For people afflicted with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ADD (attention deficit disorder), one of the greatest challenges is to live a structured and goal oriented life mainly because of the symptoms that make paying attention and being perceptive of the passage of time seem impossible. However, as awareness of the condition and medical inquiry into its nature has increased over the last few decades, some strategies have emerged to help people with ADHD and ADD to manage time successfully.
Here are some basic tips that will help people with ADHD to develop adequate time management skills.
1. Lower your expectation
The first thing that people dealing with ADHD in their lives need to address is expectations. It is not possible for a patient with ADHD to begin functioning at the same level as a normal person. Getting things done on time for them is a much greater challenge. For any new behavior to be successful, it is important to set realistic and achievable targets. Even a small step towards efficient time management by a person with ADHD is a huge accomplishment and, therefore, needs to be recognized.
2. Target taking small steps first
You should target on one or two problem areas such as leaving home on time or starting and ending daily rituals like going to bed. Use the tips mentioned here until you regularly manage to complete that particular task successfully within the time available. Then target another area without letting go of your mastery of the first tasks.
3. Use planning tools
Pen and paper planners that you can carry in your pocket are excellent tools. Mark out when you need to do what, how much time will it take to finish the task, and the people or processes required for completing the tasks successfully. Learn to make lists and cross out items as you complete them. You may also want to make use of the many digital and electronic planning tools that are available. Keep in mind though that even the best planner will not help unless you make it a habit to refer to it frequently and adhere to the plan you have made.
4. Break projects into action items
Most of the things that need to be done are really made up of a series of small action items. While something as basic as getting dressed might not strike a normal person as a series of tasks, but for a person with ADHD, this itself can be a challenge. Breaking the project into singular tasks and then using the mental equivalent of a pen and paper planner, completing each task and crossing it off your list will make it much easier to accomplish the task with much less stress.
5. Use a timer
Use the timer on your cellphone or your computer to remind you when you should have completed one task and will be moving to the next. Tasks such as slow cooking or feeding pets may require repeated interval timers. Most electronic planners or personal information managers come with built-in alert functions that you can use to remind yourself of the passage of time. Discipline yourself to respond to your timer. You can do this by practicing responding to the sound of the alert by itself. Set the timer and when it goes off, get up, and do the action that it was set for. Do this a few times in succession like a game. You will find yourself responding to it in real life much more readily if you do this for a few days at the onset of any new task that you are addressing with this technique.
6. Use reminders
Stick reminder notes at common spots where you might get distracted, such as washbasin mirror for first thing in the morning tasks, refrigerator or oven door for kitchen tasks, and dressing mirror for last thing before leaving tasks. Many people afflicted with ADHD have found success in reminding themselves through sticky notes.
7. Plan ahead
Use your planning tool to plan things. Once you have broken your projects into single action items, examine them for ways to increase your efficiency and reduce the number of last minute things to do. Get routine tasks like paying for utilities or mortgages out of the way as soon as you are able to so that they do not clog your schedule with too little time to finish them in. Look up your wardrobe and your footwear before you go to sleep so that they do not add to your tasks the next morning.
8. Multitasking versus single tasking
Turn ADHD into your strength. Are you best suited for single tasking or multitasking? Can you take on multiple unrelated two-minute tasks and execute them without losing track of your priorities. If so, you can actually use your handicap as your strength. Most people would be exhausted trying to do too many things at the same time. However, this is something that comes naturally to you, provided you do not lose focus. Use your newly acquired time management skills to turn your condition into your biggest asset.
9. Do a weekly review
Any such attempt to overcome your tendency to get distracted, to lose track of time, and to find it impossible to complete tasks comes with its dangers. The most common single point of failure lies in over-dependence on these tools. A timer is no good if you do not respond to it. A planner is of no use if you do not adhere to it or refer to it during the day. A weekly review will help you identify things that have fallen off your radar, re-prioritize what you need to do going forward, and to evaluate what is working for you and what is not.
As you start applying these tips and seeing your life get a little more organized, you will be tempted to keep at it. Rest is of critical importance to persons with ADHD as they do not realize when they are crossing the line between exertion and exhaustion. Use your planner to schedule periodic rest times and adhere to it. Even a short nap or some quiet time after a meal can make a big difference.
One of the most important things that can help a person with ADHD is to see living examples of people who have been able to develop successful coping strategies for their condition. As you find success by following these simple tips, make it a point to share them with others, and to encourage them in their journey to overcome their difficulties. Not only will you be helping them, but also you will be reinforcing your own mastery over time, focus, and distractions.