10 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Time Management With ADHD

Time is a rather nebulous thing when you think about it.

You can’t see it.

You can’t hold it.

And in fact, it doesn’t actually exist.

It’s a concept we humans made up and collectively agreed upon.

We decided to think about time in the division of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months.

In other words, it’s a mental construct.

And I’ve found that what we think about time often has a fascinating correlation with how we use our time.

Really, it’s true!

And this week we’re talking all about it.

In episode 88 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, we explore the 10 lies we tell ourselves about time.

And then we discuss how to look at time through a slightly different lens in order to show up more intentionally and with greater efficiency.

If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you had more time in the day, this episode is for you.

You can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here: 

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • Why your thoughts about time management make a big difference
  • 10 lies we tell ourselves about time management
  • How to make the most of your time every day

Links From The Podcast

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Episode #88: 10 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Time With ADHD (Transcript)

Hey everybody. Welcome to episode 88 of the podcast. Today we’re going to talk about time. And more specifically, we are going to talk about the 10 lies you tell yourself about time.

Now, time is such a fascinating topic to me. So many of us – and I’m guessing especially those of you listening to this podcast – have a lot of thoughts about time. And chances are, most of those thoughts are pretty time-scarce. We have a whole lot of scarcity when it comes to our thoughts about time. 

There’s not enough time. I’m wasting my time. I can’t get enough done in this amount of time. I can’t work fast enough. We have all of these scarcity thoughts that we think to ourselves over and over and over about time.

And what I find so interesting about time is that it is such a nebulous thing. If you don’t have a clock or a watch or your phone, you can’t actually see it or feel it. Time doesn’t really exist as a thing. It is just this concept that we as humans all agreed upon. We just all decided okay, let’s measure our time in seconds and minutes and hours and days. Yes, it aligns with the rising in the setting of the Sun, but we decided to measure it in these smaller increments and larger increments that we label as hours and days and weeks and months.

So in other words, time is a mental construct. And what’s more, what we think about time often has a fascinating correlation with how we use our time. And that is why I want to explore the 10 lies that we tell ourselves about time so we can start challenging those beliefs and thinking about time in new ways that serve us in creating the life that we really want to live.

Time Management

So let’s dive in. Number 1 – the first lie we tell ourselves about time concerns the concept of time management in itself. And of course, we all use this terminology. So many of us talk about time management – myself included. I talk about it all the time. 

But when we really stop and get specific about time management, the term itself doesn’t make much sense. We can’t manage time. Time just keeps moving by. It just keeps flowing. Instead, what we really do is measure ourselves within time. We measure the activities we do and how we show up in time. We decide what we want to do within these containers of time that society has agreed to label as days, hours, minutes, Etc.

And while this may seem like semantics, I think it’s a powerful thing to pay attention to. Because when we try to control time, when we try to manage time, it seems a little futile. Because we can’t. It keeps ticking by. But we can manage ourselves. And we can manage how we choose to show up within those containers of time. 

Busy Does Not Equal Productive

Number two. So many of us have been raised to believe that staying busy equals productivity. We think that if we fill every hour of our day with tasks, that means we are using our time well. And if we have any open pockets of white space. Or if we have downtime where we don’t have anything scheduled we often feel pulled to fill every one of those spaces. We feel pulled to stay busy. 

But as I’ve talked about in other podcasts, busy does not mean productive. Staying busy does not necessarily mean that we are using our time well. And in fact, it often means the exact opposite. It often means that we are busy with procrastiwork – we’re focusing our energies on all of the minutiae that pop up every day – and not focusing on what’s most important. 

So if you notice yourself believing the lie that you must stay busy all the time in order to make the most of your time, I invite you to call that into question. It’s very possible that you are falling for one of the most common lies that we tell ourselves about time. 

What if you’re wrong about that?

Multitasking Wastes Time

And that leads me to number three, which is the lie that multitasking saves time. No, my friends, it doesn’t. Multitasking does not save time and we have science to prove it. And I get it. I know that it can feel very tempting to simultaneously answer emails, and log on to a conference call, and scroll your social media feed. But I promise you this is not the best use of your time.

Brains are wired for single-tasking. We can only focus our full attention on one thing at a time. So when we think that we are successfully doing all of these things at once, what we’re really doing is switching from task to task quickly. When our brain constantly jumps from one thing to the next, we become so much less efficient. In fact, we take quite a bit more time. And we take more time not only because we have to refocus our attention on the task in front of us, but also because we’re more prone to making mistakes, which means we have to go back and fix those as well. 

Test It Out

And if you’re fighting me on this one, test it out. Try single-tasking for ONE of your focused activities – just one – for an hour or two every day this week. No other browser tabs open. No social media. And no checking your phone. Go full screen with your document and put your sole focus on that task. Take note of what you get done at the end of that hour.  Then next week, time yourself with your usual multi-tasking approach. I have a feeling you’ll be going back to the single-tasking approach pretty darn quick.

Estimating Time

The fourth lie that we often tell ourselves when we’re thinking about time, is “I don’t know how long this will take me.”  I often hear this pushback when I’m working with clients on creating and actually following a schedule that works for them.

And you might be thinking something similar. If so, I hear you. You may genuinely not know how long a task will take you when it is new. That’s okay. In fact, it makes sense! But that doesn’t mean you can’t break the big project down into small subsections, and I’m talking subsections that last no longer than 10 minutes tops, and then estimating how long the project will take. Then from there, you can time how long it takes you to actually complete it. This gives you great data so you can create a more accurate schedule for yourself the next time. 

You see, most of us just tell ourselves, I don’t know how long stuff takes me. It just takes me as long as it takes me. Does this sound familiar? Well because we think this to ourselves, we never slow down and actually figure it out. We never learn the actual time. 

But it can be so much easier than that. What if you took a week and timed your normal tasks? What if you took a week to gather that data and figure out how long it takes you to do the things you do regularly at your job or in your business or at home? 

Think of how much easier it would be to accurately plan out your day. Think of how much easier it would be to know when you would complete tasks in the future. I’m telling you, don’t tell yourself you don’t know how long things take, because that will shut you down and keep you stuck. Instead, allow yourself to get curious and answer the question so you do know for the future.

It Will Only Take A Minute

And that leads me to lie number five, which is related, but I hear it often in separate situations with my clients, so I want to make a distinction here. It still has to do with not knowing how long things take, but rather than saying “I don’t know,” we slip into the habit of saying to ourselves, it’ll only take 5 minutes. Or it will only be a minute. Or I can do it in an hour. 

This is especially true for us ADHDers who are time blind. We don’t know how long things take. We don’t know what time is. And we can’t feel the passage of time very well. So if you just assume it’ll take you five minutes. Or you just assume you can get it done in an hour without actually gathering the data, you’re probably going to set yourself up for some frustration. 

Time Blocking

This is what I used to do with my time blocking. Before I actually slowed down and figured out how long things took, I genuinely believed that I could get most things done in 1 hour. Essentially I thought to myself, well if I can write it in a one-hour block, surely I should be able to get it done in one hour. Turns out, this is not true. 

And I know this sounds silly when I say it out loud, but when we don’t slow down and think about it, it’s easy to slip into this habit. It only takes an hour. I’ll take 5 minutes tops. Is that true? Have you tested it? Make sure you have before you lean on those go-to phrases.

Taking Breaks

The next myth about time that I want to challenge – this is number six – is the belief that taking breaks will slow you down. This is one that I fully subscribed to. I used to think that if I did not take time for breaks, I was being efficient. That was the most effective. And admittedly, the concept of taking breaks may seem counterintuitive if you want to get a lot done. One might think, well if I want to get things done, I need to work. And while this is true, you do absolutely need to work to get things done, you also need to give your brain a break. You also need to give yourself some breathing room.

You see, your brain needs space to rest and recharge. As I mentioned back in episode 79, you are not a robot. Your brain is not a computer. You can’t simply turn it on and turn it off whenever you want.

Instead, you need to give your brain breaks. You need breaks in between focused work blocks. And also longer stretches of white space to let your brain be. To let your brain imagine and explore and think about whatever comes into your mind. It needs space to just imagine when you’re out on a walk. It needs space to think about whatever it wants without needing to focus constantly all the time. I promise you, constant, focused work is not going to lead to peak efficiency or the best use of your time. When you give your brain brakes to rest and recharge, that is how you will set yourself up for success.

Do It Later

The next lie we tell ourselves – lie number seven –  when it comes to time and getting things done is the simple statement – I will do it later. While this may be true sometimes. When it comes to the tasks that we often procrastinate, or that we don’t want to do, or that we feel a lot of resistance toward, the thought “do it later” is probably a lie. 

I know for me, “I’ll do it later” is often a big red flag in my mind. Because in situations where I know I’m feeling resistance, telling myself I’ll do it later means later never comes. So if this sounds familiar to you, be on to yourself. Do not give in to this alluring thought. 

And if you do need to reschedule something or change the time that you’re going to complete a project, don’t tell yourself you will do it later. Instead, intentionally choose a date and time and put it in your calendar. Decide ahead of time, I will complete this next Thursday between 3:00-4:30

Unpredictable Schedules

Okay. Lie number eight. Be honest, have you ever told yourself: “it is impossible to set or stick to a schedule when things are unpredictable.” or  “It’s impossible to create a schedule for myself when the kids are home from school.” “It is impossible to set the schedule or follow a schedule when I am working with an on-call schedule.”  Or “there’s no way I can set a schedule when I have a boss who just sends me random assignments throughout the day and I never know what I’m going to get.”

Now, I have talked about unpredictable schedules in the past on this podcast, so I’m not going to go into a lot of strategies here. But I do want to bring it up because despite talking about strategies, I know some of you still fall for the lie because I hear from you on Instagram. And by the way, if we’re not hanging out on Instagram together yet, we totally should be – I’m @imbusybeingawesome. And for the record, my brain likes to try and fall for the lie of unpredictability, too. It still tries to make these excuses sometimes.

So we hear ourselves thinking, this is impossible. There’s no way I can accurately predict what I can get done today because everything is so uncertain. Everything is in entirely up in the air. And while there are certainly days where this is true. There are certainly days where emergencies happen and everything gets thrown out the window because you’re dedicating all of your attention to whatever emergency unfolded. But those are not every day. Those are few and far in-between. Right? 

Pockets of Time

If you are truly honest with yourself, most days are not entirely unpredictable chaos. You may have children at home who pop into your office, who frequently need your attention, and often pull you from your focus. You may be outside of the normal desk worker position that has more unpredictability in terms of hours or regular tasks. And you may have a boss who just emails you randomly all the time with new assignments. But there is probably some space in there that is consistent. 

If you step back, you may notice that you have at least – on most days – 1 hour of uninterrupted time when your boss isn’t sending messages. Can you plan for that hour? If your kids are home, perhaps you are certain that you can get 2 pockets of 30 minutes where you can schedule things. 

Similarly, you may not be able to time block your entire day. And what’s more, you may have to create a more flexible schedule where rather than time blocking everything to a T, you instead have three tasks that you want to complete at some time throughout the day. Or Something like, I will get this thing done sometime before 11:00. That way, when those pockets of time open up – when your children nap – when your boss stops emailing you, you can tend to the project.  

So while there may be unpredictability, don’t tell yourself you can’t create a schedule. Instead, get curious and creative. Because when you can incorporate at least some structure into your schedule, it will help you stay focused and moving forward on your bigger goals. And like I said, I have other episodes that speak to this, so I will be sure to link to those in the show notes.

Schedules Restrict

Now that brings me into line number nine,  which often sounds like this: I work better without a schedule. I don’t like schedules, because they’re too confining. I don’t have the freedom to do what I want when it feels right. 

If this sounds familiar, I hear you. I promise I do. But here’s what’s also true, while at times it may feel good to just have completely free, unscheduled time in your day to do whatever you want, that type of unstructured time day in and day out makes it much more challenging to take focused action toward the bigger goals that you want to reach. 

When you have no plan for what you want to do or when you want to do it, it’s so much easier to get into your toddler brain, and simply stick with what feels good in the moment. It’s easier to give in to the instant gratification actions. And as we know from past podcast episodes, this often results in things like scrolling social media, procrastiworking, busy work that is not productive, nor is it moving you forward. Instead, it’s binging way more episodes of Netflix than you may want. 

And again, while it’s great to have some days without structure to have that freedom to let yourself just be and do whatever you want, when you want to be efficient and use your time well, it’s helpful to be intentional with how you use that time. 

Be Intentional

Now. That doesn’t mean you have to be super strict with your scheduling. If you are a creative who likes lots of time and open space to write or paint or do whatever creative work you do, that’s great. But I encourage you to loosely schedule that space for creativity so that you know you’re making time for it. For example, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are set for writing. Wednesday afternoons are set for design. Etc.

What’s more, you can actually schedule in your free time as well. Friday afternoons are open to doing whatever sounds like fun. Sundays from 12 till bedtime are a free-for-all. In other words, you can absolutely have that free time, and I encourage you to have it! But I also encourage you to be intentional about how you schedule it. Because if you are prone to working all the time, that free time won’t happen. Work will expand to the time you have. (Ask me how I know) 

So if you want to use your time well, be intentional about how you were going to use it. Full stop. 

Find The Perfect Planner

And then finally, our number 10 lie that we tell ourselves is “I just need to find the right planner or app, and then I’ll be able to get it all done.” 

My friends, how many of you have said this? How many of you have half-used planners and so many downloaded apps that you don’t even remember downloading? How many of you have been here? Is your hand in the air as well? I used to believe this so strongly. I loved the idea of getting the newest planner or the newest system in hopes that this one will be the answer. This one would be the secret to staying focused and being productive and getting things done. 

But here’s the truth. It’s not the planner. It is not the app. Instead, it is about being intentional with your time. It is about deciding ahead of time what you want to do. And then – the hardest part – doing the thing when you say you’re going to do it. 

And again, this last part is almost always the hardest. I am telling you, it can feel almost impossible to sit down and do the thing when you scheduled it. It can feel like you are pushing a boulder up the mountain on ice with flip-flops on when it comes time to sit down and actually follow through on what you scheduled at 1:00. 

Enter Thought Work

And this is where the thought work comes in. This is where you learn how to manage your mind, sit with this discomfort, and do the thing anyway. This is where you learn how to coach yourself, to open up to those negative feelings of frustration or dread or boredom or restlessness has you resisting the work, and you DO IT. You follow through even without procrastinating. 

And if you find yourself struggling with time. If you find yourself struggling with trying to stick to a calendar, or managing how you show up in time  or how you manage your actions in time. If you want to increase your efficiency and get more done by navigating time blindness, being thoughtful about your schedule, and actually following through without the procrastination, make sure that you sign up for a free 1:1 Consultation with me. 

Creating a schedule that works for you and your lifestyle and learning how to not only navigate procrastination and get started but also follow all the way through to completion. And doing this regularly, not just on the rare good day, is one of the things I work on with my clients. So if you are an ADHDer or you have ADHD tendencies and find yourself struggling with focus and follow-through. And if you want to start using your time with intention, make sure you sign up for that free consultation. We’ll do some coaching, we’ll talk about where you’re at and the goals you want to reach, and we’ll decide whether we’re a great fit to work together and make that happen. 

All right my friends. That’s going to do it for us this week. And if you know someone who might also be believing some of the lies, would you be a rockstar and share this episode with them?