My ADHD brain's dislike of routines
Yes, you described me pretty well. I turn 69 this week, and sorry but it doesn’t get any easier. I have learned to accept myself as my crazy brain presents me to myself….got that? I am a Lutheran Pastor and I believe, teach and confess that God loves us as He made us. So we who have hyperactive right brains tell marvelous stories (sermons for me) that are not in any way linear, but rather like a mosaic. That means I can celebrate when I actually do all of the things on my calendar (at least the ones I remember to put on the calendar in my phone (I am an Apple product fan since 1983) but I don’t beat myself up anymore when an appointment someone makes with me disappears from my calendar app but I remember it anyway…or not….Just remember that God loves you as He made you, medications that are useful are a blessing and….what was I writing about again? God loves you! Enjoy your life!
I’ve struggled with creating routine for my whole life, constantly falling off and back into unfulfilling habits. What I have found most helpful are the following:
1. Create ‘anchor habits’ which are those things you do no matter what that give you a sense of achievement. For me, the main one is getting onto my yoga mat every day, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, no matter what time of day it is. I also make sure I drink a glass of water every single morning when I wake up and I am trying to anchor writing in my journal before bed.
2. Make your routine task-based instead of time-based. I have a series of ‘blocks’ I need to work through every day and it doesn’t matter what time I start my day, I just work through those blocks in order. Sometimes it means time is taken away from certain things (depending on work schedule) but once I dropped the reliance on clock time, I find I am able to work through all my blocks most days, which keeps me on track for future days.
3. Meds. Meds have helped more than literally any self-help book or article ever can or will and I will advocate for people to go on meds whenever possible! ADHD meds have been shown to dramatically assist more than 80% of those who take them and getting rid of the stigma around mental health medication is so so so important for our well-being and success!
Ugh. Routines. I'm on the ASD spectrum and I also experience the profile of pathological demand avoidance. Which means as soon as a task, even something I previously REALLY was excited about doing, becomes a necessity or required (say an article I pitched enthusiastically to a website gets accepted) the task suddenly becomes the biggest slog and the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Demotivation on overdrive.
Right now I'm in an experiment with my executive function and other traits. Like if I get enough sleep and am not overstimulated > burntout every day, AND I don't put too much pressure to do anything particular from day to day, what happens? How do I function? How do I feel? Do I get things done? Do I curl up in bed and binge The Ozarks every day? So far it's a bit of both depending how I feel.
I don't know if I'll be running the book writing empire I dream of as this experiment goes on but it is an interesting opportunity to find out who I am and how I function without the expectations of the outside world forcing me into certain ways of living and certain expectations.
Something I've seen suggested is to build systems instead of routines. To give an example, instead of trying to develop a routine of reading your Bible in the morning, you could use a Bible app to send you a verse to reflect on each morning at 9 AM. Or, instead of me trying to remember when I'm supposed to clean what, I use an app to keep track of how often I want to do different chores that reminds me when it's due.
This is exactly what I feel every three months or so, ha. And I’m with you with the countless number of self development books I’ve read (or bought with the intention of reading) to try and become ‘normal’. And the overwhelming guilt that comes after the ‘life changing’ routine falls apart.
Keep up the great work! I’m trying to start small too - specifically with my Bible reading and prayer as well!
I like this idea, having a select amount of set tasks to do everyday and how you were able to order them with an importance factor in mind. This article will definitely help me to start brainstorming what i need to implement in my daily life because routines are not it. I have been able to stick to a somewhat normal workout routine, opting for going to the gym every other day, but it all depends on what challenges my brain is able to delegate in-between chores, work, adulting, creativity, sleep etc. I’ve never been fulfilled when trying to do the same things over and over, not to mention doing them every single day?! No thankyou.
I like your style in being able to categorize and cultivate your daily goals into subcategories!