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The Importance of Routine for Adults with ADHD

If you’re a person with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), juggling the responsibilities of day-to-day life can be overwhelming. Adult ADHD is particularly challenging because you’re most likely balancing a family and career. Creating and maintaining a routine can seem like trying to mix oil and water—the impulsive, unpredictable energy of ADHD symptoms and the planned, predictable structure of a schedule—can be challenging to integrate. People with ADHD have difficulties with prioritizing, problem-solving, avoiding distraction, and resisting impulsivity. These factors can make sticking to a routine a daunting task.

Why Routines are Important for ADHD

Establishing daily schedules is incredibly important for ADHD. Many adults with this condition experience challenges with executive functioning, which is the ability to plan and complete tasks. Neurotypical people have brains that function similarly to most of their peers. However, people with ADHD function differently. Scientists believe these differences are due to the unique structure and chemistry of the ADHD brain. An effective routine can decrease your ADHD symptoms while helping you reach your goals. Creating a plan can sharpen your focus, boost productivity, and improve your overall well-being.

Tips for Creating Routines for Adults with ADHD

Setting up an ADHD-friendly schedule is not for the faint of heart. It requires trial and error and, above all, patience. Be kind to yourself as you navigate this process, and remember to celebrate your accomplishments—big and small.

Here are some tips to help you get started with creating a daily routine:

  • Prioritize tasks. Complete boring tasks first to avoid procrastination. Pay attention to deadlines and plan accordingly. 
  • Assign allotted amounts of time for each activity to keep yourself on track for completing scheduled tasks. 
  • Set specific wake-up and bedtimes for the weekdays and weekends. 
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day. Break large projects down into smaller tasks. Depending on the project, map out manageable steps over a few days or weeks to avoid burnout. 
  • Display a calendar of your schedule in a highly visible place or set up a scheduling app on your phone. Referring to a visual image of your daily routine is an effective way to stay on task and maintain focus.
  • If you’re not two minutes early, you’re late. For appointments or other tasks that require you to leave home, factor in adequate travel time. Set up reminders on your phone to prepare for a timely arrival. 
  • Make sleep, diet, and exercise a priority. ADHD brains thrive on adequate rest, proper nutrition, and physical movement. 
  • Set aside time for self-care. It’s important to prioritize and designate time for activities that you enjoy.

Examples of Routines for Adults with ADHD

If you’re new to building a schedule, what does one look like? It’s important to remember that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach—you must develop a plan that aligns with your unique lifestyle. However, there are universal activities that should be considered. Morning routines for ADHD are extremely important to provide a strong start to your day. Also, routines for the other aspects of your life, such as after work or school, family time, and bedtime, are needed too. Here are some examples to help you get started:

Sample Morning Routine

6:00 am – Wake up

Quick Tip: Start your day getting up 15 minutes before anyone else. Having a little “me-time” helps you mentally prepare for the day ahead.

6:15 am – Shower, get dressed, make coffee/ breakfast

7:15 am – Wake up your kids/spouse

7:20 am – Breakfast time

7:45 am – Brush your teeth

Tip: Add an extra 15 minutes to your morning routine. In the event something unforeseeable occurs, you’re ready for it.

7:55am – Pick up everything at your launch pad

Tip: Create a “launch pad.” Designate an area by the front door to place items you need when walking out the door (e.g., laptops, purses, keys, backpacks, etc.). It provides easy access to items and cuts down on morning panic.

8:00am – Out the door!

Sample Dinner Routine

5:45 pm – Sart food prep

6:30 pm – Set the table

6:45 pm – Dinner is served

7:15 pm – Clear the table and load the dishwasher

7:30 pm – Relax, time with kids, walk the dog

Sample Bedtime Routine

9:00 pm – Put away electronic devices

Tip: Studies show that using electronic devices “wake up” the brain instead of preparing it for sleep, and the light emitted can dysregulate circadian rhythms.

9:05 pm – Lay out clothes/ materials for the next day

9:15 pm – Prep breakfast and lunch(es)

9:30 pm – Take a shower or a relaxing bath

9:50 pm – Brush your teeth

10:00 pm – Get in bed and read a book for 20 minutes

ADHD Management with Fifth Ave Psychiatry

We are a team of highly trained Psychologists and Psychiatrists who use evidence-based clinical treatments and therapies for all sorts of conditions, including ADHD.

We offer an array of treatments, such as:

Call us, and we’ll design a treatment program personalized to you or your loved one struggling with ADHD.

Olga Megwinoff, MD

Olga Megwinoff, MD

Dr. Megwinoff is a Board Certified Psychiatrist who trained at NYU Langone Health where she completed her residency in Psychiatry in 2000. At NYU Langone Health, Dr. Megwinoff was exposed to and gained an expertise in the treatment of substance abuse disorders and alcoholism. After finishing residency at NYU, Dr Megwinoff attended the Child and Adolescent Fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. As a private practice clinician, Dr. Megwinoff has been formally learning Buddhist Meditation for the last 10 years.

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