Overcome Time Blindness in Three Masterful Ways and Gain Calm with ADHD
Do you feel like you’re at war with yourself when it comes to managing your time? Many of us grapple with managing the hours in our day, but when you live with ADHD, chances are you confront a battle with time. Whether you post sticky notes in every nook and cranny, set reminders on all your devices, or ask Alexa for verbal reminders, productive use of time can be unsettling, daunting, and disorienting for someone living with ADHD.
ADHD and the "When" and "Why" of Time Blindness
Dr. Russell Barkley, Ph.D. describes “Time blindness” as the result of the “when” executive function network, which is the timing and sequencing behavior of the prefrontal cortex in the ADHD brain. [Barkley, Russell A, Ph.D. (2018) Executive Functioning, Self Regulation, and ADHD: Impact on Understanding and Treatment].
Dr. Barkley says that “ADHD is not an attention deficit but an ‘inattention deficit’ to mental events and the future. It’s a disorder of performance that affects the ability to organize behavior across time, to anticipate the future, and to pursue one’s long-term goals …. well-being and happiness.” (Barkley, Russell A, Ph.D. (2018).
While the “when” executive function network describes timing and timeliness of behavior in the brain, Barkley describes the “why” executive function network as associated with motivation, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and reactive aggression. (Barkley, Russell A, Ph.D. (2018).
Lack of motivation, distractibility, boredom, challenges with procrastination, completion, self-esteem, and fear of failure, can likewise contribute to battles with time, as the "when" and "why" executive functions are interwoven together in the executive functioning network in the brain.
Here are three strategies to overcome time blindness so you can make peace with your time battles and have more calm living with ADHD.
Estimate Time for Tasks
• Experiment with estimates vs. actual times and compare. Record estimates and actual times to perform daily tasks and compare. Make a list of tasks such as brushing teeth, bathing, getting dressed, emptying the dishwasher, taking out the trash, etc. Make sure you include tasks and chores you like and don’t like, during different times of day. Notice what you find. (Hint: You may find that your estimates may be longer than actual times for tasks that you dread!)
• Resist the “one more thing” syndrome. Usually, this practice results in stress and unreliability.
• Make sure you allocate time for transitions. Transitions include time for gathering materials into your backpack, purse, or briefcase, getting out the door to the car or public transportation, and wait time for traffic and trains or busses.
• Use an analog timer, such as timetimer.com to visually measure the passage of time. Individuals with ADHD tend to be visual, and the visual graphic passage for of time tends to be useful.
Overcome Resistance to Being Early
• Use your early time to do tasks you don’t typically have time to do, such as tweaking your to-do list, checking archived emails, etc.
• Use your wait time as a gift of time to recharge. You may want to try meditating or listening to a podcast or your favorite tune.
Strike a Balance with Your "Hyperfocus"
This management of flow in individuals with ADHD is known as managing “hyperfocus.” Many individuals with ADHD who struggle with motivation, getting started, and completing tasks enjoy their ability to “hyperfocus” because it helps them get things done.
The fear is, “Unless I finish it now and take advantage of my hyperfocus, I will never finish.” When living with repeated failure and low self-esteem, finishing is especially important.
The problem is that hyperfocus often comes at the expense of managing other obligations.
• Set hard stops. Work in 25–35-minute increments and set a timer for 5-minute breaks.
• Vary your timers so your mind doesn’t get acclimated to the same alarm sounds. Try various bleeps and rhythms available on your devices, which will make it tougher to overlook.
• Be aware of the activities that tend to pull you down a rabbit hole. Do you like to research electronics? Cars? Travel destinations? Do you get pulled into news podcasts? Avoid any activity you tend to get lost in when you need to get something done. Instead, plan for a time when you can relax and enjoy them so you won’t feel as much of an urge to squeeze them in.
• What’s it costing you to hyperfocus at the expense of other responsibilities and meaningful pursuits?
• What’s true about the idea that you will never finish unless you hyperfocus on one project at the expense of others? What would it be like for you if you didn’t have that idea that you would never finish? What would be different for you if you were able to change that idea?
• Estimate Time for Tasks
• Overcome Resistance to Being Early
• Strike a Balance with Your Hyperfocus
Experiment with these steps and let me know how it goes for you!
PS. Need more assistance with managing your time so you can take boost your productivity with more peace and calm?
Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about a plan you can put into place right away!