Why Do People With ADHD Find It Hard To Manage Their Time?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It usually becomes evident in the early years of a person's life, and its symptoms last lifelong; seeking professional help at the earliest is vital for managing it. Both ADHD and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are characterised by inattentiveness, impulsivity, restlessness, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, and distractedness, among other things. Having said that, ADHD symptoms can differ from person to person as well.
A common problem faced by most people with ADHD is time management. Our ability to plan and execute tasks successfully is known as executive function. Many people with ADHD, however, have executive dysfunction. Difficulty in planning, prioritising and finding the motivation to execute those plans often leads to missed deadlines and piling work.
ADHD brains struggle to manage their time for the following reasons:
- Time Blindness
We all possess an internal clock, which helps us estimate the time of the day, how much time has passed, how long we really have before a particular deadline, and so on. This internal clock is disrupted in people with ADHD, leading to inaccurate estimations of the time it’ll take them to complete a specific task, missed deadlines, arriving late for important events, and the general feeling of time slipping out of their hands - in short, time blindness.
When doing a task, there are always three stages - starting it, staying focused on it, and being able to prioritise its completion before moving on to something else. Procrastination makes all three steps difficult - it keeps you from starting a task, it distracts you too often once you've started, making it hard for you to complete it on time.
If you have ADHD, your mind is likely to drift from one task to another very quickly, making it hard for you to stick to deadlines. While you might find it extremely challenging to get out of the time blindness loop, several strategies can help you manage your time efficiently!
ADHD Time Management Strategies
Make A Schedule
Having schedule can transform your daily routine. But make sure you create a schedule that is not too rigid and can be changed per your needs. Knowing in advance about everything you have to do the next day can significantly reduce the burden of planning at the moment, giving you more space to focus on the task at hand. Don’t shame yourself for not being able to tick off everything from your to-do list; remember, getting at least something done is always better than nothing!
As you create schedules for yourself, over time, you’ll better understand your capacity to work, the hours when you're the most productive, and the time you take to complete certain tasks. This will allow you to create a schedule that works for you and stick to it too!
Create Realistic Expectations From Your Time
Creating a schedule that you can stick to requires understanding exactly how long each task on your list is going to take you. This may seem simple, but time blindness often gets in the way. There is also the fact that most of us do not take the little things into account which require time, such as making our meals, that coffee break after a task, the extra long shower on a day off, the scrolling on social media, and so on.
Before creating a schedule, try to get reasonably accurate estimations of time first. You may think that task A only needs 15 minutes, but it may take 45, while task B (which you kept avoiding) was only a 5-minute thing. More importantly, take the planning and post-execution time into account as well!
Allow Yourself Space
Finishing one task and starting another, also known as transitioning, takes time. This is especially true for ADHD brains, which is why it’s a good idea to leave some free time between tasks. Also, while it may seem tempting to slot in as many tasks as possible in a day, that will not help you do more. Instead, schedule only a few things in a day, and take your time to complete them without rushing.
So you made a schedule, you know how long your tasks will take you, but now there’s a task that you don’t want to do even though it’s due soon. What do you do? The answer is to be accountable to someone!
Developing the self-control to do tasks even if you don’t want to do them takes time and discipline. While you work on building those things (therapy can really help), it’s a good idea to have someone you can talk to about it and who can hold you accountable for your schedule. If you feel the urge to switch to another new task while doing something else, jot that idea down and go back to it once you’re done.
Time management requires practice and patience, and there will be some setbacks and learnings along the way, which is completely okay. If you’re looking for therapists who are experienced in working with ADHD, Rocket Health has your back!