Time blindness is common for folks with ADHD. In another article, I’ve expanded on the idea of how many with ADHD operate within the time orientation of ‘Now’ versus ‘Not Now’. Poor time management, a common characteristic associated to ADHD, reflects this orientation. Think about it, how do you manage a process that you aren’t aware of?
It’s a bit like asking someone to manage their diet when they’re not the ones who buy their food or prepare their meals. They know how to eat and they may even understand that their vegetables are more important than their dessert but juggling all the components involved in maintaining a healthy balanced diet requires more than just the ability to eat.
Mastery of all of the components related to time management requires more than just looking at a clock. First, there’s task management. What are the tasks? Is there an order involved in all of the necessary steps? And, just what are all of the steps? Can someone else do any parts?
Next, add in the concept of time to task management. When will you begin each step? How long will it take to prepare beforehand? How long will each step take to do? When is the deadline? How about the time between steps, what’s that look like? Understanding all of this is vital if you’re to be successful in managing time.
The bigger question becomes, how do you track time when you don’t naturally sense it? Calendars, smart phones, timers, and alarms are all helpful tools. But one of the problems that come up for many people with ADHD is remembering to use these tools. Determining how you’d like to track time is possible but it’s also personal.
Developing a go-to strategy and then sticking with it is a strategy for people without ADHD. The reason it doesn’t always help someone with ADHD is that eventually, the go-to strategy will get too routine, which means boring. When it’s boring, it just isn’t going to happen easily and that changes it to a not-to-go-to strategy.
Instead of setting up your calendars too far in advance, use one for a month and then switch to a different one, but still use it in the same way. If you have alarms set for specific tasks, switch up the sounds and ringtones you use. The key is to be willing to track somehow. Maybe it’s a to-do list for groceries but it’s Outlook folders for your inbox. There doesn’t have to be a one-step-fits all solution in tracking everything. But when it comes to managing your time, keeping track of time is critical.
- Wear a wristwatch
- Keep your smart phone in front of you
- Have a desk clock next to your mouse and another one on the wall
- Set an alarm or tone to go off every hour on the hour so you can know time is passing.
One time a client told me after we brainstormed some of these solutions that it, “all seems so domineering.” That setting up all of these reminders and visuals cues of time passing seemed intrusive and asked if perhaps it was overkill. My response? “Yes, that’s what the awareness of time is when you don’t have ADHD. It’s a constant thought never too far out of consciousness. It dictates my actions and it nags me even when I want to shut it off.” He looked surprised and answered softly, “Oh…I see.”