We all have an internal clock that tells us how much time has passed.
For some, the clock ticks loudly and consistently, so they're pretty good at judging the passage of time. They use that knowledge to guide their behavior and to make necessary adjustments, such as speeding up when running low on time or re-prioritizing their activities to get the most important tasks completed when circumstances change. They have a schedule in mind, and they know where they are on that schedule -- what they have left to do and how much time they have to do it.
People with ADHD usually know what they need to do, but they have trouble doing it. Their internal clocks tick softly, too quiet to guide their behavior. As a result, they stay absorbed in fun activities when they should do more important, less thrilling things. Or if they are doing something important, they may not notice the need to shift to something else, like going to a meeting, getting to bed, or picking up the kids.
Blind to Time
Do the following scenarios describe you and your life?
TIME IS FLUID. Ten minutes doing a boring thing feels like an hour to you. An hour spent doing a fun thing feels like 10 minutes.
YOU UNDERESTIMATE THE TIME REQUIRED TO DO A TASK. It's hard for you to predict how long things will take. When planning to do a project, you underestimate, not overestimate, how long it will take to complete.
YOU RUN LATE. You don't realize when it is time to leave for dinner or a business appointment, because your internal alarm clock hasn't rung yet.
YOU GET TO BED TOO LATE -- EVERY NIGHT. You play catch-up all day, and this pushes your bedtime later. You don't track the passage of time through the unstructured evening hours at home, so you don't realize that it's bedtime.
YOU ARE ALWAYS SPEEDING AND SCRAMBLING. Because you're in a rush, you feel stressed by the time you get out the door, and you make up for lost time by driving faster.
YOU ARE SEEN AS A TIME WASTER. You are criticized for doing less important tasks first and not getting to more important ones -- though it's not a conscious choice.
Hang in There
The goal is to go through the process of committing to time-control strategies based on your strengths, weaknesses, and what you need to get done. I guarantee that the following strategies are good ones and will get the job done. It all comes down to using them. So take the pledge below, but don't do it lightly. Think about it for a day or even a week. If you're going to do this, give it your best effort. You deserve it.
I want a better life, so I commit to: > making changes and trying something new > doing my best to use these strategies diligently, even when I don't feel like it > being open to learning from these experiences > being flexible when a strategy isn't working > abandoning a strategy only when I can replace it with another that may work better.
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.