Everything takes time


“Time parcels moments out into separate bits so that we can do one thing at a time. In ADHD, this does not happen. In ADHD, time collapses. Time becomes a black hole.” – Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

For people with ADHD, our sense of time is indeed different than people without ADHD. For people without ADHD, time is more neatly organized and linear. For those of us with ADHD, time seems abstract and fluid. For example, we often can’t really grasp what 15 minutes really means, which for me meant that trying to leave 15 minutes before an appointment was not enough – for years, I kept my clock 15 to 20 minutes fast, which would still trick me even though I knew that I was tricking myself. It’s also often difficult for people with ADHD to portion tasks into appropriate time oriented steps, often work completely overwhelming and paralyzing. On the flip side, my own experience with ADHD also often results in a hyperfocus mode where I’m able to accomplish massive amounts of work within what feels like an extended space-time continuum. But the reality is that we live in a world governed by the clock. Managing time requires almost constant vigilance and ongoing skill building for people with ADHD, and managing time well is a critical part of surviving and thriving with ADHD.

Why time management is important

As Dr. Hallowell points out, for people with ADHD, there is Now and Not Now. The rest of the world is operating on a clock, a calendar, with the seconds ticking away and the days going by. Arguably, ADHD may have been a survival strategy in an agrarian age or gatherer hunters, where time was measured by the sun rising and setting, the cycles of the moon, and the seasons. But in today’s Western industrial society, people with ADHD have to use tools to figure out how to manage their time.

How to manage time better

pomodoro kitchen timerOne of the most important tools for keeping you literally on the rest of the world’s clock is a watch with alarms and timers. It seems almost old fashioned in the age of smartphones, but the ever-present, physically-attached reminder of time on a watch face keeps the time front and center in a way that a computer or phone doesn’t. If you need to leave at a certain time to be someplace, set an alarm – don’t rely on just looking at your watch. If you need to pace yourself on a task, set an alarm. Many people find the pomodoro technique an effective technique – where you actually set an alarm at intervals to help you progress throughout a project or work day.

It’s also critical to not let hyperfocus make you think you have time to do more than you can. Sometimes, you may complete a task in record time and decide to take on one more thing, only to find you cannot complete that additional task. If you can consistently avoid the One More Thing Syndrome, you will be one step closer to existing in the space time continuum the rest of the world lives in.

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