This article was originally published on PsychCentral
Many ADHDers resist routines because well, they’re just that- routine. But the great thing about routines is that they take the guesswork 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 ADHD-friendly routines to help streamline your daily life.
Here are 7 tips for creating a daily routine that is manageable and actually works...
1. 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. For example, to prepare for your morning routine, set out your clothes the night before, prepare and pack your breakfast and/or lunch, and put everything you need for work (keys, briefcase/purse, etc.) by the front door.
2. Know Your Learning/Processing Style: Each of us has a unique way that we attend to and process information. Knowing what your particular learning/processing style is can help you create prompts to help keep you on track.
Maybe you gravitate toward visuals like pictures and charts. If so, creating a photo-sequence of the different steps in your routine or 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. If this is the case, experiment with different types of cues and prompts or combine them in a way that works best for you.
3. Tackle Time Blindness: People with ADHD often experience what is known as “time blindness” or the inability to accurately perceive the passage of time. You may also have a hard time estimating how long a certain task or activity actually takes to complete. 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 daily 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 you have left.
4. 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; or listen to music or a favorite podcast to help keep you engaged. 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.
5. Make it Fun: Many ADHDers are self-proclaimed free spirits 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 and find ways to makes them enjoyable: Play music, dance, listen to an audio book or favorite TV show, whatever gets your juices owing.
6. Consider the BIG PICTURE: If you're 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, student, friend 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 all that 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.
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.
Above all, be patient with yourself and remember that your perseverance will pay off in the end!