The ADHD Homestead

Building a good life with ADHD.

Category: Time Management (page 1 of 2)

ADHD brain: Accepting my need for breaks

Well-timed breaks can work magic. I first experienced this in high school. We had block scheduling, with four 90-minute class periods per day. My physics teacher, Mr. Plate, got it: how long 90 minutes can feel when you’re sitting at your desk and using your brain.

When Mr. Plate noticed our class wilting, he’d stop in the middle of his lesson — sometimes his sentence — and say, “go to the back of the room. We need beanbags.”

Then we’d stand in a circle and play beanbags. The game began with one bag. The first person tossed it across the circle to the second, who tossed it back across to a third, and so on, until everyone had gotten the beanbag and it came back to the start. We continued the tossing pattern, adding more and more beanbags, until we broke down in laughter. Beanbags collided in midair, one person would suddenly find themselves with an armful, etc.

It took less than five minutes to fill the classroom with life. We returned to our seats energized and ready to learn.

Mr. Plate understood his choice: lose us for five minutes while we threw beanbags, or lose us for 45 minutes while he plowed ahead with the presentation he’d planned.

time-for-a-break

Breaks earn back their costs

Bottom line: smart breaks give back more time than they take. Now that my work happens at home and I structure my own days, I need to recognize my own need for beanbags — or just a break from my computer screen.

I often resist breaks when I’m on a roll, especially with something like sewing, which offers endless small doses of instant gratification. I’ve tried to train my brain to disengage. When I’m writing, I now know I should break after 45 minutes, even if I don’t want to. I’m now more vigilant for that first small dip in productivity — a signal that my brain needs to switch gears. If I ignore it, I unknowingly slip into time-wasting activities.

Breaks can shake off hyperfocus

Breaks also forcibly disengage our hyperfocus. When I push my writing muscles too hard, I slow down, make mistakes, and end up meandering the internet. This doesn’t happen when I’m sewing, but I may regret spending a whole afternoon in the basement when I had more pressing things to do. Hyperfocus clouds our view of what constitutes a good stopping point. We’re often blind to one-more-thing-itis until it’s too late.

If we break away from time to time, it gives us a chance to reevaluate. I’ve had a terrible time prying my husband away from a task, where no amount of “we’re going to be late” or “you promised you’d help me with X today” will budge him. Yet if I can trick him into walking away for five minutes under the pretense that he can come right back to it, it’s like he’s waking up from a trance. He might even say out loud, “I don’t need to work on that right now.”  A break frees us to ask ourselves, “is this how I want to spend the next X minutes/hours of my time?”

Breaks don’t always feel good

The adults in our household also struggle with a common ADHD fear: “if I don’t finish this now, when will I ever get back to it?” Also: “I wasted some time today, but I still want to feel proud of my progress.” My husband has told me he’s more likely to stay at work all night if he feels he’s used time unwisely, or if he spends too long helping coworkers with their issues. For my part, I have a bad habit of viewing projects in a strict binary: Done or Not Done. If I’ve spent hours, days, or weeks on a project and it’s still Not Done, then I feel discouraged, like it will never be Done. Sometimes this frustration leads to a backbreaking marathon because I can’t bear to keep looking at Not Done.

These are all legitimate feelings, but pushing ourselves too hard won’t solve the underlying problem. We’d do better to build confidence in our ability to come back to an incomplete project and finish it later. We’d do better to learn to manage our productivity during the day so we feel okay about leaving work before bedtime. We’d do better to learn to see the products of our hard work, even if a project isn’t finished yet.

All of this is hard. ADHD is hard. What I really want, more than anything, is a break from ADHD. Failing that, I’m trying to prioritize giving my brain the breaks it needs to keep going. I’m trying to accept breaks when I need them — to recognize when I need them — and not feel resentful, fearful, or guilty about it. It’s a work in progress. Next week, I’ll share some of my break-taking techniques.

Do you struggle to take breaks when you need them? How do you know when it’s time to change gears?

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The internet: ADHD’s friend and foe

When I get overwhelmed, the internet’s the first thing to go. That’s why my social media feeds are either hopping or silent. But the the internet, huge burden and distraction that it is, can also help me on my ADHD journey.

It’s complicated. On one hand, the internet — and social media in particular — keeps me connected to friends and family. It provides me with a community of like-minded ADHD advocates — a safe space to learn and to vent. At the same time, it’s easy to overstretch, to get distracted, to sink too much time into things that shouldn’t be a priority.

I found myself wondering recently: why do I assume my time for online activities is unlimited? Because I don’t need to get in my car and drive to the internet? Because Read Instagram feeds (personal and professional) isn’t something I block out on my calendar? Each new thing requires time and attention to feel like I’m keeping up.

For a while, I thought my ADHD was incompatible with social media. I took six months away from Facebook, with overwhelmingly positive results.

I wanted to stay away, but that didn’t feel right, either.  I have family and friends all over the country and the world. Exiting social media felt like a decision for them, too: in downgrading my internet use, I was downgrading my relationship with them. My ADHD Homestead Facebook page reaches thousands of people. A few of those people have written to thank me for making a difference in their lives. I participate in a small, private ADHD discussion group, and I want to keep up with the friends I’ve made there, too.

As much as I’d love to quit it all and throw away my smart phone sometimes, it makes more sense to treat online activities with the same respect I treat real-life ones. This year, I made a promise to myself to say no to any new evening commitments. I’ve been decluttering my schedule and reminding myself that my time is limited and valuable. If I say yes to everything, I shortchange everyone.

Likewise, I need to stop clicking “join” on every group that looks like it might be up my alley. If a social media app isn’t contributing value to my life and relationships, I need to delete it. Even if a Facebook group or a Coursera class doesn’t show up on my calendar or my doorstep, it requires time and mental energy.

The whole world can fit inside our computer or smart phone. It can’t fit inside our brains or our days. We can’t see or touch social media, not really, but a lack of intention around its use can deplete our most precious resources. The distinction between our online lives and “real lives” grows fuzzier by the day.

How do you balance the internet’s powers of good (connection) and evil (distraction)? Have you had to quit anything to reclaim your focus?

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Decluttering, ADHD, & the hidden cost of selling unwanted stuff

When I declutter, I’m always tempted to sell unwanted stuff. The prospect of a few bucks in my pocket clouds my judgement. Sometimes I forget my goal: to simplify my life. To lower my stress and anxiety.

Money is great, but be careful about selling too much. Sometimes it costs more than the stuff is worth. The trick is to know when to sell and when to give away — and when your ADHD might tip the scales.

selling stuff ADHD

Closing the sale: ADHD hyperfocus strikes again

Last month, I wrote about decluttering our video games, and how I hoped to make money in the process. Even though our Guitar Hero equipment was outdated, I thought I could get $60 for it. I listed it on several local websites, finally getting a few bites on Craigslist.

It had been sitting in our storage room for a few years. The buyer wanted to test everything before giving me cash. He asked if I might bring the equipment to him — an hour away.

I almost said yes. Then I stopped mid-text message and reminded myself: my time is valuable. I’ve already spent time texting with this guy and writing for-sale posts.

It’s easy to hyperfocus on pieces of the decluttering process, especially when we think we can make an extra buck. My brain zeroed in on one goal — selling this stuff and getting the task out of my stack — and blocked out everything else. I almost forgot to stop and look at the big picture.

The big picture, as in: I was considering spending two hours in the car to sell game controllers for $60. In many ways, my time is priceless. If I’m putting a number on writing alone, an hour is worth $70-$150. The math doesn’t add up.

When to sell & when to donate or give away?

Of course, how much you need the money will tip these scales. We all value a dollar (or 10) differently at various points in our lives. These guidelines keep me sane while I’m simplifying and paring down. Tweak them until they work for you.

  • First, ask yourself how much you can get for the item. A quick search on Craigslist should give you an idea. Keep this in mind always. Something you can sell for $500 is worth a lot more effort than a collection of $10-$20 items.
  • Then, set a deadline to sell it. Promise yourself you’ll donate the item or give it away if it hasn’t sold within a few weeks.
  • Create boundaries before you list something for sale. Examples from my life: I only communicate via text or email (no calls). I won’t drive more than 10 minutes to meet someone. If plans to meet fall through, I’ll consider rescheduling once — but not after that. Most of all, I use my intuition. If someone feels difficult to schedule or communicate with, I remind myself I don’t owe them anything and move on.

Never forget the value of an hour (or minute)

Our time and energy are valuable. People with ADHD struggle to budget these resources, and often shortchange our true priorities. All the more reason to think twice before selling tchotchkes on the internet or elsewhere.

The reality is, ADHD makes the extra step — selling rather than tossing into a donation box — more difficult. We should accept that fact without judgement, then make choices that work for us. Simplifying and decluttering extends to our energy and obligations, not just our homes and physical stuff.

Sometimes the wisest choice is boxing it all up and scheduling a charity pickup — even if it might be worth a little something.

Have you faced similar choices while paring down your clutter? How do you decide the fate of unwanted items that may have value?

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Ditching video games: more than making time & space

Around the turn of the new year, something amazing happened in our house: we got rid of most of our video games. This means less clutter, and I’m excited about the benefits for our family’s energy and willpower.

Mind you, no one really played these games, but my husband wished he could play them. I call this psychic drag, and it’s one reason I love decluttering.

When we hold onto certain kinds of things we don’t use — books, musical instruments, craft supplies, even video games — we don’t just hold onto the thing itself. We hold onto the idea of the thing, and our expectations for how it should be used.

video games

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, organizing expert Marie Kondo illustrates how excess stuff hinders self-awareness: “We aren’t sure what would satisfy us or what we are looking for. As a result, we increase the number of unnecessary possessions, burying ourselves both physically and mentally in superfluous things.”

Video games usually harbor less emotional baggage than, say, once-cherished musical instruments or a box of old love letters. That makes them a great place to start. Letting go is a learned skill. As we practice (and start reaping the rewards), we get better. We gain confidence to say goodbye to more things, and figure out what we want to make space (and time and money) for.

As Kondo says, “the best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t.”

Leaving our willpower in the bank.

Removing temptation from our home — be it video games or candy — also sets us up for success with other challenges.

That’s because willpower is a finite resource, just like money in the bank. As Stanford University professor Kelly McGonigal writes in The Willpower Instinct, “people who use their willpower tend to run out of it.” Dozens of studies have confirmed this. “Trying to control your temper, stick to a budget, or refuse seconds all tap the same source of strength,” explains McGonigal. “Because every act of willpower depletes willpower, using self-control can lead to losing control.”

Knowing this, I don’t bring cable television or candy into our house. Getting rid of the video games was another big step in the right direction.

Visible, easily-accessible temptations give us a choice. Choosing not to indulge spends a precious resource. I’d rather use that self-control elsewhere: not yelling at my kid, for example.

Everyone can benefit from learning about the science of willpower. I’m especially mindful because people with ADHD start with a lower balance in our willpower bank. We can thank the prefrontal cortex: the part of our brain responsible for “controlling what you pay attention to, what you think about, even how you feel.” In the end, it controls what you do.

This area of the brain — the home of our so-called executive functions — is also where ADHD wreaks its havoc.

The big takeaway for me: more than the average family, it’s critical for us to define our priorities, then systematically remove distractions. Remove the option of channel-surfing or using the television as background noise. Remove the option of playing video games instead of board games with friends. Make sugary snacks unavailable. Strive, as much as possible, for a minimalist lifestyle.

Remove temptation, but also clutter, noise, and distraction. Make choosing the right thing just a little easier.

Science, not edicts.

When it comes to managing our household — setting routines, creating the weekly menu, decorating, deciding which possessions may stay and which must go — I try to back up my decisions with brain science. It’s harder to argue with science than a declaration of “I don’t want you wasting time on video games.”

The video games felt like low-hanging fruit: removing temptations and clutter at the same time? That’s what I call making room for what matters. It’s a simple change with a nice payoff, not to mention extra cash in my pocket after I sell them.

How about you? What have you let go of lately? Is it time to say goodbye to something that siphons off your time, money, or willpower?

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You vs. the world: lets discuss ADHD for at-home parents

“Our family needs a homemaker.”

I love to be needed, but those words stung.

I was trying to convince my husband to keep our twice-monthly cleaning service, but he wouldn’t budge. It was a temporary arrangement for a tough time: during the first nine months of our son’s life, my husband finished a master’s degree and broke his collarbone.

I needed help.

The problem was, once things returned to normal, I viewed this extra help as a small price to pay to get my writing business off the ground. My husband reminded me of our agreement that one of us would be a stay-at-home parent. It didn’t seem fair for me to claim I “didn’t have time” to clean the house.

Maybe it wasn’t, but providing sanity and order to an ADHD household, day in and day out, is exhausting.

Because it’s true: our ADHD family does need a homemaker. We need one adult holding down the fort full-time to keep everything from exploding (or imploding) into chaos.We need someone cleaning, coordinating home repairs, paying bills, opening the mail, and making sure everyone eats — among many, many other things.

But I have ADHD, too, and I have big plans for my life. Specifically, I want to do all the things, and I want to do them yesterday.

In the two years post-cleaning lady, I’ve found a better groove. I’ve forced myself to keep trying. I figured out a way to keep writing while (usually) keeping the house (relatively) clean. R. grew up into a little boy and stopped nursing, which meant I could resume taking my ADHD meds. I’ve mapped out a longer-term plan for my writing that allows me to feel like I’m making daily progress. I’ve learned to accept incremental progress, even if I want instant gratification.

Being the homemaker is still hard. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for more reasons than I can count. My husband has unbeatable job security, and my salary wouldn’t have supported us. I prefer to be in charge. I’m better at structuring my own projects and time.

Our family doesn’t just need a homemaker, we need me. And to be there for our family, I need to be there for myself, too. That means making time for my writing, but also taking care of our home and family. Taking time for myself, but not leaving everyone else to pick up my slack.

It’s a lifelong pursuit, finding balance. I’ll never quite get there. I’ll never perfect the art of slowing down, of accepting imperfection, of resting, of moderating — in any of my roles. All I can do is try.

Lately, I’m trying to be honest with myself about what it means to be a workaholic homemaker with ADHD.

And what does that mean, exactly? If you have ADHD and you’re a stay-at-home parent, I’d love to hear about your experience. How do you make it work? Have you struggled to reconcile your partner’s expectations with your own? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned?

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How (and why) to tame your hyperfocus

People with ADHD can achieve almost superhuman levels of focus (referred to as hyperfocus) in some situations, yet none at all in others.  That’s because ADHD isn’t an attention deficit, but a broken attention regulation system.

bomb timer

Hyperfocus is our secret superpower. Often, it’s also our undoing. Capable of an amazing state of flow, we’re unstoppable, and it’s easy to get ‘sucked in.’ That’s why it’s so important to reign in our hyperfocus: unstoppable even to ourselves, we become a runaway train…and we all know how that ends.

Unchecked, hyperfocusing ADHD’ers neglect all other responsibilities. Work, school, family, or romantic relationships may suffer. Health may decline due to frequent all-nighters and missed meals (have you ever gotten in the zone and forgotten to eat?).

The good news is, you can learn to let your hyperfocus run wild in a controlled environment. It’s not easy, but here are some tips to get you started.

Know your triggers and risky behaviors

Keep a log of activities that run away with you. What time of day was it? What else was going on?

Eventually, you’ll see a pattern. For example: I don’t particularly like sewing, but it’s one of the few projects that gets me out of control, always wanting to eliminate one more rough edge. When I’m tired or frustrated, I’m more likely to waste time on Facebook because my brain can’t get in gear.

Know yourself. Know when you’re more likely to lose control, even if you don’t necessarily feel like it’s a bad thing (“sure I went to bed at 3:00 a.m., but I got so much done!”)

Limit time spent on high-risk activities

In her habits book, Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin tells us to “decide not to decide.”

In other words, set boundaries ahead of time and commit to sticking to them. For example:

  • Only one one-hour or two half-hour television shows per night
  • Never open Facebook after 9:30 p.m.
  • Don’t start a new computer programming task within one hour of bedtime

Don’t let your brain talk you out of it. It will tell you things like:

  • “If you just do this one little thing, you can get the program working”
  • “If you sew this side seam, you’ll just have the bottom hem to do tomorrow”
  • “It’s only 25 more minutes, and we need to watch the resolution of this cliffhanger.

There will always be one more thing, even after that one more thing.

Decide not to decide.

You also need breaks — ideally, before you think you need them. Read up on the Pomodoro Technique, which advocates a system of regularly spaced short and long breaks to keep your brain functioning at its peak.

Set a timer. Don’t trust yourself to watch the clock, or even to remember time exists.

If you share an office space, you may want to use a desktop app like Tomighty. At home, we love Suck UK’s adorable — and very loud — bomb timerThe Time Timer provides an excellent visual representation of time, and its ending bell is soft enough to use in a shared space.

Whatever you do, get up and stretch for a few minutes every half hour or so. It’ll break the spell and remind you of the real world — and the people in it who count on you.

Enlist help

Make agreements with family, colleagues, or helpful friends. Tell them to be persistent, even if you resist, make excuses, or tell them to go ahead to the meeting and you’ll be right behind them. Agree ahead of time that this is unacceptable behavior, and ask them to remind you whenever necessary.

Also, remember: you’ve asked this person for their help and support because you’re struggling with self-regulation. Try to listen, cooperate, and be gracious.

Use gentle reminders that involve the senses

If you’re trying to break the spell of someone else’s hyperfocus, avoid getting angry. The ADHD person isn’t fully present in this interaction. They may not remember a conversation that occurs during hyperfocus, and they may not even notice anything happening around them.

Because hyperfocus takes us so deep into the zone, we often need more than a simple, “time to leave for dinner — now.” Create a sensory event to bring consciousness back to the real world. Turn the lights off, provide a gentle touch on the arm or shoulder, or set a timer with a loud bell. If an electronic device is involved, turn it off — but only if you’ve agreed beforehand that this is okay!

You can do this for yourself, too, especially if you invest in something like a WeMo switch or, if you want to go simple, a lamp timer that will turn off the lights or computer at a predetermined time. Apps and browser extensions — like the Productivity Owl for Google Chrome — can help limit time on specific websites.

How about you? Do you struggle with hyperfocus? What tools and tricks have worked for you?

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Stop waiting for a good time to fix it

I’ve been looking forward to preschool.

First and foremost, I feel compelled to point out, because R. will love it. He’s smart and extroverted and he recently asked me to read Maisy Goes to Preschool four times in a row.

I’ve also been counting the days for my own sake. I feel totally scattered, behind on everything, and exhausted by the needs of an ADHD household. Surviving until preschool became my primary goal.

stop waiting

I put all my eggs in that basket: soon, I’d gain four hours per week in a cafe with my laptop. Alone.

Of course, ADHD never gives me a good basket to put my eggs in. The bottom fell out last week, when I received a welcome letter from R.’s preschool listing his first day a full two and a half weeks later than I’d anticipated.

This wasn’t my first time at the “I just have to keep my head above water until _________” rodeo. Still, my reaction wasn’t great.

It stings, when you’ve switched into a time-bound survival mode, to watch the rescue boat disappear back over the horizon.

This experience reminded me why survival mode is a bad idea.

My approach: if you’re struggling and something isn’t working for you, change it.

Now.

If you don't like your fate AIDA

Sure, extenuating circumstances happen. But more often than not, we ADHD’ers create a perpetual state of extenuating circumstances. We erect barriers to productivity like it’s our job. The challenge is to figure out what we can do right now.

If you’ve been wallowing in a pit of chaos and discouragement, ask yourself: how can I make my current situation work for me? What small thing can I do right now? How can I take matters into my own hands instead of waiting for external factors to change?

In other words, if you don’t like your life, change it. Even if you can only manage tiny, tiny stepsDon’t wait for change to come to you, and don’t leave your own happiness and productivity in the hands of fate.

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19 ways I waste time on the internet

19 ways

  1. Replying to email threads when I’m not the expert, have nothing to add, and/or should’ve let someone else reply instead
  2. Reading LiveJournal posts I wrote as a college freshman
  3. Crafting a detailed rebuttal to someone’s post on Facebook, then deleting it because I “shouldn’t be wasting my time on this”
  4. Scrolling through my sister’s Instagram friends for no reason
  5. Reading celebrity news, even though I don’t care about celebrity news
  6. Looking at real estate listings in my city, even though we have no plans to move anytime soon
  7. Looking at real estate listings for other cities, even though we really have no plans to move out of the area anytime soon
  8. Stirring the pot on a Facebook conversation that doesn’t pertain to me
  9. Writing a one-star Goodreads review that gets my point across while still being polite and civil
  10. Adding to Pinterest boards for defunct renovation projects
  11. Aimlessly scrolling through my Pinterest main feed, pinning anything that strikes my fancy
  12. Trying to remember why I even went to Pinterest in the first place (oh, right, to grab a recipe, because 40 minutes ago I was working on a shopping list)
  13. Looking at photos of tattoos inspired by classic literature
  14. Writing what I’m sure will be widely recognized as the world’s most helpful Amazon review
  15. Stalking my high school classmates on Facebook
  16. Reformatting someone else’s Google Document because I assume they want it to look [my version of] presentable
  17. Wordsmithing an email when a quick phone call would suffice
  18. Drafting a blog post I’ll later forget to finish/publish
  19. Disappearing down a rabbit hole of Twitter hashtags that, you guessed it, don’t really pertain to me

Alright, I know you have a few. What would you add to the list?

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Product highlight: David Seah’s productivity tools

Do you struggle with traditional to-do lists?

We recently stumbled upon some innovative (and free!) task management tools courtesy of designer David Seah. If the standard approach to daily to-do lists doesn’t work for you, you need to check these out.

David Seah productivity printable - Concrete Goals Tracker

Image credit: davidseah.com

 

Seah has refined his collection of goal-setting, list-making, and time-tracking tools to support his work as a self-employed designer and developer. While most of the free printables on his site can be applied to any situation, some — like the National Novel Writing Month word count calendar — are more specific.

Feeling hesitant to adopt yet another new system? Don’t worry, these tools require no startup investment. No book to read, no special file folders to buy.

David Seah productivity printable - Emergent Task Timer

Image credit: davidseah.com

“While the tools share similar principles and elements,” Seah writes on his site, “they were not made to be a single integrated system, or even used on a regular basis. Use them when you feel the need to feel more focused, to find out where your time is going, or to just get a different look on your work.” In other words, no pressure. Experiment, find out what works for you, and decide when and how often you use it.

So far, I’ve enjoyed using the Emergent Task Planner to tackle an especially overwhelming day. The Day Grid Balancer gave me lots of insights into my week: how much little stuff I actually got done, how well I balanced time spent on each area of responsibility, and, sadly, how little time I invested in my own happiness. When I went out of town for a few days, I left my husband a stack of Seah’s clever Task Order Ups.

David Seah productivity printable - Emergent Task Planner

Image credit: davidseah.com

My husband, meanwhile, employed the Emergent Task Timer to help him record and reflect on how long individual tasks took to complete. Time blind ADHD’ers, this one’s for you!

Seah intends to include stationary in his business model, and I’m excited to see where he takes it. So far his productivity tools are fun, clever, and useful. Because they’re free and printable from anywhere, it’s easy to choose when and how many to use without cluttering up your office or spending money on a new gimmick.

I have a well-established GTD-based system, and I was happy to find Seah’s tools won’t infringe upon or distract from an existing setup. Instead, they pinch-hit in a time of specific need, when your brain needs a little something extra to avoid complete overwhelm.

Take a look, try them out, and let me know what’s working for you!

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Time blindness & ADHD

Are you (or someone you love) always late?

I don’t just mean running 10 minutes late for a meeting, I mean persistently late. For everything.

Are you time blind?

Late getting out of bed. Late getting into bed (sometimes to the point of never getting into bed). Late sitting down for dinner with your family. Late leaving the office, putting down the video game controller, or getting the baby from her nap.

Or maybe you do okay in these areas. Maybe you’re exhausted by larger-than-life emotions that, while quickly forgotten after the fact, feel all-consuming in the moment.

There’s a name for this: time blindness.

And while you might not believe me yet, there’s hope.

The truth about time blindness.

clock photoPhoto by nicksarebi

Time blindness isn’t just a matter of ‘feeling like’ time is moving quickly or slowly. It’s a failure to view time as linear, concrete, or even finite.

This means most traditional time management strategies won’t work for most ADHD’ers. It doesn’t mean we’re not responsible for how we manage and deal with our ADHD — including our distorted perception of time.

Learning to manage time is one of the best investments you can make in your relationship with yourself and others.

Time blindness & you.

Time blindness manifests differently in everyone, just like ADHD itself. In other words, it’s more complicated than “she always gets out the door late” or “he’s unreliable.”

After my first week on stimulant medication, I wrote the following revelation in my journal: “a week is only a week long.” Obvious? Hardly. I’d never perceived an emotional state, a rough day, or even being unbearably hungry as something with a beginning, a middle, and an end. If you suffer from wild, all-consuming emotions — positive or negative — training your brain to perceive time more accurately can provide significant relief.

Time blindness often causes time to ‘get away’ from people with ADHD. As one ADHD’er put it in an ADDitude discussion thread: ‘I have helpful friends who say, “just look at your watch and leave when it is 3:00 p.m.’ But when I look at my watch, it is 4:30 p.m.!”

For my husband, time blindness shows up in the form of marathon work days, late bedtimes, and plenty of household projects that he “didn’t intend to take all day.”

Time blindness can hurt. It can make those on the receiving end feel confused, disrespected, angry, unimportant, and betrayed. But before you lash out at someone who has broken a social contract (again) by mismanaging their time, remember: it’s not about you. It doesn’t reflect on how important the obligation actually was to them. When a loved one says, “I have no idea why I keep doing this,” they’re telling the truth. They feel every bit as let down as you do.

The only answer is education (for all parties involved), forgiveness, and a lot of patience and compassion.

Finding information and advice.

The Time Timer can help combat ADHD's "time blindness"

The Time Timer can help combat ADHD’s “time blindness”

I’m pleased to have found — and to be able to share with you — this free podcast with Dr. Ari Tuckman, author of More Attention, Less Deficit and Understand Your Brain, Get More DoneDr. Tuckman is approachable and to the point, giving some much-needed information and advice about one of ADHD’s more confounding facets.

Don’t skip the listener comments and questions, either. I found their stories of success and defeat very therapeutic and I suspect many others will, too.

Before you run off and listen to the podcast, here’s a tip from our home to yours: do everything you can to represent time visually. My husband insists he actually reads analog clocks more quickly and easily than digital, and that’s not surprising. Analog clocks quantify time — especially for visually-oriented people — in a way digital cannot.

Likewise, timer apps like Ovo Timer (free, Android-only) or Time Timer ($0.99 Android, $2.99 iOS) start with a chunk of color that gradually disappears. You can also buy standalone Time Timer clocks to keep around the house.

I’m already teaching my two-year-old about time with the Time Timer when we clean up his toys at night. We don’t talk much about numbers, but he understands that when the red wedge disappears, he’s supposed to be ready to move on to the next task.

Do you struggle with lateness or with time ‘getting away from you?’ What are some strategies you’ve tried?

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