By: Elise Cedrone BSN, RN
People with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) have trouble with time management — especially with difficult or seemingly boring projects. Those with ADHD struggle with procrastination, task completion, time management, and time awareness.
Time Management Eludes ADHD Brains
ADHD can make task management a daunting mission due to prioritization, focus, and organization challenges. The hyperactive nature of ADHD can lead to a constant need for stimulation, making it challenging to stay focused on tasks. Executive function difficulties, such as poor time management and forgetfulness, can contribute to clutter and disorganization. Uncomfortable feelings such as perfectionism may arise when trying to manage tasks, increasing avoidance or frustration.
Research suggests brain differences affect time distortions in those with ADHD (Sosnoski,2022.) These include:
- Blocked brain connection throughout the central nervous system controls how time is perceived.
- Altered frontal lobe activity, which affects the ability to estimate time.
- Differences in the prefrontal cortex and the pathways that control dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps signal pleasure and sustain motivation.
- Although we cannot change brain chemistry, fortunately, many strategies can be implemented to support improving task management for those with ADHD. Staying on task with ADHD is not about willpower; it is about hacking your environment and approach to make it easier for you to achieve your tasks.
Break Tasks into Subtasks
Figuring out where to start can feel overwhelming. This may be related to issues with working memory in individuals with ADHD. To help make tasks manageable, you may want to try the following steps:
- Prioritize and batch your tasks based on due dates, urgency, importance, and difficulty.
- Start with tasks that match your energy and interest levels.
- To cope with overwhelm, make a list of subtasks. Write down each thing you need to do. Doing everything might feel insurmountable, but doing smaller subtasks can feel easier.
- Keep going until all your subtasks are completed.
- Create a handwritten to-do list of your tasks with checkboxes. As tasks are completed, manually check off the boxes.
Seeing your achievements canwill add to your momentum to continue and give you a sense of accomplishment and a dopamine blast that all ADHDers crave.
Time Management Solutions For ADHD
Work in intervals. Sustained attention is sometimes difficult for people with ADHD. One solution is to use a visual timer to combat time blindness and stick to your deadlines. This is called “Time blocking.” Set a timer for 10, 20, or 30 minutes and try to work on a task until the timer goes off.
Rewarding yourself with short breaks can also help you stay motivated- you may find it helpful to limit your break periods, too. Time management tip: when working on your to-do list, note in the margin how long each task should reasonably take to complete.
Body Doubling for Accountability: Ask a Friend for Help
Have you ever noticed that getting things done with a partner is easier- even if they are not helping you? This is body doubling- A strategy for self-management typically spoken about within the ADHD realm. It is when another person provides company as you complete a task. This involves committing to a goal in advance and planning how this can be achieved. (Focusmate.com,2023).
The “Double” adds social pressure and accountability. It also offers their presence, which prompts them to stay on task. Benefits of body doubling include task enjoyment, increased productivity, reduced isolation, increased motivation, and an ADHDer favorite- increased dopamine. (Lovering,2022). However, having the right person to body double with is key to minimizing distraction and not adding to the length of the task. (Villines, 2021)
Minimize Distractions and Set Boundaries
ADHD is not necessarily an attention problem; it is a self-regulation problem. Remember that distraction is misplaced attention, not a lack of it. ADHDers can focus but lack the skills to steer the focus toward personal and professional demands adequately—and that skill can be learned over time by finding techniques that work best for you.
Minimize distractions around you and your environment. Put the phone on ‘do not disturb’, and close all tabs except the ones you are working on. Some may find background noise distracting and prefer quiet to stay focused. Others may find that background music or background noise is preferred. With sound- the key is, however, to minimize distraction and not add to the length of the task. (Villines, 2021)
Try out a “background noise for focus” playlist. White noise and the lesser-known brown noise can amplify the activity of the prefrontal cortex related to directing and maintaining focus (Huberman, 2022)
We Can Help You Learn to Be Productive with ADHD
With a system in place, you can work on what matters most.
Are you ready to make life with ADHD easier? At O’Connor Professional Group, we create a customized support program that addresses any deficits in functions or skills you may have. Our coaches can educate and enhance skills for managing time management challenges and maximizing individual strengths. Coaching is a complementary tool rather than an ADHD treatment.
Our team of professionals can assist those with ADHD in steadily mastering executive functioning, determining which environments are most effective for them, and advocating for themselves. If you or someone you know is struggling with ADHD and could utilize help with time management, contact us today. Our team of compassionate professionals are here to help.
Dr. Andrew Huberman PhD. “Episode 88: Focus Toolkit – Tools to Improve Your Focus & Concentration | Huberman Lab • Podcast Notes.” Podcast Notes, 7 Sept. 2022, podcastnotes.org/huberman-lab/episode-88-focus-toolkit-tools-to-improve-your-focus-concentration-huberman-lab/.
Sosnoski PhD, Karen. “ADHD and Time Perception: Overcoming Lateness.” Psych Central, 25 Feb. 2022, psychcentral.com/adhd/cutting-down-on-chronic-lateness-for-adults-with-adhd.
Magazine, ADDitude, and Ari Tuckerman. “Why Is Time so Slippery? Understanding Time Blindness in People with ADHD (with Ari Tuckman, Psy.D.).” YouTube Podcast Replay, 25 May 2023.
Villines, Zawn . “Body Doubling for ADHD: Definition, How It Works, and More.” Www.medicalnewstoday.com, 26 Oct. 2021, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/body-doubling-adhd#summary.
Lovering, Nancy. “ADHD Body Doubling: What It Is and How It Works.” Psych Central, 11 May 2022, psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-body-doubling.