ADHD and Time Managament

Sylvia Clare
ADHD cat on my backauthors own

Tips for parenting your self or your child with ADHD.

ADHD is often linked with distractedness and attention issues but not so often specifically about time and timing issues. yet it can be one of the biggest struggles for us.

I remember once my son was asked to make an appt. at a set time. He got there on time and was then asked to go away for ten minutes. He completely got distracted and went back half an hour later, when he got sanctioned for his lateness. They supposedly knew about his ADHD but thought they could punish him out of it.


My parents tried that and they added PTSD to my load to deal with instead.

I’ve spent much of my life being so anxious about being late, that I am nearly always early. The advantage of that was this gave me time to loosen the knots of anxiety in my stomach about being on time. I was addicted to checking my watch every few minutes and it was only when I was able to stop wearing a watch and calm down that I realised how much this had dominated my life. I just took it for granted that life was like this for me. I wanted to fit in with others and not let them down, though I do know that happened sometimes. And when I completely forgot — goodness knows how many people took offence at that even though I had probably done my very best not to, in ways they would never have understood.

ADHD is not a disorder of knowing what to do, it’s a disorder of doing what you know — at the right times and in the right places. Russell Barkley.

If you want me or anyone with ADHD to do one thing immediately we will probably do it really well. But ask us to remember over time and it is a nightmare, our nightmare, recurring. I know this is true of both myself and my son.

It doesn’t matter how hard the activity is, the time management is far harder than anyone without ADHD can possibly understand.

Do not give me too much in one instruction, you will blow my head up and I will end up in a meltdown. And then I might just slip back into mental self-harming, punishing myself and admonishing myself for not being better at meeting other people’s expectations of me, even when those people do not understand anything about me. Is that what you intend when you judge or place unrealistic expectations on me?

How I deal with it?

I make sure everything is broken down into small pieces which are easily achievable and more easily remembered in terms of details for completion.
I reward myself for every task completed, even if it is just an internal ‘aren’t I great to do that’ moment.
I use my mindfulness skills to support my mental attitude to self and ADHD and also to stay focussed
I keep a diary and try to remember to look at it every morning at least as well as making a mental list of what needs doing, but I might need lots of promtps to get it done even then.

For instance I knew our fridge needed cleaning out and I had ordered a delivery of food to arrive in three days time from making that note to myself. However on the morning something upset my routine and I forgot ? procrastinated. BUT the delivery van turned up to early and drove off again. We saw it from the window. I suddenly remembered I did not want to fill it with new food until I’d cleaned all the shelves etc properly so I rushed down and frantically started stripping the fridge down. Needless to say I didn’t quite manage it in time and my husband had to come and help me and bring the food in while I pressed on with replacing the now shiny clean shelves back into the fridge. It got done but only with back-up and probably not if the van hadn’t turned up early and driven off briefly. This is the scenario of so very much of my life. It is living with ADHD. Once upon a time I would have been upset and self-harming about it but now we both laugh at it. After all even though my husband was involved in something at the time, why shouldn’t he come and help me out. Instead of viewing it as a failure on my part it became a willingly fulfilled joint effort we were both equally responsible for. This pattern happens several times a week now and is viewed as a positive.

ADHD Overload

Too much is happening all the time. You neurotypicals may not recognise this but millions of bots of information are coming at you every second. Your brains can probably filter this automatically and thus you only notice the chosen items. I notice about five times as much as you at least and probably far more than that. This is only the present moment too. For most people you also live in past and future modes, unless you practice mindfulness deeply and are able to stay fully present from choice.

Past present future.

We find it harder to consider future issues, consequences and outcomes, and to learn from the past mistakes too — that was then this is now, it’s different. Not impossible but harder. Telling us doesn’t work either. Beint too present without awareness is just as bad as being stuck in the past or dealing with the overanxiety about the future, and just as disabling. However, as a student of mindfulness, I find it easier to be present most of the time that non ADHD neuro-typicals do. But being consciously present means I am aware there are outcomes I need to consider and lessons to learn that would ne helpful to recall. Making them conscious present mind helps me to do that. SO I recall the lessons previously learned by bringing it to mind and stating out loud I do not need to repeat this, usually spoken out loud to my husband who is amazingly supportive of the effort I put into being my best self. The other evening I was trying to eat less and avoid gaining older age spread and I knew I was going where sweets are on sale. I said out loud in the car en route that I did not need to do any secret treat eating as I would not be hungry and might enjoy the feeling of losing some of my excess weight. I did not succumb but I know that if I had not stated that out loud as my intended choice of behaviour, my instant gratification delay aversion mind would have said ‘no one will know just do it.’

Consequences are not something we naturally consider, the impulse to do something right away is very powerful. It makes us fun and full of initiative and exciting to be with, but we can also find ourselves in nightmares. We commit whole-heartedly to things before we can be certain it is right for us, including relationships/ friendships. It means we get hurt a lot too and our tender hearts are easily damaged in ways we believe are judgments of us, that feel as if we only deserve to get rejected or hurt or fail because that is what happens to us so very often.

Again my mindfulness has really helped me in managing these issues and given me a life where I an now free to accept my ADHD and work with it, instead of being filled with shame and self-loathing for it.

The advantage of being present is that you are less goal driven and more easily able to do with the flow in life and deal with things as they actually arrive.

This is something many people strive for but with ADHD if you can work with it you will achieve it more easily.

I do work very hard try to strike a good balance between enjoying today and organising for tomorrow. The afore-mentioned diary is essential. It is hard to disconnect from the distractions and temptations of the moment on my own but here again my wonderful husband is willing to talk it through with me and we create spaces in our relationship, mostly in shared baths where there are fewer distractions for me, where we ponder our options and make joint decisions. Then all I have to do is to remember them.

Again my diary is my most important tool to survive with. It reminds me of what I must do and when, which order I should do them in.

Even the act or writing in down helps me to remember that there is something I must remember today so electronic doesn’t work for me but it might for others, I am of my era. My diary is on my table along with last years one in case I need that one too. That older diary will get put away when I get next years one ready to start filling in. I am not always on task at checking my diary but it makes life a lot less impossible for me.

My diary also helps to stop me overcommitting. I easily under-estimate how much time and energy something will take and give myself too much to do. I am very willing and open to helping others but to my own detriment and have had to get a lot better at saying no. I even schedule a nap not most days as I don’t usually manage a full nights sleep undisturbed very often and although I can be very productive at night writing etc, I do need to get enough sleep.

Motivating myself

If there is something I want to do then it will probably end up hyper focusing on it anyway. But what if I don’t? what if it is less exciting that a hyperfocus issue. I also programme treats in for myself if possible. I like to take trips away though this is mostly impossible for us nowadays with caring duties, but giving myself something great to look forward to always helps me to stay motivated and on task in the present. Good alternatives for me now are going for walks and a pub meal with good friends, something that involves movement is essential. My current favourite is my old age ballet classes which I would do daily if available but weekly suffices. I never miss them or forget them, and in lots of way the weekly punctuation mark helps me to stay on track with the rest of the week too. The motivation of my love for my ballet class hyper-focuses me on the weekly time-table.

Finding the right balance

There is a point of balance in everything with ADHD, where the ups and downs meet and we can make the best of it all. This takes careful self-awareness and recognition, understanding both your own unique expression of ADHD, and the demands of your life.

Make it simple if you can. Stop punishing yourself for being ADHD and start to work with it constructively. Work out and help those around you to work with you to make the best of your ADHD super skills and energy and allow others to support you too.

It can feel very humiliating to need constant support from others but it is actually a sign of love and trust and humility, all of which are really great things to have in life. It is in fact how we all live better lives, not just those of us with ADHD. We are showing you the way.

Those around you and your ADHD can gain so much if they also learn how to help you make the most of it all and cease the expectations based on their own limited abilities. Yes ADHD can present lots of problems in life but only if you don’t work creatively with it. Once upon a time humans lived without concepts of time being measured and our ADHD brains would have been a real advantage then. Let us celebrate them now too.

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I write about my lived experiences of relationships, mindfulness, spiritual experiences and aging as a feminist, woman and someone with mental health issues. Happiness in life matters more than anything but how we find happiness is often one of our greatest struggles in life. I have degrees in psychology and prefer to base my writing in verifiable data whenever possible.


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