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How to Build Habits with ADHD

May 25, 2024

By Will Moore

As a behavioral science and habits expert with an ADHD diagnosis, I can tell you first hand how extremely difficult it can be to build habits. Our brains work differently, and thus the common approaches must be customized to fit our unique brain patterns and unique way of seeing and interacting with the world.

One of the main reasons I got into the study of how to build habits with ADHD was because of the extreme difficult in forming them as a result of the unique way my brain works. Imagine trying to form a new habit when your mind constantly wanders, distractions abound, and consistency feels like a distant dream. Creating habits for individuals with ADHD involves intentional design of behavior, externalizing the habit, and connecting it to an already existing routine. Repetition, consistency, and reducing friction are crucial steps in establishing self-supportive habits.

The good news is that in my journey to understand and build success habits in the main areas of life, I discovered that my ADHD symptoms could actually become a super power to be used FOR instead of against me.

In this blog we’ll explore how to use your Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder to help you build momentum in order to level-up in life.

Upgrades You’ll Earn from This Blog:

  1. Effective habit building strategies tailored for ADHD.

  2. Tools and techniques to create and sustain habits.

  3. Insights into using technology and support systems.

Understanding ADHD

Definition and Characteristics

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. It is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

There are three types of ADHD:

  1. Inattention: Difficulty paying attention to details, easily distracted, trouble organizing tasks, often forgetful.

  2. Hyperactivity-Impulsivity: Fidgeting, difficulty staying seated, excessive talking, impulsiveness.

  3. Combo of both: Symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive presentations are equally present.

Common Challenges in Habit Formation

People with ADHD face unique challenges when it comes to building and maintaining habits, with inconsistency being one of the hallmark symptoms. Some of these challenges include:

  • Difficulty Maintaining Focus: Staying on task long enough to establish a new habit can be challenging due to distractibility. For example, starting a task like exercising daily can be interrupted by sudden distractions, leading to inconsistency.

  • Organizational Struggles: Managing the various components of a new habit, such as planning and execution, can be overwhelming. This often results in incomplete tasks or abandoning new habits before they are fully formed.

  • Time Management Issues: Poor time management skills can hinder the consistent practice needed to form a new habit. Individuals with ADHD might find it hard to allocate time appropriately, leading to missed deadlines and rushed tasks.

  • Impulsivity: Impulsive behavior can lead to inconsistency and the abandonment of new habits before they are fully established. For instance, an impulsive decision to engage in a more immediately gratifying activity can derail the progress of habit formation.

  • Overwhelm with Multistep Processes: Habits that require multiple steps can be particularly challenging. The complexity can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, causing procrastination or avoidance.

  • Difficulty with Routine: Establishing and sticking to a routine can be particularly tough. Routines require consistency and structure, which can be hard to maintain for individuals with ADHD due to their fluctuating attention and energy levels

Real-Life Impact of ADHD on Habit Formation

When I graduated college and wasn’t as active in sports, I struggled to develop a consistent workout routine because of the constant distractions and low hanging fruit that was becoming more readily available. Because intramural sports were no longer part of my scheduled routine. My Space was the social media dopamine-fueled attention and time sucker of the momentum, and Tivo (yep, I'm old) allowed me to binge-watch my favorite shows for hours on end. I felt like I looked “good enough" to avoid taking the time to focus on replacing a consistent, fun and simple workout routine to replace my intramurals from college.

Read More About How long Does it Take to Form a Habit?

But over the next few years, the complacency started to compound into extra lbs, low energy, diminished mood, and a sense of failure that only added more friction to building a healthy workout regimen. Find out my current morning routine checklist for better understanding.

Strategies for Understanding and Addressing ADHD Challenges

Understanding your personal challenges is the first step in developing the optimal, tailored strategy for ADHD habit forming.

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By acknowledging these difficulties, you can better tailor your approach to habit formation. This involves creating structured environments, breaking tasks into manageable steps, and using tools and techniques that cater to your unique ADHD characteristics.

In the following sections, we will explore principles of habit formation, specific strategies, the role of technology, behavioral and cognitive techniques, and the importance of support systems. Each of these areas will provide actionable insights and methods to help individuals with ADHD successfully build and maintain new habits.

Read More About How Long Does it Take to Break an Addiction?

Many of these are the same techniques I used to help overcome my ADHD and replace my bad habits with healthy habits. So pay attention to what resonates most with you; these are the techniques to hone in on and utilize to your advantage to take control of, vs being controlled by, your ADHD symptoms.

Principles of Habit Formation

Basics of Habit Formation

Habits are formed through a process known as the habit loop, which consists of three main components: cue, routine, and reward. Understanding this loop is essential for building new habits, especially for individuals with ADHD who may need to adapt these principles to their unique needs.

  1. Cue: This is the trigger that initiates the habit. It can be a time of day, an emotional state, a particular location, or any other prompt that sets the habit in motion. For example, the cue for brushing your teeth might be waking up in the morning.

  2. Routine: This is the actual behavior or action in response to the cue. In the case of brushing your teeth, the routine is the act of brushing.

  3. Reward: This is the benefit or satisfaction you get from completing the routine. For brushing your teeth, the reward might be a clean mouth and fresh breath. The reward helps reinforce the habit loop, making it more likely that you will repeat the behavior in the future.

Importance of Consistency and Repetition

Sustaining habits through discipline and consistency is critical to embedding new behaviors. Repeating a behavior regularly helps to reinforce the habit loop, making the behavior automatic over time. For individuals with ADHD, maintaining consistency can be challenging due to distractibility and impulsivity. However, there are strategies to help overcome these challenges:

  • Set Clear Goals: Define what habit you want to build and why it’s important. Clear, specific goals can provide direction and motivation.

  • Start Small: Begin with manageable steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed. For example, if you want to develop a habit of reading, start with just five minutes a day.

  • Track Progress: Use a habit tracker or journal to record your progress. Seeing your progress can provide motivation and help you stay on track. You can read our article on How to use a habit tracker.

  • Create Routines: Establish a routine that incorporates your new habit. Consistency in your daily schedule can help reinforce the habit loop.

How to Form Habits With ADHD

Adapting these principles to fit the needs of individuals with ADHD involves understanding and addressing the specific challenges they face in establishing new behaviors. Here are some tailored strategies:

  • Simplify the Cue: Make the cue for your habit as clear and straightforward as possible. Use visual or auditory reminders to ensure the cue is noticeable.

  • Break Down the Routine: Simplify the routine into smaller, manageable steps. This can reduce feelings of overwhelm and make it easier to start and maintain the habit.

  • Enhance the Reward: Make the reward more immediate and appealing. Positive reinforcement can be a powerful motivator, especially for individuals with ADHD who may struggle with delayed gratification.

Real-Life Application: ADHD Habit Forming

John, a college student with ADHD, wants to develop a habit of studying daily. He sets a clear goal to study for 30 minutes each day. To help establish this habit, he chooses a specific time after dinner as his cue. He breaks down the routine by starting with 10 minutes of reviewing notes and gradually increasing the time. For his reward, John allows himself to watch an episode of his favorite TV show after studying. By making the habit loop simple and rewarding, John finds it easier to feel motivated and stick to his new study routine.

Routine Establishment

Should people with ADHD have a routine? A predictable schedule can help reinforce the habit loop and make it easier to maintain new behaviors. Here are some tips for establishing a routine:

  • Set Specific Times for Activities: Schedule specific times for activities, such as study sessions, exercise, or relaxation. Consistency in timing helps in making the activities a regular part of your day.

  • Create a Daily Plan: Outline your daily tasks and stick to the plan as closely as possible. Having a written plan can provide a clear roadmap for the day and reduce the likelihood of getting sidetracked.

  • Incorporate Breaks: Ensure that your routine includes regular breaks to prevent burnout and maintain productivity. Short breaks can help recharge your focus and energy.

Utilizing Technology To ADHD Habit Formation

Apps and Tools for ADHD: Several apps are well suited for individuals with ADHD in organizing tasks and building habits. There's a good chance you're already using some of these in your life. Here are a few of the ones I use:

  • Todoist: A task management app that helps you organize and prioritize tasks. You can create task lists, set deadlines, and receive reminders. Todoist also allows you to categorize tasks and set recurring tasks, which can help establish routines.

  • Habitscoach.ai: An AI driven, gamified website makes it simple, fun, and rewarding to quickly determine the top pain points/bad habits in your life causing friction, and the momentum building golden habits to replace them with. The website's unique personalization feature, where you answer questions about your preferences, goals, and lifestyle, ensures custom-tailored suggestions - eliminating the one-size-fits-all conundrum.

  • Trello: Trello is a visual tool that helps you organize tasks into boards. Each board can represent a project, and within each board, you can create lists and cards for specific tasks. Trello's visual layout makes it easier to track progress and stay organized.

Benefits and Potential Pitfalls: While technology can be incredibly beneficial, it's important to avoid over-reliance, which can lead to distraction and reduced effectiveness. Here are some tips to maximize the benefits of technology while minimizing potential pitfalls:

  • Set Limits: Use features within the apps to limit screen time or set specific times to check your apps. This can help prevent getting sidetracked by notifications or other digital distractions.

  • Focus on Functionality: Choose apps that directly help with organization and habit tracking rather than those that might lead to procrastination. Focus on tools that streamline your workflow and support your habit-building efforts.

  • Regular Reviews: Periodically review the effectiveness of the apps and tools you are using. Assess whether they are helping you achieve your goals and make adjustments as necessary to ensure they continue to meet your needs.

Real-Life Application: ADHD and Habits

Consider Alex, an adult with ADHD who struggles with managing daily tasks. Alex starts using Todoist to organize tasks and set reminders for important activities. Over time, Alex integrates Habitica to gamify daily habits, earning rewards for completing tasks like exercising and meditating. By customizing these tools and regularly reviewing progress, Alex finds it easier to stay organized and maintain consistency in building new habits.

Behavioral and Cognitive Techniques

In addition to using technology, incorporating behavioral and cognitive techniques can significantly enhance the process of building and maintaining habits for individuals with ADHD. These techniques focus on modifying thoughts and behaviors to improve organizational skills, coping mechanisms, and overall mental health.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors. For people with ADHD, CBT can be particularly effective in addressing issues such as procrastination, disorganization, and impulsivity. Here are some key CBT techniques:

Setting Specific Goals

  • Define Clear, Achievable Goals: Break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. For instance, instead of aiming to "be more organized," start with "organize my desk for 10 minutes each day."

  • SMART Goals: Ensure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This clarity helps maintain focus and direction.

Developing Action Plans

  • Create Detailed Plans: Outline the steps needed to achieve your goals. For example, if your goal is to exercise regularly, your action plan might include scheduling workout times, preparing your gym bag, and setting reminders.

  • Timelines and Deadlines: Set realistic timelines and deadlines for each step in your plan. This structure helps keep you accountable and on track.


  • Track Your Progress: Regularly monitor your progress towards your goals. Use a journal, app, or habit tracker to record your achievements and setbacks.

  • Adjust as Needed: Be flexible and adjust your action plans if you encounter obstacles. This adaptability ensures that you remain on course even when challenges arise.

Mindfulness and Stress Management

Mindfulness and meditation practices can help improve attention and reduce stress, which are beneficial for habit formation. By incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine, you can enhance your focus and calmness, making it easier to build and maintain new habits.

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Deep Breathing Exercises and Meditation

  • Simple Techniques: Practice deep breathing exercises, such as inhaling deeply through your nose, holding your breath for a few seconds, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. This can help reduce anxiety and improve concentration.

  • Regular Practice: Integrate these exercises where they most naturally fit into your daily routine for maximum friction reduction. I do mine every morning just before I sit down to my computer to get to work. I habit stack my routine of sitting down with automatically going into my breathing.

  • Guided Meditations: Use short session guided meditation apps or videos to help you get started and stay consistent.

Mindful Observation

  • Engage Your Senses: Practice mindful observation by focusing on your surroundings and engaging your senses. Notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you.

  • Stay Present: Make a conscious effort to stay present in the moment, rather than letting your mind wander to past or future concerns. A trick I use is called C.Y.P which stands for Catch Your thought when minds starts to wander or dwell,

Positive Reinforcement and Rewards

Using positive reinforcement and rewards can motivate and encourage consistency in habit-building efforts. This approach leverages the brain's reward system to reinforce desired behaviors.

Create a Reward System

  • Identify Rewards: Choose rewards that are meaningful and motivating for you. These could be small treats, such as enjoying a favorite snack, or larger rewards, like a weekend getaway.

  • Set Criteria: Define the criteria for earning rewards. For example, you might reward yourself after completing a week of daily exercise or finishing a challenging project.

Celebrate Small Wins

  • Acknowledge Progress: Celebrate your progress, no matter how small. Recognizing your achievements reinforces positive behavior and boosts motivation.

  • Use Affirmations: Give yourself positive affirmations and mental high-fives when you complete tasks. This self-recognition can enhance your confidence and commitment to your goals.

Incorporate Fun and Enjoyment

  • Make Tasks Enjoyable: Find ways to make habit-building tasks enjoyable. For instance, listen to your favorite music while cleaning or turn exercise into a social activity with friends.

  • Stack Your Habits: Use temptation bundling by pairing a task you need to do with an activity you enjoy. For example, only allow yourself to watch a favorite TV show while on the treadmill.

Real-Life Application

Emma, a professional with ADHD, wants to develop a habit of daily journaling. She sets a specific goal to write for 10 minutes each night. Emma uses CBT techniques to create an action plan, setting a nightly reminder and preparing her journal in advance. She practices mindfulness by focusing on her breathing before writing, which helps her transition into a calm, reflective state. To stay motivated, Emma rewards herself with a relaxing bath after a week of consistent journaling. By combining these behavioral and cognitive techniques, Emma successfully builds and maintains her journaling habit.

Support Systems

Building habits, particularly for individuals with ADHD, is not a journey that needs to be taken alone. Support systems can provide the encouragement, accountability, and guidance necessary to stay on track. Whether it’s from family, friends, coaches, or professionals, external support can make a significant difference in habit formation and maintenance.

External Support

Family and Friends

  • Encouragement and Motivation: Family and friends can offer encouragement and celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Engage in activities with family and friends that support your habit-building efforts. For instance, if you’re trying to exercise regularly, invite a friend to join you for workouts. This social aspect can make the activity more enjoyable and sustainable.

  • Accountability Partners: Having someone to check in with regularly can help keep you accountable. Share your goals with a trusted friend or family member and ask them to remind you of your commitments and check your progress.

ADHD Coaches

  • Specialized Guidance: ADHD coaches are trained to help individuals with ADHD develop personalized strategies for managing symptoms and achieving goals. They can provide practical advice on time management, organization, and habit formation.

  • Skill Development: ADHD coaches can help you develop specific skills, such as breaking tasks into manageable steps, creating effective routines, and using reminders and prompts.

Professional Help

Therapists and Counselors

  • Therapeutic Support: Therapists and counselors can help address underlying issues related to ADHD, such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. Addressing these issues can make it easier to build and maintain new habits.

  • Behavioral Techniques: Therapists often use evidence-based techniques like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help individuals with ADHD develop better coping mechanisms and organizational skills.

  • Customized Strategies: Professional therapists can work with you to create customized strategies tailored to your specific needs and challenges. This personalized approach ensures that the techniques are relevant and effective for you.

How to Leverage Support Systems

1. Communicate Your Goals: Clearly communicate your goals and the specific support you need to your family, friends, and professionals. Let them know how they can best help you stay on track.

2. Regular Check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins with your support network. These can be weekly meetings with an ADHD coach, daily text messages with a friend, or monthly therapy sessions. Consistent contact helps maintain accountability and motivation.

3. Celebrate Successes Together: Share your successes with your support network and celebrate together. Recognizing your achievements, no matter how small, reinforces positive behavior and builds momentum.

4. Be Open to Feedback: Be open to feedback and suggestions from your support system. They can offer valuable perspectives and advice that you might not have considered.

5. Offer Support in Return: Supportive relationships are reciprocal. Offer support and encouragement to your friends and family in their endeavors. This mutual support strengthens relationships and creates a positive, supportive environment.

How to Build Habits with ADHD - Real-Life Application

Mark, a young adult with ADHD, struggles to maintain a regular sleep schedule in his daily life. He shares his goal of going to bed by 10 PM with his family and friends. His mother agrees to remind him when it’s time to start winding down, and his best friend checks in with him every morning to ask how he slept.

Mark also works with an ADHD coach who helps him develop a bedtime routine, including reading a book and practicing deep breathing exercises. With the combined support of his family, friends, and coach, Mark successfully establishes and maintains a consistent sleep schedule.

Conclusion: How to build habits with ADHD

Building and maintaining habits can be a significant challenge for individuals with ADHD, but with the right strategies and support systems in place, it is entirely achievable.

Throughout this blog, we have explored various approaches to help you understand ADHD, the principles of habit formation, and specific techniques tailored for ADHD. By leveraging technology, utilizing behavioral and cognitive techniques, and seeking support from family, friends, and professionals, you can overcome the unique challenges posed by ADHD and successfully build new habits.

Summary: Upgrades Earned from This Blog

  1. Effective Habit Building Strategies Tailored for ADHD: Practical tips to break habits into smaller steps, create structured environments, and use reminders and prompts.

  2. Tools and Techniques to Create and Sustain Habits: Insights into using apps like Todoist, Habitica, and Trello, as well as CBT techniques and mindfulness practices.

  3. Support Systems to Keep You on Track: The importance of external support from family, friends, ADHD coaches, and professionals to provide accountability and encouragement.


Are you ready to take the first step towards building better habits with ADHD? Start by taking the Moore Momentum Core Values Quiz to see where you stand in the 5 Core Areas of Life. This fun, gamified questionnaire will help you establish a quick baseline of your strengths and areas for improvement.

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By understanding your core values and identifying the areas that need the most attention, you can begin your journey with personalized, science-based strategies to build habits that stick. Our mission is to accelerate your growth in the 5 Key areas of life by making your habit transformation journey so simple, fun, and rewarding that your momentum becomes inevitable.

Take the What is my Core Values Quiz Now

Remember, building habits with ADHD is not about perfection but progress. Each small step you take brings you closer to achieving your goals. Embrace the journey, celebrate your successes, and keep moving forward. Your momentum is just beginning!

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FAQ Section

Can people with ADHD build habits?

Yes, people with ADHD can build habits, but it often requires tailored strategies to address the unique challenges they face. By breaking tasks into smaller steps, creating structured environments, using reminders and prompts, and leveraging support systems, individuals with ADHD can successfully build and maintain new habits.

How do I change my bad habits with ADHD?

Changing bad habits with ADHD involves understanding the habit loop (cue, routine, reward) and identifying the triggers for your bad habits. Replace the bad habit with a positive one by creating new routines and rewards. Utilize techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to develop better-coping mechanisms and seek support from family, friends, or ADHD coaches to stay accountable.

How long does it take for a person with ADHD to form a habit?

The time it takes to form a habit can vary widely, but research suggests it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, with an average of about 66 days. For individuals with ADHD, it might take longer due to challenges with consistency and focus. Patience, persistence, and tailored strategies are key to successfully forming new habits.

Should people with ADHD have a routine?

Yes, having a routine can be highly beneficial for people with ADHD. A consistent routine helps provide structure and predictability, which can reduce distractions and improve focus. Incorporating regular breaks and using reminders can also help maintain consistency and make routines more manageable.

What should I do if I find it difficult to stick to my habit-building plan?

If you find it difficult to stick to your habit-building plan, consider the following:

  • Re-evaluate and simplify your goals.

  • Break tasks into even smaller steps.

  • Adjust your environment to reduce distractions.

  • Use more frequent reminders.

  • Seek additional support from friends, family, or professionals.

  • Be patient with yourself and remember that building new habits takes time and persistence.


Will Moore is a gamification, habits and happiness expert.

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