Living With ADHD: Improving Your Own Time Management

Health Writer

For many adults with ADHD, time management skills seem elusive. No matter how much planning, to-do lists or reminders, they might always be running late, procrastinating or frustrated because of distractions. They might think, “If I could manage time better, or if I only had more hours in the day, I could get more done." But these are nothing more than time management myths and they could be sabotaging your ability to get anything done. The following are five common myths along with ideas for changing your perceptions about time management.

Myth: You can manage time

Why it is a myth: Time is a fixed commodity. We all have 24 hours in each day — no more, no less. You can’t manipulate time. You can’t extend it or decrease it. You can’t save it. At the end of the day, your 24 hours are gone.

What you can do instead: Often, when you incorrectly gauge how much time a task will take to complete, you feel overwhelmed and your expectations don’t match the reality. Instead, think realistically about how much time each task is going to take to complete and block off that time on your schedule. You can’t manage time, but you can manage your schedule.

Myth: I just need more hours in the day

Why it is a myth: You can’t have more hours in the day. But as long as that is what you keep thinking, you will continue to feel defeated before you even begin.

What you can do instead: If you end each day thinking that you need more time, you are probably not being realistic about what you can accomplish and you end up taking on too many responsibilities. Keep in mind that everything doesn’t have to get done in one day. Choose items that are most important and leave the rest for tomorrow. Set personal, realistic goals for what you want to accomplish each day.

Myth: Time management is about doing more in less time

Why it is a myth: Time management is about being effective. That isn’t the same as being efficient or productive. You can be efficient and get many things ticked off your to-do list. But if you don’t finish the important items, you haven’t been effective or productive. Successful time management isn’t about getting more done; it is about identifying the important stuff and getting that done first. It is about prioritizing.

What you can do instead: Focus on priorities rather than the sheer number of things you get done. Being productive is about quality not quantity. Find a way that works for you to prioritize the things on your to-do list (number, ratings, stars, etc.). Rather than creating a list of everything and then working your way through the list, rank each according to importance. By focusing on a few, important things, you end with a feeling of satisfaction.

Myth: The same time management system works for everyone

Why it is a myth: Everyone is an individual. Some people work well within a certain system while others do not. You must find what works for you. You might find you work best with one system at work and a different system at home. Don’t try to use the same system your partner or your best friend uses. Not everyone faces the same time management challenges. We are all wired differently,

What you can do instead: Time management should be individualized. The best system is the one that you will continue. It is the one that matches your personality, thinking style, work style and is based on your strengths and talents. Try different approaches to find out what works best for you. When you find one that works, keep using it. If you find one that doesn’t, get rid of it and try something different.

Myth: I have to make major changes in my life

Why it is a myth: Some people believe that the only way to better manage time is to make major changes. But that isn’t necessarily true. You don’t have to upend your entire life in order to reap the benefits of more effective uses of your time.

What you can do instead: Start small. Make one change. If you save yourself 10 minutes each day, you have made progress; you now have 70 extra minutes per week. Once you feel comfortable with this change, look for another small change you can make.

See more helpful articles:

Twenty Five Tips for Time Management for Adults With ADHD

Five Tips for Time Management for ADHD Children and Teens

Executive Function Deficits: Losing Track of Time

Time Management Skills: Tips to Avoid Distraction