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You’re probably dealing with ADHD time blindness if you’re constantly feeling like you’re always behind. Even though you probably create elaborate to-do lists and calendars, they often go ignored until it’s time to plan again. You most likely also struggle with time management and feel like you’re always running out of time. Sound familiar?
If that’s you, then keep reading, because I have some tips and tricks for managing your time when you have ADHD. I’ve been there, and I know how frustrating it can be. But with a little effort and some externalizing techniques, you can start to improve your connection to time and get more done.
The Problem With ADHD Time Blindness
I am really good at creating to-do lists. I’m here every week planning publicly in earnest with the greatest intention to follow through on my plans, but it never seems to go “as planned”… pun intended.
Why is that? Well, there are a few reasons, some of which are being human and others that are more related to being an ADHD human. And I say that with the deepest compassion for myself. I know I want to do stuff, it’s just that there’s this gap between intention and activation, and it’s like a black hole in my brain. Time just seems to go like that, and then it’s already the end of the week, and my to-dos are nowhere near “to done”.
ADHD Time Management Requires Attention Management
The first roadblock I uncovered was that “time management requires attention management,” which is something “the royal we” (as in you, me and our ADHD) struggle with. Whether your attention is hyperfixed on something or busy ruminating on some past transgression, it’s not focused on time passing. We’re just not aware of it, and thus – we have the black hole where all my to-do’s go to die.
The other issue I uncovered was temporal discounting. This is not an ADHD exclusive issue, but as you can imagine, we’re pros at it. What is temporal discounting? That’s when we discount the value of something just because it’s in the future and not “now”. It’s hard for us to feel the weight of our future experience or selves because we’re so fixated on the “now”. If you’ve never heard the saying before, Russell Barkley coined the term of ADHD time perception options as “Now or Not Now”.
Our connection to the now is really strong. It’s hard to feel what our future selves will want or need, so things like funding retirement, staying consistent with exercise, and choosing a salad over a burger and fries are tough.
How to Manage Your Time with ADHD
The first step is to accept that your brain is really fast, but it has faulty breaks (exec function). So, on a good day, it might have a cheeky mind of its own, but on a bad day where you haven’t slept, and you’re out of meds, your brain can act like a drunk toddler with a knife. So it’s up to you to be prepared to outsmart it no matter what.
Externalize Your Time
When it comes to time management, you don’t want to assume you’ll just be conscious of time. Instead, you need obnoxious reminders that you won’t ignore. Alexa, your phone, timers on your computer, or just a standard egg timer.
Externalizing your time is only half the battle. The other side of this time blindness issue is that we don’t understand how long things take because we aren’t aware of time. That’s when time tracking comes in. This is going to feel extreme, and you probably won’t do it, but I did it, and it was mind-blowing.
Try this Time Tracking Experiment
Write down three large tasks you do every day. Like getting ready, getting your child ready, or taking your child to school. Write down how long you think each thing takes. Now tomorrow, have a timer, a piece of paper, and a pen sitting waiting where you get ready. Start the timer, get ready, stop the timer, record your results. Rinse, repeat.
Let me tell you something – when you realize how long things actually take, you will be amazed that you’re able to do as much as you do in a day.
Find a Calendaring System That Works for You
When it comes to following a calendar, you’ve got to find what works for you. I have ambient reminders, like Alexa, telling me that I have a 2 pm call. My anxiety and people-pleasing tendencies also take me to a level of neurotic time checking to ensure I don’t miss an appointment, hence the reason why appointments give me anxiety… but I digress.
I’m also a tactile person, so in addition to my weekly calendar spread of to-dos in Notion and having a view of my calendar right below it, I also take the time to write out my appointments and key to-dos on a paper planner as well, every morning. It’s just another way of making it stick in my brain.
The key to finding a calendaring system that works for you is going to take some exploring, but fortunately, there are so many options out there that you will likely find the right system for yourself.
Managing ADHD Time Blindness is not easy, but it is possible.
By externalizing your time, accepting your brain’s limitations, and finding a calendaring system that works for you, you can start to improve your connection to time and get more done.
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