Where does the time go?

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Never lose it again with our 5 top tips…

According to Additude magazine,

… those with ADHD are deficient in temporal processing abilities, which affect executive functioning. This interferes with our ability to perceive time accurately…

And Russsell Barkely Ph.D., says:

ADHD is, to summarise it in a single phrase, ‘time-blindness’

Given that everyone with ADHD will be affected differently by this, let’s look at how it might show up for you:

Time past…

Where did the time go? At ‘big’ birthdays, new years or even at the end of the day, we are often surprised by the speed of the passage of time. Importantly, the way we have used, or not used, the time has a profound effect on our sense of self-esteem and can often be accompanied by harsh self-judgement. Sound familiar?

Time present…

For everyone, the perception of time passing depends largely on how absorbed we are in our current task, be it cerebral or practical. Given that those with ADHD struggle with appropriate regulation of attention, we’re often either scatter-gun focusing or hyper-focusing. Does time feel as if it is dragging or flying for you, now, as you read this paragraph?

Time future…

Making the best use of the time we have at our disposal requires many complex skills. Among them are the ability to identify and prioritise tasks and leisure activities, estimate their duration, allocate the appropriate time slot, plan them, prepare for them, carry them out, know when they are complete and transition between them. That’s quite a list for anyone!

Without a reliable internal sense of the linear flow of time, we can easily under or over-estimate the amount of time any task will take and these skills become compromised. Our tendency is to under-estimate and become ‘time-optimists’. This can lead us to achieving less than we envisaged and then, looking back, experience that harsh self-judgement we mentioned earlier. Are you a time-optimist?

Don’t lose time. Locate it, label it, look after it, love it and log it instead!

1. Locate it….

Become more time-aware. How long does it really take to hang up the laundry/transition from one job to another/leave the house to go to work? Have a well-considered guess. Then use a stopwatch and carry out the task. How accurate were you?

2. Label it

Allocate time appropriately. Are you a Lark or an Owl? If you have the luxury of making up your own timetable, monitor your focus and energy levels and use this self-knowledge daily to align your regular and one-off tasks. Find those specific times when you can manage two tasks consecutively, as ADHDers are often particularly gifted there.

Time things backwards, and realistically. Say you need to be at a meeting, somewhere you’ve never been before. Be aware of how long it really takes from the alarm clock going off to you fastening your seat belt (or stepping on the train) and then add the predicted journey time. Add in extra time for things like queuing and getting lost (!).

3. Look after it...

Don’t trust your internal clock. Ask yourself: where am I when I lose track of time? Think about using clocks, preferably analogue, in every room, even the bathroom. Also, what am I doing when I lose track of time? Technology can really help here. Consider using timers, alarms, repeat alarms, and which will show you how long you really spend looking at kittens online!

4. Love it…

Use poor time awareness to your advantage. Make your time ‘fly’ when you do ‘boring’ jobs. Decide – can you reasonably ask someone else do it? Can you postpone it? If the answer to both these questions is ‘NO’ then do all you can to make a game of it! If it’s a regular chore, challenge yourself to cut seconds off your record. Play music! Be creative! Do anything, but start the job and make the time (appear to) fly.

5. ..and log it…

While you’ve got those highlighters and post-it notes out, why not jot down the tips which resonate and display them somewhere obvious?

Your future self will thank you many times over!

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Published Spring 2020

Enormous thanks go to,

Russell A, Barkely Ph.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center (VCUMC), Richmond, VA.

Laurie Dupar at iACT