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Managing time so it doesn't manage you

TimerProbably the biggest complaint about those who have ADHD is poor time management.

  • Can't get up in the morning
  • Always late for appointments
  • Homework is late
  • Deadlines missed
  • Procrastination

ADDers have the ability to hyper-focus and get so wrapped up in what they are doing that they forget everything else. We also have difficulty in estimating how long a task will take. To make ourselves feel good we will take on more than we should and we run out of time.

We procrastinate because we don't know where to start ... there are too many options and we get overwhelmed and/or distracted. We frequently also need to build up pressure to give us that oomph to get going. This is terrifying to people who meticulously plan a project weeks and months in advance and see us sitting on our backsides waiting for the last minute. This is one of the reasons we are not usually good team players. We like to play by our own rules.

Labels like lazy, selfish, rude, inconsiderate, incompetent etc are quickly used to define you and result in getting fired, broken relationships, poor school marks, and the cycle of failure continues until you choose to do something about it.

Unlike the majority of people with ADHD I have always been early ... sometimes an hour early for appointments. This was largely due to my chronic fear or letting people down or looking foolish. I over-estimated how long it would take me to get somewhere and I would factor in (im)possible traffic disruptions, getting lost, having the wrong time written down etc. This was just as bad as being late. I wasted so much time sitting in my car or in waiting rooms when I could have been far more productive.

Yes, it is possible to change and here are some tools that I have learned to use to help me manage my time better.

Diary Sheets

I have to confess that until I started doing the Living ADDventure® ADHD Coaching Programme I had never successfully managed to use a diary consistently for longer than a week or two. Fortunately I had a photographic memory and used to be able to remember most appointments and special dates quite easily. As I have got older my memory has got worse.

For a couple of months of the Coaching Programme I used daily diary sheets divided into 3 columns and in 15 minute segments. The first column was for Business Tasks, the 2nd for Personal Tasks and the 3rd column was for What I Actually Did in that time slot.

These diary sheets had a dual function.
1. I could see whether I over or under estimated the length of time a task would take.
2. I could also see when I was procrastinating by doing something other than what I had said I would do. What was I avoiding and why?

Over a period of a couple of months I had a much better idea of what I was doing (or not doing) with my time.

I also learned to visualise my day, each morning shortly after I woke up. Doing this gave me the "get up and go" I needed. If you visualise yourself being successful you are able to achieve far more than if you just bumble around day-dreaming. At night I would "review my day". What did I achieve, what did I not do, what did I need to carry over to the next day? How could I make tomorrow more productive without beating myself up about my failures of today?

As my self esteem has improved I have reduced my fear of being late and offending others. I now aim to be there 10mins before as a maximum. Very occasionally I am even late and I have learned to apologise and move on.

Today I use a variety of digital and physical tools to help keep me mostly on track. You can read about these tools in other articles that I have written by clicking on the links below:

Online and Offline Digital Planning Tools

Using Trello to keep on track with our Goals 

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