“Your Concept of Time Is Not Broken, It’s Just Unorthodox”
The ADHD concept of time is unconventional. People with ADHD are more connected to nature’s cycles and to their own peaks and valleys, which is important but unappreciated.
You’ve been called time blind. Forgetful. Insensitive. Spacey. Unreliable.
People, in their undying quest to categorize information, love to label things — and other people, too. Those living with ADHD are easy to tag, it seems. And rarely do others’ descriptions cast them in a positive light. In fact, most of the labels are downright dismal.
They’re also dead wrong.
You’re not really horrible with time. You just have a unique and unappreciated way of interacting with the physical world. Your time awareness and task management doesn’t follow neurotypical patterns, but that doesn’t mean there is anything inherently wrong with you. There are specific reasons why you interact with time the way you do — and powerful tools to help you reduce the consequences of your differences.
Let’s take a brief look at the history and concept of time. For all of humanity, people have tried to develop an understanding of time. They did this to synch up with the cyclical rhythms of nature — to prepare better for night and day, to track the movement of animals, to anticipate female cycles and plan childbirth, to take advantage of seasonal shifts in farming, and to plan for temperature changes.
With advancements in technology, global trade, and travel also came a new concept of time. With much resistance and opposition, the simplicity of day and night evolved into a universal idea of time that supports the concept of the year, month, day, hour, minute, and second. Time splitting, for the measurement of all things, became possible.
The concept of time also moved from cyclical and continuous to linear, unidirectional, compressed, and even managed! Humans, being humans, now play with the concept of time and create alternate realities and precision measurements. But in the end, time remains a mental concept. The original idea of time comes from the natural rhythms of our being.
I would argue that people living with ADHD are highly connected to their natural state — more so than most people living without ADHD.
I have yet to meet someone with ADHD who isn’t aware of their natural cycles and flow — from the inattentive state, which prefers a relaxed flow, to the hyperactive state, which hits the ground running most days. We are, by nature or by necessity, more aware of our peaks and valleys — and how they are impacted by the natural factors around us.
Next time someone criticizes you for being “bad with time,” I would encourage you toss off the heavy label that does not allow you to move past obstacles with dexterity. Instead, reply with this: “Time is a construct, and I wield it wisely!”
3 Ways to Embrace Your Natural Time Connections
1. Identify your natural rhythms. You may not always have the opportunity to make a change, but still ask yourself: When is the best time for you to sleep, wake, eat, and dust your hut? Play with your children? Study? Find your natural rhythm with essential tasks.
2. See all clocks, alarms, calendars, and schedules as a way to interact with the outside world. After all, that’s why most time tools exist. Time tools help you to interact with the moving, hustling, evolving world outside of you. You’ll want to keep your leverage and gain access to opportunities!
The global market runs on and adores time. So much so that commerce has one master clock, an atomic clock, the most accurate accounting of time in seven million locations all over the world. It’s the precise measurement of all time. If you’re interacting with the modern world, you must communicate with the master clock. But don’t let it own you. It’s a tool for your success.
3. Create mechanical time zones and natural time zones. I can’t entirely agree with most ADHD coaches that you need time tools everywhere. Use convenient tools like your watch, calendar, phone, and alarms when you need to be aware of time. Other than that, create natural time zones like a creative room, taking your watch off at 7 pm, plan a day to turn away from time devices, and reconnect to yourself.
The world is going to tell you that you’re bad with time. To this, I encourage you to smile. Remember this quick history lesson and practice compassion for such foolish labels. You’re deeply skilled at being aligned with natural rhythms. It’s the concept of time that requires a few hearty interventions. But this is outside of you and nothing that warrants a self-defeating label.
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.