It comes as no surprise that ADHDers, like you and me, struggle hardcore with time management and ADHD. Our brains are super distractable, and it makes it really difficult to focus. In today’s blog, we are going to talk about the REAL reasons why we can’t manage our time, and what we can do about it.
The main reason why time management and ADHD is such a struggle is because the frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed.
Adults with ADHD pretty much struggle with time management across the board because the area of our brains that controls executive functioning is not fully developed. Time management is 100% dependent on executive functioning, so it comes as no surprise that prioritizing tasks and even “getting started” is really difficult for those of us with ADHD. Even knowing what time it is happens in the frontal lobe, which is why many of us experience what we like to call “time blindness” — an inability to really understand or interpret time on our own.
So, don’t feel bad if “finding the right planner” has never worked for you. It’s not your fault! It’s just how your brain is wired and sometimes all the tips and tricks that are out there might not work for your unique brain.
The first step to healing our relationship with time as ADHDers is to fully accept that time management and is hard and it’s not supposed to be easy.
If you’re constantly berating yourself about the fact that you SHOULD be good at time management, you’re only going to get in your own way.
Time management and ADHD is HARD. And the moment we stop judging ourselves about it, the easier it’ll be to heal our relationship with time and find strategies that work for our individual brains.
Things like a time tracking app aren’t going to help us if we need to do emotional healing from all the shaming and judging that we’ve done to ourselves for decades. Healing our emotional trauma around time management is the first step to moving forward.
So ask yourself, how have you been treating yourself when it comes to time management and ADHD? Have you been shaming and judging yourself? Have you been beating yourself up in an attempt to make yourself behave better?
If so, I promise you that will not work.
Time management and ADHD often doesn’t have anything to do with time or the task at hand, but has everything to do with how we are feeling at that moment.
Think about the last time you were a hot mess when it came to time management. If you really think about it, when that was happening you weren’t really focusing on managing your time, you were focused on feelings like shame, dread, boredom, anxiety, overwhelm, and self-doubt.
Most of the time, we can’t manage our time as ADHDers because we are hyperfocused on negative emotions. Like the last time you had a big fight with someone you love, how much work did you get done in the next couple of hours?
Probably none or close to zero, because you weren’t managing your feelings. Getting distracted by emotions is super easy, but our productivity most of the time isn’t a time management issue — it’s an emotional management issue. We like to pin the blame on our inability to manage our time, but really it’s the emotions that we aren’t managing that are getting in our way.
The main point here is that time management is all about emotional management.
If you know how to regulate your emotions and self-soothe, you’ll have an easier time getting on task. If you’re able to really feel and process your emotions in a healthy way, you’ll have a much easier time being productive. These are the skills we must learn as adults with ADHD to be able to overcome our hurdles.
So, don’t blame your inability to manage your time. Refocus and start putting effort into how you can learn to manage your feelings.
For example, if you’re always late for work, ask yourself how you’re feeling about work and why?
When you ask yourself the right questions, you’ll start to experience more clarity.
One of the best tools to learn to manage your emotions and essentially get better at time management is to do what I like to call a ‘thought download.’
Take a moment to pause and reflect, then right down everything that is going on in your brain. Get it on paper, and reflect on it. Then ask yourself the following questions:
Are these feelings helpful to me?
If I keep feeling this way, what is it going to lead to?
Can I be productive feeling this way, or do I need to make a shift here?
What can I do to help myself feel better so I can move forward?
You have to remember that our emotions don’t rule our behavior. We need to take control of where our thoughts go, and the first step in doing that is to get clarity.
The last reason why adults with ADHD can’t manage time is because we don’t have good boundaries with other people.
If you’re giving away your time and messing up your schedule along the way, you might want to consider whether you’re having loose boundaries with other people.
If we allow interruptions, put other people’s desires ahead of our own, and prioritize other people’s urgent tasks, we end up feeling like we need to make up for our own deficiency in our own priorities. We stop prioritizing ourselves and that leads to exhaustion, burn-out, and even more emotional dysregulation.
If you notice that boundaries are a major issue for you — that no matter what you do you can’t seem to say “no” to other people and prioritize yourself, then I highly recommend going to therapy.
For adults with ADHD, therapy is the most productive way to learn how to set boundaries and manage our time better.
A therapist helps us get the clarity we need to figure out the tools that’ll work for our unique brains. Time management for adults with ADHD is all about digging deep and learning how to manage our emotions so we can move forward.
So here are the 3 things that we need to recognize to help us get better with time management.
- Accept that time management is not easy and stop beating yourself up about it.
- Accept that time management has everything to do with emotional management, and learning how to self-regulate will help you manage your time.
- Accept that we need great boundaries in order to manage our time. So if you struggle with boundaries, find a therapist that can help you through it.