Many people with ADHD have heard the drill. Create a schedule and stick to a routine. But, how should a schedule properly reflect what you do every day? Where does one begin to create a schedule?
Create a Flexible Timetable
Think of your first schedule as a flexible timetable. This means, don’t expect your first few schedules to be permanent. It takes time to figure out what works for you, what you can adhere to, and what triggers a feeling of being overwhelmed.
Set Two Alarms
Organizing a schedule begins when you wake up. By setting two alarms, preferably with two different sounds, a person with ADHD can learn to get up by the second alarm. Like anything else, when changing a habit, there is a conditioning that needs to take place.
Prepare Your Body for Schedule Changes
Let’s say your summer schedule differs from your fall schedule; how does one prepare the body to wake up earlier after ten weeks of waking up later? If you were accustomed to getting up at 9 am, but now you aim to get up at 6 am, you need to practice getting up earlier. How is this calculated?
There are 22 weekdays in August. There are 12 (15) minute increments in a three-hour period. If you do the math, this computes to waking up in 15-minute increments every two days in the month of August. Your body starts to recognize the new time that it must get up, however, without an internal clock a person with ADHD must rely on alarms or family to help them get out of bed.
Establish a Morning Routine
Going back to the morning schedule, we calculate how long each task takes to get out the door by a specific time. Being that the ADHD brain cannot sense time, we ask our clients to jot down the time frame for:
- Bathroom Breaks
- Meditation (we add in three minutes for deep-breathing exercises)
When you write down the time, it helps reinforce where your time is being spent and identifies ‘time robbers’ such as reading messages on cell phones (which can be scheduled for a more appropriate time) or dawdling on one task too long. We add each segment of the morning routine into the day’s agenda. Abiding by the schedule helps reduce distractions since your focus is on getting out the door on time.
Identify Your Distraction Triggers
Most adults understand what triggers their distractions even if they can’t control it. Part of our program is to teach our clients to start noticing when their distractions begin.
The process of identifying distractions is achieved once the body becomes accustomed to deep breathing. Achieving a sense of calm on a routine basis helps the brain recognize when there is a change from stillness to an escalation of anxiety or compulsive thinking.
Practice Mindfulness to Increase Awareness
Mindfulness helps you stay aware of these changes, and as a response you can control your thoughts and push away your anxiety, hyperactivity, and distractions. Teaching you how to manage your thoughts is the essence of achieving success with ADHD.
Break Your Day Down into Manageable Chunks
A person who is successful in getting out the door at approximately the same time every day creates for themselves a step towards reaching their daily goal. Most of our clients express their desire to accomplish much in a day.
We help break down the day into manageable chunks, or else the day becomes too overwhelming. Through breathing we introduce the envisioning aspect of mindfulness. When we are assured that our clients have conditioned their body to reach a true sense of ‘calm,’ we stay by their side as we guide them to envision their entire day, one segment at a time.
Use Pattern and Repetition to Stick to Your Routine
Those who don’t have ADHD can’t possibly understand how overwhelming this can be for people with ADHD. By breaking down segments and by reminding our clients how well they did the day before it helps create an encouraging pattern and results in the repetition of sticking to the morning agenda.
Schedule Time for Creativity
During a day’s routine, we encourage our clients to schedule a time for themselves specifically designated for creativity. Creative tasks can often put you into a flow similar to a meditative state that increases your ability to focus.
Use Alarms When Using Electronic Devices and Watching TV
It is tough for people with ADHD to stop themselves once they ‘get lost’ on TV or electronic devices. We try to steer our clients away from random TV and device time, but since this is a big part of today’s culture, it becomes part of the schedule, and we add time limitations.
It’s easier to adhere to time limitations when you set timers on the electronic device, use an egg timer, or anything that emits a sound. If you have a smart TV you can use the built-in timer to program a shut-off time.
Although most alarms are ignored, we ask that our clients set a second alarm, the first being the ‘warning bell’ and the second alarm (with a different tone) as the final alarm.
Develop a Bedtime Routine
Preparing for bed is another big part of one’s day. By shutting off all electronic devices an hour before bed, we teach people how to begin their ‘unwinding’ time.
The hour before bed should be used for any activity that doesn’t stimulate the brain. Taking a soothing bath/shower and listening to soft music is also recommended. Incorporating a breathing exercise right before bed (while sitting on a chair – not the bed) helps relax the racing mind. Your body begins to recognize the new time to go to sleep, and after practicing this new routine your body should start to feel sleepy at the right time.
There is a caveat, though, and that is that some ADHD medicines will interrupt sleep. The Doctor who prescribed your medication should be consulted about switching to a prescription (if possible) that might not disrupt your sleep.
Your Schedule Should Fit Your Life
There are many other aspects to a schedule that are added as people confidently follow what they have assigned themselves to do. Every schedule differs as every person has a different set of circumstances of what they need to accomplish each day.
Keep it Simple and Build Over Time
When putting a daily plan together, remember only to add the essential tasks that you need to achieve. With time you can add more tasks and slowly adapt to each change. If you begin to feel overwhelmed by your schedule, try to remove any non-essential tasks and use mindfulness to envision your day in manageable segments to help make the schedule less daunting.
Lastly, make copies of your schedule (or specific time frames) and tape it to your mirror, kitchen refrigerator, or any other place that will help remind you what you are doing at any given moment.
At OrganizingU4Life, we work with you one-on-one to build customized daily and weekly schedules that fit your life and help you achieve your goals. Give us a call today 516-984-9365 to chat about how we can help you get organized for life.
Debbie Ginsberg is a Professional Organizer and is the Founder of OrganizeU4Life.com. She teaches organizing and life management skills to the chronically disorganized, which includes the ADHD community. www.OrganizeU4Life.com Email: Info@OrganizeU4Life.com Call: 516-984-9365