Ask the Experts

Q: “Will I Ever Love — or at Least Tolerate — Using a Daily Schedule?”

“Make your daily schedule work for you (and not against you) by viewing it as a flexible framework to guide your day and by injecting it with bursts of creativity, time blocking, and achievable goals.”

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Q: “I need to overcome my aversion to schedules. I’m fine getting one of my kids, my husband, or myself to an appointment. Tasks I must do, like getting the chickens out of their coop and taking the dog out, always get done by 8 a.m. But once I set up a daily schedule, I actively rebel and find ways to cheat it. Even following vague schedules feels like I’m pouring metal shavings all over myself. I fully recognize that schedules are helpful, and if I’m going to succeed in my business, I have to get over this disinclination. How I can learn to love (or at least tolerate) daily schedules and not avoid them?” — RebelWithoutAPause

Dear RebelWithoutAPause:

Many creative minds, especially those with ADHD and executive function challenges have a love-hate relationship with schedules. On the one hand, these adults understand schedules are necessary for keeping them on track, on time, on task — and they work. However, because neurodivergent adults thrive on spontaneity and the freedom to follow their creative whims, the idea of a rigid schedule feels suffocating and controlling.

In other words, they want to have a daily schedule on their own terms.

I find it super interesting that you’re responsible and nurturing when it comes to your loved ones and their appointments. That’s wonderful and should be noted! It’s also cool that your morning routines are on point without a schedule. When things feel obligatory, you’re on the top of your game. But the moment you put tasks down on paper, boom! Resistance sets in like a storm.

So, let’s dive into why this may be happening.

Schedules can feel like handcuffs, restricting your freedom to indulge in what truly brings you joy. The fear of missing out on spontaneous moments may overwhelm you, but you can’t avoid structure altogether. It’s a real push and pull.

[Free Download: The Daily Routine that Works for Adults with ADHD]

Daily Schedule Strategies for ADHD Minds

The key is finding a way to make schedules work for you and not against you. Here are six strategies to try when building a daily routine:

1. Reframe Your Perspective on Schedules

Instead of viewing schedules as rigid, view them as flexible frameworks to guide your day. Think of your schedule as your personal compass. You decide what path to take, when, and for how long. That’s the beauty of it: You have full choice and control.

2. Sprinkle in Fun

Inject your schedule with bursts of creativity and little pockets of freedom and fun. Set aside time for indulging in your passions, like an “Innovation Hour” or “Think Tank Time.” Let your imaginative juices flow, knowing your schedule balances structure and spontaneity.

3. Try Time Blocking

Try incorporating time blocking into your daily schedule. This technique lets you set aside specific chunks of time for various tasks, but you can choose what to work on within those blocks.

[Free Resource: Stop Procrastinating! Finish Your To-Do List Today!]

4. Enlist an Accountability Buddy

Consider finding an “Accountability Buddy” (friend, co-worker, partner, etc.) who can gently nudge you to stay on track while understanding your need for creative freedom.

5. Assess and Modify

Your “cheating” tendencies may be hints that your schedule needs tweaking or more balance. Assess what makes you feel constrained and find ways to modify it. Maybe you need longer breaks between tasks or to shuffle the order of tasks to suit your energy flow. Perhaps you need to switch up your environment so that you do your heavy mental lifting in a place that brings you calm and comfort, or you need to use colorful visual aids to make your schedule feel less boring and mundane.

6. Be Kind

Lastly, be kind to yourself and set achievable goals within your schedule. Unrealistic expectations can lead to frustration and that “pouring metal shavings all over yourself” feeling. Acknowledge your progress no matter how small the win. If you remember that schedules can be your allies on the road to business success and personal fulfillment, then you’re halfway there.

Here’s to a beautifully balanced life filled with creative expression and a newfound love for schedules.

Daily Schedule: Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

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