The ADHD Homestead

Create the life you want with the mind you have.

Tag: time timer

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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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?

7 ADHD-friendly purchases we actually use

We’re two ADHD adults with an Amazon Prime subscription. I don’t have to tell you how challenging it can be to reign in impulse purchases.

That said, among the duds we’ve made some indispensable ADHD-friendly purchases over the years.

Every individual and every household has different needs, so your list may look different. I’d love to hear your success stories in the comments!

P-Touch labeler

David Allen recommends automatic labelmakers for more successful filingI balked at this when my husband first bought it. A fancy label maker felt extravagant when we already owned perfectly functional pens and pencils. However, I’m now sold on the benefits — espoused by organizing guru David Allen — of printing labels for file folders as opposed to hand-writing. The labeler makes this quick and easy, which makes us more likely to file documents in a timely manner.

Not only that, I’ve started labeling every storage container in our home. Remember, your ADHD spouse may not intuit where something goes, even if it seems obvious. You may not even remember your system a month later. Creating a clear system encourages everyone to put things away in their proper homes.

Pill case

I’m paranoid about forgetting my meds. I’m also paranoid about forgetting I’ve taken them, then accidentally double-dosing. We have seven-day pill cases (different colors for each of us!) that hold our meds and vitamins. I’m diligent about taking pills only from the case. This makes it very clear whether or not I’ve taken my stimulant meds for the day. It also helps me track how often I’m remembering to take my vitamins.

Electric razor

My husband has used an electric razor for years, but I only recently discovered the ladies’ models. I take short, irregular showers, especially in the winter when my skin is dry. Shaving in the shower was not working  at all because I needed to remember to leave time for a longer shower. The wet/dry electric razor allows me to take care of this pesky task whenever (and wherever) I think of it and have a few minutes.

Spray bottles

I keep spray bottles of homemade multi-purpose cleaner spray bottles(a 2:1 water:vinegar solution with a little squirt of dish soap) hidden all over the house, most notably under the bathroom sink. Like the electric razor, this allows me to clean whenever I notice something and have a minute. It’s cheap, easy, and convenient — all good news for ADHD homemakers.

Post-it notes

I use a lot of post-it notes. I keep them in almost every room of the house, in my glove compartment, and in my purse. People have asked me why I’m obsessed with post-its when I have a smartphone with multiple list-making and task management apps.

It’s simple: sticky notes let me write things down distraction-free. The moment I unlock my phone, a whole pile of shiny apps scatter my focus. Almost invariably, I forget what I wanted to write down in a matter of seconds. Post-its save my sanity. I toss them in my inbox and record them on my to-do list later.

Time Timer

time timer

This timer provides a visual representation of time that many ADHD’ers find immensely helpful. I use it almost daily to curtail my social media use. The disappearing red segment forces me to ask myself, “is this how I want to be spending this time?”

Christmas is right around the corner. This is a great gift for all your loved ones with ADHD, and there’s an app for Android and iOS if you don’t want to invest in the physical timer.

Document scanner

I rolled my eyes when my husband ordered this one because we already own a nice flatbed scanner. However, I now use the document scanner almost daily. It’s fast, easy, and has allowed me to eliminate so much paper filing from our lives. Do you have a big stack of papers “to file” somewhere in your home or office? Thought so. Make sure you have a backup service like Dropbox or Crashplan set up, then give one of these a whirl.

A document scanner is a fast, easy way to reduce paper clutter

 

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