Archives for May 2016

Why does Time Travel Differently When You Have ADHD?


Have you noticed how time plays tricks on you? It can whiz by so fast or it plods along incredibly slowly; leaving you bored and restless.

Ironically, time perception doesn’t run like clockwork. It changes and is distorted by situations, emotions and even your age.

I have a vivid memory of sitting next to my grandma telling her how excited I was for Christmas, but how it was taking a really long time to arrive. My Grandma laughed and said, “When you get to my age, you won’t have that problem, time travels very fast for me.” This was a very strange concept for my 8 year old brain.

Time perception is a subjective thing that is studied by psychologists and neuroscientists. For our other senses like touch, taste, smell, sight, etc., we have specialized sensory receptors. But there are no specialized sensory receptors for time.

Why does time travel differently when you have ADHD?

There are 2 big reasons why time travels differently for you.

  1. Being able to accurately process time is a skill that develops gradually from when we are babies to the age of 10. It involves memory, attention and dopamine. The 3 key elements needed to learn how to process time are also areas that the ADHD brain has problems with.
  1. Ideally, everyday, our circadian (body) clock resets itself to match the earth’s 24 hour rotation. It uses external cues like daylight, for this reset. However, many ADHDers’ body struggle detecting the rising and setting of the sun; which in turn causes problems for the sleep cycle and understanding the passage of time.

How does time pass when you have ADHD?

One ADHD client described how time passes for him:

“If I look at my watch and it’s 11:00am, then it’s 11:00am until I look again. I might look again in 2 minutes, or 4 hours. But it’s 11:00am until I have actually looked at the watch again to see what the hands are now saying”.

Dr. Hallowell says that to an ADHDer, there are only 2 types of time: NOW or NOT NOW.

Why is it a problem?

10 problems that can occur when your time perception isn’t fine tuned:

  • It is hard to motivate yourself to follow a plan when a project isn’t due for 2 months.
  • Your final work often doesn’t match your talents, because you have had to rush to complete it in the last few days before the deadline.
  • You seriously underestimate the time needed to complete a task.
  • You are often late, rushed and flustered when you arrive to meeting or appointment.
  • You have developed a reputation as being unreliable, insensitive, or self-centered, even though you are trying really hard.
  • You forget to buy presents and cards for your loved ones’ birthday.
  • You stress out the people around you, because you are still packing while everyone else is in the car, ready to go to the airport.
  • You always think travel time to appointments take less time than it really does.
  • You are overly optimistic of how much you can get done in one day, and then get very disappointed with yourself when you aren’t able to get everything done.
  • Getting ready in the morning and leaving for work on time is a daily struggle.

Here are some suggestions to help you develop your sense of the passage of time.

1. Wear a watch

Almost every person I meet who struggles with the passage for time, doesn’t wear a watch. Wearing a watch is quite an easy thing to do, but it has big benefits. It helps you develop an understanding of the passage of time, as well as being a visual reminder of what the current time is. Having a watch on your arm makes it pretty easy to notice what time it is, even when you aren’t actively looking. Go buy a watch, and start to wearing it today!

P.S, if you are thinking that you don’t need to get a watch because you can check your phone to see the time, that doesn’t count!

2. Have a clock in every room. 

Have a clock in every room including your bathroom. Traditional clocks (with hands) are more helpful than digital. They aren’t an expense investment, yet they can really help you keep track of how time is progressing and help you to be on time for appointments.

3. Use an agenda.

Buy an agenda and enter in all your appointments. Get the format that has the hours of the day for each day. It helps you to get a visual of what your days look like. It also helps you to plan your days realistically.

4. Get a wall calendar.

Get a wall calendar so you can see whole year in a glance. It allows you to see events that are scheduled in the future and how they relate to today’s date. This helps bridge the gap in your mind between ‘Now’ and ‘Not Now’.

5. Have a daily appointment

Develop a habit of looking at your wall calendar and agenda every single morning or evening. This daily appointment with yourself helps you remember exactly what you have planned and if there are any actions you could do today to help you prepare.

6. Play a game.

Play a ‘Guess What Time It Is’ game. At any time you haven’t looked at your watch for while, try to guess what time it is. It is a fun way to see how your time processing muscle is developing.

7. Reset your internal clock.

No matter how topsy turvy your body clock is, you can reset it. Not only will your sleep cycle be in sync with the rest of the world, it will be easier for you to understand how time is passing during the day. In the Sleep Solution: How to Sleep Very Well When You have ADHD,’ I walk you through a simple step-by-step process to reset your body clock. Come and join us!


How does time pass by for you? Leave me a note in the comments section!



Best ADHD Blogs of 2016 Award!

The Untapped Brilliance Blog won an award! For the second year in a row, it has made Healthline’s list of the Best ADHD Blogs of 2016.

Thank you Healthline! It is a huge honour.

Thank YOU for reading, asking great questions and sharing your personal stories with me. Untapped Brilliance wouldn’t be the same without you!

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Check out the other awesome 10 ADHD Blogs!

Best ADHD Blogs of 2016



ADHD and Failures

worried-girl-413690_640People with ADHD experience more failures than their non-ADHD peers. Even back in grade school, you might remember that school felt harder for you than your friends. While they were passing quizzes, you were having to retake yours. ADHD symptoms can get in the way of success and result in failures in all areas of life including school, relationships, and work.

You might find you achieve all the milestones, like graduating, getting married, buying a house, getting a job… a little later in life than others. For example, it might take you 6 years to finish university rather than 4 years because you had to retake some courses. Those failures can nibble away at your confidence and self-esteem and lead to underachievement and more failures.

When I first start working with a new client, we often spend time getting them to feel good about what they have accomplished in their life. Often, adults with ADHD are so used to experiencing failures, they don’t feel they deserve their successes. When they achieve something awesome, they dismiss it as a fluke or just remember the tears, all-nighters, and pain they went through to get there. Feeling good about what you have attained is important because then, it is easier to achieve your next success.

I was intrigued to learn that Professor Haushorfer from Princeton University says that it is helpful to document your failures. He says that setbacks are usually invisible, yet they happen more frequently than successes. The professor created a CV of his failures and says this document provides perspective; for himself and others. People think things work out for him; when in fact, he experiences failures like everyone else.

Why documenting your failures is helpful when you have ADHD

Writing down your failures on a piece of paper or google doc on your computer can be helpful. Professor Haushorfer shared his online, but yours can be completely private. Here are 6 reasons why it could be helpful:

1. Out of your head 

When all your losses are in your head, you can keep ruminating on them. This makes them bigger and more dramatic than they really are. In your mind, you attach negative emotions to each failing and whenever you have a few moments, you relive them again and again. Writing them out, helps break that cycle. It helps you to see each entry in a more neutral way.

2. Reduces the shame 

Shame is probably the most dangerous emotion you have as an adult with ADHD. Shame about your failures nibbles away at your self-confidence and self-esteem. It stops you from aiming so high in the future and ‘settling’. Bringing your failures out of the dusty corners of your mind and into the open is the first step to reducing the shame you feel.

3. Helps you to address each one

Some of your failures won’t trigger any emotion. For example, when I was 17 years old, I was desperate to pass my drivers test. I failed twice and passed the 3rd time. Although it felt bad at the time, 20+ years later, I can tell you this failure very matter-of-factly. As you are documenting your failures, notice which ones still hurt. That is a sign that you still need to process them. Talk to a friend, your coach, a therapist, or write in your journal. Do whatever you need to do, so the shame, embarrassment, disappointment etc disappears.

4. Normalizes failure and rejection

Failure and rejection is part of life. By writing everything down, you start to see patterns. This data can help you when you experience a new failure or rejection. For example, you might notice on average, for every 5 CV’s you send out, you are invited for 1 job interview. For every 2 job interviews you have, you are offered 1 job. If you are dating, you might realize that for every 3 first dates, you meet 1 person who you have a second date with.

This type of information helps to turn rejection and failures into a numbers games rather than feeling wounded with every no.

You might also notice positive characteristics you haven’t acknowledged in yourself before, such as perseverance and determination.

5. Time to reflect

A characteristic of ADHD is to jump from activity to activity without reflecting on what happened. If you decide to keep a ‘failure CV’, it will force you to reflect and decided what you could do differently next time. For example, if you get a job interview, you might have researched the company, practiced your interview questions and answers, had your suit dry cleaned, but then arrived late. This reflection time is invaluable so that you learn from your experiences and don’t keep doing the same things but hoping for different results.

Your trump card!

Remember that although you experience more failures, you also hold a trump card! You are very resilient. It is a trait that author, Dale Archer,M.D, identities in his book ‘The ADHD Advantage’ Resilience and the ability to bounce back and try again, is a common ADHD characteristic. This trait allows you to keep striving for your goals, even if you have to add a few more failures to your CV.

To learn more about Professor Haushorfer’s failure CV head here