Transitioning when you have ADHD

The definition of Transition is “Passage from one form, state, style, or place to another”

Adults with ADHD find transitions difficult and they can be stressful and overwhelming. Transitions can be big, such as, coming back from vacation and getting into work mode. Or smaller, for example, settling down to write a report after working on another task.

Disengaging from one activity, changing gears and focusing on another requires large amounts of energy and effort. Hyperfocus, distractibility, indecision and procrastination are classic ADHD traits that make transitions hard.
Here are some techniques to help make transitions smooth for you:

Big Transitions
1) When you come back from vacation, plan to have a ‘transition day’ where you ease yourself back into your normal life. Don’t go to work on this day. Unpack, buy groceries, do your laundry, nap, etc.
2) Write checklists and use them. Have ‘going on holiday‘ checklist and a ‘back from holiday’ checklist. Also, on your last day at work write a list of things you are working on so you can hit the ground running when you return.

Small Transitions
3) Plan your day the night before and then look at the plan first thing in the morning. This mentally prepares you for what is happening.
4) Gather everything you need before you start on a task, or even the day before.
5) Schedule at least 15 minutes in between appointments or activities. This gives you chance to reflect on what you have just been doing and mentally prepare for the next task.
6) Create a structure or routine, so your body get use to doing things at certain times. This makes starting to do it almost effortless.
7) Have a timer or alarm that gives you count down of when it’s time to wind down one activity and move to another. Set it for 15 minutes then 10, then 5, and then 0.
8) If you have a tendency to hyperfocus and tip number 7 doesn’t work, before you sit down set your phone alarm to the most annoying alarm you have and put it in a place where you have to get up to switch it off. Once you are up, it will be easier to move to the next task.
9) Sitting down to work on a task that involves focus and concentrate is usually the hardest thing and the one that causes the most resistance…so create a “getting into gear” ritual that signals to your brain that you are about to use it!

A ritual might look like this:

Make a cup of tea and take it to your desk.
Write down in tiny steps everything you need to do.
Set your timer for 30 minutes

10) Talk kindly to yourself, acknowledge that transitions are hard but, you are doing your best rather than saying mean things and comparing yourself to others.


  1. Val Charman says:

    Hi Jaqui, great article! I have had some mega changes happen in the last few years and have needed to do a lot of list writing to get me through. I find lists very helpful when a big change is coming up and I have to find a new routine. Writing down step by step instructions and tasks for the day helps me organise and prioritise everything and crossing each one off as it gets done is very satisfying.
    x x x

  2. Joe Jav says:

    Very good advice. On Monday I got back at midnight from a great holiday and went to work the next day, one of my worst days this year. Why didn’t I take a transition day? Although I have ADHD I underestimate transitions.

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