4 Powerfully Simple Tools for ADHD (and New Ways to Use Them)

Oct. 9th, 2017

Most of us are already aware of all four of the tools I’m going to talk about: timers, alarms, reminders, and the stopwatch. I realized recently, however, that what I think of as an alarm, someone else might call a timer. This terminology difference arises in many other (maybe all) areas of life of course. Today I’m focused on these four, what they are (and are not), what they can do, and new uses I, and others, have put them to.


Function: Starts at a customizable number of minutes/hours and counts down to zero, then sounds.

Classic use: Baking/cooking.

New uses: Falling asleep to audio (iOS and Android), The Pomodoro Technique, motivation/stopping procrastination by limiting time working on a task to just 15 minutes, breaks, being aware of time passing.


Function: Will sound at a customizable time, which may be repeating, and have a snooze or label function.

Classic use: Waking up.

New uses: Reducing anxiety by being aware of when it is time to leave for an appointment or transition to a new task, inserting pauses to figure out if something has been done (such as a daily writing habit or if everything has been packed to bring home from school on Friday afternoon). I often use the snooze feature to mean “I haven’t done this yet, but I will do it now” and when I stop the alarm that means I’ve completed the task. Don’t forget that emotes can be added to alarm labels!


Function: Starts at zero and counts up indefinitely

Classic use: Running laps.

New uses: Finding out objectively how long things take to do or how long it takes to walk/drive/bus from one place to another, timing work to know how many hours to bill.


Function: Can include a lot of information, repeating with flexibility, can be non-time-specific, can be location based, akin to lists.

Classic use: Remember to take medication and take out the trash.

New uses: Shopping lists, building routines and habits, being more aware of things with reminders designed simply to draw our attention to things like posture or how long we stay seated, reminding us if we haven’t heard back from an email that was sent or a call made, knowing when things like essays and projects are due.

One additional note: I never turn off an alarm or mark something as completed until it is actually done, even if I’m literally just about to do it. With my ADHD, I do not allow for any chance that I won’t remember to do the thing. This can be annoying, but it is a practice I stick to and swear by.

How do you use these tools?