Structuring an ADHD-Friendly Schedule for University Students

Navigating the transition from school life to university life can be both exciting and challenging, especially for students who are neurodivergent. A significant new report undertaken at Bristol University has revealed that one in seven students have ADHD or Autism, which equates to around fourteen percent of all students.

The report revealed there is a much higher chance of students with autism and ADHD presenting with other neurodevelopmental conditions, such as dyspraxia and dyslexia or mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and personality or eating disorders.

This blog will examine how creating an ADHD-friendly schedule can help students with ADHD navigate university life.

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that interfere with daily functioning. ADHD impacts executive functioning skills essential for planning, organising tasks, time management, decision-making, and emotional regulation.

Whether you have been diagnosed as a child or in adulthood, or if you notice the traits show up for you now, this blog will offer tips on how to maximise your university experience.

By taking the reins and meticulously planning an ADHD-friendly schedule, you can harness your time management skills, effectively prioritise tasks, and balance your academic and personal life. This sense of control can be empowering and lead to a more fulfilling university experience.

Creating an ADHD-friendly schedule includes developing an effective morning routine and using specific study strategies tailored to the ADHD mind. Initially, this may seem challenging or near impossible. However, putting a routine in place can offer many benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing academic success, and optimising your overall university experience.

Creating an ADHD-Friendly Schedule

Students with ADHD: Daily Planning Tips

Step 1: Time Management: Creating an ADHD-Friendly Schedule

Remember, you have the freedom to choose a planner that suits your unique needs and preferences. Whether it’s an online calendar, a whiteboard, a pinboard, or a combination of paper and pens, the choice is yours. This autonomy can be liberating and contribute to a more personalised and effective study routine.

If you notice you’re not utilising your planner as intended, take it as a cue for change. Instead of being hard on yourself, embrace the opportunity to get creative and have fun! Many types of planners are available, but it may take some time to find the one that best suits your needs. Consider factors such as the format (digital or physical), the level of detail it allows, and its portability. Remember, the goal is to find a planner that you enjoy using and that helps you stay organised.

Step 2: Schedule a Study Routine

Start by recording the timings for ‘non-negotiables’ such as lectures, study sessions, and classwork. ‘Non-negotiables’ are tasks or activities that cannot be changed or avoided, and they serve as an anchor for building your schedule and ultimately enhance student success.

Step 3: Establish a Sleep Schedule

Establishing a sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. However, it’s crucial to understand that ‘comorbidities’ are common with ADHD. Comorbidities are additional health conditions that often occur alongside a primary condition. In the case of ADHD, sleep disorders are a common comorbidity. This means that many individuals with ADHD also experience sleep-related issues.

Undoubtedly, sleep is a cornerstone of academic success and overall well-being. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that sleep disorders are common comorbidities associated with ADHD. Therefore, students with ADHD must plan a sleep schedule that works for them. For instance, if your earliest class starts at 9 am, aim to wake up at the same time every day, regardless of your class schedule for the rest of the week.

Setting an alarm clock and putting it on the other side of the room can help, as you must get out of bed to switch it off. Another good tip is the 5,4,3,2,1 method: As soon as you hear your alarm go off, aim to step out of your bed before you count to one. This method is a simple but effective way to overcome the initial inertia and start your day on an active note.

Gradually adjust your sleep routine until you find one that suits you. This process can take some time, especially if you’re a night owl.

An effective ADHD-friendly schedule should not only include academic commitments but also social interactions, such as developing friendships and attending parties and events. Striking a balance between fun and academic responsibilities is critical. 

If you have an event you want to attend, plan your departure time accordingly, especially if you have an important class or assignment the next day. If you choose to drink alcohol, remember to eat a substantial meal before, stay hydrated, and consider alternating alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or non-alcoholic alternatives. These ‘non-academic’ activities are not just for fun; they are essential for your overall well-being and can enhance your academic performance.

Ideally, schedule social events on nights when you have a lighter workload the following day. This way, you can enjoy yourself without compromising your sleep and studies.

Step 4: Time Management: Organise your Morning Routine

Think about what you want to do in the mornings before lectures, whether showering and heading straight out the door, enjoying a leisurely breakfast, meditating, exercising, or doing any other morning activity you want; a good tip is to create a realistic and sustainable routine.

To make mornings more accessible, you can pack everything you need for the next day and leave it beside the front door. Try to make this a simple task by allocating yourself five minutes to get your bag ready before bedtime.

Visualisation is a powerful tool that can help you remember what you must prepare or pack for the next day. In your mind’s eye, take a minute to visualise what you have planned for the day. Visualising what you want to do can prompt you to organise what you need, such as books, folders, and snacks. 

This simple routine can contribute to your overall student success. Visualisation involves creating a mental image of what you want to achieve or the steps you need to take to achieve it. It can help you stay focused, remember important details, and make better decisions.

Step 5: Time Management Tips: Maximising Your Morning Routine

Use a timer to track how long each morning task takes. For example, if it takes twenty minutes to shower, write it down. Also, remember to note the time required to commute from home to class. Record these times on paper and place them somewhere visible. Maximising your morning routine can help you stay on schedule and get to places on time.

An analogue or wall clock can help you stay on track. If you use your mobile phone, you might get sidetracked. Avoiding as many distractions as possible in the morning is beneficial.

It is easy to procrastinate in the morning, and this is especially true when you have ADHD. If you want to check social media or spend extra time having breakfast, ensure you set aside time for this by setting an alarm so time stays with you.

Step 6: Time-Management Tip: Establish Regular Mealtimes for Energy Maintenance

Maintain steady energy levels by planning regular meal and snack times. While the specifics of what and where you eat may vary daily, aim to maintain a consistent eating schedule, as effective time management around mealtimes is crucial.

Step 7: Incorporating Downtime: Maximising Student Success

Remember, your well-being is as important as your academic success. Ensure you balance work and relaxation time by scheduling time for self-care and social activities into your university routine. Planning time for self-care not only helps you avoid ADHD paralysis but also shows how much you value yourself and your needs. It often takes the form of mindfully engaging in activities you enjoy, such as reading a book, walking, or spending time with friends.

Understanding and addressing ADHD paralysis with strategies like breaking tasks into smaller steps, setting clear priorities, using external reminders, and following your daily planner can help you manage ADHD paralysis.

If you do slip into ADHD paralysis as soon as you become consciously aware of it, take a small step to break the cycle. Whether you grab a healthy drink, play your favourite soundtrack, or change your environment, such as showering or getting some fresh air, any step you take will take you out of the loop of ADHD paralysis. Importantly, don’t give yourself a hard time about it; try to move on to the next task.

Step 8: Mastering Meditation: Techniques for Enhanced Well-Being

Meditation greatly benefits students with ADHD by enhancing focus, reducing stress, and improving emotional regulation. Regular practice calms the mind, making it easier to manage inattention and hyperactivity. Start with a five-minute meditation. It may take a couple of months to master even a short meditation. If meditation isn’t appealing to you, try doing a calming breathing exercise.

Below is a sample of an ADHD-friendly morning routine, but remember, your personalised routine may look very different from this, and that’s perfectly fine. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and these strategies are designed to be flexible and adaptable to your unique needs and circumstances. So, feel at ease knowing that you can tailor these strategies to suit you best.

Sample of an ADHD-friendly Routine

Morning:

  • 7:00 am: Wake up
  • 7:15 am: Shower and get dressed
  • 7:45 am: Breakfast
  • 8:15 am: Commute to class

Midday:

  • 12:00 pm: Lunch
  • 12:30 pm: Quick walk or break

Afternoon:

  • 1:00 pm: Classes or study
  • 3:00 pm: Snack break

Evening:

  • 6:00 pm: Dinner
  • 7:00 pm: Downtime (reading, hobbies, socialising with friends etc.)
  • 9:00 pm: Relaxation or self-care (e.g. meditation)
  • 10:00 pm: Wind down for bed

Tips for Student Success

  • Flexibility: Adjust your routine as needed to find what works best for you.
  • Consistency: Implementing these productivity tips can assist you in crafting a robust university routine, which, with time, will evolve into ingrained habits
  • Accountability: Share your schedule with a friends, family, or housemates.
  • Rewards: Celebrate small successes to keep yourself motivated.

Student Success

Wrapping it all up

Enhance your productivity, time management, and overall well-being with a structured routine tailored to your unique needs. The goal is to create a routine that works for you while staying flexible as you refine it.

If you need support in developing a consistent and healthy university routine, my coaching practice can help. As a coach, I play a crucial role in student success by offering personalised guidance, support, and accountability. Together, we’ll overcome challenges and achieve your goals.

With valuable insights and tailored strategies, I empower students to navigate academic and personal hurdles effectively. My guidance will help you unlock your full potential and thrive in your university journey. To learn more about my student coaching sessions, book a free discovery call today.

If you want to know more book a free discovery call.