For many people with ADHD the state of being in hyperfocus means losing track of time or oscillating from one distraction to another. It can often mean difficult contextualizing time, as in, how much time will an activity actually require or how much time has transpired performing a particular task. 

The future also fades in favor of the now. A deadline of Thursday doesn’t mean much on Sunday night. Thus the present takes priority over anything else at the expense of planning ahead. ADHD, in many ways, is about executive dysfunction. In other words, struggling with knowing what to do and when.

Worst-case scenario might be falling behind on a project or forgetting to take care of an errand. Or it might mean harsh penalties at work or tensions within a relationship. Plus the stress of time mismanagement only compounds over time.

If not managed properly, that ongoing tug of war between now and later can result in frustration, consequences, and even depression. But finding a way to minimize those distractions and stick with them is usually easier said than done. The reality is that whether someone has ADHD or not, the temptation of procrastination is always right around the corner.

Seeking the balance

So how to navigate these stormy waters with calm and ease?

There are both practical ways to reimagine time and the passing of it as well as practical ways to manage it better.

For example, when it comes to reminding yourself to have a heightened sense of time and managing it better:

  1. Put your home entertainment system or lights on a timer to create a clear signal of time for bed.
  2. Outsource your ability to stay on task online by using programs like Day Optimizer to prioritize tasks and events.
  3. Start the day with an opportunity to plan each hour and even each half hour; it might involve Post-It notes on the mirror or fridge to nudge you to do it but stick to the framework and give yourself that peace of mind.
  4. Plan your schedule around your attention span.

When it comes to being mindful of time and time passing:

  1. Ensure you have a set bedtime to instill a strong sense of routine and comfort. It’s a great habit for anyone (and earlier is usually better).
  2. Ask a friend or colleague to create some accountability and check in with them or vice versa to stay on target.
  3. Stagger some deadlines with different projects so it feels achievable and less daunting. 
  4. Have a place for everything and return everything to its place.

Create a virtuous circle

There is no obvious way to manage time better for someone with ADHD and it can mean combining a few strategies. But the payoff can be huge as it fuels a greater sense of confidence, determination, and organization.

The key ways to think of it, say ADHD behavioral experts, is to develop a sense of initiation, attention, and persistence. It’s also important to ignore that negative voice or as Arianna Huffington calls it “our obnoxious roommate” to quell the anxiety and allow headspace to implement a real routine.

Sometimes it’s all about taking it one day, hour, or minute at a time. And giving yourself the gift of time to shift your perspective.