickUp can seem overwhelming, but like any task management system, it has 2 main areas that build upon each other, allowing for some customization as mentioned earlier.
First, the “Spaces” area, which is built upon a heirarchy of Spaces, Folders, Lists, Tasks, Subtasks and Checklist (not to mention Custom Fields (MY FAVORITE THING) and communication within the tasks itself. This is where the bulk of the work and lists can be organized and worked through
Secondly, is the “Home” area which has added features such as a personal “inbox” to see all notifications, internal documents, dashboards, whiteboards and additional areas that are being developed, like Goals and Pulse. Basically these use the information in the Spaces area or added features that can be used in conjunction with it. Good to have, but not necessary to function.
✅ ClickUp pros for productivity and ADHD
How is ClickUp more well-suited for those with ADHD? Well I made a list below of the features of the program and why those could be helpful individually for those who struggle with organization and time management. Check it out:
- Structured Organization: ADHD individuals can sometimes struggle with organizing tasks and projects. ClickUp offers a structured way to break down projects into smaller tasks, subtasks, and checklists, making it easier to focus on one thing at a time. Of course, this also goes along with, the fact that it is also customizable in how the hierarchy is used.. Users can set it up in a way that best matches their working style, which is crucial for ADHD individuals who might need a personalized system.
- Reminders and Notifications: For those who tend to forget or procrastinate, ClickUp’s reminder and notification system ensures that important tasks don’t slip through the cracks, something I am all too familiar with before I discovered this tool
- Integration with Other Tools: Although we all wish there was 1 software that did everything we needed in business, we all know that no such thing really exists. Most software out there do 1 thing really well for 1 business type. Since every business is different, you either have to fit your business model into their software, or use other software and integrate it together. I’d prefer the latter. ClickUp’s integrations ensure that they don’t have to switch between multiple platforms, reducing the need to flip from one tab to another
- View-types and Filters: Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of ClickUp are the ability to create different views from the same task list, enabling each team member to see only what is pertinent to THEM, or be able to filter to specific types of tasks. This is super-important when it comes to prioritization of tasks and figuring out which ones are highest priority.
- Recurring Tasks: For routine tasks or habits, the recurring task feature can help ensure that these tasks don’t get forgotten, providing consistency and routine, extremely beneficial for those of us who just can’t keep it all in our head.
- Templates and Automations: While setting up ClickUp can take some time to cater specifically to your business’s needs, the creation of Templates and utilization of Automation with those templates can take what use to take hours and be wrought with errors to minutes and exactly correct every time. No more panicky moments of “Oh no, what did I forget this time?!”
❌ ClickUp cons
While ClickUp offers an extensive range of features, some individuals with ADHD who prefer simplicity might find it overwhelming at first. I hear this most often of all.
Remember, that while initial setup may take some time, having a tool that fits your brain will save you time (and lots of stress and anxiety) in the long run.
Airtable: A Powerhouse for ADHD Business Organization
So onto my OTHER favorite tool for organizing the neuro-divergent mind… Airtable.
I’ve heard Airtable described as Excel on steroids, and while I like the visual..
(Thank you AI)
… I don’t think it’s exactly accurate.
While ClickUp is a phenomenal tool to pull together all of your tasks and related actions, Airtable is a great tool to pull together all of your information or data. How is that different? I’m glad you asked!
A Task is something you do. It has someone who needs to do it, a due date for it, sometimes it is categorized as a marketing task, it can have a status or even can have progress measured against it depending if it has many subtasks.
Information is what is generated by the task. It can be a client list with all of their contact details, business details, and previously purchased services. It can also be a list of your services attached to your financials, perhaps even a list of everyone who has ever applied for a job at your company.
This is what Airtable is amazing at. Collecting and displaying all of your business information in ways that make sense to whoever is viewing it.
✅ Airtable pros for productivity and ADHD
So now that we know what Airtable is, let’s see how it can help with the productivity of those who struggle with ADHD. (You’ll find that many of the features we mention are the same as for ClilckUp, but for a different type of tool.) Here are just a few
- Visual Organization: Airtable’s grid, kanban, gallery, and calendar views allow for visual organization. For people with ADHD, visual cues can be instrumental in processing and recalling information.
- Customizable Layouts: Every individual’s mind works differently, especially those with ADHD. Airtable allows for the customization of fields, so users can set up their base (what Airtable calls a database) in a way that makes the most sense to them.
- Linking Records: ADHD individuals can sometimes struggle with associating related pieces of information. In Airtable, linking related records across different tables helps to create associations and visualizes how different pieces of information connect.
- Attachments and Rich Fields: Users can embed images, videos, and other files directly into their records. This multimedia approach can cater to different learning and processing styles, which is great for individuals with ADHD.
- Templates: Just like ClickUp, Airtable offers simple templates for various use cases (as does the community at large). For someone with ADHD, starting from scratch can be overwhelming or they may just need to see examples to get their brain spinning.
- Automation: Automations, internal to Airtable can not only notify of updates happening in the system but also send out emails, create new lines in other tables, and many other things. In fact, it is one of the best features of Airtable. If you take the system out of an ADHD person’s head and give it to a tool, it frees up that much more space for creativity and hyper-focusing on what they do best.
- Search and Filter: For ADHD individuals who might get overwhelmed with too much information at once, the search and filter functionalities in Airtable can help them quickly pinpoint the information they need.
- Mobile Access: The availability of Airtable on mobile devices means that ADHD individuals can access and update their information on the go, which is great for those spontaneous moments of inspiration or when they remember something important.
By utilizing these additional features, ADHD individuals can optimize their workflow and improve their overall productivity on a daily basis.
Creating a Second Brain for tasks and information using ClickUp and Airtable
With this knowledge of how ClickUp AND Airtable can, be beneficial for anyone overwhelmed by “all.the.things.”, there is one more trick up our sleeve, in how to work with them TOGETHER.
You have heard of the second brain, it’s a term used to describe a place to put your thoughts, tasks, your internal “to-do” list outside of your body to help you and others remember all the things that we may forget, but don’t want to or would be in trouble where we do.
Using the task management within ClickUP, and embedding the information management of Airtable INSIDE of ClickUp creates the super-powered brain of all second brains, in a way where all automations can work together and you don’t need to put in the same information multiple times.
Not only is this incredibly helpful to those whose neuro-divergent minds can wander off in giving them all the information they need upfront, but it’s also incredibly efficient and effective for anyone else gathering that information.
I have done this for hundreds of clients over the past few years, as well as in other tech when I was in corporate, and have been told multiple times how it really does combine the best of both worlds
By customizing the way your brain processes and stores information, ClickUp and Airtable is a great way to create a system tailored to your needs.
Say goodbye to the overwhelm and embrace the efficiency of having a second brain with ClickUp and Airtable.
By understanding the unique struggles faced by the neurodiversity community and utilizing digital tools like ClickUp and Airtable, you can create a more organized and efficient workflow for yourself and your team by using the tools customizability, automation capabilities, and streamlined business processes.
Whether it’s creating a second brain for tasks and information or integrating ClickUp and Airtable for comprehensive business management, these tools have proven to be game-changers for many ADHD business owners. So, take advantage of the features they offer and see how they can improve your business operations and personal lives. Empower yourself to overcome productivity challenges and achieve success in your endeavors.
The only way to learn something is to USE it!
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