Throughout the world, our clocks run on different time zones. And we all seem to be battling the clock. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done. People with ADHD or Aspergers find this especially challenging because they have trouble being present in the moment. The ADHD or ASD brain can’t anticipate and plan for the future. This typically shows up in two ways:
They have a short time horizon. They can’t “see” very far into the future, so they lack motivation to act and consequently ignore deadlines. They think that since the deadline isn’t today, they don’t have to get started. Then when the deadline arrives, they’re totally taken by surprise.
They engage in time discounting. The further into the future a reward or punishment is, the less important it is. For example, they start watching TV at 9 AM and keep doing it until mom gets home at 7 PM and is mad because the room isn’t clean.
The secret to dealing with ADHD Time or ASD Time is learning to manage behaviors and choices in the present moment while keeping long-term goals in mind. When your internal clock isn’t in sync with reality, you need to use external tools and strategies that engage all of your senses. Here are a few suggestions:
Sight: Use the moving hands of old-fashioned analog clock (not digital, it’s too distracting) to emphasize the passage of time. Challenge yourself by saying, “before the minute hand get to (insert the position), I’m going to have (the amount of work) done.”
Hearing: Use audible reminders such alarms or phone notifications to remind you of your present deadline.
Touch: Set up your work environment to eliminate distractions and force yourself to get started and stay on task. Doing five minutes worth of work can lead to the next five minutes and so on…
Smell and Taste: When you accomplish your timed task, reward yourself with a small portion of something that you especially love – like a sip of coffee, a mint, or a bite of apple. Set out another small task and tell yourself you can have another sip/bite when you finish that.
Imagination: Create a movie in your head of the worst case scenario if you don’t get it done and how that will feel. Next, imagine yourself easily accomplishing the task. Don’t make it difficult or turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy; the longer you procrastinate, the more difficult or impossible the project becomes.
Stop telling yourself these lies…
- I have plenty of time.
- I can do it tomorrow.
- I don’t really have to do it now.
- I work better under pressure.
- It’s too hard.
- I have anxiety, I can’t do it.
While it’s important to identify emotions, such as anxiety, you can’t let those emotions become excuses. Instead, find appropriate solutions. What strategies work for you? I’d love to hear about them over on my Facebook page.