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  


Individuals with ADHD who are “time blind” tend to live in the “now.” They may have difficulty directing and sticking to plans and actions for next week, next month, or next year.  They can also struggle with perceiving how much time a task takes, what to do when, and in what order.


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 

With a full-time job and three kids, Carla feels constantly overwhelmed. She tries to use all the time she has to squeeze in one more call or one more errand before she leaves. As a result, she’s chronically late because it’s too tough to gauge how long “one more thing” takes.
Quick Tips: 
• Estimate how long it will take to complete a task. Now double or triple the amount of time for that task, and plan for the double/triple time by blocking it in your calendar.  
• 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  

 Jim worries about getting stuck in the waiting zone. He would like to be early for appointments and meetings, but the fear of waiting with nothing to do makes being on time unpredictable and doubtful.


Quick Tips:
• Have an assortment of “fun stuff” available for when you arrive early. For example, you can read over materials to prepare for your meeting, go over questions you may want to ask your doctor, read saved articles on your device, do crosswords, sudoku, etc. You can also “save” these items to do only when you arrive early as a reward.
• 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"

Victor gets captivated with what he’s doing and the more engaged he gets the further he becomes absorbed.  Once he’s in the flow, he’s reading and researching all there is to know about his subject, which can be an ADHD superpower.  Until it’s not. Without a hard stop, his superpower becomes a tragic flaw as other responsibilities in Victor’s life are put on the back burner. 


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.


Quick Tips:
• Plan short breaks to refresh your brain. Research shows that your brain functions best when you allow for short breaks, even if you’re in the flow. (National Institutes of Health, 2021, Study shows how taking short breaks may help our brains learn new skills). For example, you’re working on a project, but you need to stop so you can eat lunch, use the restroom, stretch, take a two-minute walk, or pick up your kids, etc. What do you notice your progress? 
• 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? 
To sum up, when you live with ADHD you may feel like you’re at war with yourself when it comes to managing your time. To make peace with your time battles and have more calm living with ADHD:

• 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!


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