Time & Productivity

Overbooked? Rushed? Tired? 10 Ways to End All That

How to avoid the time-management traps of squeezing in one more thing, pleasing everyone but yourself, starting the day off stressed, and hiding behind your ADHD.

Time-Management Tips for ADHD Adults: Avoid Overbooking and Stressing Out
Time-Management Tips for ADHD Adults: Avoid Overbooking and Stressing Out

I don’t have to tell you that those of us with ADHD have a different sense of time than do most people. For us, there are two times: now and not now.

For some people, planning comes naturally; for people with ADHD, it is an acquired skill. We must train ourselves to realize that the future will work out much better for us if we prepare for it instead of wing it. Here are 10 tips I’ve used over the years to do just that.

1. Decide which time tricks have worked for you in the past — and which have failed — to help you manage time, plan, and avoid the peril of procrastination. One solution does not fit all.

2. Leave earlier for appointments than you believe you need to.

3. Avoid the trap of, “squeeze in one more thing before you have to leave.” You can’t! It makes you late and frantic.

[Free Resource: How Are You Spending Your Time?]

4. Get an oversized, ADHD-friendly wall calendar showing a day broken down into 15-minute segments. Make sure that it is erasable, so you can set up a new agenda each day. Plug in your day’s obligations. A visual display sharpens the sense of passing time. When you can see when and where you are supposed to be, you increase the chances of being there.

5. Alarms and timers of all kinds can help you manage time. You can set your watch alarm to go off when you need to make a transition. Get in the habit of setting it many times a day. This increases the likelihood of your making the transitions on time.

Waking up in the morning is another bugaboo in the land of ADHD. Use a flying alarm clock — one you have to get out of bed and catch to turn off. Search “flying alarm clock” on Google, and you will find a selection from which to choose. Place an egg timer next to your computer to reduce your screen time. People with ADHD can go into a trance in front of a screen and waste an entire afternoon or evening.

6. Don’t use ADHD as an excuse for being late, but do let others know that punctuality is a virtue you struggle to achieve. Your ADHD is an explanation for a weakness you have, one that you are working hard to fix. Most people will understand, as long as they see that you take it seriously and are doing your best to make progress.

[It Always Takes More Than “Just Two Minutes”]

7. Practice “pattern planning,” in which you assign recurring tasks to be done the same day and time each week. Tuesday at 9 a.m. you meet with your assistant; Thursday after work you stop at the dry cleaners; Saturday after breakfast you pay bills; and every other Friday, date night with your significant other.

8. Beware of over-booking. People with ADHD can be victims of their own enthusiasm. This leads to your committing to more than any person can do, even those who are good at managing time.

9. When you’re hurrying because you are late, don’t hurry too much. This is when accidents happen.

10. Give yourself a break and relax now and then to recharge your battery. You’re more likely to be on time, and be a good manager of time, if you operate at a sane, even-keeled pace.

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Edward Hallowell, M.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.