Saturday, December 22, 2012

Time keeps on slippin'...

Time is a problem for me.  It's a problem for a lot of people with ADHD.
For us, quite often, there are only 2 times: now, and NOT now.
Estimation is also a problem.  Not mathematically - I can do that one.  I mean estimating how long things take.   This is not true of all people with ADHD, but it is for me, and it is for lots of people who have it too.  So for the rest of this article I'm going to write of my experience and perceptions, but if you have ADHD, or know or care about someone who does, this may apply to you too.

This time & estimation problem helps explain why I am perpetually late.  I don't have to be there NOW.  I don't have to leave NOW, because it only takes 15 minutes (an hour for really long distances) to drive there.   It also explains (somewhat) procrastination.  Being overwhelmed is another component of that, but that is for another blog post. 

See a pattern here?  As a kid I would resist my mother's attempts to have me get ready.  We weren't leaving NOW, so I didn't need to put shoes on now.  Or get my backpack or coat.  But when she yelled it was time to be out in the car I couldn't find a shoe (or both) and my coat was NOT on the hook. 

Schoolwork was a problem too.  The assignment isn't due now, and it will only take about 15 minutes to finish (or an hour if it's a BIG assignment). And, the assignment isn't due until Friday, so I'd plan to start Thursday night - or Friday morning.  Of course, the assignment rarely only took 15 minutes.  It was more like 30-45, or days instead of hours.  And then that deadline would come and I'd forgotten my notes or books, or have inadequate research done.  Or worse, forgotten the assignment entirely until I got to class.  That was always fun.  I got really good at sweet-talking the teacher into letting me turn it in late. 

Time & estimation are still problems for me.  Only now, I have to get 4 other people ready in addition to myself.  We don't have to leave now, so there's no point in getting the boys ready - that will only take 5 minutes.  Right?  Their schoolwork isn't due 'til Friday, so we can start later, right? 

Wrong.  I've learned through being late and unprepared so often that things always take longer than you think.  Always.  Putting shoes on?  Takes 5 minutes if you did put them where they go.  With ADHD you have an 80% chance that you did NOT put them where they belong.  So you need to budget an extra 20 minutes just to find your shoes.

Getting out to the car with 4 small children will take 10 times as long as you think most days.  And even when I do get out the car the kids are used to me going back inside at least once (usually 2 or 3 times) to get something I've forgotten.  We're often lucky if we don't have to turn around partway down the road to get that one other crucial thing I've forgotten.

So here's what I've learned to help me with my problem:
  1. Use mapquest/google/AT&T maps.  They tell you how long it really takes to get there.  Add 10 minutes for finding parking, getting lost anyway, stopping for gas (shoot! forgot that too!)...
  2. If I am late, take the amount of time I am late and add that to the amount of time I need to prepare the next time I am doing the same thing.  
  3. I set a pre-deadline.  Or lots of them.  Then when I can't finish something in 15 minutes, or an hour, I have a few more days to get it done.
  4. I've (usually) accept that being done with homework and projects early is a GOOD thing.  I am just as free then to do what I want as I was before when I was doing my pre-goof-off/other busy work stuff. And as an added bonus I also have more time to double-check work, or add extra touches.
  5. I embrace being at appointments and other obligations (school pick-ups) early.  I bring a book, craft, or play a game on my electronic device in the car to reward myself for being on time.  I just have to be careful to set a timer so that I will stop in time to actually get inside where I'm supposed to be.
  6. I put my electronic devices to good use!  My iPhone can be a lifesaver.  I set timers and reminders on smartphones.  I put everything I can in the electronic calendar too.  I transfer all the school events as soon as I get those paper calendars to my phone.  And I set more than one reminder for the same event, e.g. one a day before the party, and one just an hour before.  I love my smartphone.  It's a thing that when I lose it I can call it to find it again!  
  7. I use my watch to help too.  I got a waterproof one so I didn't have to take it off when I washed my hands (and inevitably forget to put it back on).  It has multiple alarms and timers.  I have one alarm set to go off every day at 3 when it is time to pick up my kids.  It goes off everyday, even on the days I don't pick up the kids.  I've learned the hard way that if I turn it off I'll forget to turn it back on.  So on Saturday when it goes off and my kids ask what it is for, I tell them, "It's to remind me to pick you up at school. Would you like to go with me to do that now?" 
    They think that is hilarious.  So do I. 
  8. Establish routines.  This is harder for me.  For most people it takes about 3-6 weeks to establish a habit or routine.  For me, it can take months to years.  Yes, years.  Persist.  Don't berate yourself if you miss one time, try harder the next.  A slip is just that - a slip.  Don't let it change your attitude or direction.  
  9. Enlist help.  Swallow your pride and ask your spouse/friend/parent/sibling to remind you.  To follow up with you.  Especially with important things like taking your ADHD meds!   Ask them to call you when you're supposed to be there (or better yet when you should be leaving). 
  10. There should be something here.  I forget what it is.  So... tell me in the comments, what do you do to help you be on time & get stuff done by the deadline?