Friday, March 01, 2019

ADHD: Wicked Fast Photo ToDo Lists

When you’re in a hurry, photons are faster than pens[1]

When I made the transition from paper to digital back in the 90s—you know…when Palm Pilots still roamed the earth and Man was preparing for the impending Y2K Bug apocalypse—I said good-bye to that trusty old standby for ToDo lists: the pen & paper. It was all digital for me! I was prepared to spend as much time as needed to get my very complicated repeating ToDos to beep on cue and sync with the desktop for backup security. It may have, occasionally, required hours to bang out the syncing bugs, but I was living in the future, baby!

Long ago, I sold off my half dozen Palm Pilots and Sony Cliés on eBay for $20. I’m older and wiser now and realize digital isn’t always better. Sometimes, it’s downright unreliable, which is why I keep a pen & paper handy just in case. However, I still love living in the future. I’m just smarter about it.



One trick I’ve come up with is to create wicked fast ToDo lists by using my iPhone’s camera when I don’t have time to write items down. Most cellphones come with built-in cameras. They’re great for making a record of your life, but did you know that built-in camera is perfect for on-the-fly list making?

Imagine you are late for a meeting, but you need to pop by the store on your way back to pick up some items. You don’t have time to write it all down or else you’ll be late, so you rely on your memory, then whoosh! Thoughts of work, road construction, billboards, and sundry distractions drive the impromptu ToDo list out your ears into the wind. Instead of that happening (with my ADHD brain, that feels like every stinking time), I recommend snapping a photo of the items before heading out the door. Now you won’t forget them. When you arrive at the store, open your photo album and delete each photo as you add the items to your cart.

You don’t need to be fancy. You don’t have to launch your simulated tintype camera app with 40 vintage film styles. Just snap, snap, snap! Don’t worry about people seeing pictures of your toilet paper roll. You’ll be deleting it within the hour.

There are two different methods to go about creating photo reminders. The first method is to group the items into one photo. This has the benefit of being easy to delete afterwards, but requires more setup to take the photo. I prefer to shoot the reminders as I run around the house, snapping each item individually in its habitat so I don’t have to tidy up afterwards. This only has the downside of having more photos to delete, but I delete them as I shop as if crossing them off a list.

If you use cloud services and don’t want to clutter up your family stream with these ToDo photos, I recommend using a camera app that keeps its photos separate from the system camera roll. Camera+ on the iPhone is excellent for this. Just don’t let yourself be distracted by its dizzying array of filters and imaging tweaks.

I used to use a photo booth app to make my photo reminders, but that was indulging my geeky vanity, as if these photos needed to be works of art! Besides, I was constantly getting distracted tweaking the settings, which defeated the whole “photons are faster than pens” premise. Over time, I streamlined the process to its most basic level: just temporary, simple photos.

What I like about this method is that it helps me get out the door quickly while still helping me remember what I need to get or do. From time to time, there are apps released that allow photos to be added to ToDo lists. They can be powerful and filled with features. They also require more work. I recommend sticking with your built-in camera for quick and dirty ToDo list making. With practice, you’ll create these photo ToDo lists quicker than picking up pen and paper.



  1. I recommend adding fish to your diet if you have ADHD. It’s good for your brain. In addition, I need high levels of protein to manage my chronic motor tics. I find cans of tuna to be a very affordable way to meet those needs. I generally prefer solid white albacore.
  2. When I learned a few months ago I had developed an allergy to mint, I thought I was doomed. I suffered with kid mouthwash until I discovered Act has a mint free, menthol free, mouthwash for adults with fluoride.
  3. I didn’t develop acne until I became an adult. Panoxyl is effective and affordable.

  1. This article was originally published on 29 February 2012.  ↩

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