Do you find yourself often saying things like…
- Is it already (fill in the time)?
- I’m going to be late!
- This is taking too long.
- I need to do one more thing.
- I don’t have time for this!
- I have too much to do. I can’t take a break now.
If you are an adult with ADHD for whom time can be an elusive concept, comments like these may be a common for you.
Does This Sound Familiar?
Here is a story about Bob.
As Bob is starting his work day he decides to tackle the department budget since it has been on his to do list for weeks. But since it is not due until next week, he tells himself that he still has time.
Just as he is getting started he remembers he needs to write an email to John. So, he says to himself, “I’ll just write this email, and then I’ll get back to the budget… After all I have all morning to work on it.”
As he is writing the email, he remembers that he promised his son he would order a book from Amazon. And since it will only take a minute to do… After an hour on Amazon he remembers he wanted to start the budget.
He only has a ½ hour left to work, so he quickly enters some of the information. But then he notices he entered it wrong. He decides he’ll have to fix it tomorrow because he has to leave to get to his lunch meeting on time.
A few days before the budget is due he starts to work on it, again. Now he really feels under the gun, and doesn’t know if he will finish it on time. So he decides he will have to focus just on it. He puts everything else aside, and even ends up working through the weekend, again.
And, when Monday rolls around he wonders, “Why does this keep happening…?!”
Bob experiences many challenges with time common to adults with ADHD. Let’s see what they are…
When Time Feels Endless
When the reward (the good feeling from getting a task done on time, not getting in trouble, closing the sale, etc.) for doing a task is not “now” and seems too far off in the future, it can be hard for adults with ADHD to choose to work on a task as there is no sense of urgency.
In part, this can be due to the low levels of dopamine receptors in the reward center of the brain, resulting in not enough stimulation to stay motivated to start and follow through on intentions.
The first step is to break down the task and set due dates. Yes, I know you’ve heard that before. The challenge for you is likely choosing to get stated and attend to the task when the time and date you committed to rolls around.
One tactic to make this easier is to create a sense of urgency by, as David Nowell suggest in his article, Procrastination and Dopamine Receptor Density, “connecting the dots.”
To do this he suggest reminding yourself why you are doing a specific task and what the payoff will for you. Describe in vivid sensory detail (the smells, the visuals, the feelings) what it will be like once you’ve attained that goal.
When you do this you can bring the reward into the “now,” making it easier to choose to do a task.
It works, really!
The Myth of Multitasking
Another challenge for you may be trying to do more than one thing at a time, multitasking. You may think you can get more done this way. But in the end you don’t do any of the tasks well because your attention is divided.
Rather than gaining time, you end up losing time as you switch back and forth between tasks. You will also lose time to distractions because, as you transition back and forth, it is more difficult to tune them out.
Of course when you are juggling many tasks at once, you are likely to make more mistakes. And then you need to spend more time fixing those mistakes.
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
- remind yourself when you are tempted to jump around, “I am doing this. I am not doing that.”
- and, as thoughts of other tasks come to mind, write them down so you will be confident you won’t forget them later. But don’t jump to that task.
One thing at a time is the way to go.
Hyperfocusing Can Be A Detriment
At the other end of the “attention spectrum” is doing one thing for long stretches of time, hyperfocusing.
No doubt, there are certainly times when focusing intently on one task and tuning out all other tasks and distractions can be really helpful.
Hyperfocusing, of course, can get in your way when you ignore your other commitments or go down a rabbit hole and are not productive at all.
The key is to be intentional about what you are doing by:
- setting a clear objective for your task.
- and setting a timer for 25-60 minutes to pull yourself out of hyperfocus.
- asking yourself when the timer goes off, “Am I doing what I intended to do? Should I continue or do I need to transition to something else?”
The bottom-line is to leverage your hyperfocus, but don’t let it get in your way.
The Dangers of One More Thingitis
This is also a “malady” that can lead you down multiple rabbit holes, making you late for your other commitments and distracting you from your other tasks.
Maybe it looks like this.
You are working on one task or just about to leave your house or office, and you remember something you need to do. Maybe it is an overdue task, something you meant to do earlier or just something you don’t want to try to remember later. So, you say to yourself, “I’ll just need to do this one thing. It will only take a minute…”
Telling yourself it will only take a minute sounds convincing. Doesn’t it? But it always takes longer, right? So, the next time, remind yourself of this.
Then write it on your task list and stay focused on your intention, whether that is working on a task or leaving your home or office.
Keep on keeping on!
Going Faster Slows You Down
As an adult with ADHD your brain may feel like it is in overdrive when you are juggling alot. And when you feel you don’t have enough time and are feeling overwhelmed, you may be inclined to go faster.
When you are experiencing such moments that is exactly the moment you need to combat your impulse to speed up. Visualize what could happen. You may:
- spill the coffee on the keyboard
- drop your credit card on the ground after getting gas
- misplace your keys while leaving a meeting
- leave your wallet on the table at the restaurant
You get it. Sounds familiar, right?
Remind yourself that, if you slow down, you will save time in the short run and the long run.
Question For You
What are you going to do to take back control of your time?