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How We Use Timers With ADHD: Research, Results, and Tips to Get Started

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

This article was written with the support of everyone who commented on the "What are your favorite ADHD strategies" Facebook post. Thanks for your contribution!

Often when tackling a difficult or tedious task, one of the hardest parts is getting started. We can find ourselves in a state of limbo, on the couch or scrolling a device while thinking, "weren't we supposed to be doing something?"


One way to kickstart our next task is to turn it into a dopamine stimulating countdown. For several of you, that's exactly what you said was your most helpful strategy for ADHD. And you're not the only ones. Research corroborates this emphasis on timers as a support for those with ADHD. Timers can serve as an excellent reminder to focus on the task at hand and, in some cases, improve test scores when used (Bennett, 2018; Bruhn et al., 2016; Pariseau et al., 2010; Sluiter et al., 2020). Overall, while there's more research to be done, timers are a significant part of any ADHDers' toolbox. Below I've outlined some of the ADHD timer strategies you found most helpful.

Your ADHD Strategies:


1. Set A Timer For Just Five Minutes

Or at least for a short time. Some of you found that when you didn't know how to tackle a job, just starting the timer for even five minutes and racing to do as much as you could, was a great way to put a dent in a big task. And the best part? Often once the five minutes were up, you were so in the zone you finished the task anyway!


2. Set Up A Natural Timer

While some of you liked using an actual timekeeper, others preferred to find natural systems. For example, one commenter described working on a laptop but leaving the charger at home, forcing them to use that time more carefully. Many things can act as a natural timer: boiling a kettle, brushing your teeth, or a thirty-minute podcast. Pay attention to when you are using these timers and what could be done during that time.

Tips For Getting Started With Timers

So you've read this far, and you've decided to start incorporating timers in your life, what's the next step?


1. Decide If You Want Timers to be Active, Passive Or Both

Timers can either count down, or they can note the passing time. Decide which will be the most useful to you. An egg timer can help to countdown, a sand timer can be a quieter option, and an app like the Speaking Clock can note the time and help you stay on track.


2. Put Timers Everywhere You'll Need Them.

Often it's best to put a timer where you struggle to get up or complete a task. Examples include the lounge, above the kitchen sink, in the laundry, or by the computer. Then, when you need that extra motivation, all you have to do is reach for it.


3. If You Get Into Hyperfocus, Continue!

As we mentioned before, your short five-minute timer is often set up to help you get into hyperfocus. If the timer is up, but you're still motivated, keep going! Just don't forget to take breaks if you need to. After all, you can always use the timer again to get back into the flow! 😊

4. Reward Yourself.

Like every challenging task, setting a timer and starting something deserves a reward. Once you get to the end, remember to congratulate yourself and give yourself something of a similar size to the task completed. This might be five minutes break, ticking something off a progress chart, or a small treat. Rewards will help reinforce to your brain that this is a task worth doing.

Hopefully, this week's article provides some new ADHD strategies and gives you ideas to try next. Let me know what you try and how it goes!


Talk to you next week,


Skye.



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References

Bennett, A. L. (2018). The Relationship between Self-Regulation and the Impact of Timing Control on Academic Fluency in College Students with and without Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) [Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University]. http://search.proquest.com/docview/2138380751/abstract/583CF419169943CAPQ/1

Bruhn, A. L., Waller, L., & Hasselbring, T. S. (2016). Tweets, Texts, and Tablets: The Emergence of Technology-Based Self-Monitoring. Intervention in School and Clinic, 51(3), 157–162. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053451215585803

Pariseau, M. E., Fabiano, G. A., Massetti, G. M., Hart, K. C., & Pelham Jr., W. E. (2010). Extended time on academic assignments: Does increased time lead to improved performance for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? School Psychology Quarterly, 25(4), 236–248. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022045

Sluiter, M. N., Groen, Y., Jonge, P. de, & Tucha, O. (2020). Exploring neuropsychological effects of a self-monitoring intervention for ADHD-symptoms in school. Applied Neuropsychology: Child, 9(3), 246–258. https://doi.org/10.1080/21622965.2019.1575218

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