If you have ADHD, creating a routine can help you manage your symptoms, boost your productivity, and improve your overall well-being.
If you’re living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), there are other habits you can add to your medication and therapy practice to help you manage your life.
One is creating and sticking to a routine. This has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, when quarantine has uprooted our schedules and kept us at home 24/7.
It’s often challenging for people with ADHD to stay organized and on task. Creating a daily routine that works for you can help.
Of course, sticking to a routine is easier said than done. The goal is to turn desired behaviors into habits so that they simply feel like a natural part of your day rather than a chore.
Creating a good routine will take time, patience, and personalization. But we have nine tips to help you get started.
Before you head into a busy day of work and activities, sit down and write out what you have to get done.
Then, create your schedule with the highest priority tasks earlier in the day, when you’re more likely to sustain attention longer. Leave the smaller, simpler tasks later in the afternoon or when you know your energy is typically lower.
It can be difficult to correctly estimate how much time it’ll take to complete a project, so try blocking off a little more time than you think you’ll need.
Since it’s easy to get distracted or derailed throughout the day, consider writing out and displaying your schedule somewhere visible to you at all times, like on a dry-erase board at your desk or on a large notepad.
This way, your eyes will be drawn back to the schedule even when they inevitably start wandering.
As you practice planning your day and figuring out how much time you’ll need for tasks, it will become easier to follow a schedule.
If you have ADHD, the prospect of taking on a big, complicated project can be incredibly intimidating.
To get some momentum going and make a project feel more manageable, try breaking it down into smaller, simpler tasks.
Instead of blocking off 3 hours to complete an entire assignment, consider coming up with small goals to meet every 25 minutes and include these steps in your written schedule.
It may seem unimportant, but consider crossing out or checking off tasks that you’ve completed. This small act can feel like a mini reward and makes the rest of your to-do list seem less daunting.
It can be tempting to try to make a routine complex and detailed. But overcomplicating a routine for the sake of “perfection” will just create frustration.
Don’t needlessly add steps to your day that aren’t necessary. If you can figure out an easy way to complete a task, do it!
And then, of course, check it off the list.
Many people with ADHD find it challenging to manage their time.
Though writing out your schedule is important, for some people, that may not be enough to stay on track throughout the day.
Try using a watch or phone timer to alert you when it’s almost time to move on to the next task. Getting periodic reminders of the time can help you refocus and keep you on top of your schedule.
Creating a routine is not something that can be done overnight. The goal of developing healthy and productive habits takes time.
It may be easier to tackle one small task at a time. For example, if having a cleaner kitchen would reduce your stress, consider adding dishwashing to your routine.
Once you’re able to consistently do the dishes every day for 2 weeks, maybe add another task to the routine.
This way, your routine grows over time, and chores that may feel like a huge burden now will feel like second nature.
We’ve all made the mistake of saying, “I don’t want to get out of bed. I’ll just work here!” Quarantine and working from home have made this especially easy.
But keeping your work and relaxation spaces separate helps increase productivity during work hours, and decrease stress and anxiety during your free time.
It’s important to prioritize and designate time for rest, reflection, and socialization.
Self-care means different things to different people, so find any activity that brings you joy and calms your mind.
Neglecting your physical health can worsen symptoms of ADHD and wear on your overall mental health. Building in time in your daily routine for meals and exercise helps alleviates this.
Between 25-50% of adults with ADHD experience sleep problems like insomnia and restlessness. Lack of sleep or irregular sleep schedules can significantly impact daily functioning, mood, and behavior.
Including bedtime rituals and adequate time for sleep in your routine is crucial, and can help you maintain a healthier, more regular schedule.
Try unwinding by taking a hot bath, logging off the computer, or dimming the lights before bed.
Set your alarm for the same time every day, including weekends. Going to bed later and sleeping in on the weekends will make it much harder to wake up on time during the week.
It’s important to understand and acknowledge before you even begin creating a routine that you’re likely to fall off of it at one point or another. And that’s OK.
If you constantly find yourself breaking from your schedule, that just means the routine isn’t the right fit. Try different techniques for time management and organization until you find one that’s right for you.
Not following your routine today doesn’t mean you can’t get back to it tomorrow.
And remember to give yourself credit, whether it’s for completing a small task or for sticking to your routine for a whole week.
If you live with ADHD, difficulty maintaining focus, completing tasks, and managing time can be incredibly frustrating. Developing and sticking to a routine can be a powerful tool for managing the most persistent symptoms of ADHD.
With the COVID-19 pandemic removing so much structure from our lives, self-made routines have never been more important.
You’ll find that your routine is constantly a work in progress. As you experience changes in your life or make new discoveries about what works best for you, you might need to adjust your routine, too.
If you think you may have ADHD, you can take our screening test or consider reaching out to a mental health professional for help in managing your symptoms.