This article was originally published on PsychCentral
Time can be a tricky thing when you have ADHD. That’s because many ADHDers experience what is referred to as time insensitivity or time blindness. They have difficulty gauging the passage of time accurately which often results in getting lost in various tasks and activities; chronic lateness and missed deadlines; and over-promising but under-delivering on personal and professional commitments.
While time blindness can’t be “cured”, it can be successfully managed with the right tools and strategies.
1. Make your time visible: In order to use your time effectively, you must develop an awareness of time in general- how much you have and how much you need.
A great way to do this is to use visual tools like calendars, clocks, and timers. Calendars and planners with weekly and/or monthly layouts provide an overview and allow you to see how much time you have and where different tasks, appointments, and commitments fall within those parameters.
Keep clocks in every room, including the bathroom (there are waterproof models available for the shower!) to help you remain mindful of the time as you go about your day. Interestingly, analog clocks are actually more effective for ADHDers than digital ones because the hands provide a visual of how much time has passed and how much is remaining. Using timers can also help keep you on track and ensure you don’t spend more time on a task than intended.
2. Time it and use the Rule of 3: ADHDers often underestimate how much time they will need to complete a particular task.
A good rule of thumb if you’re not sure how much time to allot for a certain task or project is the Rule of 3: Give yourself triple the amount of time you THINK you’ll need. If you think it will take 5 minutes, give yourself 15.
For tasks that you do on a regular basis, it can be helpful to time yourself completing them when you’re not in a hurry. Time yourself taking a shower, brushing your teeth, making breakfast, getting dressed, doing a load of laundry, etc. That way you’ll have a better sense of how much time you need to carry out your morning routine, for example, and help you overcome the urge to do “one more thing” before heading out the door that you realistically don’t have time for.
3. Focus on departure time, not arrival: Instead of focusing on when you need to be at work or that doctor’s appointment, shift your attention to the time you have to LEAVE.
ADHDers tend to focus solely on the arrival time without considering the time needed to get to where they are going and as a result, mistakenly believe they have more time than they actually do. Say you have to be at work at 8:30am and have a 30-minute commute, tell yourself you have to leave at 7:50am (You’ll need time for transitions, more on those shortly!) rather than “I have to be there at 8:30”.
4. Allow time for transitions: An aspect of our daily routines that often go unnoticed are transitions- transitioning from your home to the car; walking from your car to your office; ending one task to begin another.
Transitions require time and must be accounted for when planning your day. In addition to your commute to work, you’ll need to give yourself adequate time to get in your car, gather your things when you arrive, and walk from your car to your office. Again, it can be helpful to time yourself as you move through these transitions to gain a better sense of how long each transition takes.
5. Beware of hyperfocus: There is a common misconception that people with ADHD can’t focus at all which simply isn’t true. ADHDers can, in fact, focus. A little too well at times.
Hyperfocus is a state of intense focus and engagement during which time is likely to quickly slip away from you. You may decide to take out your phone to check the news and before you know it, two hours have gone by. Become aware of those tasks and activities you have a tendency to get lost in and make a point to refrain from engaging in them when you’re in a time crunch.