ADHD / ADHD and the Workplace / Adult ADHD / Coping Strategies

ADHD: My timer. I don’t hate it.

I recently acquired a timer (I also just had to think really hard about how to spell acquire, but I digress). In general, prior to this timer, I had a lot of anxiety about timers. I mean hello, after a childhood of torture relating to timed math tests, why would I like timers? My only positive experience with timers is using them for cooking.

And here’s a funny little story about THAT. My father is a chef – with ADHD. When I worked in his kitchen, if you used a timer he would give you endless shit if you used a timer and would insist that you not use one. Well after burning enough food, I finally refused to follow this dictate. If you know how long it takes to cook something and set it a couple minutes early, everything generally turns out fine. And in a kitchen you are always multi-tasking. Asking my brain to remember that many details and keep track of things in the over at the same time was just too much. It gave me a dark, sweet satisfaction when he himself would burn something.

Well I found that there IS a way to make me actually like timers outside of the kitchen: Have a really cute timer. It’s small, it’s blue, it’s shaped like a little bird. I like touching it. I like using it. I don’t use it for everything, but if I have a decent sized pile of things I need to focus on for a little while, I’ve found that I can set my timer to about 20 minutes and stick mostly with the task(s) at hand for that long. The sound of the timer reminds me that I’m supposed to continue working on the task at hand. More than 20 minutes is challenging – less than 20 minutes isn’t really productive because it’s not enough time for me to start and to finish the tasks that I generally need to do. Of course I may have to be flexible with this for longer tasks – and work for a series of 20 minute sessions in order to complete them, and that’s okay. But for most things I need to encourage myself to focus on, this 20 minute discovery is a great place to start.

How about you? Do you use timers to help you manage your time and stay productive? How do you use yours?



4 thoughts on “ADHD: My timer. I don’t hate it.

  1. I do use a timer, but I go through phases where I use it more productively. I mostly use it for those mundane house tasks that I detest. Ten minutes is about my max in one area. Once it beeps if I’m say, cleaning up the kitchen, I might continue, but the act of resetting it actually refocuses me and helps me to be aware of time passing. I can get very “lost” in my head. I’ll have intentions of emptying the dishwasher and reloading it, but I might start thinking of other things and then I end up moving slowly almost to the point of complete inaction. This was a good reminder that I need to make a point to use it. My husband (very ADD) thinks the act of using a timer is completely nuts. Overall I find it helpful both for keeping me on task AND for breaking out of severe hyper-focus.

    • That’s a good point about breaking hyperfocus. Sometimes we do need a little help with that. After all, ADHD isn’t really about a deficit of attention…it’s about not being able to regulate what your attention is doing!

  2. I learned the importance of timers. I’m still getting used to making it a part of my home life.
    With a timer I no longer have burned rice, or worse burned quinoa (not cheap to purchase). I would put food in the oven and become hyper focused on something and totally forget until the house was filled with smoke.
    I use a timer in the mornings to help me learn to manage my time well. The timer is set to 4 different times. This is crazy because I currently wake up around 5:30 a.m., but the timers keep me on track and help me to be out of the house at 8:00 a.m.

    • I have a staged process myself, at least for getting out of bed…I set my alarm for an hour before I need to be out of bed, at least. I can “snooze” and gradually wake up during that hour – but during that hour I also have to turn my radio on to engage my brain to help me wake up, and turn on a small light, also for helping me wake up. If I don’t give myself that whole hour, things are pretty bad when I get out of bed. I need the gradual process. I also used to take my meds during that “wake up” hour – though I changed my meds type and just haven’t integrated it into the process yet. I can see how staged timers could be really helpful in the morning. Something to think about.

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