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ADHD and Time Perception: Turning an Elusive Concept into a Tangible Resource

A young adult I know recently showed me a poem she had written simply entitled "Time". She has generously given me permission to share her poem here:


by Rayna Tijerina

I command the slow drip of a faucet and the quick sway of a river

I am every place you go but no place you have ever stayed

I am slow, sloppy, stealthy, and strict

My foes became weary-worriers

I am fast, fierce and unforgiving

I hold no joy in running out on them, yet I cannot be controlled

They count, they pace, they record, they chase, but they can’t keep me

The steady slow slip is because of me

No one can move me

No one can hide from me

No one can run from me

I slip through mans grasped-hands

I have lived everyday, but no day

Now’s then’s and when’s are all I know

I sit amidst the frozen trees only to see them wiggle and dance

A glacier speeds by me

A turtle floats above me

Fast-footed I fly slow and low

I follow the slow beat in my moving steady feet

I know the span of the night

And the start of day

I know them every which way

I was struck by how well she had captured the elusive nature of time, especially as experienced by many of my clients with ADHD.

Many people with ADHD experience being time insensitive or even time blind, where they have a poor internal sense of the passage of time. Events that occur in the future can seem insignificant compared to the things that are happening in the moment. We do not experience a sense of urgency for long term projects until the deadline is right upon us. We have difficulty estimating how long something will take, leading to over or under planning for the amount of time we realistically have. And, it feels like there is always more time or "later" to do things, and yet, we are surprised by how much time has already passed without having taken the intended action.

The good news is that people who are time insensitive can become some of the best at time management, but it does require that we find ways to externalize time and make it concrete/tangible/visible to us so that we can see and feel time in a way that allows us to engage with it intentionally rather than let it pass us by. There are many many tools that we can use to do this: Clocks, watches, timers, planners, calendars, bullet journals, alerts, alarms, reminder apps, timelines, Alexa, (even music playlists or podcasts). Analog vs digital, paper vs electronic or both - there is something for everyone. The key is to find the simplest tool or combination of tools that works best with your unique brain wiring, interests, values, strengths, processing style and context.

It can take some time and effort to discover our own "success formula" for time management and to weave it into the other aspects of our lives. However, when used purposefully, time becomes a resource that serves us well - it is the space within which we express ourselves and experience our lives.

A special thanks to my young friend who inspired this blog!

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