If I had a dollar for everyone seeking ADHD time management hacks, I’d be a millionaire.
Figuring out time hacks and healthy time habits is an inside job for each of us, and especially if you struggle with ADHD.
Most changes, no matter how small come along the way as part of a journey toward aspiring to manage time more effectively. And it is totally possible to improve your ability to navigate in time and space, with or without ADHD.
As an ADHD Life, Productivity & Business Coach, I’ve witnessed many people solve long-standing time management issues through creating deeper awareness around time. The key, of course, to any HACK, is to gather enough evidence about yourself in order to design systems that work FOR YOU, most of the time.
About Universal Time Management Hacks
It seems everyone with ADHD at some point seeks the ‘holy grail of time management’. In their mind’s eye, somewhere… out there – exists some concoction, silver bullet, magic pill, potion, or elixir to hack endless time troubles. However, as long as I’ve lived, I’ve never seen one simple, black-and-white solution for anyone.
Time management is an immensely complex personal journey, not a destination. So, if you’ve looked, yet never found your magical time hack, maybe it’s time you looked a little deeper. Your actual time management hacks may be hiding in plain sight.
Instead of searching for something outside yourself (such as the newest planner or the hottest new app) let’s look at what you already do for creative clues. Reality has predicted the only true universal hack is to use your past time behavior to develop habits specific to your needs, vocation, and lifestyle.
Therefore, perhaps the most universal ADHD time management hack that’s missing for all of us, is a new mindset.
In other words, each of us MUST flip the script! Instead of looking for an external fix, tool, system, or hack, start with yourself.
YOU are the common denominator to managing time.
So instead of looking outside yourself, let’s start with you – first. Let’s get curious about what you already do, (and what you do not do) that either help or hurt you. You see, your time problems are not solved outside of yourself.
And since no ADHD time management hack works for everyone, your key to consistently getting time on your side is to develop your own habits and tools you use consistently. This will help you be able to trust yourself.
Ideally, your ADHD time management hacks must solve for your specific Executive Functioning struggles, consistently.
The Problem Is Working Memory
Working Memory (noun) is known in psychology as an executive function of the brain responsible for short term memory that is concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing.
When you have ADHD, working memory (keeping thoughts in your head and remembering them later) can be a real challenge. So, whether it’s a thought, an interesting article, or a great new idea, your time management system needs to help you instantly capture random bits of information consistently.
Working memory is a problem for many people with ADHD. This is the brain’s ability to keep thoughts in mind, and remembering to remember things that occur over time. So, if you struggle to remember, the easiest way to hack your time trouble is to support this glitchy executive function. In other words, you need to figure out a way to instantly capture and pull into your system, any new information so you can hold it and retrieve it later.
First, let’s start with how you capture your ideas now. When you want to remember something spontaneous, what do you do now? Do you grab a pen to write things down on the first available piece of paper? Do you mark up your hands to remember? Maybe something sparks an idea while you’re at the grocery store, and you pick up items along your path to remind you of things to do… Now, ask – how’s this strategy working for you? Can you find information consistently and instantly when you need it?
The average human brain can only keep about four sets of information in working memory at one time. But, of course, an ADHD brain may even struggle to remember that many. So to boost your brain’s ability to recall information, you must figure out a way to capture your thoughts and ideas, reliably and easily.
Writing Things Down Helps your Brain Function
For most people, gone are the days of writing everything down. With so many apps and digital approaches, people have tried everything. Some people use a talk-to-text app, some text messages to themselves, others snap photos, and some even write on their hands. These are all great to ‘capture’ ideas, however many people with ADHD make the mistake of never checking what they collect along life’s way. And therein lies the break in the system.
Although many of you won’t want to admit it, one of the best ways for most ADHD folks to remember anything is to write things down.
What happens when you write it down is that idea come out of your head and land on paper. In this way
- Writing creates ‘permanence’ and brings a ‘weight’ to an idea.
- When you write, ideas run through the part of your brain responsible for linguistics.
- Different brain functions are used to categorize information.
- Writing builds redundancy. This enhances your ability to recall information later.
- It also allows you to READ it and PROCESS it differently. (Each executive function can be troubling for those with ADHD).
But if you don’t have a capture system to easily write things down, it can become a source of pain. And in the absence, many people turn to a more instant, yet less reliable solution.
Then There Are Random Scraps Of Paper
If you’re constantly using random paper scraps to jot down notes yet losing them, you’re only partially solving your problem.
You’re solving for the working memory gaps by identifying your brain’s need to write things down. GOOD. NOW, it’s time to build your awareness around the real problem. And it’s NOT random scraps of paper. You now need to solve the need for ‘permanence’ need in your to create a ‘capture’ approach you can stick with for a while and tweak as you go.
For you to be more effective with time, you have to find a simple, easy way to take random thoughts and ideas out of your head and put them in a place where you can find them later to act. Ideally, you’re supporting your brain’s ability to remember.
Your time management system needs to include an easy, consistent, and comfortable ‘landing zone‘ as an information capture technique.
So with ADHD, hacking your time management system begins with trying several approaches, then deciding on ONE way to capture thoughts, ideas, notes, appointments, and tasks consistently first.
How Long Does It Take?
And, once you decide, you need to give working memory solutions a fair try. Aim for at least 21 days to see how you do, and then decide whether it will work for you. No matter what, managing your time effectively has to do with building self-awareness and shifting bad habits.
With ADHD on board, self-management is challenging already. And let’s face it, time management is really self-management. Therefore, the keys to managing time effectively though, are not in any hack, or best tip.
Instead, managing time more effectively has to do with managing yourself. Improving your ability to manage time is directly related to your capture, retrieval, remember, and action system. When you are able to instantly, reliably, consistently capture information, you will have solved a key ingredient to a forever time management system.