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Grist helps a lawyer with ADHD go from struggle to success

Eric is a successful lawyer, father, and husband, but living with ADHD poses challenges to his personal and professional life. Executive dysfunction triggered by the disorder complicates task completion, workload management, information retention, and more. These can hinder career growth, damage relationships, and affect physical and mental well-being. While productivity tools can help, finding neurodiverse-friendly ones is challenging. However, the right tools can help neurodivergent professionals unleash their full potential and attain lasting success.

Lawyer, dad, juggler?

ADHD made prioritizing tasks and avoiding distractions difficult for Eric, especially as a lawyer juggling competing priorities. His executive dysfunction often led to “ADHD paralysis” and extreme difficulties with task initiation, prioritization, and task switching. This affected not just his work but also led to struggles at home, where he was responsible for keeping everything organized and running smoothly. With so many balls in the air, any misstep could have serious consequences, contributing to his anxiety

To stay in control and keep those balls in the air, Eric designed an ad hoc workflow. He’d email many things to himself and use pcloud to keep notes and files. It wasn’t working. His workflow required navigating through several different programs to complete a single task, and he struggled to find items that were scattered across multiple platforms. “Where was that one? Gmail? pcloud? OneDrive?” As Eric shared with us, the frustration peaked when he couldn’t locate crucial information, leading to intense panic.

“It’s extremely stressful when you need something important, and you’re hunting in 3 to 5 places, and you think you lost it.”

Eric

Panacea for productivity

Eric had tried countless productivity tools in his quest for organization and focus. Still, most fell short of meeting the needs of neurodivergent professionals like himself. Frustrated with the rigidity of these programs, he was open to trying something new.

Eric discovered Grist. This customizable spreadsheet-database hybrid promised a more flexible approach to information management. Intrigued, he signed up and began exploring its capabilities. He initially felt intimidated, not knowing Python. However, he found Grist’s team was always ready to provide assistance and answer any questions. Quickly he realized that Grist is unique in the software world and that “other products don’t feel this way.” He attributes this to Grist’s passion for helping users and improving the software.

“It’s not just a product,” says Eric, “it’s a mission.”

With the team’s support, Eric amassed small successes in Grist, motivating him to push through. As he became more comfortable with the platform, he even started experimenting with the templates. “I make copies, and I mess around with them and build my knowledge by reverse engineering the templates.” Eric continues,” I did that for the Lightweight CRM and made my own thing, and I edited it, and it worked! No errors! I was so excited; it was really cool. It’s very empowering.” Now, despite his still not knowing Python, he’s no longer intimidated.

Compared to all of the other productivity-specific programs he’d tried, he prefers the pared-down simplicity of Grist, as well as their helpful templates. “I’ve tried so many programs and things, but they had so many bells and whistles … and I realized I preferred the Covey Time Management Matrix [template].”

Grist changes the game

Eric’s use of Grist is unique. Rather than treating it as a conventional spreadsheet or database tool, he’s using it as a comprehensive information management platform. While data and privacy security requirements at his company restrict him from using Grist as in-house legal counsel, Eric uses it to manage nearly every other facet of his life, i.e., pro-bono legal work, personal goal setting, family organization, and professional development.

“There’s just no way I could do a lot of what I am doing if I didn’t have the right tools to get things done. And without it, you start to feel like you’re failing as a parent, spouse, or employee. Really – having those tools and processes in place makes space to actually do stuff. I can accomplish a lot more.” says Eric.

“People look at me and say,” I don’t know how you do it,” I respond, “It’s Grist!!”

– Eric

Within Grist, Eric has set up dedicated professional, personal, and family workspaces. “Those are the three big sections of my life! So, I’ve split my life, the three main hats, into this.” He recognized that in his scenario, Grist’s strength lay in its flexibility, allowing Eric to develop a tailored setup that best manages his three core ADHD challenges of prioritization, task initiation, and task switching.

How Grist’s Covey Time Management Matrix makes ADHD manageable

Leveraging Grist’s Covey Time Management Matrix Template has been a game-changer for Eric. One of the ways Eric uses the Covey Matrix is as a place to brain dump things into; it then acts as an organizational system for him.

“This may sound strong, but it’s a form of therapy
because it’s helping me thrive as a neurodivergent person.”

– Eric

The Matrix offers flexible views, allowing him to look at his tasks in a list form or within the quadrant, which makes it more engaging for him to work with.” There’s so many different things I can do. For example, I have different sorting options, and I can see what I have crossed out, which is motivating.”

Prioritization

For someone neurodivergent, EVERYTHING seems urgent … even if it’s not. The Covey Time Management Matrix has helped reduce his anxiety around ranking competing priorities, thereby avoiding the stress that blocks task initiation.

Image is a gif meme that expresses the challenges someone with ADHD has with Prioritization. It is an image of a woman saying in a very exaggerated manner, "Literally all of it." These words are written on the bottom of the image.
The ADHD brain deciding what to prioritize.

Working within the list view, Eric updates his tasks. Using the Pareto Principle’s 80-20 rule combined with the Matrix’s two simple task questions – Is this important? Is this urgent? – he quickly identifies those tasks that are his 20% or high-value work.

Once defined, all tasks auto-populate by value to the Quadrant view, ensuring that Eric can focus on those tasks that are most pressing of the day.

Task initiation

For task initiation, the first step is often the hardest for neurodivergent individuals. For someone with ADHD, knowing which task to start with can create anxiety and crippling decision paralysis.

Image is a meme that demonstrates the challenges someone with ADHD has with Task Initiation. It is a two panel cartoon. In first panel is a finger hovering between two red buttons. Above the button on the left are the words 'Start Task" and above the button on the right, the words "Stress About Task." The panel on the right shows a man wiping sweat from his face which looks filled with panic over the decision.
Task Initiation with ADHD

Using Grist’s Covey Time Management Matrix has become a daily ritual for Eric, setting a positive, motivating tone for the rest of the day. He explains, “Literally every morning after I get to work, I pull up Grist, and I’m prioritizing what I’m doing for the day and sorting them in order. That task initiation happens in Grist, customized for the way I think.” And now, thanks to Grist’s Matrix, Eric continues, “I can focus on high-value work, not busy work.”

Task switching

Grist’s positive impact on Eric’s task-switching difficulties has been profound. Individuals with ADHD and executive dysfunction risk losing motivation, focus, and momentum whenever they switch tasks, especially if the new task requires a different tool or software program. One effective way to mitigate this is to bundle similar tasks to reduce the cognitive load of task switching; by centralizing everything in Grist, not only his task lists but the tasks themselves, he has reduced task switching to the barest minimum. Grist has allowed Eric to create a whole-life centralized, organized process.

Screenshot showing view of how Eric utilizes separate workspaces within Grist to reduce his ADHD Task Switching issues.
Utilizing Workspaces within Grist, Eric reduces ADHD Task Switching issues.

Eric previously managed the time tracking and invoice generation for his pro-bono legal work through several programs. With Grist, he can streamline all of this, combining not just into one software but into one document. He can even add attendance notes.

Another perk to centralizing everything has been how simple and easy it is to share information. Eric needed to share his recent certification as a GDPR privacy lawyer with his boss, and because his CLE (continuing legal education) documents and certifications were all stored in Grist, he didn’t even have to bother with email; he just downloaded the certification from Grist and shared it with his employer.

Having everything in one place has greatly impacted his mental health. His default is now peace of mind rather than anxiety and panic. “I just know subconsciously it’s in Grist; I don’t have that initial panic of “oh no, where is it?” explains Eric.

“The ability to have within my Grist platform a separate section for different “hats” in my life without having to go to a whole different software and having to learn how that software works is huge. There’s comfort. I already use the software; it’s just different layouts.”

Task completion

Small details in the interface have made using the Matrix engaging and enjoyable for Eric. “The color coding in that template has been huge for me. Same-day tasks are red, which is huge. It highlights what I need to do, so I am not dropping the ball.” The “Done” feature also recreates the satisfying experience of crossing something off a handwritten list. “I can focus on the baby step, and then I am so pumped. Marking something done is the dopamine hit.”

Doing it all in Grist, “that’s huge!” Using Grist has not only helped Eric minimize frustration but also gain hours of productive time. He explains, “Time and attention are my two most scarce resources, and that’s what Grist helps me protect.”

“I got a pay increase, and I credit the process I set up in Grist with helping me get my raise because I was able to work on high-value work. “

– Eric

Thanks to Grist’s unparalleled flexibility, he was able to design a productivity system tailored to how his brain works. By not telling him what productivity had to look like, Grist allowed Eric to make it the best productivity tool for him. “Grist is like a Swiss Army Knife,” says Eric. Unlike other software programs that force users to work around their constraints, it can transform into the tool you need, when you need it, and how you need it.

Starting Grist with ADHD: Eric’s tips and tricks

Don’t overthink

For users considering Grist, Eric advises not to overthink it at first, “To start, just use it, personally. Then you’ll see its value and it will extend to work. That’s when you realize it’s such a powerful tool.”

Ask for help

Learning new software can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! With Grist, you aren’t adrift at sea alone; you have the support of the entire Grist team. Need help figuring out what to do first or next? Don’t worry! Grist’s community forum, “how-to” documentation, tutorials, and past webinars are there to help you every step of the way. And if you need additional guidance, Grist’s Sprouts Program provides expert assistance!

Stay the course

Eric knows that any challenges in the program are temporary. “It’s not a matter of “if I put in all this work, will it help?” Eric continues, “I know it’s going to help, so it’s worth putting in the time to set up a new document.”

Think adaptively

By thinking of it as not just a work tool, Eric has been able to leverage Grist to help his family. Through Grist, he’s been able to structure a reward system for his son, who is also neurodiverse, offering him a fun interactive way to earn rewards for meeting goals and overcoming his school struggles. The reward system encouraged his son’s reading habits as he earned rewards for reading books, and because it tracks savings and credits, his son has also learned valuable financial skills at their weekly check-in!

Eric’s favorite ADHD-friendly Grist templates