5 Tips For How To Be On Time with ADHD

by | Sep 9, 2015 | ADHD Success Skills and Tools | 3 comments

One question I’m asked a lot is how to be on time. ADHD adults mean well, but are late for just about everything. No matter how important the appointment or event.

Being late stems from the hyperactive ADHD brain. Distracted and disorganized, we lose track of time or can’t find what we need. Before we know it we’re frantically rushing out the door.

People living with ADHD consider being late as their own personal frustration. Getting out the door on time is exhausting.

Yet what about the people kept waiting? What do they think?

Advice columnist Amy Dickinson and her readers recently labeled late people as passive-aggressive, inconsiderate, self-centered, and controlling.

That’s harsh, isn’t it! Especially for people who are usually late because they struggle to manage their adult ADHD and don’t know how to be on time.

Want to avoid making others angry before you even arrive? ADHD or not, you need to learn how to get places on time.

5 Tips For How To Be On Time with ADHD

Step #1. Know How Much Time You Truly Need.
Every person I’ve ever coached dramatically underestimates how long it takes them to get ready to go. The solution? Time yourself to discover how long it really takes, adding a few extra minutes wiggle room. You’ll probably find you need more time than you think.

Step #2. Get Ready First.
Get completely ready to leave the house BEFORE you watch TV, check your email or read the paper. This includes collecting everything you need to take with you so it’s waiting by the door. Keep reminding yourself and anyone going with you to get ready to go before they do anything else.

Step #3. Set A Timer.
Timers are magical tools for bringing you back into the present and keeping you on track. Set one to ring ten minutes before you need to leave or to remind you to stop eating breakfast and go brush your teeth. Your timer doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, easier is better. If a timer is too complicated to set you won’t use it. The timer on your phone or a simple egg-timer will do.

Step #4. Factor In Your Travel Time.
Do you really know how much travel time you need to get where you’re going? If it’s somewhere you go often, such as work or school, don’t guess; time it. Adjust for traffic and the time of day.

Step #5. Consider The ENTIRE Trip.
People often consider the amount of time they need as how long it takes to drive somewhere. But, you really need more time than that. People with ADHD need a few minutes to get to the car and come back in the house to get what they forgot! Also consider how much time it takes to park and arrive at your destination.

When I worked for a large corporation I was ALWAYS late for work. Why? Because I thought my commute was just 25-minutes. I didn’t think about the ten minutes it took to get from the parking structure and up two sets of elevators to my office. Now that I’m ADHD savvy, I realize my commute was actually 35-minutes.

Just because you have ADHD you don’t have to be late. Start by making small adjustments to the different parts of getting someplace on time.

Learning how to be on time with ADHD is worth it. How much stress and friction can you erase from your life and relationships by making being it a new habit?

How do I know you can learn to stop being late? Because this was one of my personal battles with ADHD, and I won.

I always used to arrive places late. My dad even named it ‘Dana Time’ which meant five-minutes late.

Still, I can do better. I still often cut it way too close. Writing this article I realized I often skip Step #5: how long it takes to get in and out of the car. Also, way too often I depend upon my faulty memory and neglect to set the timer.

I hope you like these 5 tips for how to be on time with ADHD. This is a battle you can win. Good luck!


  1. Pauline

    Hi, I have been doing all 5 things for many years now and I am still late to everything, several times a day, what is the next step?

    • Dana Rayburn

      Hi Pauline, step back and observe what’s happening that makes you late. I suspect there is something going on that’s getting in your way of being punctual. Good luck! Dana

  2. Allie

    I am learning at 36, I have ADHD. My life is full of unfinished projects and me rushing everywhere and always being late. I do not want put on Adderall, but I need something. My coworkers are beginning to hate me and I don’t blame them.


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