If you look on Etsy and Google, you will find ADHD (Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity disorder) digital planners for sale everywhere.  However, are these planners really created to work with the ADHD mind?  This is an important question, because those with ADHD typically struggle to use traditional planners.   In this blog post, I explain the science behind why those with ADHD struggle with planning, what you need in a planner to manage your ADHD symptoms, and how using an ADHD digital planner can improve your life.

Wait a minute, what do I know on this topic?

Well my friends, I have ADHD, so I know exactly how it feels and how it can impact your life.  I have included all my hacks for using an ADHD digital planner for you, so we can go through this ADHD journey together.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosures page for more information.

The Science Behind ADHD Digital Planners

How does ADHD Affect the Brain?

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for planning, initiating, and concentrating.  Dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex is found in those with ADHD, leading to a shortened attention span, and a less efficient short term memory.   It is also responsible for difficulty initiating and sustaining activities. and inability to avoid distracting activities (Thomas, 2022).  This leads to the classic symptoms of ADHD, which include:

    1. Disorganization and difficulty prioritizing
    2. Poor time management
    3. Poor ability to focus on tasks
    4. Poor planning
    5. Impulsiveness

The Planning Ability of Adults with ADHD

A study shows “in complex problem-solving tasks, adults with ADHD may not engage in sufficient planning ability activity, leading to inefficient or underdeveloped strategies for achieving specific goals.” (Young et al., 2007).  Essentially, people with ADHD have more difficulty reaching their goals, because of their impaired ability to plan.

Participants of another study reported that maintaining a planning system, prioritization strategies, and reminder systems, was essential in managing the symptoms of their ADHD, and improving functionality. (Kreider, et al., 2019).

Features of a Planner for ADHD

An ADHD planner needs to provide structure, with enough flexibility to adapt to the ADHD mind, which is consistently inconsistent.

If you have ADHD, you may have tried using planners in the past and found that they were not helpful.  The idea of organizing your chaotic mind with a planner seems appealing, but traditional planners are just another thing added to the list that ADHD complicates.

This is because most planners are not created with the ADHD brain in mind-we need something different! A planner made for the ADHD brain should include:

    • Simple design: An overly complex planner design can be overwhelming, while a design filled with unnecessary elements can be distracting.  Opt for a clean, minimalist layout that is easy to navigate, to help you stay focused.
    • Daily & weekly layouts for short-term and long-term planning
    • Guided structure: planner prompts guide you through your daily schedule, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Those with ADHD need a planner that can guide them to break down large tasks or projects, into smaller, more manageable tasks.  These smaller tasks can then be assigned time frames and added to a monthly, weekly, or daily to-do list.

An ADHD planner should also assist with prioritizing these tasks that you have created above for your to-do list.  This includes those broken-down project tasks, but also the day-to-day list of things that you need to do.

Those with ADHD are consistently inconsistent, making the use of traditional planners difficult for anyone with ADHD.

How an ADHD Planner can Improve Life

  1. Reduces stress: an ADHD digital planner can help you develop a system to stay on top of obligations, giving you a sense of control
  2. Reduces time blindness (inaccurately estimating how long a task will take, or how much time has passed): an ADHD planner allows you to visualize how you spend you time, so you can allocate appropriately. 
  3. Promotes prioritization: a good ADHD planner guides you through your daily tasks, allowing you to identify high priority tasks and prioritize them appropriately.
  4. Self-awareness: intentionally spending time to plan out your day helps you to gain insight into your patterns of productivity.  You can utilize this information to identify areas that need improvement.

Hacks for Using an ADHD Digital Planner

>> Scrap the dated planner: Those with ADHD are consistently inconsistent. Wow, I feel that statement in my core.  Yes we are, so a dated planner may not be the best thing for you.  If failing to maintain the structure of a dated planner causes you shame, get rid of it.  Nobody has time for that!

>> Brain dump: Those with ADHD struggle with maintaining short term memory.  When you think about something you need to do, write it down in the planner as soon as possible!  This will make you less likely to forget it.  I would recommend just a blank canvas for brain dumping. Sometimes my ADHD brain thinks faster than I can move.  A bullet journal can help you brain dump all the many thoughts swimming around in your head, without the rigid structure of a conventional planner.

>> Categorize: Group the brain dump tasks into categories.  Break up big tasks int smaller tasks, to make them more manageable and less overwhelming.

>> Prioritize: You may have a lot of tasks in your to-do list, but they are not all weighted the same.  Decide which tasks MUST get done vs. tasks you would LIKE to get done.

>> Time-Block: if you have attempted to plan hour-by-hour, the way most daily planners are designed, and found this did not work for you, try the time-blocking method instead.  Designate blocks of time for the items on your to-do list that you have determined to be a priority.  This method of loosely planning the day works better for those with ADHD, rather than using a strictly structured planner with specific times of day.  You can get further organized by color coding your time-blocks.

The ADHD digital planner

>> Include transition times: when writing down appointment times in your planner, write the time of the appointment AND how long it will take you to get there, so you accurately know when you need to leave.

>> Reward your brain: do something you want to do, to reward yourself for completing a task, no matter how small!

>> Try the Pomodoro Technique: work and focus on a task for 25 minutes (set a timer), then stop and take a 5-minute break.  Then return to that task and repeat.  Focusing in brief increments of time allows those with ADHD to actually focus on the task at hand and successfully limit distractions.

>> Schedule Breaks: regardless if you practice the Pomodoro technique, schedule breaks for yourself. This can include using the weekly and daily layouts to schedule self-care, fitness, relaxation, etc.

>> Use the planner: Your ADHD digital planner will now be your memory aid, time manager, and organizing aid.  But you have to use it for it to be helpful.  Keep your planner with you during the day, and look at it regularly (this is why I love digital planners over paper planners because you can take it with you everywhere on your phone, if your devices sync.)

>> Add reminders: your planner houses your appointment times and due dates, but it can also serve as a reminder system.  Enter dates to change your car’s oil, dates to change smoke detector batteries, relationship reminders, and more.


I created an ADHD daily planner, and I am giving it to you for FREE.  It is undated (so you can use it forever), with a science-based design that is proven to work best for ADHD. Give my recommendations from this blog post a try, with the ADHD Daily Planner below. 

Thank you for hanging out with me and reading this blog post. I hope that you find my ADHD planning hacks helpful, and that you have a little bit better understanding of why ADHD needs a specialized planner.

Do you have other topics or products that you wish to see on my website?  Let me know here.


Kreider, C.M., Medina, S., & Slamka M.R. (2019). Strategies for coping with time-related and productivity challenges of young people with learning disabilities and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Children (Basel, Switzerland), 6(2), 28. 

Thomas, L. (2022). How does ADHD affect the brain?. News-Medical. Retrieved on July 3, 2023 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/how-does-adhd-affect-the-brain.aspx

Young, S. J., Morris, R., Toone, B. K. & Tyson, C. (2007). Planning ability in adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Neuropsychology, 21(5), 581-589. https://doi.org/10.1037/0894-4105.21.5.581.

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