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Finding Time to Think

Maybe it’s because I’m a technology-immersed millennial, maybe it’s because I’m an impatient ADHDer. Either way, it seems like I rarely have time set aside where I can take a step back from whatever’s right in front of me and just think, reflect, turn things over at different angles in my mind.

On one hand, I never say to myself, well, this would be a good time to sit down for a few minutes and just think about things. ADHD-related hyperactivity certainly doesn’t help in this regard, but I suspect most people to some extent feel caught up in whatever it is they have to do, to the detriment of being able to pause for a moment and reflect.

ThinkingAnd when you do find yourself with a moment of calm in your daily life – hey, now would be a good time to see if there’s anything new happening on your smartphone!

When I have ended up randomly with time where I’m forced to be in my own mind, I often find that there’s real value in it. Sometimes I gain a new perspective on events in my life, sometimes I’m able to achieve a better understanding of some concept I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around – whatever it is that’s sitting in the back of my mind, giving it some downtime to process can help.

Probably my favorite time for thinking is when I’m running. Time spent thinking doesn’t have to be time spent in a physically passive way. You don’t have to “sit and think.” In fact, many people with ADHD will probably find that their brains work better when they’re on the move physically, that they can’t force themselves to sit and think even if they want to. Consequently, they might find that time spent exercising is also their optimal time for working through things mentally.

For better or for worse (and often for worse when the sun rises the next morning!), I’ve often found that I do a lot of thinking when I wake up in the middle of the night. Now, insomnia isn’t a strategy I’d recommend, and some of these thoughts are just pointless, anxious ruminating. But sometimes I do have interesting ideas at night that I wouldn’t have had during the day. Your brain works a different way at 3:30 AM. So I wouldn’t say no to a full night’s sleep, but I’m also not sure I’d want to trade in all the thoughts I’ve had while tossing and turning.

The longest uninterrupted period of time I’ve had to reflect on things would be while taking the train across the United States, which takes a few days. The rhythm of being on a train for a long time is very conducive to staring out the window and thinking about different things. Like waking up at 3:30 AM, it’s also an activity that gets your brain into a different mental space, which helps to find a new perspective on things.

Even though I’m waxing lyrical on the activity of thinking, I’m not someone who can be endlessly entertained by my own thoughts. Honestly, a lot of the time thinking is just boring.

But we all have times when it’s useful to take a step back from everyday activities and look at our lives with a wider lens. My experience is that finding a way to schedule in regular “thinking time,” for example by keeping an exercise routine, can be helpful in this regard. If you have other tips for finding time to think, please leave them below!

Image: Flickr/aglet

Finding Time to Think

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2019). Finding Time to Think. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Jan 2019
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