Adult ADD/ADHD causes more significant impairment than difficulty with mental focus. ADD impairs executive functions including planning, strategizing, impulse control, emotional regulation, and organizational skills.
Time management includes the utilization of all of these skills and thus is often impaired in people with Adult ADD. Patients often miss deadlines, procrastinate, and are often chronically late to appointments and events. This obviously can take a toll on a career, relationships, and family.
Thus, in this newsletter, I am going to provide five tips you can use to help people with Adult ADD who are chronically late.
Tip # 1 – MULTIPLY TIME ESTIMATES BY THREE
ADD often causes people to underestimate the time required for an activity or travel from point to point. When I mention this issue to people with Adult ADD, they often smile because it has been an issue their entire lives. Thus, I recommend multiplying their time estimates by three to build in a buffer against lateness.
Tip # 2 – AVOID “JUST IN TIME” THINKING
Most people hate to wait, but people with Adult ADD find it even more intolerable. Thus, they often plan on arriving just in time to avoid waiting. I help people with Adult ADD recognize this tendency and to adopt a firm policy of arriving early. In order to reinforce this behavior, I encourage them to use the extra time to do something they enjoy such as reading a book, playing a video game, or catching up on emails.
Tip # 3 – MAKE IT A HABIT
For many people with Adult ADD, being late has become a life-long habit. Research has shown that effectively changing a habit takes 21 days of consistent behavior. Often, people I am helping will say that they will be on time for important appointments or projects but not for “important” activities. However, unless people adopt their new habit to all of their activities and projects, the chances of success are much lower. Thus, I encourage people with Adult ADD to treat all projects and appointments equally to change the habit of lateness.
Tip # 4 – BUILD THE DISCIPLINE MUSCLE
Time management requires a significant amount of discipline. Often, people with Adult ADD have been frustrated in so many areas of their lives that they have given up on many challenges or exerting the extra discipline that many tasks require. Discipline is like a muscle and the more you use it, the stronger it develops. I encourage people with Adult ADD to practice discipline in multiple areas of their lives whether it is exercising five more minutes than usual, deciding not to drink that extra cup of coffee, or avoiding the internet and email for three consecutive hours. I have seen people with ADD realize a tremendous amount of success improving their discipline in several areas, including time management.
Tip # 5 – HAVE A SCHEDULE
People with Adult ADD often pack their schedules without allotting time for travel or having a buffer zone. They often don’t have a schedule at all and just improvise. Thus, I encourage people with Adult ADD to use a schedule each and every day of the week. The schedule should consistently include all meetings, projects and tasks as well as blocking out times when projects should be started or extra time to allow for travel. This often helps people with Adult ADD manage their time by improving planning and strategizing.
Please feel free to share these tips with your clients or patients with Adult ADD. Teaching people with Adult ADD time management strategies can make a significant impact on their overall functioning and quality of life.
Barkley, R., Kevin Murphy. Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A Clinical Workbook. Guilford Press. 2006.
DeLonzor, Donna. Never Be Late Again. A Clinical Workbook. Post Madison Publishing. 2003.
Young, S., Jessica Braham. ADHD in Adults. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. West Sussex, England. 2007.