Ep 46: the one about getting real with time




It’s true: ADHD significantly impacts our ability to care for our needs and responsibilities and to do so on time. Today we’re talking about how to get out of that bind. Life feels lighter when we are more accurate about how long things take and what is possible in a day. Getting real with time includes questioning what doesn’t work with typical advice, how it can lower stress and overwhelm, and allow more of you in your day. It’s time to experiment with what works for us to end the fight with time. 
Welcome to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle Podcast, for those of us with ADHD, who have had enough of trying harder and want to live a more comfortable, healthy, and happy life with less frustration and overwhelm. It’s time to get rid of guilt and shame–around having ADHD, our needs, and challenges through stories, knowledge, and humor to speak up about the experience of women, moms, and being late diagnosed with ADHD. 
We can build acceptance and growing our self-compassion over time, to help us take care of ourselves, ask for help when we need it, and be comfortable with who we are. Join me, Moira Maybin, as I share knowledge about ADHD to make your life easier, and what choices you have to make your tomorrow a more ADHD Friendly day.
Thank you for being part of the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, hosted by Moira Maybin. Subscribe to the show on the podcast player of your choice and leave a rating and review. Join the conversation today!
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Show Notes:

Topics discussed in today's episode:

01:37 Moira:  How to get out the bind of time management with ADHD. 

03:13 Moira:  What is missing from advice given often to help us improve our time management skills 

04:23 Moira:  5 things to consider about ADHD & Time 

05:41 Moira:  How to get real with how long things take 

09:19 Moira: The good that comes from knowing how long things take 

10:56 Moira: How to stay real with time but not feel too structured or rigid 

11:55 Moira: Finding ways to have more of you in your days 

14:24 Moira: Practicing or Experimenting? 

18:30 Moira: What I could do next time using time awareness 

21:28 Moira: Recap

  1. Solutions that work for neurotypicals that aren’t fully adapted for an ADHD brain can contribute to feelings of inadequacy.  
  2. We tend to fall into two groups. Most of us are under-estimators, and a few are over-estimators.  
  3. Knowing how long things take can greatly help with including more of what we like in our lives, staying real with time and not being too rigid.  



Moira Maybin  00:00  I acknowledge that I live, work, and play on the shared, unceded territories of the Semiahmoo First Nation. The Semiahmoo People have been stewards of this land since time immemorial. 

Moira Maybin  00:16 

Welcome to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle. I’m your host, Moira Maybin, a woman, Mom, and educator, and I have late diagnosed ADHD. The more I know about my ADHD, the easier life is to make different decisions, ones that are more ADHD friendly. We can use this time to practice getting rid of guilt or shame and spending more time with our strengths and passions. I want to share all of this with you. For show notes, including next steps, resources, and articles on this topic, visit adhdfriendlylifestyle.com.  

Moira Maybin 00:51 

It’s true. ADHD significantly impacts our ability to care for our needs and responsibilities and meet them on time. So today, let’s discuss how to get out of that bind. Life feels lighter. When we can be more accurate about how long things take and what is possible in a day. We can use that information to decrease stress and overwhelm and increase our ability to do things on time. What we need to add to our knowledge of ADHD and time is a way forward that includes our reality and complements how we do things, including self-awareness and experimenting with what works for us. There is a way to end the fight with time. 

Moira Maybin 01:37 

Today’s episode is not going to give us more time. I still haven’t cracked that nut. But it will help us understand where our time goes. And become more accurate in estimating how long things take and how to tweak it for our needs. So if time is a struggle, there is hope. We can develop skills and knowledge that are flexible and simple enough to apply in more than one situation to make our life easier. It can become a personalized framework that includes helpful reminders. Like a day has 24 hours and a visual for how we spend our day. As with most things, I strongly encourage us to remember to include self-compassion and awareness in the mix too. It certainly helps me with the ongoing need to re-accept and reapply the facts of time that my brain wishes were different. Are you with me on that?  

Moira Maybin 02:26 

We started getting real about time a few episodes back. Numbers 44 and 45 were about timeliness and time awareness. How a brain with ADHD experiences time differently and ways to become more aware of time. If you’ve been listening to this series on time, I hope it’s clear now that time and ADHD are complicated and multifaceted. It continually evolves and changes over our life. With all the ways ADHD impacts time management and how hard it is for us to have adequate support, it becomes too easy to heap blame and judgment on ourselves or throw in the towel. So instead, let’s take a moment to give ourselves some credit for how far we have come. Wahoo!  

Moira Maybin 03:13 

When preparing for this episode, I reviewed advice often given to us to help improve our time management skills. These include setting multiple alarms, leaving earlier, getting organized, having routines, using calendars, and getting ready the night before. Oh wow. So that’s it. We’re done here. Because now we know what to do from here. Alright, here’s why lists like this can contribute to our feelings of inadequacy. If it were as simple as knowing what we are not doing, I think most of us would cry, “Uh huh. That’s the secret sauce,” and do it. The message that there’s something wrong with us is reinforced by taking what works for neurotypical people saying it louder and more often and hoping that it’ll do the trick. One list even suggested investigating a possible underlying mental health condition if this didn’t work. My diagnosis exasperation because there are some significant flaws to this approach. Once we people with ADHD know them, it becomes easier to spot when they get paraded out as the way forward. I’ve got five of them for you right now.  

Moira Maybin 04:23 

Here they are.  

#1 ADHD is a performance disorder. We can know what to do and not be able to do it. That’s how we are made.  

#2 Repeated, less-than-successful attempts to do things others seem to do easily can mess with our heads.  

#3 We do best when we can include a good old PINCH in what we’re doing, and that includes time management. No squeezing involved here. PINCH stands for Passion, Interest, Novelty, Challenge, and Haste. I don’t mean haste in hurrying, but as in not having endless time, the benefits of a deadline.  

#4 We can learn how to adult. It’s easier with 1, 2 and 3 in mind. And when we have support over an extended time to practice consistency and skill building, especially if we didn’t get the chance growing up to watch, try and practice any of these.  

#5 ADHD knowledge about ADHD in general and time in particular helps, but it also requires self-understanding to make decisions that work for me.  

Moira Maybin 05:41 

To get real with time, first, we need to get better at knowing what we’re doing with our time and how long regular things take. Then we can use that to see if we’re being realistic about what we can do in a day. So much of our day is predetermined. How much time is used to sleep, eat, commute, be a caregiver, work, and exercise? Then it’s how we do things we have to take into account too. When you wake in the morning, do you spring out of bed? Or do you need some time to wake up?  

Moira Maybin 06:15 

We know we all get the same 24 hours. We also know that with ADHD, we’re less accurate in estimating how long something will or did take. To grow our abilities with time, we can get better at estimating. Think of something you do most days. Pick something easy, simple, or boring. Brushing your teeth, showering, taking out the garbage. How long does it take you to do that task? How do you know if what you’re thinking is correct? Next time you do the thing, test it out. Before you do it, write down your estimate of how long you think it’ll take and what time it is. 

Write it down. Because even when we try to remember, we often can forget. So let’s take the easy route. Now time yourself. Don’t worry if you forget that you were doing this. Just try it again tomorrow. No big deal. How accurate were you? We tend to fall into two groups. Most of us with ADHD are under-estimators, and a few are over-estimators. I hinted at which camp I am in when I said, I never have enough time for things. Being a time optimist is code for chronically underestimating how long things take.  

Moira Maybin 07:34 

Overestimating can lead to paralysis and procrastination. Over-estimators routinely put things off, rationalizing that they don’t have enough time to do it. I encourage you to try the same thing. Make a guesstimate and time yourself. Write down what the actual time was too. Over-estimators find out that it didn’t take hours, months or even forever. Things can be finished. And it’s not nearly as long as they thought.  

Moira Maybin 08:05 

Don’t stop yourself at estimating just one thing. Try it out with lots of things you do regularly. Guess how long it will take, then time yourself. And if most of us are under estimators, think about the trickle-down effect when we underestimate how long each thing takes. And then consider how many different things we do in a day or even an hour. It becomes easy to see how we can get behind. How often do we beat ourselves up for getting behind or not getting enough done when we haven’t considered what is humanly possible in a set amount of time?  

Moira Maybin 08:46 

Even though I know I know, I tend to underestimate. I routinely need reminders and support to acknowledge and accept that most things will take longer than I naturally expect them to take. I have ways to remind myself to assess how long things take. With this knowledge and some self-compassion these experiences can become an opportunity for more awareness, not failure or futility. 

Moira Maybin 09:19 

 I can’t overstate how much help it is to find out how long it takes me to eat breakfast. The different variations of showering and grooming, getting dressed and getting out the door. If I only have 10 minutes to get ready, I know what version I can pull off. If I have 20 minutes, I can decide to make that cup of coffee or spend longer getting ready. It helped my anxiety so much having this information. I started with everyday things. And then, once I had that information, I started finding out the time needed for things that happen less often. If you have kiddos or other living beings dependent on you, I find it very helpful to have versions that include timing for what I need to help with as compared to when I get to do the thing on my own.  

Moira Maybin 10:04 

The process is to have a way, any way, to gather the timing for what we do regularly. We can start with individual tasks or chunk of time, record what we are doing with the start and stop times, write it down, use speech-to-text, or use a timestamped picture at the beginning. And at the end. How long does it take to do the dishes, get ready for bed, and get out the door? I consistently underestimated all of them. When things go sideways, I also include that information to have the context. If a kid came in crying because they had an injury, and it took me an extra 30 minutes to clean the kitchen, having that written down helps. Later, when I’m upset that I took so long in the kitchen, having already forgotten that I became a nurse for part of that time. My time tracking helps me show myself some my time tracking helps me show myself some self-compassion.  

Moira Maybin 10:56 

My big question was how to stay real with time but not feel too rigid. I get great pleasure from my free-range time when I allow myself not to worry or consider time, if I don’t get some during the day, I’ll stay up at night. Through trial and error, I decided to include free range time in my life. It can be 15 minutes, up to days, that I get to do what I want or is just in front of my face. I benefit from that freedom from time to time. However, I have found that if I let it go on too long, I can get stuck there. Then I either feel mildly dejected or fervently revved up to an anxiety induced overwhelm and combined with a decreased ability to prioritize good times. My free-range time has many benefits. It makes me happy. I look forward to it. I have less bedtime revenge procrastination. And it helps motivate me to do the necessary parts of time management. 

Moira Maybin 11:55 

Another surprise bonus was this, I love to read. And over the last few years have started including it more often as little brain breaks. Somehow a good novel will help settle my brain and nervous system. Thanks to my e-reader I know that my typical reading sessions are about 20 minutes. Yes, when I get into a good book, I may burn the midnight oil, to finish it. But during the day, and when I’m on my ADHD medication. 20 minutes is about what it takes to satisfy that urge. Now that I know that I start my day with a reading session, it’s awesome. It’s a positive spin off from doing this work. Finding ways to insert more things I like to do.  

Moira Maybin  12:35 

When I’m trying to figure out a framework for my day or a chunk of time, I have to write it down. I won’t be able to remember it otherwise. I used to rehearse mentally things like this repeatedly. But that’s exhausting. When I need to go somewhere, I usually start with the things that I already know how long the drive is, according to Google Maps. In the case of traffic and not my memory, I add in how long I usually take to get out the door, throw in a buffer of five or 10 minutes for the unexpected. I also know I have to pack a bag, shower, groom and return some emails. I have a list of how long most of these things take. So I add that beside each task. For the emails, I will have to set a time limit with a hard stop the time I must end what I’m doing to meet a future time commitment, or I will keep going just one more, or forget my timing. There’s a whole host of reasons. Hard stops helped me protect and take care of myself and others. 

Moira Maybin 13:36 

At this point, when I’m trying to sort out timing for a bunch of things, the wheels can easily come off the bus. Unless in addition to writing it down, I work it out backwards. I need to reverse engineer a timeline for when I need to be there. Since I struggle with waiting, I want to arrive five minutes before I’m required to be somewhere. It’s just enough time to arrive, breath and clear my head. That means I must include time for arriving.  How long does it take to park, walk in, whatever. If it’s 15 minutes, I need to add that to my travel time, and tell myself that is when I need to leave. These days, I add my travel time to my schedule, and then figure out where any hard stops are needed to get out the door on time. 

Moira Maybin 14:24 

This is a practice I consistently need when I want to stay on track or be on time. I think practice because it’s more doable for me. I allow myself more understanding about the variations and how I do, because it’s not the big game, there’s no do or die. To get real with time. I am curious if practicing or experimenting resonates better for you? To become more aware, less judgmental, and increase our skills and increase our skills with time requires becoming a curious scientist. It’s being curious and kind and accepting what happens without judgment. And then to use that to figure out what if any changes or tweaks would make it fit better. What happens provides information, it’s an ongoing process.  

Moira Maybin 15:10 

We don’t naturally pick up many of these things. And we need more support and practice to learn how to do them. But we can. Sometimes it involves unlearning a way that is doing us more harm. Even if it works for many others. There’s also a difference between recognizing something doesn’t work, and it not working right away. Don’t give up if you try this and things don’t go as you hope. It’s information. If you were going to do it again, what would you do differently? What do you want to take? And what do you want to leave? 

Yesterday one of my kids needed to be somewhere at 430. About an hour before we discussed the timeline, and that we needed to head out the door at 410. We went our separate ways. And I got involved with what I was doing. I kept glancing at the clock as I worked away, impressed at my awareness. The wonders of ADHD and time strike again. Have you spotted my mistake already. We discussed the timeline; we didn’t write it down or setting reminders. What happened? The reality in my head shifted from being there at 430 to leaving at 430. So when said teenager walked into my office eating eggs at 426, I wasn’t concerned, they didn’t seem either. Until they reminded me, they needed to be there at 430. We got out the door as quickly as we could. I reviewed in my head what went wrong. and knowing that this kiddo doesn’t like a mom to suggest ADHD support for them these days, I offered that next time I could try setting some timers for myself to stop and get going. I felt positive I had an opportunity to model some problem solving. I said I could create two alarms on my watch specifically for warning that a hard stop is coming and then for a hard stop time.  

Moira Maybin 16:50 

In the past, I would have felt bad or guilty about creating the situation. And if I’m totally honest, as I watched my kid get ready for the game, while their teammates were already warming up, I did wish for a different outcome. I am an adult. It was ultimately my responsibility. I certainly don’t get upset when they make themselves late. I now sit in the car with a book to wait until they’re ready, instead of losing my mind or arguing to hurry up in the house. In that moment, I allowed myself to remember all the other good things I have and do well for my children. And I let this go. When we view these experiments as practice repeated trying without judgment, we can learn information that can help us without it doing harm to us.  

Moira Maybin 17:31 

What I’m choosing to take from that experiment is that I do need some support to get out the door on time. I was kind of ho hum about setting alarms. It does tick necessary boxes to be accessible for me and my ADHD, it is easy to set up. It has the potential to become consistent. And it’s easily doable for me on the fly. After a bit more thought I tweaked my heart stop/ wiggle room alarms in a way that will make me more inclined to use them and actually enjoy them. I will allow myself time to find music for the alarms that fit the intent and maybe even and maybe even literally, like finding one that has an emphatic stop at the beginning or something that feels wiggly or is about running out of time. I will enjoy the search. And I will like those alarms for a while until I don’t then it will be time for change. I own it. I own it because doing all of this, over time has improved my time awareness and management. But more importantly, it’s improved my sense of well-being, and relationships.  

Moira Maybin 18:30 

Once we have timed  the regular parts of our day, we can use that to our advantage too. Knowing where the time goes, allows us to see how much is precommitted, and what we have left to allocate. Recognizing how long things take gives us a greater understanding of our time, it’s easier to see how full our plate is, and express that to others. We can use it to avoid over committing or blocking out time to get places on time. When we have this information, some of it will stay consistent. And other times we will need to update it as seasons or life changes. I keep a list of the regular things, so I don’t have to figure them out repeatedly. I did not know that it takes me about 20 minutes to arrive when working at a school from when I walk in the door to when I’m ready to engage. I would have guessed about five minutes. Now that I know that I allow for it, because when I don’t, I tend to forget all my good time management skills and that can get me off the track. My estimating skills have gotten a lot better. Generally, I take my initial thought and then double or triple aim for things that I have had repeatedly done this for. I can also remember, “Oh wait, no I was off.” So add even more time. It is what it is. I still want things to take less time. But that’s usually impossible. The only other choice is to practice acceptance and allow things to take the time and space they need. It decreases overwhelm and stress. If you, like me, put more pressure on yourself than anyone else this really helped with that. I also tend to take on too much. When I stop doing this, I will use one of my tools to find a way to start again. This can happen in many ways. In fact, it just happened. As I’ve worked on this episode, I finally feel like it is clicking, and there’s still more on the page to share. So I will practice tweaking to get this done knowing that there’s more content for future episodes.  

Moira Maybin 20:28 

In practical terms, this means that as we’ve continued this series on time and ADHD, it keeps becoming apparent that there are multiple avenues that we can explore. We can use this knowledge to allow ourselves grace and kindness, ADHD, and time factors into everything we discussed today and how we interact with our to do lists, calendars, commitments, and goals. How many of us can and do struggle to develop planning, prioritizing scheduling and reviewing skills? We don’t need to do it all at once. I hope it is no surprise when our neurobiology and needs differ from the neurotypical model because of how we experience time and energy. Time management is not a simple fill in the box solution. That’s why we will continue to discuss how we can bridge these differences to create a more ADHD friendly lifestyle.  

Moira Maybin 21:28 

Okay, you’ve done the hard work by seeing to the end your reward. Here are the main takeaways from today’s episode.  

  1. Solutions that work for neurotypicals that aren’t fully adapted for an ADHD brain can contribute to feelings of inadequacy.   
  2. We tend to fall into two groups. Most of us are under-estimators, and a few are over-estimators.   
  3. Knowing how long things take can greatly help with including more of what we like in our lives, staying real with time and not being too rigid.   
  4. We don’t naturally pick up many of these things and need more support and ongoing practice to learn how to do them without judgment, but we can.  

Thank you for joining me today. If you like this episode, tune in again and if you know someone who will be inspired or encouraged by listening to the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle, please share this. You can find the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle on your favorite podcast player. So go ahead and take a moment to subscribe right now to make sure you’ll never miss an episode. Follow the ADHD Friendly Lifestyle on Facebook and Instagram for lighthearted expressions of life with ADHD alongside ideas and resources to support me or the podcast check out Patreon at patreon.com/adhdfriendlylifestyle.com  for exclusive content, early access to episodes and a one-hour live Q&A and Ask Me Anything each month for every Patreon supporter. At the 25 and $50 levels you’ll be invited to monthly group coaching sessions and more. Looking for other great ADHD podcasts to have on your playlist? ADHD Essential hosted by Brendan Mahan and Hacking your ADHD with Will Curb. Brendan covers many topics related to parenting and family life with ADHD. Will focuses on tools tips and insight that always inspire. Happy listening. I’ll be back again with you on the next one. 

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Picture of Moira Maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)

Moira Maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)

I help people with ADHD who are tired of trying harder and are ready to give up the struggle. This is the place for the late-diagnosed, women, moms, professionals, those who want to understand ADHD, be heard, and know they are not alone. An ADHD Friendly Lifestyle builds our ability to take care of ourselves and use our unique strengths and talents to create a life that works for us.

Picture of Moira Maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)
Moira Maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)

I help people with ADHD who are tired of trying harder and are ready to give up the struggle. This is the place for the late-diagnosed, women, moms, professionals, those who want to understand ADHD, be heard, and know they are not alone. An ADHD Friendly Lifestyle builds our ability to take care of ourselves and use our unique strengths and talents to create a life that works for us.

I help people with ADHD who are tired of trying harder and are ready to give up the struggle. This is the place for the late-diagnosed, women, moms, professionals, those who want to understand ADHD, be heard, and know they are not alone. An ADHD Friendly Lifestyle builds our ability to take care of ourselves and use our unique strengths and talents to create a life that works for us.

Moira maybin, M.Ed. (EdPsy.)