If you’ve found yourself having these types of ADHD symptoms, you already know just how frustrating they can be. But there’s good news: One of the best ways to manage those symptoms is by creating (and sticking to) a routine. This simple yet effective strategy can be a game-changer for individuals with ADHD. Learn more about why routines are so important for ADHD and how you can build and stick to a routine.

Why Routines are Important for ADHD

Although treatments like medication and therapy are highly effective for people with ADHD, there are additional steps you can take to find even more success in managing symptoms on a day-to-day basis. Many ADHD experts recommend making some lifestyle changes as well, which can include creating a routine. That’s because an ADHD routine can provide the following benefits:

  • Time management: A routine makes your days more predictable, which helps with managing time. It’s easier to anticipate how long certain tasks will take to complete and recognize when you have available time to commit to other activities or responsibilities.
  • Productivity boost: People who stick to a routine often find that they’re able to get more done during the day. You can also build steps into your routine that help you to reach a goal, like learning another language or writing a book.
  • Reduced stress: Having a routine helps to decrease anxiety and stress. It releases some of the mental labor that comes with figuring out where to direct your attention and what to do next. Instead, you can simply follow a schedule and know that if you do, you’ll get the most important things done.

How to Build an ADHD-Friendly Routine

While routines are undeniably beneficial for people with ADHD, there’s a catch. The very nature of ADHD can make someone with the condition resistant to following a routine. An ADHD brain seeks out dopamine through novelty and spontaneity, which isn’t very conducive to following the same schedule day in and day out. Being prone to distraction can easily knock someone off their routine and send them in a new direction. Folks with ADHD can also struggle with motivation, which is necessary for sticking to a routine in the long run.

In order to build an ADHD-friendly routine, it’s important to take these factors into account. A typical routine that works for someone who doesn’t have ADHD might not work for you. Use the following strategies to help build a routine that won’t be constantly working against your ADHD tendencies:

  • Write it down. Being able to visualize your calendar for the day can help you stay on track. Keep everything in order and write down how much time is allotted for each part of your routine.
  • Break things down into smaller chunks. When you create your schedule, don’t just write down “get ready for work.” Instead, break it down into smaller tasks (take a shower, brush teeth, pack a lunch, etc.). This helps you avoid missing important steps and keeps the schedule from becoming overwhelming.
  • Don’t overbook yourself. Make sure you build some spare time into your routine. For example, give yourself extra time to drive to work, and plan to have a brief break to decompress when you get back home before you start on other tasks.

Tips for Sticking to a Routine

Setting up an ADHD-friendly routine using the tips above is a great start. However, there may be some bumps in the road as you acclimate to a more structured schedule. This is natural, especially because your ADHD symptoms may make it harder to stick to the routine. When that happens, try some of the following tips to stay on track.

User alarms and timers

Time management is one of the trickiest aspects of sticking to an ADHD routine. Take advantage of clocks, alarms, and timers to help you stick to the schedule. For example, you can preset alarms on your phone that remind you to switch to a new task. Timers can help you stay motivated by showing you how much time you have left to get something accomplished.

Limit distractions

If you find yourself straying from your routine, make an effort to cut out some of the distractions around you. Some examples of ways to minimize distractions include listening to brown noise, decluttering your space, or putting your phone on silent.

Motivate yourself with rewards

The ADHD connection to dopamine can make it harder to keep your attention focused, but it can also be a powerful motivator. If you build rewards into your routine, it can help you stick to it over time. For example, if you finish all the household chores in your schedule, you could reward yourself with a special treat or some extra time for a favorite hobby.

Find ways to keep things fresh

Just because you have a routine doesn’t mean your life has to look the same every single day. Look for fun ways to make things feel new and fun without sacrificing the important parts of your schedule. For example, if you’re able to work remotely, you could try working in different spaces, like a library or a cafe. Another idea is listening to upbeat music or interesting podcasts and audiobooks while you cook or clean.

Prioritize sleep

It’ll be harder to keep up with your schedule if you’re feeling exhausted, so make sure you create a good bedtime routine and set aside seven to eight hours for sleep. Many people don’t realize that sleep problems are common among those with ADHD. In addition, poor sleep can exacerbate ADHD symptoms. That’s even more of a reason to make sleep an essential component of your routine.