For Adults with ADHD it can feel like many days consist of putting out one fire after the next. If this is true for you, maybe you have been operating this way for a long time. So, you don’t know there is another way.
And, if you want to stop operating this way, one key strategy is implementing more buffers in your day — time you need to slow down, think, center yourself and just be.
I know you may initially respond to this idea with, “How do I do this when I don’t have enough time now to do what I need to do?”
While it may sound counter intuitive at first, once you try it you’ll find creating more buffers will help you be more productive.
As noted essentialist, Greg Mckeown, notes, “Buffers give us emotional breathing room and the freedom to think strategically.”
Sounds good, right?
Why Buffers Are So Important For Adults With ADHD
In order to really get why buffers are so critical for ADHD Adults you need to understand how not managing transitions can get in your way.
Think about the challenges you have starting, stopping and switching between tasks.
As you shift gears throughout your day, do you have any difficulty:
- getting out the door in the morning?
- getting started on tasks?
- fully engaging in one meeting after just completing another?
- stopping tasks to move on to others?
- focusing on a conversation while you are thinking about something else?
- stopping work when you say you will?
One solution to doing each of the above better is learning how to manage the transitions — the time between activities or tasks.
Because, if you can do this better, rather than getting stuck grinding your gears, you will move through your day more effectively, save time and get more done.
#1 How to Use Buffers to Get Places On Time
Because estimating time is a challenge for Adults with ADHD determining how much time you need to get places is tricky. In fact, you may often underestimate the time needed. I know you already know this.
To counter this try overestimating the time needed by 50% to ensure you will get places on time.
But, as I write this, I can hear you asking, “What do I do if I get there early?!” Because, like many Adults with ADHD, you don’t want to be bored or waste your time. After all you have a lot to do, right?
So, bring something to read or do. And with the extra time you can also center yourself, rather than sliding into home base at the last minute, flustered.
#2 How to Use Buffers to Avoid “One More Thingitis”
As an Adult with ADHD random thoughts, such as tasks you need to do, will pop into your head throughout the day. And you may try to do the tasks as soon as you think about them.
Maybe it looks something like this.
You are just about to leave your house, and you remember you need to take out the recycling. You don’t want to try to remember to do it later, and you think you have time.
So, you say to yourself, “I’ll just do this now. It will only take a minute…”
But, as you take out the recycling, you drop it and a glass breaks. The dog starts running all over. You corral the dog, and then clean up the glass.
Fifteen minutes later you are finally leaving for work. Now you are going to be late…
Telling yourself it will only take a minute sounds convincing, doesn’t it? But it always takes longer.
So, the next time, use self-talk to remind yourself, “I don’t have time. If I don’t go now, I’ll be late and the recycling can wait.”
Then write it on your task list and stay focused on your intention so you can avoid the slippery slope of the one more thing syndrome.
#3 How to Use Buffers to Make Fewer Mistakes and Save Time
Like many Adults with ADHD, when you are juggling a lot and feeling overwhelmed, you may be inclined to go faster.
Partly this is due the tsunami of thoughts swirling about in your head, “I have to do this and that and…” And, in part, this is also likely due to your desire to get everything done. But I’m sure you’ve had experiences where going faster is actually counterproductive — it cost you time and energy.
Think of the times you’ve:
- spilled coffee on your desk.
- left your credit card someplace after a purchase.
- misplaced your keys while leaving a meeting.
- left your wallet on the table at a restaurant.
- gotten in a car accident.
You get it. Sounds familiar, right?
So, when you are experiencing such moments when you feel you must go faster, that is the moment to take a deep breath and use self-talk to remind yourself, “I need to slow down. It will save me time in the short run and the long run.”
#4 How to Use Buffers to Avoid the Myth of Multitasking
Another challenge for you may be trying to do more than one thing at a time — multitasking. You may think in the moment you can get more done this way.
But, because your attention is divided, you may end up:
- being less productive as you switch back and forth between tasks.
- losing time to distractions because, as you transition back and forth, it is more difficult to tune them out.
- making more mistakes, and then spending more time fixing those mistakes.
- not doing the tasks as well as you would like.
This is one area where the research is unanimous. Multitasking does not work.
In his book, Crazy Busy, Dr. Ed Hallowell refers to multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”
One way to address this challenge is to:
- set a timer to work on one task.
- remind yourself, “I am doing this and not that!!”
- write down thoughts and tasks that come to mind while you are working on a piece of paper next to you so you will be confident you won’t forget them later.
One thing at a time is the way to go.
#5 How to Use Buffers to Think Strategically
Taking time to think and plan is one of the most critical buffers ADHD Adults need. And, while planning may not be your strong suit now, it is possible to strengthen this muscle.
While there is no easy answer or one right way to do this, the key is to review and plan on a regular basis — weekly and daily.
And, as you do this consistently, the pull of immediate gratification (doing whatever catches your attention in the moment) will weaken.
The other advantages of regular planning are:
- You will not be overwhelmed with information running around in your head.
- You will no longer try to rely on your memory, which you know is notoriously unreliable.
- You will be more confident you are not letting tasks fall through the cracks.
- You can be sure you are doing what is important to you, rather than whatever pops up — you will be more proactive, rather than reactive.
Check out the articles under the section, ADHD and Planning Strategies, for tips on planning.
#6 How to Use Buffers to Make Initiating Easier
On your mark, get set, go!
Is this how you sometimes start your tasks now?
If it is, you may find it hard at times to get started on a task because you have not done the prep work you need to actually be ready to work. That is, you may not:
- have what you need to do the task.
- know where to start.
- understand how to do the task.
And, because of this uncertainty, you may end up putting off the task — procrastinating.
Many Adults with ADHD often overlook the critical piece of getting ready to work because it feels like there is not enough time. There is just too much to do. So, in the moment you think to yourself, “I have to get going and get this done already!”
The key is to take the time to make sure you are ready to work. Remind yourself that getting ready to work is part of doing the task.
What Is Next For You?
All of the above strategies to add buffers to your day will help reduce your overwhelm.
Choose one and try it.
After you see how helpful it is, you may just be more willing to try the other strategies.