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How ADHD Warps Time Perception: Strategies to Master Time Management

Harnessing Your Neurodiversity Gifts

If you have read some of my other blog posts, you will know that I am passionate about the ways in which ADHD can actually help people prosper in the workplace. From Blooming Possibilities, to enabling Effective and Inspiring Leadership - there are so many ways in which the common traits of ADHD can be harnessed to take individuals and entire businesses to the next level.

However, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that ADHD also comes with challenges.

One of the most common challenges for individuals with ADHD is time management; the ADHD brain tends to focus on the present, making it difficult to plan for the future and manage time effectively.

For those of us with ADHD, it can be an all too familiar feeling to realize that we’ve wasted precious time, become sidetracked by a period of unpredictable hyperfocus, or turned our back - again - on an onerous task.

Mastering Time Management

By diving into the underlying reasons as to why ADHD affects time management, we can identify a number of practical strategies to boost productivity.

The relationship between ‘Time Management’ and ‘Attention Management’

When you break it down, ‘Time Management’ is simply a process of prioritization: Which tasks are the most important to me? Which tasks do I need to complete first? Which tasks can I complete now? Which tasks must wait until later?

Effectively prioritizing time in this way requires our attention; both to thoroughly assess our workload, and then to ensure that we actually progress through tasks according to the priority we assigned to them.

‘Attention Management’, however, is particularly challenging for those with ADHD, who have difficulty resisting distractions and a tendency to become absorbed in long periods of hyperfocus.

With this in mind, here are two effective ways to help strengthen your attention management:

1. Remove Temptations and Distractions

Consider implementing rules and systems to allow you to work uninterrupted. Keep your phone away from your workspace, or on silent mode during work hours, and consider using web-blocking tools to eliminate unnecessary interruptions.

It sounds obvious to say that a leader who lacks enthusiasm cannot expect their team to approach their work enthusiastically, and yet so many of us have experienced leaders for whom this is true.

2. Diligently Keep Time

Consider using a clock, stopwatch or alarm to literally measure the time you are spending on a certain task. Use these tools to set regular intervals at which to assess whether the time you are spending on the current task is proportionate to its importance.

ADHD and the ‘Time Horizon’

Our individual ‘Time Horizon’ represents the point at which a given task registers in our awareness and consciousness - to the extent that we choose to act on it.

For most people, the closer the task deadline is, the more they will pay attention to it. A classic example is the act of ‘cramming’ as a student the night before an exam. In this instance, the task is so close to hand that we devote hours of uninterrupted time to revising.

As we grow older, we come to understand that it’s much better to prepare for an important exam (or any important task) over the course of many days, weeks, or even months.

However, individuals with ADHD have a shorter Time Horizon than others, making it especially challenging to prioritize and organize tasks with deadlines both near and far.

While it may not be possible to significantly lengthen your Time Horizon, there are strategies which you can employ to mitigate the effects of having a shorter time horizon:

1. Schedule Your Tasks

A simple to-do list has its advantages, but fails to capture the priority or urgency of each task. Instead, assign each task a set length of time and add it to your schedule according to its importance and deadline.

2. Use an External Planning Tool to Help

Choose a scheduling system that works for you, whether it's a digital calendar, productivity app, or paper planner. Include pertinent information and be flexible with your schedule; it’s important to maintain a balance between commitment and adaptability.

Resisting ‘Temporal Discounting’

‘Temporal Discounting’ is the tendency to regard a desired reward in the future as less valuable than one in the present.

As with ‘Attention Management’, people from all walks of life may need to put practice and effort into resisting Temporal Discounting. In the workplace, we put off difficult tasks knowing that they'll only cause stress at a later date, while at home, we put off household chores which will only get more difficult the longer we leave them.

Individuals with ADHD are predisposed to Temporal Discounting due to a heightened focus on the present. However, it’s possible to overcome this predisposition using the following techniques:

1. Engineer Short-Term Consequences

Make the consequences of your actions more immediate and salient. Create rules that link present actions with future rewards - or restrict enjoyable activities until certain tasks are completed. For example, you might create a rule whereby you cannot sit down and relax in the evening without doing 20 minutes of housekeeping.

2. Stop & Visualize

Another way to overcome Temporal Discounting is by forcing yourself to stop and really visualize the consequences of your choice of action. Make sure that you truly consider the feelings you will experience in the future (not just the present!). For example, if you are considering staying up late to watch ‘one more episode’, stop and think about how that lost sleep will make you feel the next day.

Dive Deeper

🟠 How does your ADHD impact your perception of time and your ability to manage it effectively?

🔵 What strategies have you tried in the past to improve your time management skills, and what were the results?

🟣 How can you implement the strategies listed in this article to overcome time perception challenges and enhance your productivity?

If you have any questions, or think you might benefit from discussing your ADHD and how it affects your time management, feel free to get in touch with me via social media or by scheduling a ‘Connect Call’.

My mission is to help neurodiverse entrepreneurs and executives Bloom beyond their greatness and love their life. ✨ Kate


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