Task Completion Strategies for Those with Neurodiversity

Jillian Graham, LCSW on Feb 13, 2023

People with neurodiversity, including autism spectrum and ADHD, process things differently. The executive functioning system of the brain does not work in typical ways. This can be very frustrating for many, but there are ways to help if you take the time to understand how you function best. Here are some task completion strategies for those with neurodiversity:

Step 1: Name the problem (i.e., I have a problem with __________).

Step 2: Think about some things that may be getting in the way of getting things done.

Step 3: Take a nice deep breath and try not to judge or berate yourself — if you start diving into the negative thoughts, you will never be able to problem solve.

Step 4: Take a look at some of these helpful strategies or think of other "hacks" for working around your neurodiversity. Others may think they know what you need to do to get things done; however, maybe they don't really know what you need like you do. If you really want to get things done, you need to figure out the best way to get things done and be patient with yourself.

What are some barriers to task completion for people with neurodiversity?

  • Time blindness: You lose track of time.
  • Hyper-focusing: Hyper-focusing on things that you enjoy or find interesting can cause you to lock into the task and sometimes lose sight of other things around you.
  • Poor organizational skills: Where do you start?
  • Skill barrier: You don't yet have the skills to do it. It is going to be hard. You need to figure out how to do it or ask for help, and this is a barrier for you.
  • Low energy: You are dragging and don't have the energy to do the thing you need to do. You need a pick-me-up.
  • High energy: You are hyper, restless, and can't focus or concentrate. You need to slow down and ground yourself.
  • Just don't want to do it! Right?!
  • Don't want to do it because others are trying to control how you do it.
  • Anxious that you may not do things right, will mess up, will let others down.
  • Meltdown: You are freaking out because you are completely anxious and stressed and spinning out on constant negative thoughts.
  • Shutdown: You feel stressed and overwhelmed and now you have completely shut down. You no longer have any energy and you feel completely disconnected from everything.

Here are some strategies that may be helpful for hacking into your neurodiversity so you can get things done:

Establish familiar routines for tasks that need to be completed.

  • Do things the same way each time
  • Use visual reminders
  • Use a calendar (paper or app)
  • Ask others to remind you
  • Make a chart with three to five activities to do in a day
  • Give yourself a timeline (i.e., I will do this before 5 pm)
  • Place Post-it Notes everywhere
  • Write it down on your hand
  • Turn off/set aside all other distractions
  • Relocate to a better space to be productive

Identify how to get "in the zone." Ask yourself:

  • What would make this task fun or tolerable enough to complete?
  • How did I get "in the zone" in the past?
  • When do I work best?
  • What's the environment like when I am the most focused (loud, busy, super quiet)?
  • Often, it is helpful to do things around the same time each day.
  • Try to take advantage of momentum — the property or tendency of a moving object to continue moving (i.e., “I’m already in the bathroom using the toilet, so I might as well get my shower done and get it out of the way”)
  • Consider the amount of time needed to complete the task — be realistic
  • Pay attention to deadlines. Do you work well under pressure, or do you melt down or shut down? Build in the time you need, and be realistic so that you can meet deadlines.

Other strategies:

  • Pick up your energy: stand up, stretch, drink cold water, turn on music, get moving
  • Settle your energy down: Stretch, use white noise, weighted blanket
  • Find a helper and make sure they know how you like to be helped.
  • Use postive self talk that encourages you that you can get things done

For school:

  • Make a list of each subject
  • Pick the easiest one to complete first
  • Cross out subjects on the list as you complete them
  • If you get stuck on a hard subject, move on to something else that is easier to complete
  • Put your phone on “do not disturb” while trying to engage in school work or other tasks (such as chores) that must be done by a certain time.


Getting things done can be hard, especially if you would rather be doing other things. People with neurodiversity may have great intentions to complete a task; however, they are always working around the different functioning of their brain. Know that there are ways to get things done if you take the time to get to know yourself and accept the way you function best.

Written By: Jillian Graham, LCSW

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Other Services Offered With A Better Understanding, Inc.

Jillian Graham, LCSW has been working with neurodiverse populations for nearly 20 years and specializes in treating Autism, ADHD and other developmental disabilities. Jillian strives to understand you and your mental health concerns and is here to provide support and understanding so that you can start to feel better in life. Jillian is happy to offer a variety of mental health services including therapy for adult neurodivergent populations or their caregivers. In addition to anxiety treatment, trauma therapy, depression treatment, mood disorders, and bipolar disorder treatment.

Jillian Graham is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in , CA.

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