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Chronically Late? Adult ADHD Time Management Tips

Why ADHD adults are usually late and how to improve your time management skills so you'll be on time, every time.

Michele Novotni, Ph.D. and Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D.

Improve Your On-Time Record

Everyone is late on occasion, but many ADDers run behind schedule most of the time. They are late to meetings. They stand up their friends. They pick up the kids late from school. They leave others waiting as they scramble to finish last-minute tasks or find misplaced wallets, cell phones, or keys. If this sounds familiar, read on for ways to improve your on-time record.

Being Chronically Late Hurts Relationships

ADDers don't intend to be rude or disrespectful. But because of chronic tardiness, they're often perceived as selfish or inconsiderate of the people in their lives. That misperception is one of the reasons why people with ADD have trouble maintaining good relationships with friends, family members, and co-workers.

Set the Departure Time - Not the Arrival Time

This is key! Starting with the time of your appointment, work backward until you figure out when you need to leave your home or workplace to arrive ten minutes early. Note the departure time in your calendar. Repeat it to yourself. Replace the thought of the appointment time with the thought of the departure time.

Plan to Arrive Early

To be there on time, the first trick is to actually plan to be there early! Set a mental arrival time 10 minutes before the scheduled time to allow for unforeseen traffic problems. This idea is anathema to most ADDers who are horrified by the idea of unstructured waiting time. Put a magazine, book, or a stack of unpaid bills by the door to grab on your way out so you'll have something to do IF you should amazingly arrive early!  

Next: How Long Does It Really Take?

ADHDers are famous for underestimating how long it takes to go from point a to point b. Time yourself on frequently traveled routes. You will probably be surprised to find that your “10-minute” trip to the grocery store actually takes 20 minutes.

Use Google Maps if its a trip you've never made before. And add 20 percent more time for rush hour.

Distractions, Distractions

It's almost impossible for many ADDers to make it out the door without trying to cram in “one more thing,” the additional task that so often derails plans — the phone rings, you answer it, you notice that the table needs to be cleared, or a plant needs to be watered, and, once again, you run late. 
Avoid being distracted by reminding yourself of what you are doing, out loud and repeatedly: "I'm going to the car, I'm going to the car, I'm going to the car." 

Getting Out the Door On Time

A common impediment to getting out the door is I-can't-find-it syndrome. The best remedy is to prepare ahead of time. Think about what you'll wear in advance. Place everything you'll need to take along by the door in cubbies, Make sure you have good directions and the telephone number of the person you're meeting—in case you get lost or run into traffic. 

Set Two Alarms

Set two alarms (a clock, a cell phone, or a computer), one that will go off five minutes before departure time and a second that will sound when it’s time to leave.

When the first alarm sounds, stop whatever you're doing and jot a quick sentence or two on a sticky note indicating where you left off. Try to be out of the door before the second alarm sounds.

What Works for You?

You're probably not late for all of your appointments. Some people who would never dream of being late for work are frequently late for social appointments. Think about the strategies you use when you are on time, and use them for all of your appointments, personal and work-related.

Imagine Being On Time!

ADDers often underestimate the consequences of showing up late to important meetings. To counter this tendency, spend a few seconds imagining what the waiting person would think and feel. What would she say? What sort of facial expression would she have? Now imagine the look of approval and the friendly greeting you get when you show up on time. Bask in that feeling of success as you move toward your goal.

More Time Management Help for ADHD Adults

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