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6 Types of Lists for Coping With ADHD

My last post was about why lists are great. And you know what? Lists are so great that I think they deserve another post.

The question for today is: what do we list when we talk about lists? I’m going to answer that question by putting some different types of lists in, well, a list. Here are 6 kinds of lists that can be helpful for people with ADHD.

1. To-Do List

To-do lists are the bread-and-butter of lists, but they can be extremely effective. There’s a whole art to making to-do lists, as well as the ever-present danger of falling into the to-do abyss.

ListTo-do lists have the advantages of lists that I mentioned in my last post. They bridge the gap between thought and action, and they group items together so you don’t have to tackle them individually. If you’re just getting into lists, the classic to-do list is a good place to start.

2. List of Goals

A list of goals is like a to-do list but on a larger scale. Instead of listing tasks that you have to complete in the short-term future, you list objectives that you are working toward in the medium- to long-term future. These could be practical goals, personal goals or career goals.

Having a list of longer-term goals as a reminder gives you some overarching coherence at the times when all the short-term tasks on your to-do list seem to be pulling you in a million different directions. In fact, being pulled in multiple different directions is something that happens easily to people with ADHD, and a list of goals can provide focus and be useful in prioritizing how you divide up your time.

3. Appointments List

A calendar or planner is really just a list of appointments and commitments. I mentioned that lists are helpful in bridging the space from thought to action. That’s true for appointments lists as well. In this case, the action is remembering and actually showing up for the meetings and appointments you schedule.

4. “What Motivates Me?” List

Now we’re getting into some types of lists that are less about immediate practical solutions like remembering to run errands and more about learning how to cope with ADHD.

I’ve mentioned before that when you have ADHD, it’s especially important to know what motivates you because ADHDers tend to have a big gap in their functioning between when they’re motivated and when they’re not.

A good way to gain insight into what motivates you is to keep a running list of situations where you’re especially motivated, energized and focused. Any time you find yourself in such a situation, add it to your list. Over time, you’ll start to notice patterns in what types of situations make appearances on your list.

5. List of Challenges

This type of list is about problem solving. Any time you encounter a situation that you find especially challenging or frustrating, especially having to do with your ADHD symptoms, put it on your list of challenges. Reviewing this list will show you where ADHD is interfering most in your life and where you should therefore concentrate your efforts in experimenting with new coping strategies.

6. List of Successes

To go hand-in-hand with your list of challenges, keep a list of situations where you’ve found successful coping strategies, or where you’ve just been successful in general. (Because when you have ADHD, successfully coping with ADHD and thriving in general are closely related.) This list is a useful reminder of what’s working and what’s worked in the past so you can keep doing it!

Should you keep all six types of lists going at once? That’s not necessary. In fact, I’d advise against it. Lists are great, but you can have too much of a good thing. Rather, try taking one or two of these ideas for lists that strike you as interesting and see if they do anything for you.

And if you can think of some other kinds of lists that are helpful for ADHD, please “list” them below!

Image: Flickr/Ron Frazier

6 Types of Lists for Coping With ADHD



APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). 6 Types of Lists for Coping With ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 16, 2019, from


Last updated: 31 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 May 2018
Published on All rights reserved.