By Paula Santa-Donato, LCSW, Professional and Personal Coach specializing in ADD
“How did it get so late so soon?”
As a Professional and Personal Coach specializing in ADHD, clients often come to me because they are challenged by time management – planning, organizing, prioritizing, chronic lateness, decision making– which leads to stress, anxiety, work/life imbalance, stagnant personal and professional growth, and that all too familiar feeling of being overwhelmed.
They are often professional and successful individuals who have ‘compensated’ – sometimes for a very long time – and are either being threatened with the possibility of losing a job, realizing they can no longer function ‘this way’, and/or are now willing and open to embrace change, receive the support and challenge of working with a coach, and be held accountable for their progress.
While working with my clients, I first help them realize and acknowledge their strengths (we build on these) and begin to accept their weaknesses (we work our way around these). And a common ‘weaknesses’ or challenges, as I like to call them, might be what Russell Barkley calls ‘time blindness’. It affects current planning and future planning.
Do some of these statements sound familiar? ‘I was supposed to be at a meeting by….!’ ‘I got lost in my email (or the internet).’ ‘I started doing ‘xyz’ and the next thing I knew, it was 3 o’clock and I didn’t get to anything I planned to do!’
What to do about impaired temporal vision?
No special Google glasses here! Working on your time blindness takes effort, practice, and, well, …. Time! It may seem crazy, but the more time you invest in addressing your time blindness, the more control you will have over time management issues, and thus, the more ‘time’ you will have in general.
Increased time awareness can be achieved taking small steps. Look at it as a muscle waiting to be strengthened with proper exercise. You have to start slow and easy with what your body in its current condition can handle. As the muscle gets stronger you can build up the amount and rigors of the exercise.
Do you know how long you take to get ready in the morning? How long it takes you to review your e-mail each day? How long that project you need to complete for your boss is going to take?
First, breath…I say this because I don’t want you to panic reading this!
-Be mindful of the time. A clock, a watch, your phone or tablet, can be your friend and not your enemy. Chances are while you may often look at a watch or clock – you are not really allowing it to register the true meaning of where you are in your day, plan or activity. So stop when you see what time it is and have the time enter your awareness. Appreciate the value of time.
There are many gadgets (visual count down clocks, vibrating watches, clocks, and alarms) and apps (Nag, Due for iOS, Repeat Timer, Nice Timer) out there that help with this. I encourage you to explore which one might work for you so that you may enhance your awareness of time.
-Chart how long tasks take to complete. Most ADD’ers either underestimate time needed (leaving 10 minutes for a 30 minute commute) or over-estimate time needed (feeling overwhelmed by a project because they ‘estimated’ it is going to take 8 hours when in reality it only takes 2).
I gently encourage them to chart a few tasks in a week – not every one because that gets overwhelming – and see how they do. I provide them with a ‘time evaluation’ form that has them write down the task, the time they estimate it will take and the time it actually does take! This can be absolutely revealing to clients. A ‘Eureka’ moment! Many clients have said – even though they initially rebelled against doing the exercise – it ultimately helped them manage their time more effectively. With practice, they were better able to evaluate the amount of time they needed to allot to a task. I also tell my clients to add 20-25% to their estimate. For example, if you need to write a report and you ‘estimate’ it will take you 30 minutes to complete – allot 40 minutes and see how you do.
Try practicing the above and see how it works for you and look for my next article highlighting more time management tips.
Paula Santa-Donato is a personal and professional coach specializing in working with adults with ADD. She helps clients clarify and achieve meaningful goals while dealing with the practicalities of daily life and work. Individualizing her approach to each client, Paula helps her clients recognize and realize their strengths and build upon that foundation to achieve their goals. Clients appreciate her knowledge of ADD, coupled with a warm, compassionate, intuitive, and positive energy.