Getting Time on Your Side
SET YOUR INTERNAL CLOCK
1. Put a clock in every room. The more clocks you can see (without having to look for them), the more likely you will be aware of time.
2. Check the time regularly. Make a point of checking the time throughout the day. Regular check-ins will make it less likely that time will slip by unnoticed.
3. Wear a watch. Your phone has the time on it, but you're more likely to look at the time if it's on your wrist than if you have to pull out your phone.
4. Catch the vibes and beeps. Many digital watches can be set to beep or vibe at regular intervals. These reminders notify you that another block of time has passed. They can break your hyperfocus if you've been stuck on something too long. You can download apps for your smartphone to accomplish the same thing.
5. Ask yourself a question. If you find yourself wondering why you spent so long doing something too often, make it a habit to ask yourself, "What should I be doing now? Is this the best use of my time?" If it isn't, switch gears to something that will be more productive.
6. Hang up signs around the house. Figure out how long it takes to do your morning routines, then count backwards from the time you need to be walking out the door and when you need to be finishing each activity (finish breakfast at 8:30, get dressed by 8:10, and so on). Then put up sticky notes or signs in each room that tell you when you should be moving on to the next activity.
NOTIFY YOURSELF THAT TIME IS UP
7. Set an alarm. Instead of relying on your internal clock, let technology keep you aware that it is time to start or stop doing something.
8. Use countdown timers. You can use your digital watch or one of those inexpensive kitchen timers to alert you that a designated amount of time has passed and it's time to do something else. Timers relieve you of having to track how much time has gone by. If you're working at the computer, use Outlook or other programs to alert you.
9. Set a get-ready-for-bed alarm. Late starts in the morning often begin with late bedtimes the night before. If you get caught up in activities and miss your bedtime, set an alarm to go off when it’s time to start getting ready for bed. Obey it—unless your house is on fire.
10. Use browser add-ons to limit your time online. It's easy to lose track of time when you're on the Internet. One link leads to another...and another....Download browser add-ons, such as Leechblok for Firefox and Stayfocsed for Google Chrome, to limit your time on specific sites, as well as your time online.
11. Set your TV to turn itself off. Many televisions will automatically shut down after a certain amount of time or at a specific time.
12. Put your houselights on a timer. To break you of late-night hyperfocus, replace the wall switch with a programmable switch. The darkness will remind you that it is time to get up and move to another task or get to sleep.
13. Peg your schedule to someone else's. By going to bed, waking up, and leaving the house at the same time as a family member, you can follow that person's lead on what time it is and where in the process you should be. At work, you can match your schedule to someone else's by leaving for a meeting at the same time.
SCHEDULE YOUR TIME
14. Write down a schedule for the day—and check it. It's hard to know whether you're ahead of or behind schedule if you don't know what your schedule is. Don't schedule every moment, only specific events or tasks (leave for bank at 3:30, do laundry before lunch). Refer to the schedule to guide your actions.
15. Adjust your schedule as circumstances change. Rarely does a day follow a schedule perfectly. Keep your schedule nearby, so you can refer to it when something new comes up. Don’t commit to anything new until you've checked to see how it fits into your overall plan.
16. Add in time to get ready. ADDers fall behind when they don't factor in the time it takes to go from one activity to another or to leave the house or office. To leave for a business meeting by 2 p.m., start gathering materials and walk to the car by 1:40.
17. Add 50 percent or more to all your estimates. If you have an activity that you haven't timed, then you need to guess how long it might take to accomplish. Everything takes longer than we think it will, so pad your estimates. If you get done faster, consider it a gift. And as with any gift, don’t count on getting it every day.
Excerpted from Understand Your Brain; Get More Done: The ADHD Executive Functions Workbook , by Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., MBA. Specialty Press, Inc. Copyright 2012.
This article appears in the Summer 2012 issue of ADDitude.
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To discuss this topic and exchange time management tips with other adults with ADD, visit the ADD Adults support group on ADDConnect.