Time Management for ADHD Adults Really is Unique!

 In ADHD Productivity

time management for adhdTime management for ADHD adults is unique. And, that’s putting it mildly.

It’s why we procrastinate. Aren’t on time. Get distracted by the stinking badges on our phones. Watch TV when we’re supposed to be getting ready for work.

To succeed with time management, ADHD adults need a deep understanding of their relationship with time. So they can become better at Outsmarting their ADHD.

You see, ADHD brains are wired for stimulation. That makes us view the world through two time frames: Now and Not Now.

The Now is whatever is in front of us at the moment. Those are the tasks we take action on.

The Not Nows? Everything else. No matter how high a priority. How essential it is to our success, peace, and happiness.

I’m convinced this “Now / Not Now Effect” is the root of much of ADHD’s procrastination and chaos.

The ADHD Now / Not Now Effect keeps:

  • The manager from writing her meeting agenda until moments before the staff meeting.
  • The hostess from cleaning her house and going to the market until the morning of her dinner party.
  • The dad surfing the Internet instead of cooking dinner for his family.

The Now / Not Now Effect is a real part of living with ADHD. It causes worry, stress, and feelings of inadequacy.

Time management for ADHD means unless we’re careful we ignore the Not Nows. Putting them off to do later.

And, that’s where our trouble lies.

Until you get a handle on this the only thing that will flip a task from a Not Now to a Now is a looming deadline.

Then you’ll be forced into frantic, immediate action.

The worst part is is doesn’t matter how big the task or project is or what else is going on in your life. You’ve got a deadline and you’ve gotta meet it.

Yes, when that deadline looms we’re focused and productive. But the stress can be unbearable.

So, what can you do about it?

How to Make Time Management for ADHD Easier

It’s hard to trick an ADHD brain to believe something is a Now when it’s still a Not Now.

But you can learn to soften the impact of this ADHD time management tendency.


Manage your time with the awareness that your energy and focus won’t happen until the task becomes a Now.

Plan to procrastinate. Do as much as you can ahead of time, but leave time in your schedule to complete a project right before the deadline.

If you don’t have a solid deadline, create one. Work with an accountability buddy or a coach. Someone to hold you accountable to get things done.

The Now / Not Now Effect has a huge influence over the lives of adults with ADHD. With awareness and a bit of planning  you can make time management for ADHD your friend.


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Showing 9 comments
  • Sean Desilva

    Time management skills are indeed an important thing to learn to effectively manage our lives. Sometimes it can be difficult for someone with ADHD to prioritize. I think you’re right, it is best if we manage our time with awareness above all else.

  • Danny

    Hey, so I am 24 and have had ADHD my whole life and I didn’t know. As an adult, it got so bad my brother’s ER doctor pulled me aside and advised me to call someone who dealt with ADHD just from watching me try to sit with my brother. I am in nursing school and am having trouble keeping everything straight and together, and when I look online all it says is plan, watch other people and how they plan, make a schedule, which is all great except if I could do those things I wouldn’t have a problem. This is the first article, book–anything I have found that says to work with how your brain is wired. Know when and how your brain works and use those strengths, like planning on procrastinating. It’s so simple and yet unheard of. Just how it’s defined here as “now and not now” makes it easier to work with, so thank you. I’m going to cite this in every paper I write.

    • Dana Rayburn

      Thank you! So glad to help. You’re right. If you could plan, etc., you would!

  • Janice Soyster

    Being late has been a chronic problem for me but I always have thought that it was due to a lack of character on my part. I am beginning to believe that I have ADD. However, I also have been able to accomplish a lot. I am now 72 years old and have deteriorating physical health and it just takes longer to do things than it used to. When I retired early from being a registered nurse, I found that just taking a shower took me three times longer than before I retired.
    My current problem is that I am on a medication that necessitates frequent blood monitoring so I need to go to the clinic around once per week and that clinic is across town. I have already been excluded from one monitoring clinic due to tardiness but was fortunate to be accepted at the clinic where my doctor practices. They are about to discharge me also for the same reason. When I tried to tell the nurse yesterday that I thought this was due to ADD, she immediately went back to her underlying belief that I was having this problem because she thought that I just didn’t care whether I was on time or not. I was supposed to see my doctor to discuss this but missed that appointment by waking up late. I have a new appointment set with the doctor to discuss this but I am worried that I will either be late for it or not be able to make that appointment at all due to the same difficulty.
    Through the years, I have attempted several ways to circumvent this situation but always knew what the “real” time was for that appointment, class, meeting, or other event. So in my thinking I defaulted to that “real” time and continued to be late. Since I am the person who makes the appointment, I don’t seem to be able to outwit that inner voice. In addition to my inner voice, the clinic calls the day before to remind the patients about their appointments and of course, gives the time of the appointment. I could put an earlier time in my calendar but am reminded of the real time.
    I have trouble believing that this is due to ADD when I am told that it is just my character or habit, when I recognize that I have been able to accomplish all these things in my life to get me to 72, or when I can plan events and carry them out.
    I saw a psychiatrist for 10 years and we talked about the possibility of my having ADD and was tried on a medication for it but with no improvement. She did have me on Venlafaxine for depression which I continue to take. I feel that I am relatively stable with that medication.
    What is your assessment of this situation? Can the ADD meds be taken with other psych meds, or do you believe that trying the other suggestions before adding any ADD meds if necessary would be a better approach.

    Thank you very much for your insight into this.

  • Dana Rayburn

    Hi Janice. Gosh, I’m so sorry you’re struggling so much. Please talk to your doctor about getting a diagnosis or figuring out what is wrong. I’m so sorry but I legally can’t give specific advice about medication. I wish you all the best.

  • Ernest

    Wow. Thank you for the article. It is really helpful to understand how my brain works and what its influence on time perspective. It is relief to know that. 🙂

    • Dana Rayburn

      I am so glad to hear my article has been helpful for you! Thank you for your kind words.

  • Connie

    This is me. Now vs Not now is genius and 100% accurate. Also hilarious how many RNs posted on here … also me lol. I always chalked it up to lack of self discipline etc. I am going tomorrow to talk w/ my doc re my sx… thank you for this awesome article!

    • Dana Rayburn

      You’re welcome, Connie. I hadn’t put together the RN connection. Yowza!! (BTW, anyone who can pass nursing school has ample self-discipline. It’s a structure and motivation issue. Both of which live at the core of ADHD.) Be well, Dana

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