Effective time management involves working on tasks efficiently and meeting deadlines by correctly estimating how long something will take to complete. People with ADHD struggle with all of these activities and find that time management may causes tremendous anxiety and difficulty.
It is helpful to approach ADHD with an awareness that people who have ADHD perceive time differently. Not only do they struggle to plan for tasks in the future, but they also have difficulty anticipation how long a task will take to complete. Insight into time management struggles will assist with a more realistic and constructive approach to time management strategies.
Common executive functioning challenges faced by a person who has ADHD relate to planning, prioritizing, motivation, and organisation. This makes it especially tough to allocate time and effort appropriately, often leaving the person feeling they are always trying to catch up, which causes overwhelm and anxiety and is an uncomfortable way to live.
ADHD minds tend to be trapped in the present and are easily influenced by the immediacy of what is going on around them. Life brings a constant barrage of stimuli competing for our attention. Those without ADHD will be able to disconnect from some of the distractions and use their executive functioning skills to decide what actions to take to benefit their deadlines and goals. Those with ADHD may be unable to ignore the external stimuli and will be more absorbed by what is going on immediately, making it difficult to give Friday’s deadlines due thought on Monday, until Friday becomes the present and no planning has taken place.
People with ADHD often understand that it would be good to act sooner rather than later, they may procrastinate though and have trouble actually doing it. Procrastination interferes with getting started and initiating tasks, directing attention and sustaining it, as well as remaining goal orientated and focused. Procrastination encourages us to put off tasks that are unpleasant or overwhelming until we are panicked or disheartened or both.
The stress and anxiety induced by repeatedly being late or struggling with due dates may increase panic about “messing up again” and erode personal confidence. This is not a constructive cycle to be trapped in and can have a negative impact on self-esteem.
It is hard to do the right thing at the right time if you do not know what you’re supposed to be doing now. Success starts with an awareness that the correct support can supplement internal abilities with external tools; to make the passage of time more visible even to the young person. The goal would be to improve the person’s personal insight and empower them to succeed in future tasks and challenges.