ADHD Experts Share Time Management Tools That Actually Work

Visual timers, routine clocks, sand hourglasses and more tools that will help you keep track of time.
A <a href="https://www.pntrac.com/t/8-12530-265720-220444?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zazzle.com%2Fdaily_schedule_colors_round_clock-256869977658499811%3Frf%3D238089564575913343%26tc%3DCj0KCQjwhLKUBhDiARIsAMaTLnEG20PX3OFPf9QuR6i5SAMc-tagElpiePTSmyR7wgKN6MutJg5QgX0aAqCeEALw_wcB%26utm_source%3Dgoogle%26utm_medium%3Dcpc%26utm_campaign%3Dus_shopping%26utm_term%3Dz256869977658499811%26ca_chid%3D2001810%26ca_source%3Dgaw%26ca_ace%3D%26ca_nw%3Dg%26ca_dev%3Dc%26ca_pl%3D%26ca_pos%3D%26ca_cid%3D576022477103%26ca_agid%3D132149406677%26ca_caid%3D15866690596%26ca_adid%3D576022477103%26ca_kwt%3D%26ca_mt%3D%26ca_fid%3D%26ca_tid%3Dpla-1593879010979%26ca_lp%3D9007303%26ca_li%3D%26ca_devm%3D%26ca_plt%3D%26gclsrc%3Daw.ds%26gclid%3DCj0KCQjwhLKUBhDiARIsAMaTLnEG20PX3OFPf9QuR6i5SAMc-tagElpiePTSmyR7wgKN6MutJg5QgX0aAqCeEALw_wcB&sid=visualtimer-griffinwynne-052422-628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a&website=373869" target="_blank" data-affiliate="true" role="link" rel="sponsored" class=" js-entry-link cet-external-link" data-vars-item-name="routine analog clock from Zazzle" data-vars-item-type="text" data-vars-unit-name="628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="https://www.pntrac.com/t/8-12530-265720-220444?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zazzle.com%2Fdaily_schedule_colors_round_clock-256869977658499811%3Frf%3D238089564575913343%26tc%3DCj0KCQjwhLKUBhDiARIsAMaTLnEG20PX3OFPf9QuR6i5SAMc-tagElpiePTSmyR7wgKN6MutJg5QgX0aAqCeEALw_wcB%26utm_source%3Dgoogle%26utm_medium%3Dcpc%26utm_campaign%3Dus_shopping%26utm_term%3Dz256869977658499811%26ca_chid%3D2001810%26ca_source%3Dgaw%26ca_ace%3D%26ca_nw%3Dg%26ca_dev%3Dc%26ca_pl%3D%26ca_pos%3D%26ca_cid%3D576022477103%26ca_agid%3D132149406677%26ca_caid%3D15866690596%26ca_adid%3D576022477103%26ca_kwt%3D%26ca_mt%3D%26ca_fid%3D%26ca_tid%3Dpla-1593879010979%26ca_lp%3D9007303%26ca_li%3D%26ca_devm%3D%26ca_plt%3D%26gclsrc%3Daw.ds%26gclid%3DCj0KCQjwhLKUBhDiARIsAMaTLnEG20PX3OFPf9QuR6i5SAMc-tagElpiePTSmyR7wgKN6MutJg5QgX0aAqCeEALw_wcB&sid=visualtimer-griffinwynne-052422-628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a&website=373869" data-vars-target-content-type="url" data-vars-type="web_external_link" data-vars-subunit-name="article_body" data-vars-subunit-type="component" data-vars-position-in-subunit="0">routine analog clock from Zazzle</a>, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Time-Timer/dp/B09CM3Z7DB?tag=griffinwynne-20&ascsubtag=628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a%2C-1%2C-1%2Cd%2C0%2C0%2Chp-fil-am%3D0%2C0%3A0%2C0%2C0%2C0" target="_blank" data-affiliate="true" role="link" data-amazon-link="true" rel="sponsored" class=" js-entry-link cet-external-link" data-vars-item-name="Time Timer" data-vars-item-type="text" data-vars-unit-name="628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="https://www.amazon.com/Time-Timer/dp/B09CM3Z7DB?tag=griffinwynne-20&ascsubtag=628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a%2C-1%2C-1%2Cd%2C0%2C0%2Chp-fil-am%3D0%2C0%3A0%2C0%2C0%2C0" data-vars-target-content-type="url" data-vars-type="web_external_link" data-vars-subunit-name="article_body" data-vars-subunit-type="component" data-vars-position-in-subunit="1">Time Timer</a> and <a href="https://www.amazon.com/SWISSELITE-BILOBA-Hourglass-Minutes-seconds/dp/B078PF7QBS?tag=griffinwynne-20&ascsubtag=628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a%2C-1%2C-1%2Cd%2C0%2C0%2Chp-fil-am%3D0%2C0%3A0%2C0%2C0%2C0" target="_blank" data-affiliate="true" role="link" data-amazon-link="true" rel="sponsored" class=" js-entry-link cet-external-link" data-vars-item-name="sand hourglass timer" data-vars-item-type="text" data-vars-unit-name="628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="https://www.amazon.com/SWISSELITE-BILOBA-Hourglass-Minutes-seconds/dp/B078PF7QBS?tag=griffinwynne-20&ascsubtag=628cec60e4b0b1d9844d834a%2C-1%2C-1%2Cd%2C0%2C0%2Chp-fil-am%3D0%2C0%3A0%2C0%2C0%2C0" data-vars-target-content-type="url" data-vars-type="web_external_link" data-vars-subunit-name="article_body" data-vars-subunit-type="component" data-vars-position-in-subunit="2">sand hourglass timer</a>.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with time. I’ll briefly check my email, and somehow, 45 minutes goes by. I’ll schedule an appointment thinking I have ample time between meetings, only to find myself sprinting with not a second to spare. My inability to feel time passing or to properly assess how much time I need to do something has been a hard thing to understand. And in a world dominated by hustle culture and ableist conceptions of efficiency, it’s easy to feel stigmatized or ashamed for being someone that often runs late.

However, as I continue to learn about my brain, I’ve learned that struggling with time isn’t me being lazy, sloppy or careless. In fact, “time blindness,” or the inability to feel the passing of time or to properly gauge how much time a given task takes, is a studied phenomenon that’s common among folks with ADHD and/or other neurodivergence.

“Put simply, time blindness is a way of describing how some of us struggle to feel time,” Liz Lewis, an ADHD coach and founder of Healthy ADHD told HuffPost. “We don’t always feel it passing, we don’t estimate how long things will take very well, and we also have trouble picturing the future.”

In the ADHD research community, “time blindness” can be cited as both a neurological issue and a social/emotional reaction, Lewis said. Some experts say neurodivergent brains don’t experience time as a linear process. Others think the constant pressure to conform to neurotypical school and workspaces creates extra anxiety and exhaustion, making neurodivergent folks more likely to struggle with time.

Anna Granta, a coach for neurodivergent adults, said that neurodivergent people are often connected thinkers, rather than linear thinkers. While a neurotypical person may look at numbers on a clock and immediately know how much time they have until their next task, a neurodivergent person may get totally consumed in a given task, then struggle to wind down that task in time to start the next one.

“I think people with ADHD or other neurodivergent conditions struggle to understand the passage of time because it’s relentlessly linear,” Granta told HuffPost. “Time passes at a consistent rate, whether we want it to or not, independently of how we understand it. And I think that mismatch is really difficult for [neurodivergent people] to conceptualize.”

Because the passage of time can be so elusive, Granta and Lewis recommend using visual aids, instead of simply relying on digital clocks. Whether you or someone in your family has ADHD or just struggles to stay on top of time, Granta, Lewis and other experts shared the most effective tools for time management.

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1
Amazon
The Time Timer
A visual timer that uses a pie-chart-like circle to show a given amount of time depleting can help neurodivergent people stay on track.

"The Time Timer allows you to see time passing in vivid red," Lewis said. "You're more likely to start and then persist when you have a very obvious time constraint."

The Time Timer is a 60-minute visual timer that can either be silent or beep when time is up.
2
Hourglasses
Also known as "sand timers," hourglasses are another great tool for time management, Granta said. Whereas digital clocks rely on numbers to convey the passing of time, which can be difficult for neurodivergent folks to interpret, sand timers create a concrete link between the amount of time you have left and the sand you see in the hourglass. They also look super trendy on a desk or coffee table.

This sand timer comes in four time lengths and nine colors.
3
Analog clocks
Though it may seem a little old school, Nikki Kinzer, an ADHD coach and host of "Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast," suggested keeping analog clocks around the house. It can be hard to assign meaning to the numbers on a digital clock, but the hands on an analog clock can help you visually see the time passing.

"Digital time is just numbers," Kinzer said. "When you see an analog clock, you can see the hands moving. I recommend to all of my clients to have many analog clocks around them."

This is a 10-inch wall clock with large numbers that can be seen from across a room.
4
Routine clocks
Granta suggested trying routine clocks, or analog clocks that have words or pictures of the tasks you need to do during specific times. While these are generally geared toward kids, Granta said they also work well to keep adults on track during the day, ensuring things get done by the time they need to be, and in the right order. If you struggle with prioritizing tasks or knowing what task needs to happen first, having a set, timed routine to use every day can help you stay on track.

This is a customizable routine clock from Betty & Freddy on Zazzle. You can change all the labels to make the tasks relevant to you and your family, as well as the time of the activities. If you're looking for a routine clock with pictures, OneChickBoutique on Etsy has a huge selection.
5
Stopwatches
Rather than counting down the time you have, stopwatches count up, letting you see exactly how much time it takes you to do daily tasks. From there, you make more individualized, realistic schedules that include the actual time it takes you to get ready in the morning or prepare a meal.

"Noticing your relationship to time is the first step," Lewis said. "When you leave home, start a timer to see how long it takes you to get places. Time yourself when you shower. If you're late, ask yourself how many minutes? Am I always 20 mins late?"

This stopwatch is water-resistant and has a large font.
6
Multiple audible timers/alarms
According to Kinzer, another way to stay on track of your time is to set multiple audible timers at different intervals before you have to do something. If you know you need to meet someone in an hour, setting different alarms for the next 15, 30 and 45 minutes can give you cues of how much time has passed and help keep you from getting too caught up in a task. Having multiple timers at different intervals can also help you gear up for a transition so you feel a little less rushed heading into the next thing.

This is a four-pack of audible timers.
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