Therapy Advice : How to Manage ADHD Behavior
Time Management for Adults With ADHD
Meeting deadlines doesn't have to be painful, even with adult ADHD. A little structure and lots of reachable mini-goals can bring success.
By Jean Rothman
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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Time management can be a struggle for many of us, but for an adult with ADHD it can seem like an insurmountable task. The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affect the “executive functions” of the brain, including the ability to remain organized, the awareness of time, and what’s called working memory — the kind of memory that helps us retain information we’ve just encountered.
Because these parts of the brain are influenced by ADHD, adults with ADHD may find it extremely difficult to manage tasks in a timely manner, whether at home or on the job. Add to that some of the other symptoms of ADHD, such as difficulty concentrating, and it’s understandable why managing time successfully is especially hard for people with ADHD.
6 Time Management Steps for Adults With ADHD
If you have ADHD, there are different become more adept at time management. The first recommendation is to become aware of the kinds of environments and conditions under which you do your best. For example, do you work better in a noisy room or are you easily distracted? Does listening to music help keep you on task or keep you from concentrating? These questions apply whether you’re at work managing a project or at home paying the bills. Once you’ve identified your best work climate, you’re ready to create an individual time management plan to suit your specific needs.
“Structure can be very helpful,” says Edward M. Hallowell, MD, a child and adult psychiatrist and founder of The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Mass. “Although it can be tedious to set up a structured environment, the payoff is great.”
Try these guidelines to hone your time management skills:
- Break down large tasks.Take apart a task to create a bunch of mini-projects, and then attach an individual deadline to each. This can seem much less daunting than a single large project. Or ask your supervisor or a co-worker to set deadlines for you to help you remain accountable for your share of the work.
- Gather your thoughts.Don’t schedule back-to-back events. Leave time in between to think about and prepare for whatever is happening next; ease yourself into it.
- Carry a notepad wherever you go.If you think of something important or remember something you need to do, you’ll be able to write it down.
- Use technology.Set one of the devices that you always carry with you, like your cell phone, to ring or buzz in order to alert you to upcoming appointments.
- Buy some planning software.Program it to notify you a few minutes before every meeting or other events on your calendar.
- Waste some time.Like everyone else, adults with ADHD need time to recharge their batteries and simply relax each day. And that’s okay — no need to feel guilty about it. So take that nap or watch TV. If you think about it, taking time to chill is time management, too.
ADHD and Time Management: Getting Extra Help
If these guidelines are still tough for you to follow, hang in there. You may need some extra help from a coach, career counselor, or therapist who works specifically with adults with ADHD. They should be able to help you tailor time management strategies to suit you. Don't hesitate to ask your doctor to recommend a therapist or counselor. Just remember that your time is valuable — and it's worthwhile to learn how to make the most of it.
Video: ADD ADHD Time Management Techniques For Success
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