Running a business while managing ADHD symptoms can feel like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces constantly moving. Things like organisation and time management are significant issues, but the right strategies can allow you to become a master at time managing.
Why ADHD Individuals Struggle with Time Management
The term time blindness was coined by Dr. Russell Barkley, a leading ADHD psychologist and researcher who specialises in executive dysfunction, behavioral inhibition and long-term outcomes. Time blindness is the difficulty for people with ADHD to manage and estimate time effectively. Although this is a seemingly harmless inhibition, it can cause problems with completing time-sensitive tasks and planning ahead.
The goal in pointing this out is not to discourage you from pursuing entrepreneurship, because there’s so many things about your unique mind that make you a perfect fit to be a business owner. But, it’s important to understand and accept the nuances of your mind in order to harness them instead of fight against them.
Working Memory Challenges
Another reason entrepreneurs with ADHD struggle with time management is because of challenges with working memory. This is the cognitive system in your brain that holds onto information and stores it for later use. You need this to plan ahead, make decisions and properly manage your time. For people with ADHD, sometimes this system in your brain falls a little behind, like a computer that’s stuck on a loading screen. This means that recalling important information is more of a difficulty for neurodivergent people.
Impulsivity and Distractibility
If you ask anyone what they know about ADHD, they’ll probably mention the word impulsivity, and it’s true! Impulsivity and distractions are commonalities for people with ADHD minds, and while these can be used as a superpower, they also can be a villain for time management. You might effectively plan and manage your time, but your mind has the propensity to leave that plan behind and pursue other avenues.
The Impact of Executive Functioning
Executive functions are high-level cognitive skills used for planning, focusing attention, remembering instructions, and juggling multiple tasks.
Congratulations, you now understand why you struggle with time management, and hopefully you know that you’re not alone! You aren’t broken and need fixing, you just need different resources than others do. By understanding the uniqueness of your mind, you can begin to implement different strategies to make your it work for you and not against you. Time management may be a struggle at first, but it isn’t impossible to master with the right tools.
Strategies For Improving Your Time Management and Task Completion
Understanding Your Personal Time Zone
Time blindness often means that people with ADHD live in their own time zone. An hour for one person might be three hours to you, which can lead to missed deadlines and rushed tasks. But, if you are aware of and frame your day according to your own time zone, chances are you can manage your time better.
Creating Your Rhythm with Structure
ADHD minds need structure. Creating a well-defined schedule with your own time blindness in mind can be your best friend in time management. Things like Google Calendar or other time management apps give your mind the visual stimulus and structure it needs to keep itself on track.
The biggest mistake you will likely make when creating your schedule is forgetting to allow room for breaks, especially on days when you’re hyperfocusing on tasks. Make sure that you schedule time for your breaks, preferably using something that sends you an alert or reminder to do so.
Mastering the Art of Delegation and Prioritisation
Your ADHD makes you a superhero business owner, but Batman was made so much better with Robin. Delegation is an underrated and over-needed tool that ADHD entrepreneurs often don’t utilise in the beginning. Find a trusty sidekick that is skilled in the things that you struggle to do on your own. For example, if you love to do market research but financial management is a struggle, consider hiring a bookkeeper to keep track of your funds.
Discovering the Magic of Time Blocking
Time blocking is another structural tool that you can use for time management. Time blocking includes segmenting your day according to specific tasks, assigning a certain “time block” to each one. Apps like Clockify can track the way you spend your time and inform you of the best ways to accomplish this type of scheduling. The important thing to remember is that while structure is good, it isn’t the end of the world if your attention bounces more than usual.
Building a Digital Toolkit
Technology is an unparalleled tool to aid in your ADHD time management skills. Apps like Asana or Trello are great resources to track your time, tasks and productivity. If you find yourself venturing off your planned time management in the depths of the internet, you can start to implement website blockers like Cold Turkey to keep the distraction at bay.
Nourishing Your Body and Brain
One of the most underestimated aspects of managing your time wisely is to take the time to prepare yourself mentally and physically for work-related tasks. Things like regular exercise and a balanced diet have a positive effect on ADHD symptoms. Exercises that you enjoy can provide an outlet for some of the restlessness you may feel. In relation to diet, focusing on foods that are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids are good for healthy brain functioning.
Mindfulness and meditation can specifically assist those with ADHD by improving focus, reducing impulsivity, and enhancing self-awareness. Try dedicating a few minutes each day to mindfulness or meditation practices, using apps like Headspace or Calm.
Connecting with an ADHD Business Coach
Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed with your efforts to try and manage your time better. There is not shame, and a lot of value, in seeking an ADHD business coach to provide practical, customised strategies to help navigate your unique ADHD journey. They can offer ideas for time management, overcoming business challenges, and understanding your ADHD better.
If you’d like to understand how I help, check out my ADHD business coaching page.
One of the less-discussed aspects of ADHD is hyperfocus – the ability to become incredibly absorbed in tasks that you find genuinely engaging. It’s a superpower that can boost productivity. Schedule your most important tasks during your ‘hyperfocus hours’ and see your efficiency soar.
This might be a new term for you, but it’s a powerful technique. Having another person present, even if they’re not directly involved in the task you’re working on, can help improve focus and productivity. You could arrange regular ‘body-double’ sessions with a colleague or friend, either in-person or virtually. You don’t even have to talk, just bask in the accountability of having another person with you.
Engaging with ADHD Entrepreneur Communities
Oftentimes, we can feel like we’re alone in our failures regarding time management. This is why being part of a community that understands you can be super helpful. Consider joining a community where other ADHD business owners can give advice, resources and validation of your hardships.
How I Manage My Time As A Coach And Online Business Owner
It’s crucial to remember that we’re all unique. What works for me might not work for you, but I’d encourage you to give it a go. However, it’s essential not to take my words as the gospel truth. I’m still figuring things out just like you.
For instance, I’ve given the Pomodoro technique a go, and it just doesn’t resonate with me. I find myself in the swing of things, and then it’s time to stop.
I’ve also tried blocking tasks in my calendar, but it simply leads to frustration if I’m not in the mood for that specific task.
Interestingly, as someone with ADHD, I find that having people around helps me concentrate on tasks. I often pop over to the local spa I frequent, as they allow me to work from there. The ambient noise in the background provides a calming effect when I’m tackling tasks that aren’t particularly enjoyable.
At times when I can’t visit the spa, I use Body Doubling.
However, I find that I am at my most productive when I have clarity and there’s no looming uncertainty. It’s during these moments that I experience hyperfocus. The work I accomplish during these periods exceeds any other time. Therefore, I’m constantly exploring ways to make tasks more stimulating and engaging.
Time management might be a peculiar puzzle for those with ADHD, but it’s a challenge worth embracing. By understanding your unique relationship with time, using technology and strategies to your advantage, seeking support, and maintaining your own well-being, you can navigate the time warp with confidence. Time management is an adventure for everyone, so approach it with understanding and openness, knowing that every day is another step towards better days as a business owner.