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"Why don't alarms help me remember to do things?"

I hear a lot of people who come to me say that they tried setting alarms to keep track of tasks (eating, taking medication, working, sleeping, etc.) but the alarms aren’t working. If you're neurodivergent, specifically if you are ADHD or autistic, you might find that traditional advice, like setting alarms, doesn’t always help. Below, I explain why and offer alternatives to consider. 

Common Problems with Alarms

Sensory Overload

Alarms can be loud and jarring. For many people who are ADHD or autistic, loud noises can be overwhelming, leading to anxiety or sensory overload. Instead of helping you stay on track, alarms can interrupt your focus and create more stress.

Interruptive Nature

Even if the sound itself isn’t a problem, alarms can break your concentration. If you're deeply engaged in a task, the sudden interruption can be frustrating and make it harder to get back into the flow.

Alarm Fatigue

Over time, you might become desensitized to alarms, a phenomenon known as alarm fatigue. When your brain starts ignoring the sound because it's become too familiar, the alarms lose their effectiveness.

Rigid Schedules

Alarms often imply a rigid schedule. If you have fluctuating energy levels or struggle with executive dysfunction, sticking to a strict timetable can be incredibly challenging. This rigidity doesn’t allow for the flexibility that many neurodivergent people need.

Getting Clear About Your Needs

To find what works for you, it’s important to understand your own needs and triggers. Here are some ways to identify your personal challenges:


Spend some time thinking about your sensory and cognitive preferences. Do loud noises bother you? Do you get easily distracted? Understanding your own reactions can help you find better solutions.

Tracking Patterns

Keep a journal or use an app to track when and why you miss tasks. Look for patterns in your behavior and environment that might be affecting your productivity.

Understanding Triggers

Identify specific triggers that make task completion difficult. Is it the sound of the alarm, the timing, or something else entirely?

Alternative Strategies to Alarms

Instead of relying on alarms, here are some alternative strategies that might suit your neurodivergent brain better:

Visual Schedules

Try using visual aids like calendars, task boards, or sticky notes. These can provide a gentle reminder without the jarring interruption of an alarm.

Task Chunking

Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps. This can make a big project seem less daunting and more achievable.


Turn tasks into games or challenges. Adding an element of fun can make tasks more engaging and less of a chore.


Instead of setting specific times for tasks, allocate flexible time blocks. This gives you the freedom to move things around without feeling pressured by a rigid schedule.

Environmental Adjustments

Create a conducive environment for task completion. Minimize distractions, create a comfortable workspace, and use tools that help you focus.

Using technology

If you still want to use technology to help with task management, here are some ways to do it that might work better for you:

Reminder Apps

Explore apps with customizable features like gentle reminders or task-specific notifications. These can be less intrusive than traditional alarms.

Smart Home Devices

Use smart speakers or smart lights for subtle, non-intrusive reminders. For example, a light changing color can be a gentle nudge to start a task.

Wearable Technology

Utilize smartwatches or fitness trackers that offer haptic feedback. A gentle vibration on your wrist can be a more pleasant reminder than a loud alarm.

Seeking Support

Sometimes, seeking external support can make a big difference:

Accountability Partners

Find a friend, family member, or support group for accountability. Having someone to check in with can help keep you on track.

Professional Help

Consider consulting with therapists, coaches, or occupational therapists who specialize in neurodivergent needs. They can offer personalized strategies and support.

Online Communities

Engage with online communities for shared tips and support. Connecting with others who have similar experiences can be incredibly validating and helpful.

Self-Compassion and Flexibility

Lastly, remember to be kind to yourself:

Embracing Neurodivergence

Learn about how your neurodivergent brain works. Embrace your unique way of thinking and find strategies that work for you.

Setting Realistic Goals

Set achievable goals and celebrate small wins. Progress is progress, no matter how small.

Being Kind to Yourself

Practice self-compassion and avoid self-criticism when things don’t go as planned. Everyone has off days, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself.

If alarms aren’t working for you, that’s okay. There are many other strategies that might suit your neurodivergent brain better. Experiment with different approaches, be kind to yourself, and remember that finding what works for you is a journey. Embrace your strengths, seek support when you need it, and celebrate every step forward. You’ve got this!

For more support developing time management that works for you, you can sign up for an appointment with me by clicking below:

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