Stopping Time Theft

Written by Susan Karyn Lasky, M.S., BCC, SCAC

There are 24 hours in a day. Subtract time for sleeping (critical for productivity) and other essential activities (household tasks, family/social commitments, personal care, income generating work, etc.). Is there any time left for yourself? Are you always juggling commitments, projects… and guilt?

Give yourself the gift of more time by playing detective and identifying the petty thieves that steal/waste your minutes. Once identified, you can practice self-defense and stop

Identify where your time really goes.

Most people have an unrealistic sense of how long it takes to do things. To stop operating on a fantasy driven perception of what you do each day and the amount of time you spend at each task, take an honest look at your activities – and your non-activities.

  • For one week, keep a daily calendar, divided into 15-minute increments. Draw a line down the center.
  • In the left column, prepare a schedule that includes all of your usual/planned activities for the day.

Block out the time you expect to begin each activity, and the amount of time you think it will take.

Include all usual activities: waking up, breakfast, grooming, preparing to leave, commuting, arrival at work, work breaks, evening activities, etc., as well as task-appointments and meetings scheduled for that day.

  • On the right side of the line, note the amount of time each activity actually takes.

You may find that although you woke up at 6:30am, as scheduled, you didn’t actually get out of bed until 7:00am, so the amount of time you’ve scheduled to get ready in the morning was unrealistic.

  • If in the left column, you allowed 30 minutes for grooming and dressing, but it took closer to an hour, note that in the right column.

Include any tasks that you didn’t specify. For example, you may realize that although you allotted time for getting dressed, you failed to allow time for deciding what to wear, or for brushing lint or cat hair off your clothing. Or you may have thought it takes you 10 minutes to shower and shave, but it actually takes 20 minutes.

Look for ways to realistically improve your timing.

  • Analyze the discrepancies. Determine if you can do anything to realistically conserve time.
    • If you’re slow getting up, budget more wake-up time, get up earlier, or work on getting out of bed faster…
    • If you tend to be less functional in the morning, pick out your clothing or set up breakfast the night before…
    • If you spend an extra 10 minutes looking for your cell phone, PDA, etc., work on a system for keeping them in one, convenient spot (their designated Home”), so you can always locate them without stress…
    • If it takes longer for your morning shower than you thought, keep a clock in the bathroom… or save time by brushing your teeth while the shower water heats up… or wash your hair at night… or just allot more time.
    • If tasks are taking longer than planned, determine why: Were you prepared? Clear about your goals?
    • Did the task need to be broken down further? Too many interruptions? Were you too distracted to focus?
    • Striving for perfection? Once you determine why the task wasn’t completed as scheduled, work on specific solutions: Learn how to minimize interruptions, simplify tasks, delegate, ask for help, or just say no.
  • Become more aware of the real passage of time.
    • Self-monitor. Don’t just wear a watch, check it frequently to determine if you are on schedule – and on-task
    • Set alarms for appointments and activities (watch, computer, beeper, etc.).
    • Learn to plan backwards. If you need to be somewhere, determine how long it will take to get there, and how much time you’ll realistically need to get ready. Your 9 am meeting may require a 6 am wake-up. Allow sufficient time to prepare/travel/etc. Allow time for problems: Changing a stained shirt, being stuck in traffic, etc.
    • Stay on target with a Grounding list – a brief written list of your plans for the day, in time order. If you begin to drift, glance at the list and reposition yourself. If you’re running late, eliminate an activity.


Susan Lasky is a both Board Certified and Senior Certified ADHD Coach.

To contact the author:

Fine Print

ADD and ADHD are used interchangeably for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Any information or suggestions in this article are solely the opinion of the author(s) and should not replace the advice of appropriate medical, legal, therapeutic, financial or other professionals. We do not test or endorse any product, link, author, individual or service listed within.

© 2006 – 2015, by The ADD Resource Center. All Rights Reserved.

To view HUNDREDS of articles and videos on ADD/ADHD, go to 646/205.8080

Leave a Comment

/* Clarify tracking */