When you hear of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), you’re likely to think about children and not adults. But this condition affects about 4% to 5% of adults. If you have ADHD, you may find it hard to follow directions, remember information, concentrate, organize tasks, and manage time.
Time management is complex for people with ADHD because their brains process things differently. Managing time requires planning, focus, and afterthought—three traits people with ADHD lack in. So, staying on schedule is hard no matter how much effort you put in.
Thankfully, there are several strategies you can adopt for effective ADHD time management. There are also apps you can use, such as Akiflow, to increase your productivity and make life a little easier. This article discusses these tactics and more.
ADHD time management challenges and solutions
Living with ADHD means always feeling late and never having enough time. This causes frustration, especially when everyone else seems so coordinated and put together. This section looks at some common ADHD time management challenges and solutions.
Challenge: Planning too many activities
Have you committed to more activities than you can handle? If yes, you may find it hard to manage time effectively. So, how do you handle having too many tasks?
- Choose a planner that works for you, like Akiflow.
- Create time for known, set, and critical tasks like work and meal times, appointments, etc.
- Create a list of activities you ‘must’ do and what you ‘want’ to do.
- Incorporate ‘swap’ or ‘subtract’ when adding a task to your daily activities. Always keep in mind the number of minutes in a day and delegate if possible.
- If faced with a big project, simplify it by breaking it into chunks
Challenge: Having what you need to leave on time
Are you constantly looking for your car keys? Do you forget where you left the files you need for a presentation at work? Unfortunately, these are common problems faced by ADHD adults when they are about to go out every day.
Create holding places near your door for your keys, backpack, wallet, or purse. Place the items you tend to forget in these places once you arrive home. Encourage your family members to do the same.
Challenge: Lack of internal cues for judging the passage of time
Anyone can lose track of time, but it is worse for people with ADHD. You may get so engrossed in a task that you forget you have other things to tend to. By the time you realize, you’ve spent the day on one activity, leaving others undone, or missed a meeting or time to pick up your child from school.
- Set timers or alarms to ring at intervals and act as external cues. Use multiple devices to do this so that if you miss one, you won’t miss the other.
- When the alarm rings, check to see if you should still be on the task you were working on or move on to something else.
Challenge: Inability to account for time thieves
Time thieves are seemingly trivial, peripheral activities that accompany some of the actions you take, eating into your time without your knowledge. Yet, these tasks are things you do daily, like finding a parking spot, stopping at traffic lights, and walking from the parking lot to your office.
Time thieves also affect your effectiveness at work or school, making time management for ADHD college students and professionals essential. So, how do you fix this?
- Allocate a little more time for tasks to accommodate time thieves. For instance, if it takes five minutes to walk from your car to the office, schedule 15 minutes. The additional ten minutes is for things that might come up that you didn’t plan for. Creating more time ensures you never arrive late.
- When working, hang a sign on your day requesting no interruption for a specific time while working on a task.
Practical ways for ADHD brains to perceive time
ADHD distorts the way the brain perceives time. A 2015 study stated that no single brain region is responsible for time perception. Instead, the function appears dispersed throughout the central nervous system, and it is intrinsically associated with brain connectivity and communication.
However, the left prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate, and the supplementary motor area have been linked by researchers to time perception. Those suffering from ADHD have a deficient temporal processing ability, which affects executive functioning and leads to time blindness.
Thankfully, there are practical ways to help the brain perceive time. We list some of them below.
- When going about your morning routine, post a note stating the time you need to complete a chore and ensure there’s a visible clock.
- When creating appointments, include before and after travel time, and prepare for transition time.
- Put off your lights or use a timer to remind you when to sleep
- Use internet limiting services to reduce the time spent online
Time management strategies for ADHD adults
Whether you are a college student or a working adult, there are tips you can follow for effective ADHD time management. We discuss some of them below.
Break tasks into chunks
One of the most effective time management strategies for ADHD adults is breaking tasks into chunks. Do this if you have a lot to do, as it makes things more manageable. It will also preserve your attention, give you a sense of accomplishment, and help you build momentum to keep going.
For example, if you are writing an essay as a college student, you can focus on the research first. Then take a break and try putting down some words.
Create a plan
Plan your week or day around your attention span. If you can only focus for 30 minutes, each task should last that long, and then you take a break. For instance, if you are working on a report for school or work, set a timer for every 30 minutes.
Take a five to ten-minute break each time the timer goes off. Then, when focusing on a task, remove all forms of distractions. Having a plan is a vital aspect of time management for ADHD college students.
Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help you prioritize tasks
CBT is quickly becoming more common in treating attention deficit hypersensitivity disorder. It focuses on training your brain to reframe the way you process thoughts and function. For instance, having ADHD may cause you to procrastinate more than the average person. But with CBT, you can prioritize tasks and manage your time better.
Having a routine helps you remember what you may otherwise forget. So, create a workable routine and stick to it. For example, you could say that you will brush your teeth, bathe, have breakfast, and take your medication every morning. Allocate time for these tasks, and do them in the same order every day.
Change your work environment
Ask yourself, ‘where do I work best?’ The answer will help you change your work environment. For example, if you get distracted easily, get a quiet place to work or study. This will allow you to stay focused and stick to the time allocated for the task.
Create an ADHD time management worksheet
The ADHD time management worksheet is your personal focus plan. It helps you prioritize the details of every task, thereby improving your attention span and time management skills.
A standard worksheet requires the following information:
- The task you need to complete
- The time required
- The time taken
- The behavior you need to work on
You can find a sample of the ADHD time management worksheet here.
Best apps for ADHD time management
The following apps can help you manage your time effectively.
Akiflow lets you manage your time and tasks all in one place. You can consolidate all the tools you use to block time for your assignments and see everything you need to get done in your calendar. Some of its key features are:
In addition, Akiflow is integrable with all your everyday apps, such as Todoist, Slack, Google Calendar, ClickUp, Gmail, Asana, Notion, Zoom, and Trello. You no longer have to worry about going back and forth between apps all day, as all your tasks will be in one central location.
Coach.me is like a sticker chart for adults, and it helps you build habits. This app combines a daily chart and social networking to help you track how well and how often you are performing an action. It also offers a supportive community that gives you props, similar to the Facebook ‘like’ feature.
The more props you get, the higher the chances that you will take action. Available habits on the app include: flossing teeth, waking up time, clear clutter, etc. Finally, you get daily tips and a pat on the back for each task you complete.
This app helps with ADHD time management. It is useful for managing simple reminders, checklists, and larger projects. The app has a clear tab where you create lists and color code them by context or project.
Also, you can sort each task by priority, due date, note, embedded audio note, or photo. It also lets you defer activities to alter the date, a handy feature for adults with ADHD.
For those living with ADHD, time management can feel like an impossible task. Fortunately, implementing some of the techniques outlined above can drastically improve your productivity and quality of life.
Akiflow is one of the best apps to start your journey to effective time management. Integrate it with all your most important apps and start experiencing productivity like never before.