7 Tips for Less Frantic Evenings with ADHD

Make tomorrow easier by building these nighttime habits.

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Staying productive at work all day when you have ADHD can suck up a lot of your mental energy, so it’s completely reasonable if you just want to kick up your feet and unwind with your favorite reality show (we won’t judge). Evenings can be jam-packed with must-dos (food shopping, cooking dinner, overseeing kids’ homework, and getting through chores) and nice-to-dos (working out, seeing friends, making quality time for your partner and family). Many nights, it’s hard for anyone to get through an overly scheduled nightly routine, let alone for those with ADHD who can struggle with focusing and organization.

But incorporating a few new habits into your evening routine will help you stay on track and help make tomorrow’s to-dos even easier. For a smoother evening with ADHD, follow these tips by psychiatrist Susan Samuels, MD, of New York Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.

  1. Hit the gym after work. Before going home, squeeze in 20 to 30 minutes of exercise, and you’ll likely be rewarded with a boost in energy and focus for the rest of the night. No time for a gym session? Try to get at least some physical activity by playing in the yard with your kids or walking your dog.

  2. Meal prep for the week on Sunday. Or Saturday. Or whatever day works best. The idea is to make bulk batches of food and organize them in convenient containers for the week. The fewer on-the-fly decisions you have to make about what to cook or eat for dinner on hectic weeknights, the smoother things will be.

  3. Create a “launching pad” by the front door. Keep all your essentials here: keys, wallet, cell phone, bag, headphones, and so on. As soon as you walk home (after sweating at the gym, of course), everything goes on the launching pad. In the morning, you’ll have everything ready to go. No more hunting around for essentials when you’re already running 10 minutes late.

  4. Get organized for the next morning. Pick out your outfit, pack your work bag, and prep tomorrow’s lunch. Here are more tips on having a stress-free morning with ADHD.

  5. Sort and discard mail immediately. Open the mail right over the garbage to get rid of junk mail before it ends up cluttering the kitchen counter. Clutter is a nuisance for everyone, but it can be especially problematic for people with ADHD. For mail you plan to keep, sort it into file folders or bins. For example, have a folder for mail that needs immediate action (like the gas bill, ugh).

  6. Delegate. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Divide up tasks among family or household members. If it’s in your budget, you could also splurge on meal delivery, weekly cleaning, or laundry delivery services.

  7. Follow a strict bedtime and set an alarm for an hour beforehand. “This serves as an external cue to start winding down and avoiding activities that may keep you alert,” says Dr. Samuels. In other words, when that alarm goes off, it’s best to turn off Netflix and avoid starting another episode.