168 The Importance of Routines for People with ADHD to Stay Organized and Productive with Skye Rapson

The Importance of Routines for People with ADHD to Stay Organized and Productive with Skye Rapson, Time Management

Are learning time management and productivity skills a waste of time if you have ADHD? No! I am by no means an expert in this area so I brought one on the show instead.

ADHD expert, Skye Rapson, joins the podcast and is an academic with over seven years of experience working in adult education. She has studied in various fields, including Psychology, Sociology, and Public Health, and is now a Doctoral Candidate in Population Health. Skye was diagnosed with ADHD at the start of her doctorate. Since then, she has dedicated time to researching and disseminating ADHD studies, focusing on supporting others with strengths-based, neurodiverse-friendly tools and systems.

Skye shares some of the strategies today to build effective systems and help alleviate feelings of overwhelm and anxiety.

In this episode, you will learn the following:
1. How does time blindness affect people with ADHD?
2. What are some strategies for externalizing time?
3. How do routines help people with ADHD?


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Oh my goodness, you guys are in for a treat today. I could have chatted with our guest easily 6 hours. I'm not kidding. So for those of you listening that are diagnosed with ADHD, maybe you think you have it. You have a loved one that has been or you believe has it.

Today I have an expert here really talking about and she's going to share a couple key strategies with you. Obviously, as it relates to time, one of the phrases that you're going to hear her talk about is how to externalize time. So, I mean, I learned so much already today and I know we're going to be having her back again, but definitely I encourage you listen with some open ears. Really try not to multitask as you're listening to this one, especially if you have yourself or loved ones with this diagnosis because I think you're going to get some amazing insights and some new tools to think about in terms of time management, et cetera. So let's go ahead and jump in.

Welcome to the Work Life Harmony podcast. I'm your host, Megan Sumrell and the creator of the top program and top planner teaching all things time management, organization and productivity for women. I'm also a mom and wife and just like you, I'm juggling hashtags all the things while running multiple businesses and a family. Guess what? You don't have to feel constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out.

There is another way. When you have the right systems and tools to plan and manage your time, you can live a life of harmony. This is your show to learn from me and other amazing women how to master your time, planning and organization to skyrocket your productivity so you can have Work Life of Harmony. If you're ready to stop feeling overwhelmed. This is the show for you.

And if you're new here, I'd love. To get you started with my Work Life Harmony assessment. All you have to do is DM me on Instagram at Megan summerl with the word Harmony and my team will. Send it right over.

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to work. Life. Harmony. I have a new guest on today and I'm not going to lie to you, like, I've been staring at my calendar all week.

So excited to bring sky on the show, sky. And we'll let you introduce yourself in a second. For all of the listeners out there who have actually been diagnosed with ADHD, maybe you think you have it, but you don't have the official diagnosis. Maybe you have a loved one, as I do, in your house that has been diagnosed with it. I know I get this question a lot around why is managing my time?

Why is it hard for me to stay organized? Why do I struggle with procrastination when you have been diagnosed with ADHD? And I'm always the first to say, I am not an expert in this space, but I live with some, and I work with a lot of women with it. So it brings me great pleasure to actually bring an expert to you all in this space here today. So, sky, welcome to the show.

Yes, thanks. It's really, really nice to be here. I was looking forward to this as well. Yes. When we got your email in and I read what you do in your bio, I was like, oh, heck, yeah, we got to get we're probably going to have you on the show a number of times.

So, sky, why don't you share your background with everybody a little bit and then we'll jump into some questions here. Yeah, so I have a background in academia. Originally I work in adult education, space teaching, studying for about eight years through psychology, sociology, public health. And then sort of later in my academic career, when I was doing postgrad, I got diagnosed with ADHD completely. To my surprise, I went in for what I thought was dyslexia because it ran in my family and ended.

Up with an ADHD diagnosis and really had to take a look at everything I had done in my twenty s and what had really been going on and sort of figurestart to figure things out from there. Wow, interesting. And tell us a little bit about the organization that you've now founded in the work that you do today. Yeah, so what happened essentially was I started working with the university, supporting postgraduates with ADHD, and then from there I started working in schools. And then when the pandemic hit and we all went into lockdown, I started looking for an opportunity to do this more online.

And that's when I discovered ADHD coaching. And I sort of built up the ADHD coaching process that we have today and that we work with other people we train who have ADHD as well, who also do ADHD coaching, and combined that with my research background to provide articles and references and some of that. Why, what's going on and why is. This happening that's such important work? And obviously, for those of you listening who can tell, you're joining us from New Zealand, correct?

Yes, I am. That's on my bucket list of places to go. So I'd love to kind of kick things off. I think people today throw around ADHD kind of a little haphazardly as like a catch all for anything and everything. So let's start with understanding.

What does a diagnosis of ADHD actually mean? Yeah, so generally to get diagnosed and it's different in different countries, you have to go to a psychiatrist or a doctor, you have to go through something. The ADHD diagnosis that's in the DSM, it has certain expectations around, you know, neurological differences, behavioral differences, and then you can get that diagnosis. It's a long process. You can be on a waiting list for multiple months, sometimes up to a year.

And so what we do is we help people who either they have diagnosed ADHD or they have executive functioning difficulties and they think they might have ADHD. But that's sort of what the ADHD diagnosis looks like. And I have that and all of our coaches have that. I love that all of your coaches have that because I know sometimes I always tell people, like, don't go work with someone to teach you something. If they themselves aren't experiencing it, you have something.

So I think that that's amazing. I like that you brought up, because I was going to ask you about this, the term of struggling with executive functioning. What does that mean as well? Because I hear it you sometimes I'm like, I don't think they know what it actually means. Yeah, so there's lots of different ways to explain it.

You know, we generally talk about it as, you know, neurologists are still discussing it and debating it, but essentially it's a difference in dopamine is a big factor in there. We know that it's not being processed or it's not getting taken up in the same way as neurotypicals, which is what we tend to call people who don't have ADHD or a neurological difference. And so that's one of the main reasons that people are experiencing this executive functioning. And executive functioning, the sort of principles that we focus on, because they are particularly an issue with a lot of people that we work with, is working memory difficulties. Are you remembering things that you've been asked to do?

Issues with time blindness, can you see time? We know from the research people ADHD struggle with that transition times and then Dopamine as well. And those are kind of the main areas that we're supporting. I'm interested with the Dopamine. What does that present as?

Is that kind of the h side? Is that what tends to cause I know liking young children, my daughter is just like, always need to have a fidget or something like that. Yeah, it's that slight under stimulation. And that's not just for people who have ADHD. It can also be for people who have Add.

Although the diagnosis is different. It's also called combined type now and different kinds of types in terms of what that looks like, it is, as you said, it's the need for additional stimulation. And so what we do is we use things like the Dopamine and other strategies to try and help you if you have ADHD to increase the amount of Dopamine that you have in your life. We explain it as taking alcohol fun very seriously because it is how you get things done. Oh, I love that.

And yeah, I think I like that you brought up the ADHD Add. I know here in the US. I feel like it's all just combined into one. Like, there used to be the different diagnoses, but now it all falls under the umbrella of ADHD. So if you're listening and you've thought, oh, is it ADB or ADHD my understanding is, at least here in the States, it all tends to just fall under one umbrella.

Yeah, we work with different countries and different countries have different ways of doing it. But what we do is we will support anybody who has Add, ADHD or thinks that they have struggled with executive functioning. We sort of support everyone under that umbrella. Awesome. So obviously, you know, where I want to spend our time chatting today is under the I love that you called it time blindness.

So I know one of the I'd say the top two biggest questions concerns things like that I get from women in my community that are diagnosed with ADHD is I can do the plan, but then I can't stick. To it or I start on it, but then all of a sudden, 2 hours are gone, and I didn't even realize I wasn't working on what I thought I was going to plan to work on. And time is just gone where things take a lot longer. So I'd love to hear from you what this time blindness is, what causes it, and then what might be some tools that people can start using today. Yeah, so time blindness is a really interesting one we've already really started to learn about in terms of how to fix people with ADHD.

But what we know is that according to the research, people who have ADHD experience time differently to neurotypicals, which is something I didn't realize a lot of. People didn't even realize. Yes, and a great way to consider it in some of the research that they've done is if you have somebody in a room and they have to press a button, for example, and you ask somebody who's neurotypical, can you press this button after five minutes? Well, they're going to get closer to that five minute mark than somebody who has ADHD. They might be pressing it after a minute, pressing it after ten minutes.

And it really depends on kind of what they're doing, what they're interested in. Those are the factors that affect the time. So there's not that internal clock. And so what we talk about here is we talk about externalizing time, basically taking the workload and this is what we do with a lot of things around ADHD and executive functioning support taking the workload off your brain so they can be free to do the things that it's good at. Because ADHD, we do have a lot of strengths.

Yeah. Figuring out, OK, well, let's figure out how to make time something that is happening around you. So there's a variety of different ways we do it. Obviously, putting more clocks around can be really helpful. We discuss timers, but we use them a bit sparingly.

We also discuss natural timers. So there's a lot of things in your life you don't even realize. Act as a natural timer. For example, putting the kettle on to boil that's three minutes. A podcast is about 20 minutes.

There's a lot of things you can do that help you keep time without having to constantly have timers in your life, which can be a bit strictly. Love that, oh my gosh, that right there. I think it's going to be a game changer. I know. Again, this is just from personal experience.

Oftentimes diagnoses of ADHD can parallel or combined with some anxiety diagnosis as well, which means timers are really bad solution because all it does is increase the stress of oh my God, the timer. I can't timer for my daughter for anything, lips her out. Some people with ADHD have thrived with timers, some women in my community do, but then they tend to say, yeah, anxiety is not my thing, but we have to keep them very short. That's why I like the Pomodoro technique sometimes because we're keeping those timers at 15 minutes, ten minutes, like a 60 minutes timer. I mean, that's just almost crazy.

But I love thinking about this idea of natural timers. So would this be kind of looking at what are events that you do in your life that tend to have a fairly structured amount of time? Like you said, maybe making a cup of coffee, putting I love you said putting the kettle onto boil, going for a run, like maybe you exercise for the same amount of time. Are those the types of activities that we say, when that's done, then we move on to another task? Or how are you leaning into those natural timers?

Yeah, so it's very much as you said, it's about crafting that flow because it's also about understanding, OK, what are the things that have to be done at a particular time? Taking medication, for example, going somewhere. Those are things that might need a timer to say, hey, it's time to go now. But a lot of the other things in your life, we can use timers that have a bit of flex to them because our life has that and so that can be really helpful. So for example, the other timer that I use sometimes is I recommend if you're trying to get started on work, then you sort of motivate yourself by saying, okay, I'm going to sit down, I'm going to drink this cup of coffee, I'm going to read an article or two or watch a YouTube video.

And when the coffee is done, that means my time is up. And that provides you with a bit of a natural timer because sometimes the coffee takes a bit longer to drink. If you want that bit of extra time, things like that, you can kind of give yourself a sense of time. So it's not about going, OK, you have a regimented time schedule that you have to stick to because no one is doing that. Neurotypicals aren't doing that specifically all the time.

It's more about going, how can we take time? That's not happening in your brain in the same way and put it out into the world in a way where you can see. Okay, well, I can't see this. Five minutes. But I know that's five minutes.

I know that's ten minutes. Those things can be a helpful starting place for people, particularly if, like you said, there is that resistance to timers, which I totally understand. I love that you're tying it to something that does have like a natural built in and timer like the cup of coffee. Because if you just say, okay, I'm going to allow myself to sit down, read a couple of articles and listen to a podcast and then I'm going to get to work. Well now you've opened up the door of 3 hours could pass, right?

Because you could get down the rabbit hole. But because you're tying it to that cup of coffee, even if you get distracted, all of a sudden your coffees cold, that can be a trigger of like, oh, I've used my warm coffee time. So now it's time to move on. What are your thoughts on either good or bad? On kind of creating routines of specific activities, not for specific amounts of time kind of tied into it?

Like you said, a morning routine where you allow yourself to do these three or four things while you're drinking your coffee and then you move on to the next kind of routine chunk of your time. How do routines play in? Yeah, so routines are really interesting with ADHD. They're sort of particularly the morning routine, like you discussed, is kind of one of the first things we often talk about and we talk a lot about structured flexibility. So we want that structure.

But with ADHD we want that flexibility as well because it's going to be that resistance, it's going to be that shift. And so what we tend to do is we go through people's lives, obviously with coaching, we go through your life very specifically and we provide a lot of detail for the person. So we tend to go talk about, OK, what's missing in people's lives. Then we talk a little bit about what tends to work for people. So for ADHD, that morning routine, it might include something around a bit of movement, a bit of stimulation, which we know supports working memory, which is a big factor when you're going to get into the workday.

Bit of that dopamine that we talked about and we try and figure out a very easy flow. So a great example of that is if you go to the shower and then you go back to your room to get changed, sometimes people get stuck there on the phone for like another 30 minutes to an hour. So if you get changed in the shower, right after you go straight to the kitchen, you put the kettle on. Now you're on a timer, you make breakfast while the kettle boils. You sit down, you have all of those things while you have that cup of coffee.

Yes, we do use the kettle a lot as a great natural. And then you can just see and you're moving on and you've got that flow going. And that's often what we're talking about when we're doing those routines. But then we do have to adjust it. People come back the following week, they say, this worked, this didn't work, we adjusted.

And so I love that phrase, structured flexibility. If you have my structures, freedom, I feel that big believer that structure creates freedom. But structure meaning not every single morning from nine to 910 last like a day? When you talk about structured flexibility, is it that combining these are the activities we're going to do, but maybe one day it takes five minutes longer, or how are you differentiating the structure and the flexibility there? Yeah, that's a great question.

So what we tend to do is we ask people to make a routine, a squished version of their routine, and then a stretched version of their routine. So the key is to kind of keep the routine, particularly if you're building up a habit. So for people who want to exercise, for example, say they want to do yoga in the morning, we'll have, okay, you've got ten minutes of yoga, 30 minutes of yoga, or you just do a downward dog in the lounge and go on with your day. Sort of it's, which 01:00 A.m. I choosing, because again, with that executive functioning, you don't want to have to think in the moment, what's a shorter version of this?

Because your brain will just go not doing it. Okay, moving on. Yes, but you've got the flexibility to choose. And I know for me, with my mornings, I kind of have what I call like, my A mornings and my B mornings. And I don't really decide which I'm going to have till I wake up because I kind of want to listen to my body to know, oh, this is, like, a lot for me, is how much time at my desk, how much time am I out exercising, and some mornings exercises longer because I know I'm going to need that.

And I'll go to bed with what I think I'm going to do, but I still give myself the grace to change my mind in the morning based on events. And then there's always what I call my C version, which is like, you wake up and like, all hell's broken loose, like people are sick or whatever. You're like, one more question I'd love to dive into. I could probably pick your brain here for like, an entire day when the wheels fall off. Like, let's say you're kind of in a good flow, you've got your squished and stretched routines, you're starting to make some progress, and then something happens, a life event happens where really we have to step away from the routines, the order, the things that are keeping us making forward progress.

I mean, worst case example, like the Pandemic, right? That went on forever, but sometimes it's just an emergency, something's happened. Maybe there's a sick family member, maybe your car breaks down, you know, you don't have one for a couple of days. But those things that tend to really disrupt us. Some of the things I've learned in Red is that getting back on into the routines can be significantly harder for people with ADHD when they've been forcibly kind of taken out of them.

Number one, is that true or false? And then what are some tips on how to kind of get back in the flow again? Yeah, well, I will say definitely for a lot of my clients in a lot of different situations, that has been exactly the case, is that when we break that habit, it's much harder to put it back together. It's a working memory, executive functioning combination. You're remembering, like, what came after this?

I don't remember, especially if you haven't built that habit out yet. So that's why we do recommend the squished routine, if at all possible, and we make that squished routine really squish. Like meditation is just closing your eyes for a second, taking a deep breath and moving on to kind of keep an eye on that. Yes. If you really have to step away from the structure that you have to do when you come back into it.

What we tend to do for people is if it's their first time having that experience, first of all, it's important to know it's very normal. It's very normal to struggle with this. So definitely, you know, we always say bring your worst self to coaching, and sometimes people are reluctant to do that. So, you know, that's kind of one of the things. But what we do at that moment is generally we create a plan which is called kind of the everything falls apart plan.

So how do you get back? We have a stepped idea for what that's going to look like. It can be different for different people, but it would generally involve going, okay, this is your calendar system, this is your task system, this is your routine system, these are your priorities. So similar to how you might do on a Sunday or Monday, you might take a minute and give yourself a bit of leeway in that first day and just go, okay, well, all I'm going to do is get up and maybe do something that I enjoy. So some people might be like, I'm going to grab a coffee from somewhere or go outside, sit in the grass, and I'm going to try and do this plan so that tomorrow I can start on the routine.

These are the systems that we tend to do. I love that and I like to hear this because one of the things, again, I feel like I put the 200 disclaimers I am not a professional, I'm not. Whatever. But one of the things that I've been coaching some of the women in my community, when they get to that place where the wheels have fallen off, I mean, the foundation of everything I teach is weekly planning. But for some people I'm like, sometimes we're so far gone that the thought of creating a weekly plan is completely overwhelming to you.

And in that case, I say, okay, at the end of today, take a few minutes and at least plan out just tomorrow. Just tomorrow and nothing else. So that we start to retrain that muscle memory and not get anxious and overwhelmed about looking at the week as a whole and stay in that at least just look at tomorrow at the end of today for a few days until things start to kind of gel back and we start to get that muscle memory back in place. Do you think that is still a good suggestion? I think it can be.

I think with ADHD as well, you really have to check in with the person and just double because some people are like, my brain is not going to do that. And I'm like, yeah, that's not what we're doing. It's fixing something else. But also it's about adding that dopamine. So especially if you have it or you're getting back into it, it's going, okay, how much dopamine which is basically stimulation fund, that kind of thing, can we add to this?

So is it going to be sitting in the sun in your favorite spot, eating some breakfast, listening to something like, what can we do? And I work with parents, so I understand that can be really tough. What can we do to kind of get through to a place where you think about it and you don't feel dread, you feel like, oh, okay, this could even be fun because I try and put the planning that we do in that self care category rather than that work category. And that really helps. Some of the silly things that I know I use and some other women in my community use is again, if you're a sticker person and you're using a paper planner, like, get the stickers out and put some of those on your day.

Again, if that brings you joy, if that sounds like stress, dear God, don't do it. Another is sometimes when I'm having a hard time with doing large plans is I stand, so I'll use a wall and post it notes so I'm being in motion can like my body moving is really helpful. One of the things I do with my daughter when we're working on some of the stuff that she sits on a bouncy ball instead of a chair, so she's moving as we're doing that. And then it helps. Like I find that's been a game changer for us at home.

Are there any other little things like that that you can think of that people can maybe be getting the dopamine benefits while still kind of working on something 100%. We talk about this all the time. If this is something you really are prioritizing and you're just struggling to do it, what time are you doing it? Maybe the afternoon isn't a good time for you. When are you it's never good for me.

Yeah, it's funny and it's true. I think most people always think, oh, afternoons are worse. The morning is the worst for my daughter. We did that already. Interesting.

Yeah. It can really depend in terms of kind of what time works for you with the morning. Time can often work sometimes, and so it's about the time that works for you. But I'd also say that I have some right here. Do you have fidgets?

These can be really helpful. We got to both of those. Yes. So those can be really helpful as well. But also, maybe you want to go out to do this.

Maybe you're just not going to get it done at home. Can you go somewhere to do this? Can you do this with somebody else? We call it body doubling, doing it with a friend. So it's really about and also if you're starting out on a newer thing, you're going to need more activation energy for it.

So you might think to yourself, okay, this is great, but like, I can't have a chocolate biscuit and a friend and a whole bunch of things to get started. Yeah, that would be great, but it's not always going to be like that. Once you get on that system, once you build those plans, it will become easier as you go. Yeah, I really like that buddy system idea because you could even just FaceTime each other or hop on Zoom if you can't physically be together and card that time out, and that way you're kind of working through it together and enjoying the companionship of 100% as well. This has been so incredibly helpful.

I am 100% confident we will have you back on the show because I know questions are going to come in from listeners. We'd love to be able to have you back for round two on this. In the meantime, where can people connect with you, learn more about what you do, et cetera. Yeah, so you can find [email protected] that's Unconventional Organization with a Z or an S depending on we have both. Okay.

Got it covered for both sides. I got it covered on both sides. You can also find us at Unconventional Organization with an S on Instagram. And what we have there is obviously we have our coaching services if you do feel like you need that additional support, but we also have a lot of articles that are there just for you to access if you want it's. Got a lot of our strategies.

We've got everything built into different categories. And so, yeah, whatever you're looking for, Chancellor, you'll find. It there. Awesome. And guys, we'll drop all those links in the show notes as well.

I would highly encourage you if you're on Instagram and this is something you are working through. If you have loved ones, definitely go follow unconventional organization on Instagram. There's just a chock full of great information for you. Truly, you could but set a natural timer for yourself because you can spend hours out there and get lost in it. Sky, again, thank you so, so much for giving us some of your precious time today.

This has been incredibly helpful. No worries. It's really been great to be here. I'm really excited to see what people's missions are. I love answering these questions.

Yeah, me too. All right, thanks, everyone.

Getting on top of all things time management, organization and productivity doesn't have to stop just because this episode is over. If you want one, tap access to all of my training and current top podcasts, go to the App Store or Google Play and download the Pink B app. It's one word. The pink b. It is jam packed with simple yet powerful tips and strategies to get you out of overwhelm and into harmony.

And if you have a question you want me to COVID in a future episode, go to iTunes and ask your question in the podcast review section. And while you're there, don't forget to leave a five-star review.


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