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Time Tracking and ADHD

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If I had to list my relationship with time on Facebook, I’d have to choose, “It’s complicated.”

Shortly after my late-in-life diagnosis, I learned my ADHD brain was to blame. Sure, it was great to be absolved of time-management guilt, but I was pretty sure the rest of the world would still expect me to arrive on time, ADHD or not, so I poured over ADHD books seeking time-management tips.

I started using a paper planner right away, and still rely on one. I didn’t even have a smartphone when I was first diagnosed, about nine years ago.

It took about three years to adopt the kitchen-timer strategy. At first, I resisted. I mean, what full-grown adult relies on a kitchen timer to run their life? What was I, a Christmas turkey? It just seemed kind of weird. Then again, so did having ADHD.

I was hoping my ADHD treatment would help me to feel less, not more, like a turkey.

Finally, I caved and shelled out the two bucks at the local dollar store to pick up a timer. (Technically, it should have cost a dollar, right?)  Now I use that baby all the time. Sometimes, even when I’m cooking. It keeps me from hyperfocusing when I don’t want to, and adds the adrenaline rush I need, kind of like playing “beat the clock” to get things finished and move on.

In “Not Dressed Up with Somewhere to Go,” my chapter on time management in ADHD According to Zoë, (which took forever to write) I wrote:

“By taking a moment to think it through before acting, I can often restrain myself from trying to squeeze one more thing in before leaving for work.”

When I’m trying to stay on track I try to be mindful (aware) of the moment by asking myself, Is this what I’m supposed to be doing right now? Or, Is this what I want to be doing right now? The word no comes up a lot here too. I use it to get me back on track.

I also try to catch myself when I’m saying “yes” when I should be saying “no” to an activity or commitment that I don’t have time for. This can help me say no the next time.

I stopped my formal quest for time-management tools a few years ago, but recently caught myself using some tricks I hadn’t been aware I’d been using.

Parking meters

Last week, I found myself standing in front of a parking meter trying to calculate how long I’d be at the library doing research. The prospect of losing money, even by paying an extra quarter or two; or, worse, not putting enough money in the meter and getting a parking ticket, is a great way of motivating me.

The goal was to get back to my car with only a minute or two left on the meter. I was suddenly conscious that over the years, I’d gotten into the habit of periodically testing how well I was able to measure time by using the parking meter in this way.

If I lucked out and found a meter with time left on it, it added a whole new dimension. Then, I’d ask myself: Is it enough time for my task? Is it more than enough? How much more? What task can I add to take advantage of the time I found left on the meter?

Clearly, this second parking meter scenario was helpful in addressing not just time-related issues, but an additional ADHD challenge: money management. I could manage my time and save quarters. Bonus.


I have no idea how other people use their smartphones to keep on track. I’ve heard something about schedules and calendars and apps and such, but I’m still not that tech-savvy.

I did, however, discover the big clock icon a few months ago. I tapped it.

I’m now making regular use of the stopwatch (for example, to time my bike ride from home to work so I know how long it takes and can leave in time to be on time).

And I use the alarm, which I set for a few hours at work so I don’t hyperfocus and work a seven-hour shift when I was supposed to work for four. I even leave a 5- or 10-minute transition time to finish up what I’m working on and get to my break.

Last week, I noticed the “world time” icon. I tapped “Add city.” Big mistake. Did I really need to know what time it was in Kazakhstan while I was taking my break? Before long, I had three other cities selected, and started confusing myself. Thus ended that little experiment (it’s 7:14 a.m. in Kazakhstan, tomorrow, as I write this, btw).

Overall, I’m doing pretty well with the time management thing, Kazakhstan aside.

What are some of the strategies that work for you? Do you have the time to share with us?

Are you sure?

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Time Tracking and ADHD

Zoë Kessler, BA, B.Ed.

Zoë Kessler is an award-winning author, journalist, and speaker specializing in women and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD / ADD).

A frequent contributor to ADDitude Magazine, Kessler has also created video, standup comedy, and guest blogs on ADHD and Marriage covering ADHD-related topics.

Zoë, an internationally recognized ADHD expert, has been interviewed on radio and featured in magazine articles, documentaries, and books on the topic of women and ADHD across North America.

Her newly-released memoir ADHD According to Zoë - The Real Deal on relationships, Finding Your Focus & Finding Your Keys (New Harbinger Publications, 2013) about life with ADHD is now available.

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APA Reference
Kessler, Z. (2015). Time Tracking and ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Aug 2015
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