If you repeat instructions to your school-aged child or adult family member day after day, then you are not alone. Finding yourself in the role of scheduler, time-keeper, and reminder/notifier can be frustrating or exhausting, especially when you have a more structured and organized approach to life. Terms such as time blindness or procrastination are often used to describe traits associated with an ADHD individual struggling with Executive Skills and Functions. Overestimating or underestimating how long it takes to accomplish a task can make getting ready for school or work more difficult, as well as finishing homework assignments or meeting deadlines. 

According to Psychology Today, the term Time Blindness describes a persistent difficulty in managing time and perceiving how quickly it passes. People who struggle with time blindness may be frequently late, find it difficult to plan their day or meet deadlines, or become easily absorbed in time-wasting activities (playing video games or internet surfing, for example) without realizing how much time has passed. 

You may find yourself repeating instructions, and wondering why this order of events (which occur daily) are not remembered or kept track of by others in your household. Psychology Today also explains that time blindness may even extend to their memory; some studies have found that people with ADHD find it more difficult than others to remember the order in which past events occurred. Understanding that forgetting when to take the trash out weekly, or when to pay the monthly utility bill can be completely unintentional.

A scientific publication from the NIH National Library of Medicine in 2021 explains: “Time perception and time management are crucial for complex cognition and effective functioning in everyday life. Time perception can be affected by numerous neurological and interoceptive factors. That is, how an individual perceives sensations, such as hunger or temperature, within his/her own body can affect perception of time.” According to Dr. Russell Barkley (a neuropsychologist known for his work on ADHD), individuals with ADHD split time into two categories: the “now” and the “not now.” He notes that planning or anticipating an event is difficult for individuals with ADHD because they don’t see the future as clearly or as urgently. Oftentimes, they do not take action on a future goal (the not now) until that goal moves into the present (the now). By then, it is almost too late and there is a frantic effort to get things done – to the complete frustration of those around him/her. 

If you talk, repeat and constantly remind, then try posting visual checklists in key areas. A simple 3 item list such as: 1) get dressed 2) make the bed 3) put on shoes/jacket, can be posted on the back of the bedroom door to remind your child of the morning routine. Get them involved by making the list together in the order they prefer or by choosing fun pictures to demonstrate each task! A similar list can be posted or written on a whiteboard to remind family members of the weekly household chores. Adults may find setting up automatic payments for monthly bills is the most efficient way of staying on track. 

According to an article by Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., MBA, published in ADDitude Magazine, maintaining the motivation of establishing good routines and healthy habits is achieved by “…continuing to set up good processes that will help you experience more desired outcomes than negative ones.” He explains that you should: make the processes enjoyable, don’t do them for anyone else but yourself, always credit yourself for taking positive actions, and remember that setbacks are inevitable. In other words, these routines will not magically create themselves, nor will they be perfectly executed every day after being established. 

It will take time to discover through trial and error what works best in your household. For example, your adult family member may prefer using a task oriented to-do list associated with their work email. Your student may need low-tech options like watches set a timer or alarm each day to signal important transitions such as: finishing breakfast and packing up to head to school, the end of a 20 minute snack time/break after getting home from school and before starting homework, or when it is time to begin the bedtime routine. Depending on the age of your student, Scheduling or Routine Apps can be extremely beneficial high-tech aides in keeping track of tasks and times. 

Whatever option you choose, make sure you stay flexible and open to try something different if that option doesn’t work for your family. Only they can be the judge if the choice is a positive benefit to their life