Q: It has been repeatedly pointed out to me that I have problems with time management. In my mind, I'm doing everything right - using phone apps and a planner and recording as much as possible, as well as taking meds. How does it feel for people without ADHD? What does it feel like to have that part of the executive functioning system that allows people to arrive on time or to estimate how much time a task takes?

A: Sorry to hear about how you’ve been struggling. You know, time is not a real thing that actually exists. Rather, time is an abstraction we use to describe a) the executive tasks of planning and sequencing and b) a felt experience.

And yes, time “feels” different to people with ADHD. For non-ADDers there is that mental executive thing but also this felt, body-based aspect of time. If I told a non-ADDer that “you’ve got 20 minutes to get to the airport…..oh no wait actually you’ve got 90 minutes,” they would have a bodily experience of 20-minutes which is different from the feeling of 90-minutes.

Try this:  imagine holding a cantaloupe about waist high…feel the skin, notice the weight, and feel it press against your belly. Now – quick – imagine that you’re holding a big summer watermelon. Feel that? The heft against your arms, the leaning back to balance the big melon. The tired feeling in your shoulders after a minute or so. That’s kinda what “20 minutes “ and “90 minutes” feel like to people who have good mastery of what Dr. Russell Barkley calls “tempo control.” 

Experiment over the next couple of weeks – determine what body based feelings you have around units of time. Do you have a felt sense of 60 seconds? 1 hour? If so, where is that feeling, I mean where exactly in your body?

Definitely make use of good apps and other external cues, but I wonder whether you have some internal body-based tempo control cues you could sharpen?


About the Author

David D. Nowell, Ph.D.

David D. Nowell, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist interested in motivation, focus, and fully-engaged living.

You are reading

Intrinsic Motivation and Magical Unicorns

This Is How You Can Finally Get Something Done

... because it's the complete opposite of multitasking.

Need to Make a Change? This Is How to Think About It.

... and turn a vicious circle into a virtuous circle.

Energy Drinks and ADHD

Does a recent Yale study suggest that energy drinks cause ADHD?