Routine and ADHD

How can routine help with ADHD?
Without routine your chances of forgetting what you need to do and being distracted and running on tangents is dramatically increased. Though being organised is going against the grain of your ADHD brain routine creates room for stress reduction, productivity and focus.

Lists – keep one list, one list to rule them all… Its easy to loose all your little bits of paper or forget to copy your shopping list on the fridge to you notepad when leaving for the grocery shop. Keep one list and use symbols, pictures, tables, and colours to organise this list. There’s no need to have a long roll of paper for this list. Have an A4 notebook you can scribble on, cross off what you have achieved and remember to add achievements you didn’t already have on your list. At the end of the day or the next day you can feel a sense of accomplishment and either continue with this list or create a new list on the following page using the things you didn’t get to to start your list and add the things that you want to do today.
Remember: your list only needs to trigger your memory, it doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else.


Watch time – time is a fluid and intangible thing for people with ADHD. Wearing a water proof watch can help you keep on top of time because you can wear it in the shower, to bed, anywhere! You don’t need to remember to put it on or take it off so time is always with you. Some people get a sports watch that they can set hourly timers on to help them feel time or increase awareness of time.

Keep your things together – When you go to bed make sure you have your clothes and shoes ready to throw on, plug in your phone and devices and next to it pack your bag ready to go and check of the things you need (eg. money for the bus, water, gum, snacks, keys, lip balm). When you leave you will have everything you need less the stress of running around the house like a crazy person screaming profanities.

Structure – try to structure your day in blocks of time e.g. Before 9am, After 9am, After lunch, Before Bed. This creates structure while giving you the flexibility to get distracted just a little bit so you can still be productive without beating yourself up. Take your medications at the same times, create a sleep routines, exercise routines, and relaxation routines. Routine sounds boring but it makes the life of an ADHDer much more flexible because you’re not wasting your time, energy and frustration on menial tasks you weren’t prepared for.

Don’t over commit yourself – when you give yourself a mountain to conquer rather than being ambitious you’re being unrealistic and setting yourself up for a fall. Being a little productive each day adds up to being quite productive by the end of the week. You’re not a super hero, sometimes you won’t get anything done and it’s okay. Accept it and write a new list for tomorrow, getting upset should not be on your to do list and it actually makes your symptoms worse.

Use timers – if you know you are likely to linger or put off your next activity try to set a timer either on your phone, your computer or your watch. This will help to alert you to the reality of time and you do actually have to move on. Procrastination wants to be your best buddy, but he’s holding you back buddy!

Activity recipes – Just as a teacher creates a learning plan or an activity plan we should be able to write out a simple list of things that are required to get a task done. This will help you be aware of time and hopefully stop you from forgetting that it takes longer than you think to travel, get dressed, shop, etc. Doing this for about a month will help you to create a good running schedule you can use as a template for each week to come.

Plan extra time – Don’t promise things in a short time frame EVER. You are setting yourself up for a fall if you do. Always add extra time to each activity that way if you’re early then you look good to others and feel good about your achievement. Plus you’ve earned yourself a coffee break YES! If you get distracted then you still have enough time to recover and finish the job. Plan to be at work 30 mins before your start time and use this to read your personal emails while having a cup of tea or read the news (something that you enjoy). If you come in at start time you miss out on doing that and have to get straight into work, that sucks!

Housework – Fit house work in around your life. I wash a load of clothes in the morning to hang when I get home on a clothes horse either under the awning outside or in the loungeroom. Once it’s dry I fold it and put it all away (this is a 2-3 day process and reduces the stress involved when living with ADHD). Plan to vacuum the house once a week, if you get to mop the house too then wooh!!! Dust the house once every 3 months quickly before you vacuum so you can suck up all the dust as you do your normal weekly job. Get a slow cooker, you can set it to cook when you leave for work and come home to a hot cooked meal.

Warning: Do not try more than 1 new technique at once. It takes 300 attempts to create a habit. Once you’ve added to your habit repertoire you are then ready to add 1 more new technique. Trying more than 1 new technique is a recipe for failure and frustration – we are trying to reduce¬†frustration and increase your quality of life.

When you find you’re struggling again, just start again from the start – No biggie! You are much more than you’re failures – in fact you are an overcomer, a soldier, because you get up again and again like Tom Cruise in the Last Samurai.

If there are other types of routine and organisation tips you would like to share please comment or submit your tips on the contact us page. Thanks, your contribution adds value to this site and helps those who read it.