ADHD: Beyond Creating a Routine

When it comes to managing ADHD, especially in the context of finances, our previous article suggested creating a routine as a possible solution. However, the feedback from our readers, many of whom have ADHD, has been enlightening. It is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach, like simply advising to create a routine, doesn’t work for everyone and can even be frustrating for those who struggle with ADHD.

We sincerely apologize for any unintended frustration and would like to delve deeper into understanding the challenges faced by individuals with ADHD and explore more comprehensive and personalized approaches.

The Challenge of Building Routines with ADHD

ADHD affects the brain’s executive functions, which are responsible for planning, focusing attention, and juggling multiple tasks. For many individuals with ADHD, mundane tasks don’t provide enough stimulation, which makes it harder to feel satisfaction or build habits through the reward system of dopamine that many neuro-typicals experience. Instead of feeling satisfaction, completing a chore might only bring relief that it’s over.

I asked my friend David how he deals with building a routine with ADHD. David said, “I totally understand how a routine would benefit me – but the problem is… I just can’t! If I could I would’ve done so years ago. It sounds like a simple solution but in my whole life that’s been an insurmountable obstacle.”

“In fact, ” David continued, “I could be a certified expert on starting routines. I’ve started a new one every other day for life. The problem is sticking with a routine, something I just can’t do.”

The advice to “just build a routine” is as ineffective for someone with ADHD as telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off. The intent might be to encourage, but it lacks understanding of the underlying challenges.

Alternative Approaches

  1. Breaking Tasks into Smaller Steps: Instead of focusing on establishing a big routine, breaking the task into smaller, more manageable steps can sometimes be more effective.
  2. Using External Motivators: Since internal rewards might not work as well for individuals with ADHD, external motivators, such as incentives or accountability from a friend, might be more effective.
  3. Visual Reminders: Sometimes, visual reminders like sticky notes placed in frequently visited areas can serve as effective prompts.
  4. Flexible Routines: Rather than a strict routine, a more flexible approach that allows for variations can be helpful.
  5. Professional Guidance: Seeking the guidance of a psychologist or ADHD coach who understands the unique challenges can be invaluable.
  6. Empathy and Self-compassion: Recognizing that struggling with routine is not a personal failure but a challenge many face with ADHD. Being kind to oneself is important.
  7. Community Support: Engaging in communities (online or offline) where people share their own strategies and experiences can be encouraging and informative.

Let’s Keep the Conversation Going

We appreciate the feedback and the insights shared by our readers. It’s clear that managing finances and ADHD is not a simple challenge and cannot be boiled down to a single piece of advice. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue this dialogue and learn together.

I asked David what resources have helped, he pointed out that one of the most active communities filled with advice and understanding is on reddit in the r/adhd subreddit. Also, the videos of Dr. Russell A. Barkley are very enlightening.

If you have further insights, experiences, or strategies that you find helpful, please share them with us. We are here to learn and support each other in navigating the complex challenges that come with ADHD.


  • Lily Kensington

    Lily Kensington is a financial psychologist, a proud member of the ANZA Psychological Society, and a passionate advocate for financial wellness. A former high school English teacher and psychology graduate, Lily brings a unique perspective to her writing that blends the intricacies of psychology with the world of finance.Over the past decade, Lily has dedicated her life to helping individuals and couples navigate their emotional relationship with money. Her empathetic and intuitive approach, honed through her counselling practice, breaks down complex financial concepts into relatable and practical advice. Lily's writing often reflects her personal journey as a single mother, providing valuable insights and support for fellow single parents navigating the world of personal finance.In addition to her numerous contributions to wellness and personal development blogs, Lily is the author of the book "The Heart of Money: A Psychological Guide to Financial Wellness."In front of the camera or behind the pen, Lily's mission remains the same: to help others achieve financial peace by understanding the psychology of money.

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