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6 Tips for Being On Time….with ADHD

January 15, 2013

palms-clockIf you are like me, time insensitivity is one of the less than gift-like aspects of your ADHD.  At times, it feels like the universe is working against me and that no matter what I do, I will never be on time for anything.  Of course, the universe is not actually working against me, but that is what it can feel like to struggle against something that is literally effortless for other people, managing and understanding the flow of time.

Because this is something I struggle with so often, I have a bunch of different solutions for how to be on time in spite of having ADHD.  Here are 10 of the ones that have worked for me in different situations.

1. Plan Ahead

This sounds simple but can be deceptively complicated for many ADDers.  When I say plan ahead, I don’t necessarily mean the way that other people do, by creating a list of what needs to be done over the course of any given day with a vague plan for which things to do when.   I mean plan ahead at a detail level.  I mean block off the time you need to accomplish a task, hour by hour.

2. Give Yourself  a Buffer

Give yourself a buffer for unexpected circumstances.  For me, this is one of the things that always gets me.  I often say that the universe is working against my desire to be on time because no matter how much time I have, something will happen to make me late.  Allowing extra time is one of the ways to combat this.  If you are worried about being early and not knowing what to do while you wait, bring something to do.  I have crossword puzzles in my bag and a word game on my phone just for this purpose.

3. Prep Ahead of Time

Print out directions if you are going somewhere unfamiliar.  Double check how much time you need to get there AND how much time you need to get ready to leave.  This is another place that I get jammed up and lose time.  I think – I have to leave at 1 in order to make it to my appointment – but don’t think – In order to leave at 1, I need to stop working at 12:40, change my clothes, pack my bag, and get ready to leave.  Making sure you have time to get yourself out the door is as important as getting out the door.

4. Fight the Need to Do One More Thing

This is one of the most common things ADHD folks struggle with in terms of time insensitivity and being on time.  I have had times when the need to do one more thing before I leave is so overwhelming it feels almost like a compulsion.  I have to continuously talk myself out it.  Trying to do too many things in too little time as you are leaving is a recipe for being late.  Limit your activities to those things that must be done before you can leave the house in order to combat this problem.

5. Use Timers for Time Blocking

Another problem that can make us late is losing track of time.  We have an hour left before we need to leave for an appointment.  We decide to spend that time going through email.  We lose track of time and only realize it 15 minutes after the time we were supposed to leave.  In order to keep track of time while you are doing something, especially if it is something interesting, is to use a timer as your timekeeper.  Kitchen timers, cell phone alarms, and apps used to manage carpal tunnel syndrome (like WorkRave) which can break into a period of hyperfocus while you are on the computer and remind you to do something else.

6. Plan Your Day Before You Start Your Day

One of the most common problems people with ADHD have with time management is because they struggle with time insensitivity where the flow of time doesn’t function the same way as it does for neurotypical people.  This can lead to over or under estimating the amount of time needed to do something.  Many ADHDers will believe they can accomplish more things in a certain amount of time than are actually possible.  If you take the time to plan your day ahead of time, you get two things.  First, you go through the exercise of thinking about how long each thing will take and putting it in a time slot.  This can cut down on unintentionally overlapping tasks in the same timeframe.  Second, you have estimates to compare to your actuals after the fact.  This can help you see where you are over and under estimating and can help you adjust in the future.

Turning Leaf Life Coaching offers coaching for ADHD and Life Transitions worldwide over the phone and in person throughout NH, ME, MA, and VT.  For more information, go to

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