Arrive on Time (and Not a Moment Sooner): Seven Strategies for Winning the Time Management Game with ADHD


I’ll let you in on a little secret. Many adults with ADHD hate to be early almost as much as they hate to be late.  Waiting at the doctor’s office for an extra fifteen minutes before an appointment can be excruciating. So how do you minimize your wait and improve your punctuality?  Follow these seven simple strategies and never be late or too early again.

1. Make a game of it.

Most of us with ADHD will enthusiastically embrace even the most mundane task if we can figure out how to make it interesting.  Getting from point A to B isn’t all that exciting but it can be if you make a game out of it. The object of the game is to get to your destination as near as possible to your targeted arrival time. You don’t want to be late and you certainly don’t want to be early. The goal is to arrive exactly on time.  No later, no sooner.

2. Determine your targeted arrival time.

Your targeted arrival time (TAT) is the time which you would, ideally, like to walk through the doors of your destination.  To determine your (TAT), figure out the earliest arrival time you can endure and the latest time you can arrive without being late or stressed out.  For example, if you have a hair appointment scheduled for 2:00 PM, your targeted arrival time might be from 1:58 PM to 2:00 PM.  If you need to get to a business meeting that starts at 2:00 PM, and you need to be seated in a chair and prepared to talk, your targeted arrival time might be between 1:40 PM to 1:50 PM.

3. Figure out how long it really takes to get there.

Many adults with ADHD have trouble accurately estimating how long something will take.  When it comes to driving, it is common to under-estimate the drive time, but it is not uncommon to over-estimate time, as well.  Even if you’ve made the trip before, plug the address of your destination into your GPS or MapQuest it the night before your appointment. This will give you a more accurate travel time to work with.  In this game, precision is essential to hitting your target.

4. Determine your departure time. Your departure time is the time at which you walk out of your house.  To determine your departure time, start by adding 15 minutes to your estimated travel time. This time includes:  5 minutes to transition from the house to the car (e.g. buckling up, programming the GPS), 5 minutes to transition from the car to your destination (e.g. parking, walking in), and 5 minutes for the unexpected (e.g. a train, “Sunday drivers”). This gives you your total travel time.  Next, subtract your total travel time from your targeted arrival time.  This gives you your departure time.  For instance, if you want to arrive at the hair salon or barber shop at 2:00 PM, and it takes 30 minutes to drive there, you will need to walk out of your house by 1:15 PM.  Set a reminder alarm to go off 15 minutes before your departure time to start preparing to leave and another one to go off 1 minute before your departure time that says, “Leave now!”

Note: Add more transition time if you have small children, if there is a very long walk from the parking lot to your destination, or if you must travel during rush hour (see below).

5. Avoid rush hour. Avoid scheduling an appointment that requires you to travel during rush hour.  It is much harder to predict the travel time during rush hour.  If you don’t add in enough cushion time to adjust for the traffic, you’ll be late. If you add in too much time, and traffic is running smoothly, you’ll be (gasp!)  too early.

6. Always be first.  Whenever possible, schedule your appointments so you are the first one on the list to be seen.  Doing this will ensure that you’re not stuck waiting around if your service provider is running behind schedule.  A situation like this will make you unknowingly early. The best times to schedule an appointment is first in the morning or first in the afternoon.  Everything in between is too unpredictable.

7. Be flexible. If you don’t arrive within your targeted time on your first try, don’t despair.  Chances are you just need to tweak your strategy a little bit.  Perhaps you just need to adjust your departure time by a minute or two. Maybe you need to prepare a take-along bag the night before and put it by the door so you can leave on time. Don’t be afraid to strategize and play the game by your own unique rules.

2 Response to “Arrive on Time (and Not a Moment Sooner): Seven Strategies for Winning the Time Management Game with ADHD ”

LeeAnne
January 14, 2011
9:14 am

Comment :

Thank you for the tips! I’m always late to everything and I hate it. It has been an issue with my family for a long time. I will try these things and I’m sure they will help me a great deal. I also love your web site. I’ve been looking for something like this to help me with my ADD problems and clutter and disorganization has been my main problems. Thank you again!

Tiffany deSilva
February 11, 2011
12:28 pm

Comment :

Hi, LeeAnne. Thank you for the feedback. I’m glad you found the tips helpful.

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