Time & Productivity

How to Tackle Your Toughest Daily Transitions

Daily schedule transitions are rocky, dragged out, and downright frustrating for many adults with ADHD who struggle moving from a desired activity (sleeping) to a less desirable activity (getting ready for work). Here, respondents to ADDitude’s recent Time Timer sweepstakes share their best advice for managing transitions by using positive affirmations, written reminders, and phone alarms.

When you’re an adult with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD), a typical work day can feel like an endless series of disorienting and potentially derailing transitions. Executive function deficits complicate processes like getting ready for bed or waking up; time blindness sabotages productivity; and working memory deficits cloud the view from here to what’s next.

Entrants in ADDitude’s Time Timer Sweepstakes recently answered the question, “What are your bumpiest transitions? What is your secret to smoothing them out?” Common pain points included launching in the morning, moving between work and break times, and getting settled for bed. Below are some of our favorite responses; add how you manage transitions to the Comments section below.

Using Timers and Reminders to Manage Daily Schedule Transitions

“I struggle with getting moving after waking up. If I go on my phone, I lose all track of time. I’ve installed an app to block the use of my phone until a specific time, which has helped me avoid getting sucked in.”

“It’s the mundane tasks, like getting out of bed in the morning or hopping in the shower that I struggle with starting. To ease the transition out of bed, I’ve started setting my alarm a little earlier and taking my medication right away — then I lay in bed until I feel the medication kick in and use that as momentum to propel myself out of bed.”

“I even have trouble transitioning to take a bathroom break! I’m still learning what works. The Pomodoro method provides breaks that help me to come up for air. I often feel like I’m just getting into the groove of something when the timer bell rings, but the frequent breaks are important.”

[Free Download: Never Be Late Again]

“One of my bumpiest transitions is ending the day; the shock of how little I accomplished always hits me. If I could just work for 30 more minutes, or stay up one more hour, I could get everything back on track! The only productive system I’ve come up with is for my showers: I start my Pandora station when I enter the bathroom. I have until the end of the first song to get my hair wet, I have to be mostly showered by the end of the second song, and then I’m allowed to zone out for the third song.”

“Physical transitions are hard: waking up or going to sleep, recognizing hunger soon enough to actually stop and eat, getting to work and leaving work. I deal with this by giving myself a lot of advance time to adjust – I have 4 alarms that go off across 90 minutes to ease me from deep sleep to fully wakeful and functioning. I can’t rush through any part of my day or it causes panic.”

“My bumpiest transition is finishing work for the day. There’s always something left to do or one more email to respond to. I don’t have a foolproof way to deal with this yet, but affirmation resonates with me, so I’ll try repeating, ‘I deserve rest, I deserve to take a break.’”

“I give myself a pep talk. I say, ‘I am not a procrastinator. I have a habit of procrastinating. Habits can be changed.’ It helps to put on some meditative music to structure my thoughts and get interested. Sometimes, I’ll watch a TED talk or read some of a self-help book to give me a boost.”

[Additional Reading: ADHD Brains Grasping for Structure and Certainty In a Pandemic ]

Using Visual Reminders to Manage Daily Schedule Transitions

“I struggle with leaving the house and getting to work on time due to ‘time blindness.’ Reviewing my calendar each day acts as an anchor for my wayward mind. I’ve also crafted a large, visible calendar for the wall by the front door as an extra reminder.”

“Transitions to and from meetings, especially virtual meetings, are a challenge. I try to calendar block my days as much as possible to have calls and meetings lumped together, but that’s not always doable.”

“I struggle with transitioning from my lunch break back to work. I’ve found it helpful to walk to get a cup of coffee, put on focus music in my noise-cancelling headphones, and start my Toggl Tracker. If I can get over that hump to start working, I usually get into my task for an hour or so.”

“My hardest transition is switching from an active task that provides instant gratification, like tidying the kitchen, to intellectual task like writing an essay for my studies. Keeping a daily to-do list helps.”

“I have a hard time getting out the door with the right items. I snap a picture of my dry erase board, which has a ‘to buy’ list and a ‘to do’ list. Using techniques from FlyLady Marla Cilley is also helping me become better organized.”

“Motivating myself to start working while at home has been difficult. There is no office to go to, no need to change into my work clothes. I try to spend a few minutes each day writing tasks down in my journal and calendar. That way, even if I am having an unfocused day I can refer back to what I’ve written the following day and approach it with more focus.”

“I take classes online. I usually study one subject per term, but I’m trying two this term for the first time. Prioritizing which subject to focus on and transitioning between the two is tough. I’m learning that it helps when I designate certain days for each subject. I try to clearly separate the notes on my desk by sticking one subject’s notes on the left side of my wall and the other on the right, so my brain sees a clear visual difference.”

Using Friends and Family to Help Manage Daily Schedule Transitions

“My bumpiest transitions are after my morning classes end; I’m left in a state of anticipation for the hyperfocus of the late evening hours. I’ve started making myself close my computer as soon as a Zoom call is over, then moving rooms or going outside. I’ve also started making Focusmate appointments around 30 minutes after my last Zoom call to help with accountability.”

“One of our hardest transitions is coming home from running errands. We get overstimulated and just want to collapse. We are experimenting with checking in with ourselves and each other before we drive home from our last errand. We sit in the car and breathe for a few minutes. When we feel centered, we start to drive home.”

“As a recently diagnosed college student, going from routine throughout the week to no routine on the weekends completely throws me off. Other people, visual timers, and set periods of time with rewards at the end are the only things that keep me on track. Having someone with me motivates me a little more to get things done.”

Daily Schedule for Adults with ADHD: Next Steps

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.