The Technique That Taught Me How to Be On Time

It’s simple: Get up early and wait.
Executive Dysfunction | posted by Katy Rollins
ADHD Time Management

Can we discuss the fact that it’s taken me about six years to learn to be on time? Since I’m the one writing, I guess you don’t have a choice. But if you’re reading this, I know that either you or someone you know has ADHD too. So it’s a relevant topic.

This morning, I was out of my ADHD meds (I take Vyvanse). Today is payday and I ran out yesterday. So I’ll be back on meds tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m having one big flashback about how (and why) I was late for school nearly every morning in high school. I spent a lot of time in detention when I was a teenager. I don’t think my parents knew, because parents didn’t have to sign detention slips and it was normal for me to stay after school anyway, for activities. I wasn’t a trouble-maker, but my chronic tardiness was an issue for one of my teachers. The others let it slide because I was a pleasant enough student. I was interested in school, and I generally had Bs, so they knew I was trying.

This is years before I tried meds or was diagnosed. All I knew was that I was miserable in the morning, and I couldn’t seem to figure out how much time I needed to get ready in the morning. I did have a compulsive fashion habit and often got sidetracked into selecting and unselecting quirky outfits, collaged together from thrift-store clothing finds. I was always late, but at least I thought I looked fabulous when I arrived.

Years later, in my mid 30s, I was diagnosed and began treatment for ADHD. Taking meds was a revelation for me. They allowed me to re-learn how to be an adult. Now that I was able to understand the concept of focus, and could ignore distractions, and was less emotionally sparky, it was easier to organize my apartment and my life. But it wasn’t an overnight process.

That’s why it took me six years to learn how to be on time. It’s been one of the hardest skills for me to re-learn. I fully focused on this task a couple of years ago, and I remember I was anxious at first. Anxious because I was worried about making it on time, anxious because I didn’t know what to do with myself once I arrived. Anxious because I didn’t know what “being on-time” looked like or felt like.

It felt like standing on the edge of a cliff and realizing that I had to jump into what appeared to be nothing…and trust that everything would be fine. It is that scary to re-learn life skills. I would set my alarm four hours early for an event 10 minutes from my house. Then I would arrive and sit in the car and cry because of all the anxiety over having to sit there and wait.

Now, I play a lot of Words with Friends on my smart phone, or dink around on Facebook or Instagram while I wait. I still set the alarm very early, and I have strict deadlines. I used to give myself just the amount of time it would take to get to an appointment. Now, I leave 15-30 minutes before I think I need to. Yes, I end up doing a lot of waiting, but now that I know what I can do while I wait, it’s not so bad. Sometimes I get to know the other early people a little better, if they are there are the same time as I am (though often, I’m there before everyone, especially if it’s an event that I am running).

So if you want to get technical, it took me two years to learn how to be on time. But it took four years after treatment started for me to be able to focus just on that, because of all the other changes in my life. It took so many more years before that for anyone to figure out that I had ADHD.

I got ready for work in half an hour this morning. Even though I didn’t have my meds, I made it on time. Why? Because I set my alarm three hours early! I had plenty of time to fall back asleep, dink around with outfits, talk to the cats, and take out the dogs. I won’t claim to be immaculately groomed this morning, but life isn’t a perfect process.

I was on time, and that was my priority.

Copyright © 1998 - 2016 New Hope Media LLC. All rights reserved. Your use of this site is governed by our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
ADDitude does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this web site is provided for educational purposes only. See additional information.
New Hope Media, 108 West 39th Street, Suite 805, New York, NY 10018