Do you enjoy mysteries? A mystery is something that is difficult or even impossible to understand or explain. Something that is a mystery for many individuals with ADHD is time. It can be a real enigma!

You can’t see time. You can’t touch or feel it. You can’t hear it or smell it or taste it. Yet time is a huge factor in the human experience! Most neurotypical people have a straightforward relationship with time. They are usually on time for appointments, can come up with a reasonable estimate for how long something will take to finish, and turn things in on time.

Many individuals with ADHD have a lot of trouble in the area of TIME MANAGEMENT, and that’s the executive function we are looking at today.

It is essential to find tools and create systems and strategies to compensate for the lack of awareness of time passing and the inability to connect to the future or even the past.

Self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion form the foundation upon which we can begin to build new learnings, and that is certainly true in the area of time management. When we find ourselves experiencing a challenge such as being late to an appointment, we can be helped by pausing and reminding ourselves that we are doing the best we can with what we have and what we know. Once again I’ll share with you Carl Roger’s quote: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

If you are time challenged, accepting that fact is crucial to your learning how to manage time. You will probably need to use some tools and strategies that others don’t need to employ, but remember that most neurotypical people also have to use watches or calendars to keep themselves on track. We just need to make our tools a little more “fierce” or “sparkly,” so we notice them.

Usually for those of us with ADHD, time needs to be made visible. We need to be able to see time passing in order to experience it. These are some tools that have helped others with ADHD.

1. Analogue watches and clocks have second, minute, and hour hands that move as time passes. You can imagine or remember where the hands were a few minutes ago and can see that they will be moving ahead at a steady speed. This helps to make time and its passage more real. Digital clocks and watches tell you the present time, but the past and future are out of sight and likely out of mind.

2. Time Timer products  offer a graphic way to see time moving past. They have proved useful in homes, educational settings, work, and more. I have a Time Timer app on my phone and often use it during coaching sessions so my client and I both know how much time is left.

3. Paper calendars and planners allow us to see weeks and months and even years laid out in front of us. It’s often said that for folks with ADHD there is either “now” or “not now.” Anything that is “not now” is out of our thought, unless we bring it to mind by using visuals such as paper calendars. Many people use digital calendars, but the week and especially the month and year views are not helpful, partly because they are so small but also because you have to remember to turn to the appropriate screen. If the future is out of your thought, you’re not likely to bring it into view on a digital calendar!

4. If you have trouble estimating how long something will take, set up a “scientific” experiment to help you learn about how you process time. Choose a relatively small task and estimate how long it will take you to perform it. Write that estimate down. Then perform the task and record how the actual elapsed time relates to your estimate. Repeat this with a variety of tasks until you begin to see if your estimates are usually off by a certain amount. I’ve encountered a lot of people who need to multiply their estimates by three to get close to how long something will actually take them.

The executive function we’ve focused on today is time management. The character strength for today is related to how we treat ourselves and others when we become frustrated with issues related to time. That character strength is KINDNESS. How does kindness show up in your life?

Since “you can’t do what your brain can’t do,” it doesn’t help to criticize yourself or others for time challenges. Be kind to yourself first. If you’ve hit a snag, take responsibility for your part in the problem and spend a few moments trying to reconstruct how you got there. Learn what you can from each such experience. Allow yourself space to experiment with ways you can help yourself stay more conscious of time.
Once you have shown kindness to yourself, it will be easier to be kind to others when they are late arriving or don’t finish by the deadline.
Let’s close with a quote from Henry James:
“Three things in human life are important.
The first is to be kind.
The second is to be kind.
And the third is to be kind.”
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