“This will only take 20 minutes.” has to be the most used phrase said by people with ADHD. How many times have you wildly under- or overestimated how long something would take? Here’s why: Research shows people with ADHD have an impaired perception of time, which is why we often fail to predict how long tasks will take. In psychology this is called “time blindness” or “planning fallacy.”
I’m well aware of this phenomenon and I still make this mistake. Progress over perfection, amiright? Just today I thought it was going to take 20 minutes to take a shower and get ready on hair wash day, and it ended up taking 40. That was just silly.
A ridiculously simple but effective tool I use to manage time blindness is a kitchen timer.
It’s so effective for ADHD because it can help us visualize time passing and it can help keep us on track (or put a fire under our butt) when we need it.
I use two different timers for very specific reasons.
These are both from Amazon –
Analog Countdown Timer: This one I originally bought because I liked the aesthetic, but it makes a pretty loud ticking sound so I cant use it to concentrate, but it’s actually really helpful for everything else. I actually like the ticking sound because it reminds me that time is literally ticking away so I stay on track when I’m getting ready, cleaning, cooking, organizing, basically doing anything that requires me to move.
The Time Timer: This one is not as cute but it's effective and it's silent, it helps me visualize time, but it doesn't make a ticking sound at all so I use it for deep focus tasks like writing. And you have the option of having the alarm go off at the end or not.
Common Activities We Underestimate
Getting your kids ready.
Responding to emails.
The opposite is true for things we don’t like to do. When it’s a task we’re not interested in or find challenging, we procrastinate because we think it’s going to take longer than it actually does. Seriously. How long do you think it takes to empty the dishwasher? 15 minutes? 20? It probably takes you under 5.
There’s a lot of reasons why we do this, covered in this article: optimism bias, self-serving bias, memory bias, focalism (the tendency for us to give too much weight on a single piece of information.)
Common Activities We Overestimate
Emptying the dishwasher.
Basically anything we find boring or too challenging.
How Can A Time Tracker Help?
Actively tracking your time may also help you develop better time management.
You download my planner designed specifically for ADHD brains, which includes a time log as well as helpful, easy to digest information about how the ADHD brain works.