Focus on What Works

Being on Time

Running late is pretty common in this busy modern life, but does it seem like you just can’t get anywhere on time? Well, you’re not alone. When you live with ADHD, your sense of time is a bit different. Some things seem to drag on forever, other things seems to fly by, and it’s easy to “lose” time when your focus falters or you forget what you were doing.

A bit of procrastination is one thing, but chronic lateness is a big problem for anyone; it leads to strained relationships, poor career mobility and self-blame. Rather than accept your shortcomings as a given, learn to work around your time troubles with these helpful tips to stay on track.

1. Subtract 15 Minutes

When you’re working with a specific time, take away 15 minutes – that’s the time you should be aiming to arrive. So many things can keep you from getting out of the house, and even more can happen en route, so get in the habit of automatically adjusting your goal time.

In the worst case, you’ll be there a bit early and have a few minutes to yourself. Bring along a book, or keep a checklist with you to track everything you’ve done so far (very empowering!) or plan what’s in store for the next day to maintain your motivation. Budgeting your time is like budgeting your money – you’ll ultimately feel like you have more of it, even though you’re simply watching how you spend it.

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2. Stop Underestimating

ADHD adults tend to be too optimistic when it comes to fulfilling their obligations. Sometimes, this means you take on too much, and consequently you feel overwhelmed and incompetent. When it comes to timing your day, that initial optimism probably makes you late more often than not.

Get realistic: track the route, time the activity, and factor in traffic (assume there will always be heavy traffic, just to be safe). Practice, pay attention, and don’t rationalize when you feel like delaying your departure. The better you get to know your pace, the better you can craft a suitable plan for yourself.

3. Learn to Say No

It’s natural to take on too much, especially if you want to help out the people in your life – and why shouldn’t you? However, it’s vital that you find a balance between helping others and helping yourself, since there’s only so much time in the day, and you probably have more trouble with organizing than those without ADHD.

If you have a tendency to over-commit, practice a few stock phrases to keep control over the requests. Tell people that you’ll have to check your schedule and get back to them, that you can’t guarantee it will be done when they want it to be, or simply that you can’t do it and you’re sorry

4. Add Up the In-Betweens

It’s not difficult to plot out how much time it will take to get from one point to another – if that one movement is all it takes. More often, there are little increments that are sandwiched between point A and point B that are totally necessary but easily overlooked. Think about the details of your journey to each and every appointment: how long does it take you to park in that particular lot, and reach the front door of the building? How long will it take to get the elevator up to your floor? Do you have to make any stops at all before the final destination? Walking time and waiting time adds up, so be sure to factor it in to get an accurate timeline

5. Use Two Alarms

Timers and alarms can be an ADHD person’s best friends, especially when you tend to get trapped in a cycle of chaos and distraction in your home. If one alarm doesn’t kick your mind and body into gear and out the door, try two alarms: set one for five (or 10) minutes before you need to go, and the other for five minutes later. When the first alarm goes off, it’s the signal to wrap up whatever it is that you’re doing and head toward the door. When the second alarm goes off, all that’s left to do is put on your shoes, grab your bag, and hit the road.

6. Stay One Step Ahead

Good preparation goes a long way to forming better habits, and it can also save you a lot of stress, tardiness, and social strife. Try to do some everyday things in advance, like laying out your clothes for the next day and packing lunches before bed, to free up your mind in the morning. Keep a small shelf or organizer by the door where you can put everything you’ll need (jacket, purse, papers, etc.) for the next day, so it’s always in one place.

Can’t remember to arrange those things in advance? Turn to trusty reminders, like colorful sticky notes, posters on the walls you pass by most often, or a personal message to yourself on your phone’s home screen. The more “voices” around you, the harder it will be to ignore the reminder!

7. Focus on What Works

In most cases, people with ADHD aren’t late to every single appointment or event. There are probably some things you can get to on time, (almost) every time, so think about why that is. There may a compelling aspect, something you look forward to, or perhaps the degree of importance you attach to the task makes you worry about falling short. In those cases, what strategies work best for you?

Once you can pinpoint how you manage to stay on target for those time-sensitive obligations, you can try to apply the same attitude and preparation to other appointments. This is easier said than done, so be patient and creative – you may need to tweak the strategies according to the circumstance.

8. Put Yourself in the Other Position

Many people with ADHD get wrapped up in their own thoughts and feelings, because it’s so difficult to sift through the dozens of things swimming around in their head. In turn, you may not automatically consider how your lateness is affecting other people, and that’s a problem; social issues, job troubles, and family arguments often stem from a lack of consideration.

You don’t mean to frustrate or hurt the people in your life, but your actions can seem selfish and disrespectful from their point of view. Try to imagine that you’re the one dealing with another person’s lateness all the time, and let yourself feel that reaction. A bit more empathy and understanding may be enough to change your habits.

There’s no easy solution to ADHD organizational challenges, but a couple of small steps to better time management can make a big difference in your self-confidence and your relationships. Try working on one or two strategies to begin, and give yourself some time to adapt before giving up.

Read more tips for getting organized and being on time over at NewLifeOutlook.