This type of time anxiety is often called waiting mode or wait mode, and it’s relatively common among people with ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. People with ADHD often have a particularly difficult time overcoming waiting mode due to the nature of their symptoms. Learn more about what causes waiting mode and get helpful tips for overcoming it.

What Is Waiting Mode?

Waiting mode happens when the mind is overly focused on an upcoming event. While waiting for that activity to occur, someone in waiting mode has a hard time accomplishing other tasks, even if there is plenty of time to tackle them. They might drop all other items on their to-do list in an effort to minimize stress and feel more in control during the waiting period before an event takes place.

For example, imagine you have a doctor’s appointment at 2 p.m. You get up at 8 a.m. and have six hours before your appointment. However, you can’t seem to focus on other things during that time. It feels hard to get started on chores or work assignments. Instead, you keep thinking about the upcoming appointment. You might feel anxious or impatient during that time. Your mind obsesses about this upcoming event, and it seems like you just can’t get something else started until you get the appointment over with.

Why People with ADHD Go into Wait Mode

Similar to ADHD shutdown, wait mode is a problem related to attention regulation and executive functioning. The brain fixating on the specific upcoming activity is an example of the way people with ADHD often have trouble managing where their attention is directed. In terms of executive functioning, waiting mode also indicates a struggle to motivate one’s self and manage time effectively to get another task started during the period before that activity takes place. Wait mode is also related to anxiety, which is an issue affecting a significant portion of the ADHD population.

Tips for Overcoming Waiting Mode with ADHD

There are a number of strategies you can try to help yourself snap out of waiting mode. The following tips may help you remain productive under stress while you’re waiting.

Schedule things earlier in the day.

If you know you struggle with waiting mode, try to schedule appointments in the morning when possible. This way, you can reduce your waiting time and get on to other tasks you need to get done once the appointment is over.

Set alarms.

If you’re nervous about starting a task and getting too hyperfocused to remember your appointment, set an alarm that still gives you plenty of time to prepare and get to your scheduled activity. You may feel more comfortable getting a task started if you know you have a reliable reminder set.

Do a brain dump.

When an upcoming event is taking over your mental bandwidth, try doing a brain dump. Get out a sheet of paper and write down everything that you’re feeling in the moment. Then, jot down the steps you need to take to get ready for the event, like which clothes you’ll put on, what you need to bring with you, and when you have to leave to arrive on time. This exercise allows you to release some of the anxiety you’re experiencing and help you feel less overwhelmed or underprepared.

Identify other wait mode triggers.

Appointments are a common trigger for waiting mode, but there may be other scenarios which cause you to experience this phenomenon. For example, you might feel anxious while waiting for feedback from your manager on a work project, or when waiting for a friend to respond to a text. In these situations, being open about your anxiety may help you get a faster response so you spend less time fretting over possible outcomes.

In addition to the tips listed above, consider revisiting your current ADHD treatment plan. If you struggle with waiting mode on a regular basis, talk to your healthcare provider about possible medications and therapies which may help you to overcome it. If you’re interested in learning about the possibility of more effective options for treating your ADHD and managing your symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at Done