Many ADHDers resist routines because well, they’re just that: routine. The upside is that they take the guesswork and decision-making out of daily tasks which can help eliminate frustration and conserve precious mental and physical energy. What’s more, daily routines need not be boring and tedious!
Here are some tips for creating ADD?ADHD-friendly routines to streamline your daily life…
1. Consider the Big Picture: If you find yourself struggling to find a reason to adhere to a routine, consider the Big Picture. How will your life be different if you adopt a routine? How will it help you to be the employee, partner/spouse, parent, student, friend, etc. you want to be? What will you be able to do with the time you save? What will it feel like to release yourself from stress and frustration?
Anytime you feel your motivation starting to fade, revisit your Big Picture to remind yourself why you made the decision to adopt your new routine in the first place.
2. Do some prep work: Doing some prep work beforehand is essential for keeping frustration to a minimum and ensuring that your routine can be carried out in a timely manner.
To prepare for your morning routine, set out your clothes the night before, make/pack your breakfast and/or lunch, and put everything you need for work (keys, briefcase/purse, etc.) by the front door.
For household chores and homework/workplace routines, keep everything you need (cleaning supplies, papers, books, laptop, writing instruments, etc.) in an easily accessible place to help you hit the ground running.
3. Know your learning/processing style: Each of us has a unique way that we focus on and process information. Knowing what your particular learning/processing style is can help you create prompts to keep you on track.
Maybe you gravitate to visuals like pictures and charts. If so, creating a photo-sequence of the different steps in your routine or creating a colorful chart may be in order.
Or maybe you’re the auditory type and respond well to spoken cues and alarms. In this case, try setting different alarms to help alert you when it’s time to move on to the next step of your routine.
Keep in mind that we can have multiple preferred ways of focusing on and processing information. Experiment with different types of cues and prompts or combine them in a way that works best for you.
If you’re not sure what your learning/processing style is, there are several online assessments you can use. I frequently use the ACKTIVV® Processing Styles Indicator© with my clients.
4. Tackle time blindness: People with ADD/ADHD often struggle with time blindness which includes the inability to accurately perceive the passage of time and difficulty gauging how long a task will take. This can make adhering to a time-sensitive routine extremely difficult.
If you struggle with time blindness, consider taking a day to time how long it takes you to complete different tasks and adjust your routine accordingly.
Many ADHDers report they find it helpful to keep a clock in every room and that analog clocks are often more helpful than digital because they allow you to see how much time has passed and how much is left between tasks.
5. Keep it flexible: The ADHD brain is wired for interest and novelty so it’s important to create routines that allow for a certain degree of flexibility to keep things fresh.
For example, if your routine starts to feel tedious, try switching up the order in which you complete the steps of your routine; tweak your prompts to make them feel new again; listen to music or a favorite podcast while you complete your routine, etc.
Remember, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel every time your routine starts to feel stale. Making small changes is usually all that’s needed.
6. Make it fun: Many ADHDers are self-proclaimed free sprits who embrace spontaneity. For these folks, the very mention of a routine is enough to send them running for the hills.
Routines don’t need to be boring! Resolve to get creative to find ways to make your routines something that you actually look forward to doing. Play music, dance, listen to an audio book or favorite TV show, whatever gets your juices flowing.
7. Give it time: Starting a routine means you’ll be adopting new habits and habits take time to become second-nature. It will likely feel awkward at first and chances are you’ll need to make adjustments here and there until you find a routine that works for you. Be patient, forgive yourself if things don't go quite as planned, and remember that your perseverance will pay off in the end.
Routines are a great way to streamline your daily life and free yourself from needless stress and frustration. If you want to begin creating your own ADD/ADHD-friendly routines but aren't sure where to start, schedule a complimentary, 30-minute consultation to find out how coaching can help.
Natalia van Rikxoort, MSW, AAC is a social worker, therapeutic arts facilitator, and life coach with specializations in ADD/ADHD and family coaching.