Be a Time Cop! Time Management Strategies for ADHD Teens

Bogged down with homework and extracurricular activities? Wes Crenshaw, Ph.D., offers his best time-management strategies for teens with ADHD who have out-of-control schedules.

A man with a briefcase practicing time management strategies for ADHD teens

DING-DONG. It’s 1:30 p.m. My phone says it’s time for Genesis. That’s not a reading assignment for Sunday school. It’s the gym where I swim. If I don’t put swimming on my daily schedule, something always pushes it aside. These audible reminders are like an electronic buddy hollering at me to do the right thing at the right moment.

Teens with ADHD need to manage their schedules closely to improve punctuality, proficiency, and respectability and make them more desirable employees and/or dating partners.

Good time management involves: 1. Prioritizing what’s most important now over what’s less important and can wait. It doesn’t help to get your science homework done three days early if you’re avoiding your history term paper.

2. Selecting needs over wants, especially with leisure time. Consider fun things like video games, Netflix, and Tumblr as you would a dessert, and consume them only after you’ve finished what needs to be done.

3. Meeting multiple deadlines by accurately estimating and setting aside enough time to complete a task. Scheduling things is more fun than actually doing them, so ADHDers plug in too many events or under-estimate how long a task will take to finish.

4. Knowing where you’re supposed to be at a given moment, and allowing enough time to get there. People tend to judge one’s character by whether he follows through on obligations in a timely manner. Careful scheduling makes you look like you have your stuff together.

5. Keeping complicated projects in step-by-step order. If you think about how hard something is, you may give up. Chop tasks down into doable steps, and schedule each into your list or calendar.

Get in Sync

To keep myself in line, I synchronize my electronic planner between my office computer system and my phone through Google Calendar, so it’s always in my pocket. I even schedule dates with my wife this way. She used to think I was lame, asking, “What am I, just another one of your clients?” until she realized that using my calendar got me where I needed to be (with her) when I was supposed to be there (Sunday afternoon) 100 percent of the time.

When starting any new organizational system, take one step at a time until you get used to it. To get you going, here are a few events you should schedule every day:

SLEEP. Getting to sleep is pretty boring, unless you have fascinating, vivid dreams. That makes it too easy for ADHD people to procrastinate over bedtime. So use your calendar to schedule the sleep you need. Did you know that lack of sleep makes every mental health condition worse, especially ADHD?

WAKING UP. Just when you’ve made peace with your pillow, you have to get up and face the day. Mornings can be hard for the ADHD crowd, even with good sleep. Try taking your stimulant before you get out of bed, and think about buying an annoying alarm clock that won’t shut off until you perform a certain task.

One clock shoots a spinning top into the air; you have to find the top and reinsert it to shut off the screaming alarm. Another clock jumps off the table and rolls around on the floor to force you out of bed to switch it off. Yet another alarm shakes the entire bed. These gadgets may sound ridiculous, but each one increases your chances of getting up in the morning — usually the most critical organizational task you’ll perform all day.


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TAGS: ADHD Time Management, Teens and Tweens with ADHD, ADHD in High School

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