The Fear of Time Management

Several months ago I reached out to an ADHD coach to help me with a problem that has plagued me from day one: the problem of time management. In my younger days, time management was never an issue. Youthful vigor made it possible to work insane hours. Twenty years ago I worked thirty-three hours a week as a movie projectionist (Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday eleven hours each day), I taught two courses in sociology (Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings) and I was a full-time graduate student (Monday and Wednesday afternoons and evenings). I was able to keep it all together by simply working long hours. I’m willing to do that again. I’m willing to put in long hours in order to succeed. However, my body won’t let me do that anymore. If I’m up till 2:00AM, I feel groggy for several days. Further, I can no longer do the mental gymnastics that’s needed to keep it all going. I hate to admit this but time is catching up with my body and brain. Putting in more hours to compensate for my lack of time management actually decreases the amount, and quality, of the work I do. But there are still so many things I want to accomplish in life and if I expect to see at least some of them come to fruition, I must tackle my time management problems.

But I’m afraid to do it.

I’m afraid to learn that I don’t have the time to accomplish everything that I want to accomplish.

I’m afraid to learn that I must make choices that impose limits.

I’m afraid to learn that by choosing X, I have eliminated the possibility of ever choosing Y.

But to do nothing, to not make choices, is to languish.

But to make choices is to experience anguish over choices not made, even though I may desperately yearn to make those other choices.

I now understand the appeal of reincarnation.

If I believed in reincarnation I could focus on a few things in this life and, in my next life, I could do those other things that I still want to do.

But I don’t believe in reincarnation.

So I have no choice but to learn how to make hard choices.

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  • Dr Ben

    Life can be a Bitch & then you Die…..”Get on the Stick”….You can do it! You want Sympathy? It can be found in the Dictionary between Shit & Syphilis.

    • Jeff

      “You want Sympathy? It can be found in the Dictionary between Shit & Syphilis” – Always loved that little aphorism. And no…I’m not looking for sympathy. Just giving voice to one of my inner demons.

      • Gina Pera

        This is very interesting, Jeff. By understanding the core “resistance” issues, you bring a fresh approach to time-management strategies.

        So, did the ADHD coach offer any helpful insights?

        • Jeff

          “you bring a fresh approach to time-management strategies” – Thank you! I realized that, for me, the issue was, in part, an existential one. As long as I lived in my own head (being the “Inattentive Type” or, in Parker’s terminology, “Thinking ADHD” with probably some Cognitive Overthinking) and allowed my thoughts to freely flow…I created the illusion of being able to choose everything since it seemed like I was able to do so. And for quite some time I was able to choose everything but then life (getting older; having kids, etc.) intervened with it’s own agenda and said, “You can’t work those crazy hours anymore.” And, quite honestly, I’d like to experience a relaxing evening…at least once in a while…and also fulfill some goals…hence the need to finally grapple with this problem.

          “did the ADHD coach offer any helpful insights” – I should clarify. The discussion was about how much the coaching would cost and when it could be scheduled. I was going to do it a few months ago once my clients paid me…well…I’m still waiting to get paid (though my receivables are impressive). I felt I needed to take matters into my own hands. Perhaps…when some of my deadbeat clients finally pay me…I’ll be able to get a bit of coaching help.

          • Gina Pera

            In ten years of listening closely to people with ADHD and their partners, I’ve found that there’s almost always another “story behind the story.”

            Your philosophical challenges around organizing your time, for example. There are many more, but we won’t learn about them (and thus move on to workable solutions) if we settle for the glib platitudes.

      • vanessa

        you put so eloquently what my brain keeps telling me over and over. hard work and long hours have never been the problem…I just think I am interested, truly interested, in too many things in this universe, and there seems to be increasingly less and less time to read, think, write, photograph, physically do, talk about all of them. I simply do not know how to choose. I hate to see it stated as such, my mind has never gone there, but it appears to be the truth- “I have no choice but to learn how to make hard choices.” H.O.W? Eliminating the possibility of ever choosing Y doesn’t appear palatable. (I might admit my favorite poem says: “two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both…”) That poem is framed on my desk. I must somehow think I can always circle back and take the road not taken…

        • Gina Pera


          Sometimes medication will help you to decide on the issues that’s more important to you.

          Dr. Nora Volkow, a brain-imaging specialist who has taught us much about the brain (especially the ADHD-affected brain) talks in terms of “salience” — high-salience issues are those things in your environment that carry more weight than others.

          When ADHD is left untreated (medically), a person tends to see all incoming stimulation sources as having equal weight — where to begin!

          • Gina Pera

            P.S. Sorry, my finger hit the “submit” button by mistake.

            It’s sort of like being at a party and wanting to key in on your conversation with one person. You can’t do it because you’re hearing every other conversation and music at the same “volume” as the person’s words.

            Medication can help you to focus on your personal conversation and tune out the less-salient noises.

          • vanessa

            Gina-thanks for response. I am on meds (and have been for years)-perhaps it’s time to rethink which med? will explore that, thanks. Dr. Volkow is extraordinary-her work done with addiction has hopefully helped to change some of the concepts of “weak willed” v “disease.” Also the adhd-addiction connection with both having decreased levels of dopamine receptors. I’ve been studying for a Phd in addiction/psy (good lord- another passion), and Volkow was such a pioneer and continue to be so.

          • Gina Pera

            HI Vanessa,

            Well, from what I’ve seen of national prescribing patterns for ADHD, it’s possible your Rx routine might merit re-examination. :-)

            But of course there are so many other factors. I just thought it was worth mentioning the most obvious.

        • Jeff

          Vanessa, this blog shows that I also suffer from too many interests. It’s possible, though, to do it all but I think one needs to be realistic about it. Do you want to be a famous photographer, writer, performer, equestrian, etc. all at the same time? Well, that may not be possible. But it may be possible to still enjoy these other things and dealing with time management may be the way to do it. This blog reflects my interest in graphic design, photography, bad humor, philosophy, etc. Will I be a famous photographer-philosopher-writer-humorist? I can hope so…but…being realistic…I’m already getting to do all of these things so, in a sense, I am doing it all. But there are still all those other things I want to do and may never be able to do, so there are still hard choices to make.

          You may find this post from a year ago to be of interest. It’s All About Choices.

          “you put so eloquently” – Thank you so much for saying this. I never quite know what kind of reception my writing gets/will get.

          • vanessa

            Jeff-thank you for your reply. I will be off to read your other post after this. For me, key to your response is the word “realistic”. I took a course from Tal Ben-Shahar, from the Positive Psychology field, and he talks a great deal about “good enough”. Moving from that pursuit of perfection in all those areas to a place of good enough. Knowing I cannot do all of them, within our 24 hour limitation, but, as you say above-you are getting to do the things you want but within limitations-his good enough. Since riding has become such a metaphor for my life, instead of putting my name plate on the back of my saddle, I put a plate that says good enough. That seems to be working somewhat. Perhaps a tatoo on my arm…

            • Jeff

              Vanessa, you’re quite welcome. And I like the tattoo idea but…it would have to be in a location (and oriented the right way) so that you could always read it. ;)

  • Gina Pera

    Jeff — maybe your clients need some coaching in bill paying. ;-)

    • Jeff

      That’s called “collections.” ;)

      • Gina Pera

        Oh, Fat Tony, right?

  • Katy R.

    Dammit, I really wish that this post wasn’t soooo on point. You’re a few years ahead of me Jeff, but I’m already there, and I hate it. I used to just burn that candle at 5 ends, and suddenly, this year, I simply can’t do it anymore. I was blaming it on the nortriptyline (it can be a tiny bit sedating), and mourning the loss of my former vigor…but it’s easier to blame the medication than blame the fact of age. I’m not “old” but indeed, my body seems to have hit a point, thanks, likely, to my schload of new responsibilities in life, where I cannot live the 18 hour a day, 7 days a week dream anymore. Rocking my sleep cycle means migraine symptoms from hell…and overworking simply fries my brain, where it used to fire me up and spur me on.

    Add the unique factor of having parents who always guided me in the direction of not “limiting my options”. I’m glad they did, but it also validated an unsustainable future :)

    Making choices between X and Z is excruciating…accepting that I sometimes may have to choose one over the other is just so mortal that it hurts. I’m really struggling with this right now.

    • Jeff

      Katy, thank you for honesty. Sensei Hutchinson would tell you to turn these into advantages (“it’s GOOD to have migraine symptoms??”) but…well…I’ll save THAT rant for another post. ;)

      This is one of those cases when I would have preferred to be wrong, when I would have preferred to learn that other adult ADHDers did not follow a similar path. You did, though, hit the nail on the head. The new responsibilities are what pushed you to this point and most every ADHDer (except for Splinter) hits a point where things sort of crumble. Sometimes they hit it in college…sometimes later in life. But they all reach a point when juggling it all becomes difficult if not impossible. (I STILL try to do the 18 hour days but…at my stage of life…I don’t bounce back from it so quickly.) HOWEVER, and that’s a big, capitalized bold “however,” you’ll learn to make the choices and they won’t be as excruciating as they seem right now. But it is definitely painful as you go through it. I still believe your earlier ADHD diagnosis (compared to my learning it at age 46) will work to your advantage since you’ll make the tough choices earlier in life.

      I apologize…I have one more “however.” Even though you will get through this period in life, you also have the curse of intelligence. You understand that life forces you to make choices and that your life is also a set of choices. You understand that you are crafting your future and that your current situation, in turn, circumscribes the choices you can make in crafting that future. As difficult as it can be, at times, you WILL learn to find happiness even in the decisions you don’t want to make but MUST make. The future may make it possible for you to do that other thing that circumstances prevented you from doing. (Hope that wasn’t too confusing.) You may find this post It’s All About Choices, to be interesting reading at this stage of your life.

  • Truth

    More drivel from the fake ADHD crowd.

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