Ask the Experts

Q: No Matter How Early I Get Up, I’m Still Late for Work

Are you perpetually late for work? Do you fill the time you have, and then some? Are you convinced that you can squeeze in one more thing? Sure that a task will take 10 minutes when it actually eats up a half hour? If so, read this advice from organization guru Leslie Josel.

Q: “I’m 55 years old. I have always struggled with being late for everything. I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder about 4 years ago, after my son was diagnosed at age 5. I had suspected I might have ADHD because I was and still am very hyperactive. Still, I went through nursing school, which was extremely difficult. After graduation, I started noticing that things were tougher because I couldn’t get to work on time. I always think I have more time than I do, and I put my self in danger because I end up driving very fast to keep from being too late. I can get up extra early, but I’m still a few minutes late. I don’t know how to change this pattern!” —ADHD Nurse in Georgia

Hi ADHD Nurse in Georgia:

Time management is a huge struggle for many — especially those living with ADHD — and it often traces back to a problem you mentioned: thinking you have more time than you do. So let’s see if we can make time more “visible” for you.

Here are a few strategies to try:
1. Hang analogs clocks. Yes, you heard me. My NUMBER ONE TOOL for learning about time is a good, old-fashioned analog clock. Simply put, an analog clock with hands lets you see time move — and where you stand in relation to the rest of the day. Analogs also help you understand how long it takes to complete a task and how much time you have before you need to go to another activity. Which is exactly what it sounds like you need! Seeing time move is the building block of time management and estimation. So hang a clock in EVERY key room of your house (including the bathroom) so you can see the passing of time.

[Free Resource: Get Control of Your Life and Schedule]

2. Say your time-planning strategies aloud to yourself. What does that look like? I had a client once who would say things like, “I have to get to work by 9 am. It’s a 15-minute drive and I want to get there 15 minutes beforehand so I have ample time to park and get coffee. What time do I need to leave my home to make it there on time?” Just by talking it out, time consciousness can work its way into your brain and stay with you.

3. Time your tasks. In order to be successful at time management, you must know how long it takes to get things done. Having this time sense will help you establish routines and set limits around your time. Start by timing each task in the morning — showering, dressing, eating, brushing teeth, etc. — to get a real sense of how long each one takes. Then work backward from the time you need to leave your home to determine when you need to set your alarm and to provide yourself goalposts along the way. The point here is that, to get an idea of where your time goes, you need to actually see how long things take you to do.

4. Set up a launching pad. You didn’t say specifically what makes you late in the morning, but a launching pad will help you get ready the evening before. This is a designated space in your home to keep the belongings that go back and forth every day. A launching pad takes the stress of “I can’t find my tote bag” out of the equation. Remember to pick a location that is heavily trafficked with plenty of space and, ideally, a plug. It could be the front door, laundry room or the entrance to your garage. Gym bag, keys, coat, umbrella, work bag or purse, and even cell phone + charger should all be stored here.

5. Limit decision-making. Minimize the daily choices you need to make. This is one of my favorite tips for my clients. Limit your clothing options, meal choices, etc. — any daily choice that bogs you down in the morning. With limited options comes limited decision-making, which will help you get out the door faster.

[Free Resource: 19 Ways to Meet Deadlines and Get Things Done]

Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to Dear Organizing Coach here!