Adult ADHD and How to Manage Your Time and Stay on Schedule
Adult ADHD and time management are two concepts that don’t naturally go together. However, you can learn how to manage your time and stay on schedule with ADHD.
Organization and focus can be challenging because of the way the ADHD brain approaches tasks. It’s not that people with ADHD can’t manage their time. They can. It’s just that some things are more challenging for people with ADHD than they are for those without this added difficulty. The good news is that time management isn’t an inherent ability that you either have or you don’t. Time management and scheduling are learned skills.
ADHD and Time Management Difficulties
Perhaps you’ve experienced one or more of these time-management problems common in ADHD:
- Being late for appointments and other plans because you didn’t allow yourself enough time to get there
- Writing important notes on sticky notes or other pieces of paper and then losing said notes
- Similarly, making lists and losing them—or never using them
- Forgetting dates and appointments
- Addressing interruptions, then not getting back on track
ADHD makes it difficult to focus, pay attention, attend to minute details, and organize. All of these are part of effective time management. When you experience these symptoms, staying on schedule is difficult, but it’s not impossible. ADHD time management strategies are tactics you can learn and develop. As you do so, you’ll likely find this aspect of your life far less frustrating.
Time Management Tips for Adult ADHD
These tried-and-true ADHD time management strategies can teach you how to manage your time and stay on schedule:
- Use a planner. It can be digital or paper or even wall-based. Color code it and highlight the most important items. Experiment until you have a planner system that works, and then stick with it. Creating a consistent system trains your brain to recognize it and work with it.
- From your planner, create master to-do lists, and then prioritize them. To-do making is effective when it becomes part of your daily routine. Many people with ADHD find that writing the next day’s to-do list as part of their bedtime routine helps them sleep. Rather than ruminating and worrying about the next day, they have it planned and on paper and can more easily quiet their mind.
- Create deadlines for your tasks, no matter how minor. Deadlines increase focus and time on task.
- Eliminate items from your schedule. It’s okay to say no to avoid overscheduling yourself. You’ll be better able to stay on schedule, and you won’t feel as overscheduled and stressed.
- Use timers and alarms to help you keep track of time. This can be a practical ADHD time management technique if you frequently find yourself needing “just a few more minutes” but then remain in what you’ve been doing for hours. Set a wrist watch or other alarm to remind you when you need to transition to something different, and when it sounds, do so right away.
- Give yourself a break—and transition time. Switching gears from one activity to another can be difficult with ADHD because you have to refocus and attend to something different. When you use the timer system, give yourself extra time so you can gather your thoughts and prepare for a new task. Allow a mini break to move and to do something you enjoy for a brief amount of time before diving into the new activity. While it might seem like you don’t have time for this, giving yourself this space will refresh you and actually make you more productive. Plus when you schedule for breaks, they become part of your time management program.
These practical techniques work with your ADHD brain rather than against it. Select from some of them, or employ all of them. Of course tailor them to your personality and needs so they’re the most useful for you. Also, because these are learned skills, they take time to become an automatic routine. Be patient with yourself. These time management tips for adult ADHD can make a positive difference in your life.
Last Updated: 01 November 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD