Mastering overwhelm, time management and accountability with ADHD

Every person that comes to coaching is different. We all have a unique set of strengths and challenges and, while people might come looking to gain similar outcomes and for similar reasons, how a person achieves those outcomes is different.


This is no different for clients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s easy for people (and sometimes coaches) to assume that clients with ADHD will all have similar challenges and, therefore, need a similar approach. I simply don’t believe this is true but I do think there are some factors which might be helpful for clients to consider when thinking about coaching.

Understanding accountability needs in ADHD

Accountability plays a pivotal role in coaching and this is as true for clients with ADHD as it is for anyone else. Accountability helps anyone achieve or do a task that they might be reluctant to do under their own initiative. Depending on how ADHD presents, there are other steps you might want to take.

Inattentive type ADHD and accountability

Goal setting with check-ins

For clients with predominantly inattentive symptoms, establishing clear, achievable goals, and setting up regular check-in sessions can help. Setting a structure for coaching sessions in advance and selecting one to three goals to focus on can help. Checking in with clients with ADHD outside of sessions can pay extra dividends.

Task lists with reminders

Sometimes to-do lists can also help but, equally, this can lead to overwhelm. Digital tools and apps can sometimes be helpful – though it’s easy for clients to become lost in which tool is best given the plethora of support out there. I’ve found it best to ask clients if there are any apps or tools they use and go off that. I find the approach of working with what a client already has rather than introducing more 'new things' that increase the chance of distraction works best. Often, scheduling tasks via a calendar can be valuable.

Estimating time

I often work with clients to figure out how much time they might need to do tasks and we discuss and come up with practical strategies of how to know when something is 'done enough', too. This can include being actively mindful of how long tasks take and exploring the feelings that come up when stopping a task that doesn’t necessarily feel complete.  

Hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD and accountability

Immediate accountability

Individuals with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may benefit from immediate accountability mechanisms. This could involve sharing goals and progress with a coach or an accountability partner at the beginning and end of each day. Alternatively, setting a task that needs to be completed each day – such as updating a tracker of progress – works best.

Visual progress tracking

Implement visual progress tracking systems, such as a visible chart or whiteboard, to help clients see their achievements and maintain motivation through tangible evidence of their progress. This doesn’t necessarily need to be visual – I often find that stepping back and highlighting progress at the beginning and the end of the session and asking the client to reflect on this too can also make all the difference.

Combined presentation of ADHD and accountability

Dual-strategy approach

Clients with combined presentation ADHD require a dual-strategy approach to accountability. Combining goal check-ins on a weekly basis with immediate accountability for ongoing tasks can help with both initiating and maintaining action.

Celebrate achievements

With all clients, it’s important to celebrate achievements, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement is a powerful motivator for clients, whoever they are, as it boosts self-confidence and encourages them to keep moving forward.

In short, clients with ADHD are as unique as any other clients. I tailor my coaching style and approach to what works best for them. We learn together and we take a pragmatic approach to achieving goals. Throughout it all, I offer support, and a non-judgement space and make my sessions as fun and as engaging as possible. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SW1V & NW1
Written by Rebecca Cockayne, BA. (Oxon), MSc, GDL | Delphi Coaching
London SW1V & NW1

Bex is a coach who loves journeys. She's done a lot and has been on many internal and external ones. She loves to help people long their path too.

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