Idaho, Iowa, Des Moines
May 18, 2024

Struggling with ADHD Time Management at Work? Try These Practical Tips

As a therapist specializing in ADHD, I understand the challenges that come with poor time management. If you have ADHD, you likely struggle with this frustrating issue, which can lead to excessive stress and burnout at work.

It often involves difficulty estimating task durations and sticking to schedules, resulting in missed deadlines, incomplete projects, and strained relationships with colleagues. However, there are strategies that can help mitigate these challenges and improve productivity for individuals with ADHD.

Let’s talk about some possible causes of your ADHD time management issues and explore coping strategies together. 

What Causes Poor ADHD Time Management?

Have you ever found yourself running late to a meeting because you inaccurately estimated how much time you needed to prepare and travel? Or perhaps you took on too many projects simultaneously because you underestimated how long each would take? Poor ADHD time management can create frustrating challenges that affect various aspects of your life, especially in the workplace where lateness and inefficiency are often frowned upon.

Several factors (aside from good ol’ brain chemistry) contribute to poor time management in individuals with ADHD, and I frequently observe these in my clients. 

Here are three of the most common examples I see in my practice.

  1. ADHD Time Blindness

ADHD time blindness is a well-known phenomenon among many ADHDers. 

Researchers suggest it is directly linked to executive functioning processes, which control aspects such as time management, attention, memory, and organization. In individuals with ADHD, these processes develop differently, resulting in challenges in estimating and perceiving time. It can feel like time either passes too quickly or too slowly, or that time passes without you being able to be “productive” enough.

  1. The “Perfectionism and Procrastination” Cycle

The relationship between perfectionism and procrastination is super common in my therapy and coaching clients. Research has shown that perfectionism and ADHD are likely linked. If you’re a perfectionist, you’re more likely to procrastinate on projects because they feel overwhelming or because you know deep down that your standards are impossible to meet. Procrastination might feel like a good coping mechanism in the moment, but it tends to create more anxiety and tension for your future self. 

  1. Not Setting Boundaries or Prioritizing Tasks

It can be easy to take on too many tasks and projects, especially when you don’t realize how much time something takes. That’s a classic ADHD time blindness issue. However, it’s also possible to take on too much work because of limited boundaries. Not having strong enough boundaries can be a result of people-pleasing or imposter syndrome.

Adhd time management

6 Tips to Improve ADHD Time Management at Work

These six tips can help you combat poor ADHD time management at work so you can feel happier, more productive, and less stressed. 

Tip #1: Use external accountability to help you stay on track and get your work done on time. This can look like signing up for online coworking groups (or real-life ones, if that’s available to you), setting alarms and timers for tasks, and using an external app that organizes your daily tasks for you.

Tip #2: Challenge the assumption that perfection is always best. Look for evidence that goes against your perfectionist beliefs. Consider times when your pursuit of perfection resulted in negative outcomes, or when making a mistake actually turned out to be beneficial. Have there been instances where your perfectionism led to burnout or strained relationships? Can you recall times when making a mistake led to receiving much-needed help or learning something valuable?

Tip #3: Start anyway. You might not feel “ready” to start something, but the more you procrastinate, the more stressed you’ll feel. Set a timer and just begin. Allow yourself to spend just 5-10 minutes doing something that feels hard, boring, or stressful, and then let yourself be done afterward. Celebrate this as the small win that it is!

Tip #4: Establish specific limits. Understanding your limitations is crucial for setting effective boundaries. It's common for workplace boundaries to be unclear. Identify specific boundaries you want to set, such as your working hours, availability outside of work, or the types of tasks you're comfortable taking on. Once you've defined these boundaries, you can prioritize tasks accordingly.

Tip #5: Practice open communication. It's important to openly share your boundaries with your colleagues, supervisors, and clients. This will help them understand what you need and what you're comfortable with. It will also set the stage for you to practice saying no to new meetings, tasks, or projects when you need to focus on what’s already on your plate. 

Tip #6: Try behavioral management strategies like therapy and/or medication. 

ADHD medication isn’t for everyone, but it can help improve certain executive functioning in the brain for some folks, including ADHD time blindness. Check with a doctor or psychiatrist to see if medication is right for you. You can also consider professional support from a therapist or ADHD coach who can provide personalized strategies and support tailored to your specific needs and challenges.

Ongoing Support for ADHD Time Management With Therapy or Coaching

If you’re looking for help improving your ADHD time management, I’m here to help. 

My coaching and therapy programs help give you specific strategies for your ADHD time management, work through any unhelpful beliefs and habits, and learn valuable coping tools so you can feel good enough in life and at work. 

I’ll help you learn how to:

  • Work WITH your unique brain chemistry – instead of against it – to reach your goals
  • Find useful tools to help you stay on task and feel more organized
  • Overcome old coping strategies like perfectionism and people-pleasing 
  • Establish strong, clear boundaries
  • Communicate your needs effectively and kindly

I also offer a coaching program specifically for perfectionists with ADHD that is designed to give you support and guidance around feeling good enough in your professional and personal life. If you want help overcoming the belief that you have to climb the neverending ladder of achievement to be worthy and lovable, coaching is for you.

Reach out today to schedule a complimentary consultation and see if we’re a good fit. Let’s start building a better future together. 

Meet the author

Danielle Wayne

Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.

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