The Power of Timers and Alarms for Adult ADHD

July 20, 2010 Douglas Cootey

A simple thing such as a timer or alarm can snatch me away from the very jaws of feeling like a failure with ADHD. Tips for ADHD adults. And a challenge.

It never ceases to amaze me how such a simple thing as a timer or alarm can snatch me away from the very jaws of feeling like a failure in ADHD. It also amazes me how often I forget to use that simple device and end up as Failure's lunch.

What Happens When I Don't Use Alarms and Timers

Last February, I was out grocery shopping around 9pm when my eleven year old called me. She was ready to be picked up from a church activity that was held at a neighbor's house. I told her I'd be there soon. I finished up my shopping, hurried home, then was waylaid by the eight year old. She needed help with her homework.

I didn't remember my eleven year old until 10pm.

I felt the blood drain from my face and my heart froze. In a wild panic, I threw on my shoes and bolted over to the neighbor's home. Phew! They were even more disorganized than I was. My eleven year old was babysitting their youngest, as they ran around working on a last minute school project for another child. I majorly lucked out. Nobody even noticed me as I picked up my girl and headed home.

Luck is not usually so kind to me.

Alarms and Timers Help with the Forgetfulness Part of ADHD

With minds seemingly made up of disconnected Legos, adults with ADHD will invariably forget something important at one point or another. I remember a time before Palm Pilots, and long before iPhones were a glimmer in Steve Jobs eye, when I reminded myself for an entire month about a highly anticipated TV show. The night of the broadcast came and a friend called me seven minutes before the designated hour. I didn't realize I had missed the show until an hour and a half later. To this day, Opus's wish for wings is an unfulfilled one in my mind.

ADHD moment: It just occurred to me that maybe Netflix can save me, and a quick search has proved that it can. Opus is now in my queue, and I find relief after nineteen years. Thanks, ADHD!

Where was I?

Right, forgetting. We ADHD adults forget an awful lot. It's an ADHD hallmark. Almost anything can send our attention off into the wrong direction at the worst possible moment. That's why I use alarms and timers.

Unlike Grandma's egg timer which can go off and leave us scratching our heads wondering why we set it, the modern age lets us set alarms that pop up messages on our phones and computers. If I had taken a moment to set "Pick up daughter" on my iPhone to pop up after fifteen minutes, I wouldn't have abandoned my daughter to an evening of domestic bliss (she loves babysitting).

An ADHD Experiment with Timers and Alarms

Let's pick one task that we habitually forget about and use timers to help us remember.

I forget to eat all the time. My wife suggests over and over that I should set a timer. It seems such a stupid thing to do that I blow it off. Then I go hungry and have a ticking episode (I have chronic motor tic disorder). I use timers in so many facets of my life. Fixing this problem should be as simple as:

  1. Recognize that I need help remembering
  2. Develop a habit to set a timer when I wake up in the morning
  3. Develop a habit to pay attention to the alarm when it goes off.
  4. Eat

I'll spend the next week setting timers to remind myself to eat, then report back here. I'll even set an alarm to remind me to report back here. You find something to work on in your life and do the same. Knowing how helpful timers have been in other aspects of my life, I can imagine only good can come from this. Good luck.

Follow me on Twitter for my ADHD escapades at @SplinteredMind or my novel writing project over at @DouglasCootey. And if you're a glutton for punishment you can friend me on Facebook as well.

Photo of phone by Gonzalo Baeza Hernández

APA Reference
Cootey, D. (2010, July 20). The Power of Timers and Alarms for Adult ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Douglas Cootey

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