One of the interesting things about the ADHD brain is that it handles time differently than the average person. Most adults are able to plan 8 to 12 weeks in the future. However, many ADHD adults can’t conceptualize time past a week or two.(1)

How does this work with long-range planning for huge projects like, say, a dissertation? Not very well. However, there are ways to improve your sense of time.

For short periods of time, there is a magnificent aid called the Time Timer. It’s a one-hour timer with a face like a clock, and the elapsed time is blocked out in a solid red circle. With repeated use, it gives an excellent “feel” for time less than an hour.

What are some options for getting a sense of time greater than an hour?

Day planners

An excellent conceptual middle ground between a timer and a grid calendar is a day planner.  Planning one day at a time is a very manageable chunk, and will teach you a lot about your usage of time and ability to accurately estimate.

Don’t plan alone

Difficult tasks are always easiest if you don’t have to do it alone.  Until planning is a firmly-ingrained habit, it’s much easier if you have help from someone who has already made planning a part of their daily routine.  It’s also extremely helpful for someone to listen to you talk through the process – talking helps you learn faster.  You can easily observe the educational role of talking things out in children – when they’re learning something new, they often talk through the process until they’ve internalized the necessary steps, at which point they perform tasks silently.

Check your planner twice a day

Taking a quick look in your planner while you drink your morning coffee, although tempting, is not sufficient.  You should plan twice a day:  before your workday starts, and when your workday is done.

  • In the morning, you should write down time estimates of your day’s tasks, and at night, you should review your day’s work.
  • Did you get everything done that you had planned?  If not, don’t beat yourself up.  It’s fine!  Just carry it forward and write it down on tomorrow’s page, so it doesn’t slip your mind.
  • Now that you’ve carried forward unfinished tasks, take a look at what you did today.  Were your time estimates accurate? Next to your estimates, write down the actual times spent on each task.
  • You should also use your end of day session to review your next days schedule, so that there are no surprises in the morning.

Longer-term time is a trickier thing to master. Using a large wall calendar is a good strategy – if it makes you anxious to think of having deadlines staring at you reproachfully from the wall of your workspace, don’t use it for a calendar! Use it for a scratch pad. Write things on sticky notes and move them around as your workflow shifts. Just keep looking at the calendar grid while you think about planning, and sooner or later, you’ll have a sense of one month.

What are some of your tips, dear readers, about gaining a better sense of time?


(1) [zotpress InText item=”8TFIVFJC”]