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6 ADHD Time Management Tips for University Students

Time management is essential across all aspects of life, but even more so if you’re a student at university. With newfound freedom and free rein over your schedule, it can be an exciting time but also a daunting one, especially if you’re a student with ADHD.
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6 ADHD Time Management Tips for University Students


Time management is essential across all aspects of life, but even more so if you’re a student at university. With newfound freedom and free rein over your schedule, it can be an exciting time but also a daunting one, especially if you’re a student with ADHD.

The last thing you want is to miss deadlines or have issues with your peers if you can’t manage your time effectively. To help you manage your time more effectively, we’ve compiled a list of six tips you can implement to help with organisational ADHD symptoms whilst you’re studying at university.

1. Set two alarms in the morning to wake up

Oftentimes, one of the biggest challenges for students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is getting up in the morning. This isn’t necessarily unique to students with ADHD because, in reality, a lot of university students struggle with early morning lectures – but the issue can be compounded if you have ADHD.

A lot of people with ADHD struggle with time management and organisation as a whole, and it can be difficult to complete all the things they want to get done on any given day. If the day starts late, there’s a higher risk that more work won’t get done and additional tasks may get pushed aside. This is why getting out of bed on time in the morning is essential.

One thing that can help with getting up on time is setting two alarms. If you have a tendency to snooze an alarm or sleep through it, a second backup alarm could be the safety net you need. In addition to setting two alarms, you can also try putting the alarm across the room so you have to get up to switch it off, or setting your alarms an hour earlier than needed to account for snoozing time.

What can also help with getting up on time and maintaining a good morning routine is having a good sleep schedule. There may be parties and events that you go to that cause you to stay up late, but if you know you’ve got an important early lecture, seminar or exam, make sure you try and wind down at a reasonable time so that you get enough sleep.

2. Set alarms as reminders to start/finish certain tasks

Alarms can be useful to help you manage your time throughout the day. Try using alarms as reminders to start and finish tasks within certain timeframes. It can be easy for people with ADHD to lose interest and start doing something else if they suddenly remember it needs doing, and it can also be difficult to stop doing something and move onto something else.

If this happens to you, you might find it useful to allot a certain amount of time for each thing on your to-do list for the day. For example, if you’ve got a 1,000 word essay due, try and dedicate at least two hours to working on it. Set reminders so that you don’t overrun. Then, allot an hour to sort through your emails and do admin or prep work. If you get the urge to do this work before your two hours for the essay are up, try and remind yourself that you already have time scheduled in to do those things and they don’t need to be done immediately; instead choosing to focus on what’s in front of you.

This could help you stay on track and complete most of the things you want to achieve in a day. It can also help you develop a better understanding of how long tasks take – something that’s not always easy with ADHD.

3. Prepare an exit station near the door

Finding everything you need to get out the door can be a struggle and can really impede on your time management skills. Whether it’s misplacing your keys, forgetting your laptop charger, or not being able to find your shoes, all of these minor things can cause you to be late. To avoid them, create an exit station near the door the night before.

Your exit station will comprise everything you need to get out the house and ensure you’re on time whilst trying to leave in a timely manner. Things you might put on your exit station may include your keys, bag (complete with pencil case, notepads, relevant textbooks, and/or your laptop and all your chargers), water bottle, coat, and headphones. With everything within easy reach, you’ll no longer have to spend a long time looking for menial things to get out the house with – instead, you’ll be able to grab what you need and make it to your lectures in good time.

4. Plan in time to procrastinate and/or get sidetracked

No matter how hard you try, procrastination is something that we all do. There will always be times when you put something off until the last minute in favour of doing something else, and for the most part, this is okay. However, if you have ADHD, this may be slightly more frequent and become more problematic. If you put a task off because you don’t know how to start it and it turns out it takes you longer than you thought, especially if you get distracted halfway through, you could find that you start to miss deadlines.

There is no specific cure to stop you getting sidetracked, and whilst medication for ADHD can be useful as a stimulant to help you stay focused, there may be times where you unintentionally lose what you’re doing. To help prevent this, planning in time to procrastinate can help.

You can factor this into when you’re setting alarms for things by allocating more time that you reasonably need. For example, if you know that reading two chapters of a book for a seminar might take you 45 minutes tops, allow an hour and a half for it. This way, if you get distracted midway through, e.g., researching a word or an academic you’ve never heard of before and getting lost in a rabbit hole related specifically to them but not the task at hand, you’ll still have time left to finish what you need to without overrunning into something else. You might also find it useful to take regular scheduled breaks during tasks, perhaps every or so, so you can get, move around, and refresh your mind.

5. Develop high-level plans ahead of time

Time management boils down to organisation skills – something a lot of people with ADHD struggle with. If you have difficulty getting organised, you might find that you forget things and end up being late, or you get deadlines and dates muddled up. This is easily done, but it can be mitigated and managed by making high-level plans.

At the start of every week, it helps to write down a list of everything you have going on that week, what needs to be done, and what you’d like to get done. You might have lectures Monday to Thursday, have an essay due on Wednesday, and a meeting for a group project on Friday morning. Make a note of all of these things as these are things you need to do. You might have an essay due the following week and you’d like to get started on it this week, so you can pencil in time for that, too. Also make sure to consider your weekend. If you have an exam the following Monday, it might be best to allot time for revising over the weekend.

These tasks may not fill your week up entirely, but they do give you an overview of what’s happening and how you can prepare for it. Then, as you progress through the week, more minor tasks might crop up, such as helping a friend with their research project. This is when you can start to pad out your high-level plan and get more granular with it, without losing focus of what is most important and your high priority tasks. This can also help you to prioritise things more effectively and not get lost in the smaller things immediately.

Not just this, but keeping things top-level can prevent you from getting overwhelmed and procrastinating because you’re overwhelmed – something a lot of university students with ADHD struggle with. What’s more, there’s a great sense of achievement that comes with completing tasks on to-do lists.

6. Use multimodal learning

Making use of multimodal learning might not seem like an effective way of managing your time, but it can be. Essentially, multimodal learning involves using a mixture of sensory techniques to learn as opposed to sitting in one place and trying to retain information in a one-dimensional, non-stimulating way. A lot of people with ADHD get fidgety and bored easily, and this is where distractions come in. Distractions can be costly in terms of time, so doing everything you can to reduce the chances of you getting distracted is essential.

The more engaged you are with what you’re learning, the more likely you are to want to focus and continue. Moreover, multimodal learning is thought to help you learn more, so it’s beneficial not just for quelling ADHD impulses and managing time, but for improving your educational outcomes, too.

Examples of multimodal learning might be looking for real-life case studies and examples of something, using multimedia as a way to learn (e.g., combining a book chapter with a video summary), and playing educational games.

Support for Students with ADHD at The ADHD Centre

ADHD can present a number of challenges for students, and at The ADHD Centre, we understand this more than anyone. We’ve spent years working with university students with ADHD to help them maximise their learning and fulfil their potential. If you think we might be able to help you, please contact us on 0800 061 4276, or email us at

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We have been diagnosing and treating people with ADHD since 2009.

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