- Most people plan their time, monitor their use of time, and evaluate how much time they have
- Most people’s energy can operate like a dimmer switch—they can raise or lower it, but that’s not how it works for those of us with ADHD.
- can feel like a mystery
- often find us having no idea how long some things take,
- leads to overwhelm, uncertainty where time goes,
- why it can go so slow other times,
- struggling or having no idea how to stop doing something,
- worried we won’t be able to re-start or
- that we will forget to do things to keep us alive—eat, sleep, breaks, bathe
- lose track of time to the point that we cannot make any decisions about anything until we refuel and recharge
- A neurological difference in how time is “FELT” and “processed” by those with ADHD.
- Time is felt as either now, or Not Now
- Future events have the same time span and importance
- often lead to overwhelm—when one item in the future has equal weight with everything else in the future how do we prioritize?
- What makes this even harder is our vague Sense of how long things take,
- a high likelihood of Procrastination (for a whole bunch of executive function challenges we come by honestly)
- no surprise when we realize there isn’t enough time to get the things done it leads to feeling anxious and disappointed.
- Typical ways to Perceive and Use Time by Planning, monitoring, and evaluating, doesn’t work for us very well, or maybe at all
- we don’t have a dimmer switch on our energy levels either—our energy is most often either on or off.
- we create our own tagging system based on the emotions that tasks or activities either require or generate and use that to manage time.
- Things that seem mundane or manageable to people without ADHD can be very draining and require a lot of energy for people with ADHD,
- including lights, temperature, sounds etc.,
- anything that takes a conscious effort to cope with or override—they require energy as well.
- a tool developed to help with motivation
- instead of anxiety, avoidance, procrastination, anger, shame and/or self-loathing to get things done.
- From Tamara Rosier Your Brain’s Not Broken
- a way to understand how we’ve tagged tasks and activities in terms of our emotional response to them, and energy needed. Four quadrants containing a different type of activity and energy.
- What goes in each quadrant is individual to each person and can change over time.
- We need all quadrants in our lives
- typical patterns we can find ourselves in:
- is YELLOW RED: yellow, yellow, orange, orange, RED!!!!
- RED-BLUE–being all fired up to get the things done, going hard then flopping and getting stuck
- GO GREEN: they are fun-loving, free spirits, details are not for them
- ALL BLUE most often found typically among adolescent males or those who have highly addictive behaviours including gaming
- –YELLOW- GREEN: a balance of getting practical things done with doing things that restore and bring joy. (mostly Neurotypicals)
- Can’t change things if we don’t know what we are doing,
- Change doesn’t come easily; shifting from one quadrant to another is hard and it takes work.
- We may gravitate to one pattern, but we don’t have to stay there.
- Start to play the quadrants
- Look at what to put in each quadrant for a balanced day
- limit YELLOW to 1 or 2 tasks/day to be completed before noon
- Is there a way to turn a Yellow thing into a Green?
- Do a Green thing before doing a Yellow task (be careful to not get stuck!)
- When our time and energy is out of whack, we feel it.
- Understanding how people with ADHD process time and energy is so important to avoid mental and physical health costs.
- The grid helps us know the cost of things for both our time and energy—everything we do or don’t do has a cost.
- IF you want to take in details and specifics or read through the transcript on this, you can go to my website and on the page for this episode you will find links to visuals, articles and show notes on this topic.
- A neurological difference in how time is “FELT” and “processed” by those with ADHD means how we experience Time and energy is different to neurotypicals
- Not knowing how we Perceive, and Use Time can lead to many struggles with daily life, relationships, our health and well being
- The Time and Energy Solve It Grid is a tool that helps with motivation, managing our time and energy. It also gives us a way to communicate why our energy can be “on” or “off” and how we can struggle with time.
- When we know our individual time and energy patterns we can make decisions about these limited resources—that can help make our lives more satisfying.
Moira Maybin 00:05
I have always wanted more time and energy to do ALL the things. Time and energy are limited resources that many of us struggle with. Have you ever wished you could have a built-in dimmer switch that either speeds you up or slows you down? What about another dimmer switch for how much energy you’re using to save some for later? Nope, we’re not built that way. And for most of us, time and energy has seemed elusive and slippery, never quite under our control. We can know how people with ADHD process time and energy. Understanding matters for our day-to-day life. Being able to show up on time get things done, be in a good state of mind for group activity, and our long term physical and mental health. having ADHD means our use of time and energy impacts overwhelm, frustration, anger, and our immune system. Today we’re talking about how time and energy works when we have ADHD, including how we might experience it, and some solutions to make life more ADHD friendly.
Moira Maybin 1:08
Welcome to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, part of the ADHD reWired Podcast Network. I’m your host, Moira Maybin, a woman, mom, educator, and I have late diagnosed ADHD. This is the place to practice getting rid of guilt or shame and spending more time with our strengths and passions. There are things that I wish I had known about my ADHD sooner that are allowing me to make different decisions to make my life more ADHD friendly, and I want to share them with you. For show notes, including next steps, resources, and articles on this topic, visit ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com. If you have never been a room either personally or virtually, with a group of ADHDers, you are missing out on a special treasure. I invite you to join all of us on the second Tuesday of every month at 10:30 am Pacific for our live Q&A. To sign up, go to ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com/about and scroll down to the green Register button. So that’s the second Tuesday of every month you can join us for our live Q&A. Go to my website, ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com/about. And when you’re at the live Q&A, be sure to let me know you’re there because of the podcast.
Moira Maybin 02:16
Okay, let’s get started. Most people plan their time, monitor their use of time and evaluate how much time they have. And most people’s energy can operate like a dimmer switch, they can raise or lower it. But that’s not how it works for those of us with ADHD, how do people with ADHD perceive and use time? Well, it can feel like a mystery. We often find that we have no idea how long something takes that can lead to overwhelm, frustration, uncertainty, where the time goes, why can go slow other times struggling or having no idea how to stop doing something worried we won’t be able to restart, or that we will forget to do the things that keep us alive, eating, sleeping, having a break bathing.
Moira Maybin 3:03
I’ve been known to road trip solo, and then decided to good idea to drive straight through without stopping to eat, drink or move. So, no surprise I arrive at my destination with a cramped and sore body. I’ve also lost track of time to the point that I cannot make any decisions about anything. My brain is just mush. Another challenge with time and energy. Picture this a nine-month-old baby with ADHD on her first transatlantic flight stays awake for nine hours looking around. She would get drowsy and almost be asleep. Then someone or something would catch her eye. That led to her being so overtired that she couldn’t stay asleep long enough to get rested for an entire two-week trip. It wasn’t until we were home. And Grandma was able to hold her and soothe her back to sleep, that she was able to sleep consistently again. Something as her exhausted mama I was in desperate need of. We now know that for her. When she’s overtired. It’s harder to go and stay asleep. Our energy levels and our use of time are connected. And they impact our health.
Moira Maybin 04:10
Why do we have these challenges with time and energy to the point of impacting our ability to care for ourselves? Well, because there’s a neurological difference in how time is felt and processed by those with ADHD. We feel everything timewise as he’s there now or not now, future events exist in the same time span and important wait. So logically, we know that getting ready for dinner party and finishing reading my book have different levels of importance, but in the moment, they both feel as important. It’s only when we can feel future events getting close, and they are in the here and now that it becomes clear that as much as I want to read my novel if I don’t get something into the oven soon, there will be no food eaten tonight.
This can often lead to overwhelm when one item in the future has equal weight. With everything else in the future. How do we prioritize? What makes us even harder is our vague sense of how long things take, which you’ll hear more about in a future episode on Moyers magical time, and a high likelihood of procrastination. For a whole bunch of executive function challenges, we come by honestly. So, it’s no surprise when we realize that there isn’t enough time to get things done. It leads to feeling anxious and disappointed. So, if it was just about only staying on track with time, I’ve got a way to do that. One way I’ve tried to help myself make time more real is by using a visual Time Timer. I have clocks in every room in my house. But looking at the numbers doesn’t land the same in my brain, as when there’s a full red desk or circle to represent an hour like on a Time Timer. It’s like having a whole pie for 60 minutes. Half a pie is 30 minutes. And as the time elapses, the disk disappears, I have the option of a buzzer or not when the time is gone. I use this every morning, I have one in the bathroom, and one in the kitchen. And it helps me not just stop being late but having to rush. I can tell from a glance, if I’m on track or need to speed up my morning routine, it’s just easier.The differences in how people with ADHD process or feel time means the typical way to perceive and use time through planning, monitoring, and evaluating doesn’t work very well for us, or maybe at all. The other takeaway that was so important for me is that we don’t have a dimmer switch on our energy levels either. Our energy is most often either on or off. The different way we gauge our use of time is by the energy we expend or generate during a task or activity.
Moira Maybin 06:50
As people with ADHD move through our world, we create a tagging system based on the emotions that tasks or activities either require or generate, and use that to manage time. You know the saying time flies when you’re having fun? That’s literally true for us. The same goes for things that we’d rather stick a fork in our eye than do. They are harder, and time moves slower for us. What you may have suspected all along is true. Things that seem mundane or manageable to people without ADHD can be very draining and require a lot of energy for people with ADHD, including lights, temperature sounds, anything that takes a conscious effort to cope with or override. They require energy as well. Both time and energy are limited resources. And fortunately, there are solutions to make both more ADHD friendly.
Moira Maybin 07:42
The time and energy Solve-It Grid was a tool developed to help us with motivation in a way that isn’t harmful. So, we don’t have to use anxiety, avoidance, procrastination, anger, shame, or self-loathing to get things done. I learned about it from Dr. Tamara Rosier, who recently published a book called Your Brain’s not Broken. And it’s amazing. I’ve always learned a lot from her. The time and energy Solve-It Grid gives us a way to understand how we’re tagging tasks and activities in terms of our emotional response to them, and the energy needed. And we can find ourselves out of balance by spending either too much time or not enough time in each square.
Can you picture a grid with four quadrants or squares? If that’s not working for you? Check out the links on the episode page on my website. Each one contains a different type of activity and energy, and we’re going to go through all four. First, we can probably all easily enough agree that to a brain with ADHD. Everything can be fit into the categories of either fun, or not fun. Think about all the things you do in life. For me, creating this episode is fun. Researching ADHD is fun. Traveling is fun. washing a car is not fun. paying a bill is not fun. Cooking, for the most part is not fun. And feeding is not fun. So, most of us can either put things into fun or not fun things that we find fun, impact our motivation, drive and happiness and make it easier or more likely we will want to do the thing. What we find fun and not fun is individual.
The second part is how we’ve tagged things emotionally. Is it stimulating or not? Stimulating emotions can be considered positive or negative. But really, it’s anything that we react to emotionally, joy, happiness, humor, anger, drama, or panic. You know, all those things we just don’t care about. That’s a lack of emotional stimulation. Things that we do not have any interest in at all. Taking out the garbage anyone? As I said what goes on each quadrant is individual to each person, and it can change over time.
We need all quadrants in our lives. Being aware of how to use and manage both our time and energy is important if we want to get things done, not burnout, and have ways to do things when we get that I don’t want us, we do need to have a balance, that’ll become more clear when I explain the patterns and how we can get stuck in a quadrant. Just like a balanced diet or sufficient sleep. I’m going to explain each quadrant more in depth before getting into the typical patterns we can find ourselves in, and what to do to make our lives more ADHD friendly.
So there are two quadrants that are both emotionally stimulating, but one falls in the fun category. And the other one in the not fun category. There are colors connected to each one. And things that are emotionally stimulating, and fun are green. In the green quadrant, you’ll find anything that fills you up with joy, energy, recharged us, and it often can take a fair bit of energy, but it will also energize us to tackle those mundane tasks. For me, that can include learning new things, listening to music, singing, being outside, physical activity, laughing, good food, reading, spending time with people who I love. When we are in the green quadrant, we are experiencing our favorite things that are both stimulating and energizing. It can be transformative in our lives, bring us closer to our authentic self, and ways to simply enjoy life. We need and deserve time here. Many of us need to figure out how to be able to spend time here. People with ADHD are not wired for harmony, peace, calmness, self-soothing, but we can attain it.
The other type of emotional stimulation is the kind that is typically considered not fun. This is the red quadrant. Red includes tasks and activities that aren’t fun to do but do have some sort of emotional response from us. It’s a way to motivate by increasing the emotional state to complete the task, but it’s very draining. It can become addictive, and often leads to burnout. Some love the momentary thrill, while others try to shut it down or avoid it. We can see it as a need for speed, procrastinating on anything, getting into arguments, speeding, rushing, anxiety, panic, creating stress or drama, feeling pressure, anything that leads to a higher-pressure situation.
Moira Maybin 12:21
A friend told me about how when he would get bored at work, he would create drama, just make things a little bit more interesting for him. I don’t know how that would go over in the workplace. The lower half of the grid are things that generally don’t stimulate our emotions. The yellow quadrant is for the combination of not fun, and no emotional stimulation. Well, woot woot, who wants to join me there? It can include anything that doesn’t hold our interest and drains our energy levels. Because they’re not funny. There, we want to wish the task away. Things in this quadrant are unique to each person, like routine tasks that can frustrate people with ADHD, or are incredibly boring. Anything that makes you cranky, and you have zero desire to do it. The last quadrant is the blue one. Things that are fun, but not very emotionally stimulating. We all have passive pleasurable activities. Like when we stream scroll or play video games that first short while that can help us re-energize to tackle less engaging tasks. Some time here can be restful and include quiet play. But downshifting can lead to numbing, and we can hide out here because we’re so emotionally overstimulated the other times, we get exhausted, it can be a total time sucker. We stay in blue, as it can take energy to go from blue to green.
Moira Maybin 13:45
I hope you’re still with me. To be honest, I’m not sure I could follow without having a visual in front of me. It might become clear as I explained, the general patterns we people with ADHD can get into. One of them that’s very familiar to me, is the yellow, red pattern. Pre diagnosis, I spent most of my life in the yellow quadrant, trying to get things done. Remember, this is the things that are not emotionally stimulating, and no fun. I was convinced that if I got all those things done, and sorted, then I was allowed to have fun and enjoy life. I was going to be responsible first. That was too much because honestly, how much of no fun and no emotional stimulation can one person take before they start to lose it? It depletes energy and executive function without any chance of recharging it. So guess what? After spending too much time in yellow, what can happen is it goes yellow, yellow, orange, orange, red. And one of the first things I tried to tackle when I knew I had ADHD was to avoid this pattern. Because I would show up angry, overwhelmed and frustrated and I knew that getting that point would not help others or myself. Some find that they’ve relied on going from yellow have read to be able to get things done. But at what cost is Hulk smashing our way through life?
Another one I tended to get into was red, blue, being all fired up to get the things done, going hard, then flopping and getting stuck in passive fun, but it’s not really restorative, or truly enjoyable activities. The other three are ones I can easily recognize in other people, just not myself. Some people just go green, they’re fun loving, free spirits, details are not for them. And getting much of daily life tasks just doesn’t happen. The all-blue team is most often found typically among adolescent males, or those who have highly addictive behaviors, including gaming. And the one that most neurotypical people find themselves in, is the yellow green pattern, a balance of getting practical things done, while doing things that restore and bring joy. So simple.
Moira Maybin 15:58
Taking the time to think through this episode was an important reminder to me that we can’t change things if we don’t know what we’re doing. But once we know, we can make different choices. We also know that it doesn’t come easily. Shifting from one quadrant to another is hard and it takes work, we may gravitate to one pattern, but we don’t have to stay there. One way to try things out is to start to play the quadrants. As part of needing to try ways to have more fun, relax, recharge, and experience different types of energy and demands. I’m going to have another look at what to put in each quadrant for balance day. At the same time, I’m also going to take into account what ones would fit for different parts of my cycle. Another idea is to try and limit the unstimulating and interesting things or yellow quadrant to one or two tasks a day to be completed before noon. Another way is to try and hack yellow to see if there’s a way to turn it into a green activity. It can help to add a green fun and interesting activity to build energy, enhance cognitive control and mood before doing a yellow task. And that’s been shown to help it may take some practice to learn how to end a green activity and move into something less rewarding or interesting.
Moira Maybin 17:14
When our time and energy are out of whack, it can show up in so many ways. Some of us feel it physically or being off. Others notice it in their moods, a decrease in healthy behaviors, or an increase in coping or addictive behaviors. Understanding how people with ADHD process time and energy is so important to avoid both mental and physical health costs. The grid helps us know the cost of things for both our time and energy. Everything we do or don’t do has a cost. Our life, time and energy are limited resources. It’s precious, and we deserve to know how and why to take care.
Moira Maybin 17:58
Okay, you’ve done the hard work by staying to the end your reward. Here are the main takeaways from today’s episode. Number one, a neurological difference and how time is felt and processed by those with ADHD means we experience time and energy differently to neurotypicals. Number two, not knowing how we perceive and use time can lead to many struggles with daily life, relationships, our health and well-being. Number three, the time and energy solvent grid is a tool that helps with motivation, managing our time and energy. And it also gives us a way to communicate why our energy can be on or off, and how we struggle with time. Number four, when we know our individual time and energy patterns, we can make decisions about these limited resources that can help make our lives more satisfying.
Moira Maybin 18:50
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s show and would love to hear your thoughts. To get in touch, you can write me an email at ask@ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com. Connect with me on my website, Instagram and Facebook at ADHD friendly lifestyle or Twitter at ADHDFL. Every episode has a website page with show notes, transcripts, next steps, resources and articles related to the topic. To get these visit ADHDfriendlylifestyle.com. If you’d like to support the podcast, the best way is to subscribe on the podcast player of your choice. And by taking the time to rate and review it they’re the ADHD reWired Podcast Network has four other podcasts for your listening pleasure. On Hacking your ADHD Will Curb gives Tips Tools and insights. Brenda Mahan hosts ADHD Essentials focusing on parenting and education. MJ is expanding the conversation around ADHD diversity and mental health on ADHD Diversified. And Eric Tivers hosts ADHD reWired with in depth stories and interviews. Thanks for listening. See you later.