ADHD theming for your schedule: how to get productive!

Many ADHD writers I coach feel overwhelmed. They have a long list of fantastic ideas, but they struggle with multitasking, task switching and decision fatigue. So how can you make sure to spend time on every part of your life that’s important to you, despite those challenges? Here’s where ADHD theming can help. 
In short: ADHD theming means assigning a theme to different time blocks in your schedule. You can have themed days, weeks, months, or even hours in every day.
I’m sure there are ways in which you already do this. For example: the first half hour after you get up might be dedicated to “waking up.” And you might spend the weekend days very differently than work days. Summers might be dedicated to sun bathing and swimming. In that sense, you’ve already associated certain time blocks (times of day, days, and even months) with certain themes. 
But you can take this further. If you theme days ADHD might be less capable of throwing off your plans. It can help you tackle multiple goals without getting held back by your decision fatigue, task switching issues, and general feelings of overwhelm. In this post, I will show you how to use ADHD theming to become more productive and create clarity and calm in your life. 

How ADHD affects your productivity

One of the best-known symptoms of ADHD is how difficult it is for us to control what we focus on. This big symptom, however, is actually a collection of other issues. 

Impulse control

We struggle with impulse control, meaning it’s hard for us to ignore distractions. 


We can also hyperfocus, which is a state of such intense focus that everything else seems to disappear. That’s great when you have to finish one project, but makes it very hard to switch tasks. You just won’t want to stop. 

Time blindness

We have trouble projecting ourselves into the future. And that means that any long-term goal we want to achieve is not going to be a great motivator to take action right now. 

Decision paralysis and decision fatigue

Even if we can choose where we’re going to direct our attention, that still means we need to make a choice. And as we have trouble with prioritizing and breaking things down, having to make that choice often leads to decision paralysis, or overwhelm when faced with all the (seemingly equally valid) options. This is often a literal near-paralysis: you can end up scrolling through social media for hours, feeling unable to do anything because the decision feels impossible.

The solution: ADHD theming

All of these problems can be eased, however, by adding structured routines into our lives. (Even though we are terrible at keeping them going for a long time.) And that’s where ADHD theming comes in.

ADHD Theming: Unveiling the power of themed days

For my clients with too many things going on, theming has been a life changing strategy. Though ADHD theming means nothing more or less than putting similar things together, when applied to your schedule it can save you a lot of trouble. 

Themes: Projects and life areas

I normally suggest thinking about two kinds of themes: your life areas and the projects in these life areas. 

For myself, I have identified 10 life areas (though you don’t need that many to start with!). These include: Creativity & mental health; Home; Online presence (marketing); and Research and Writing. The reason why I have these life areas is that I want to create balance, and make sure I make enough (but not too much) time for each of these big categories of activity. 

Within these big areas, I have projects. For example: my blog is a project in my Online Presence category, as are my Instagram posts and mailing list. And each project consists of multiple tasks. Today, one of these tasks was to write you this blog posts! 

How ADHD theming works

At the start of this week, I decided what areas and what projects I would focus on for the week. I also decided on which days I would focus on which projects. And that means that at the start of the day – even though I still have the freedom to decide what tasks to work on – I don’t have to make any big decisions about what I’m going to do. It removes the need for decision-making AND the need for constant task switching.

I will give you more examples of how people use themed days and ADHD theming to help with multitasking and time management. But first, let’s talk about how these strategies can help with many ADHD-related problems. 

How themed days help with multitasking, decision paralysis and task switching

Do you ever spend an entire day working hard on one thing, only to afterwards feel guilty you didn’t do anything on another? Themed days can actually help with that! If you know that another day this week, or another week this month, will be dedicated to the life area or project that “neglected” task belongs to, there is no need to feel guilty at all. You can rest, knowing you did exactly what you needed to do. 

Creating clarity

Grouping similar things together (in a project or life area), in itself, can help reduce your overwhelm. Though we aren’t natural compartimentalizers (our beautiful brains are able to connect any one thought to any other without assigning distinctions and priorities), using logic to create these compartments is just like making piles. It’s something that our brains enjoy doing, because it creates order without being too structured. 

But when you assign these groups their own time and place, that’s when magic starts happening!

Balance between structure and freedom

I often say that finding balance between structure and freedom is the secret to ADHD productivity. And that is the beauty of this system. 

You see, when we feel someone is trying to tell us what to do, our inner rebel comes out to play. We are highly resistant to being told what to do – some of us even to such an extent that we are diagnosed with Pathological Demand Avoidance

But with ADHD theming, nothing is telling us what to do. Our schedule doesn’t tell us what tasks are next, it only tells us what group of tasks to work on. 

So how does this help?

That means we still feel we have choices, but not so many that we get paralyzed.

What’s more, when we do finish a task and move onto the next one, there isn’t a big gap: these tasks are going to be similar to the first, or at least help us work towards the same goal. Task switching, then, can become a lot easier because it will be less switching than task sliding. (Ha, that actually doesn’t sound too bad! I’m going to keep that expression!)

With the time saved on decision paralysis, and now that switching tasks isn’t as much of an issue anymore, you should already be able to increase your productivity. But what’s more, you’ll be making chunks of progress towards multiple goals. 

Do you know how people say that when you multitask you don’t get anything done? Well, that’s not true with ADHD theming. You see, when you spend whole days working on the same project, at the end of the day you’ll be able to clearly see how much farther you are than you were that morning. Themed days for ADHD, therefore, can help you finally feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment after long days of hard work. 

ADHD theming in action!

Themed days for a PhD candidate

One of my clients is a PhD candidate, who started using this strategy when she was doing field work. She has assigned themed days to every day of the week, so that she never has to think about what tasks to tackle when. For her:

  • Mondays are days in which she contacts people she’d like to interview;
  • Tuesdays are for organizing her notes and spreadsheets;
  • Wednesdays are for social media posts to connect with the community she is studying; 
  • Thursdays are for digitizing hand-written notes and documents;
  • Fridays are to finish any tasks she didn’t get done during the week. 

Another client I work with, has a similar strategy. She has four days out of every week for writing. Of those, she spends 2 on her main writing project, and the other two on smaller projects that keep coming up. 

Themed months for a playwright

But I don’t just work with academics. One of my playwright/screenwriter clients always has new ideas for projects. However, he really enjoys hyperfocusing on one project at a time until he becomes temporarily bored with it. So he uses project-based ADHD theming to make sense of his time. Here are some monthly themes we decided on together:

  1. Write a new play;
  2. Rewrite an old tv pilot;
  3. Work on exposure (improving the website);
  4. Play with new ideas.

This last one was a particular favorite. After being incredibly disciplined for a long time, over the summer he gave himself one month to just follow whatever impulses his brain was giving him. It felt like a little creative vacation, and gave him plenty of inspiration to keep going. What’s more, at the end of this month he actually missed the structure of having one clear focus project to work on and was happy to get more disciplined again. 

Time blocking for an inventor/author

Another writer I work with uses the ADHD theming strategy to time block his days, with life areas as his themes. 

  • He starts every day with writing until lunch. 
  • After lunch, he works on his inventions until dinner. 
  • After dinner, he does some reading. Or, if his brain has a particularly hard time letting go, he gives it the choice between working on his writing or his inventing project. 

When he wakes up, therefore, he does not need to think about what he’s supposed to work on. And every day he feels he’s making progress on each of his main life areas. Pretty neat, huh? 

Final points on ADHD theming

ADHD theming your schedule is a strategy that you can use in any way that makes sense to you. But the core message is: if you group related tasks together, and you make decisions in advance to narrow down which groups of tasks you’ll be working on when: you’ll be able to improve your productivity. It doesn’t matter if you suffer from decision fatigue, time management, multitasking, task switching, or impulse control… A themed schedule can actually help alleviate all these challenges! 
But the real beauty of ADHD theming is that it is a broad concept that you can make your own. It provides structure, but without being stifling. So you can tell your inner rebel to calm down: just pick up the concept and run with it. 
Just because you have ADHD, doesn’t mean you can’t achieve all your goals… and feel good doing it! 

How I can help 

You might need some help though… 
If that is the case, just schedule a free video call with me here, and we can discuss how to modify your schedule to increase your productivity. 
Or, if you love worksheets, I’ve created one that can help you timeblock your schedule. You can find it in my Etsy store