How to Make a Visual Schedule for Autism
You may ask, “how do I create a visual schedule I can stick to?”
We autistic adults can buy a regular paper planner, attempt to use it for a couple of days, and we end up even more overwhelmed because it’s not specific enough to help us manage our lives.
We give up on the planner and try to find a smart phone app, but we still feel our productivity is lacking.
This leads to a cycle of shaming ourselves, because yet again, we didn’t stick to the schedule we created.
Let’s talk about the common reasons we autistic adults may have trouble creating a daily schedule and sticking to the schedule.
Reasons Autistic Adults Might Struggle with Getting Organized
1. Neurotypical Methods Don’t Work with Our Autistic Minds
Neurotypical people love wall calendars, desktop calendars, paper book planners, and their printable calendars.
They seem to organize with ease and stay on top of their lives using these methods.
Autistic minds need routine and structure, and the typical methods of organization make it difficult because starting becomes overwhelming.
When our organizational system doesn’t allow us to create rigid and flexible scheduling routines, and gives us some place to start, we’ll get overwhelmed quickly.
2. We Become Overwhelmed with the Unexpected
Perhaps we intended on completing a certain task for the day, but something unexpected happens.
We might encounter a situation that leads us into a sensory meltdown, or perhaps stresses us out enough that we need some time to calm our nerves.
When we set a routine for the day and expect everything to go exactly as we planned, we can get overwhelmed quickly when our days are unpredictable.
3. No Guidelines for Breaking Down the Day
Paper book planners you can purchase at any store have a simple day of the week and a big blank space, and when we look at that blank space, we can feel overwhelmed.
Since we need more structure and routine, we have to break the day into smaller chunks.
Breaking down the day into exact times doesn’t work as well either.
It’s harder to stick to the exact right times, and we will just cause ourselves stress if we say we will do a task at 9am and can’t start the task on time.
Creating an Autism Daily Schedule
Now that we’ve talked about why breaking down the day is very important when you are autistic, let’s dive into the how-to of creating an autism daily schedule.
How to Break the Days into Sections
Instead of leaving the day wide open where we need to accomplish a task on a desired day, we might want to break the day into smaller chunks.
Smart phone mobile calendar apps may cause an overwhelming struggle too, because it breaks everything down into exact times.
You put on your schedule from 8am to 9am you will work on a task, but then 8:30am comes and you haven’t started the task.
Then you shame yourself and feel like a failure because you didn’t start the task exactly at 8am.
What could be a solution for you is to break the day into 3 blocks of time, such as morning, afternoon, and evening.
It sounds simple, but it’s a lot less overwhelming doing it this way versus the other options I mentioned.
How to Create Your Daily Schedule
Now that we’ve gone over how to break the day into sections, you might wonder, “How do I set the daily schedule and decide which tasks to do each day?”
Starting with Your Goals
For some people, writing your goals for the week or month can help. Others find the idea of creating a list of goals overwhelming.
When you create a goal, you can decide how many days per week you would like to spend working towards that goal.
What do I mean by that, you might ask?
As an example, I’ll show you the list of goals I will make for a typical month. I have multiple income streams, so I have to keep them organized.
Write weekly articles for The Autistic Innovator - 2x per week
Research project (side gig) - 5x per week
Build & manage client’s website - 2x per week
Create and schedule mailing list email - 1x per week
Schedule Your Goals
Once you have your list of goals, the next step is to decide which days to put the activities on the schedule.
If you would like to work towards a goal 2x per week, you can look at your weekly schedule and write the task on to your desired day.
Based on the list of goals from my example above, here is how you can schedule your tasks:
Monday - Friday morning - Research
Friday & Saturday afternoon - write article for The Autistic Innovator
Monday evening - Create and schedule mailing list email for Wednesday morning
Wednesday & Thursday evening - work on client’s website
As you can see, once you have your goals set, you can simply decide which day you would like to work towards that goal.
When creating your daily schedule, make sure you leave room for personal time. You don’t want to get burned out working 24/7.
Visual Schedule Printable & Planner for Autistic Adults
To keep myself organized, I created an organizational printable and a notebook planner called Getting Organized Autistic Style.
It’s named after my article by the same name Getting Organized Autistic Style: Autism & Organizational Skills.
My planner daily visual scheduler allows you to break the days into 3 blocks of time each day.
What makes it especially different are the checkboxes on the side. One for done, reschedule, and cancel.
How the Getting Organized Autistic Style Planner Works
The “Done” checkbox is self explanatory. Nothing more satisfying than checking something as done off our to do list.
With the “Reschedule” box, you can easily check the box and move the task to a different day. At the bottom of each day, there’s a section called “+ Rescheduled” where you can add the task to a different day.
Sometimes things happen and we can’t get to a task that day. Maybe we didn’t realize we were low on food and needed to go grocery shopping. The most common reason for missing a morning task is we might have overslept. Insomnia can affect us all sometimes.
If we put a task on the schedule but it’s no longer relevant, or we don’t need to complete the task after all, we can check “Cancel”.
It’s a guilt-free way to get something off our schedule. When we become so used to routine, and the impulse says something like, “I have to do this today because it’s on the schedule, so I have to do it,” except the task doesn’t need to be completed anymore.
We can check the cancel box and then forget about it.
Where to Get the Autism Visual Schedule Planner & Printable
You can download the printable and the paperback weekly schedule planner from the Planner Collection!
As a bonus, I also added a monthly goals sheet to help you create your daily schedule.
If these methods and planner help you, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. I would also like to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how to make it better.