5 Ways a Kitchen Timer Can Help ADHD

5 Ways a Kitchen Timer Helps ADHD
Ira-Heuvelman Dobrolyubova. Getty Images

Did you know that a simple kitchen timer is a powerful way to help you or your child with ADHD symptoms? Here are five ways you can use this versatile tool.

1) Keeps You on Task

Staying focused on one task, particularly if it requires deep thinking, can be very challenging when you have ADHD. You might find that you keep jumping up to do other tasks because you are worried you will forget them if you don’t do it straight away.

Or you might feel mentally restless and focusing on one thing feels very hard. 

This is where your timer comes in. Set it for 15 minutes and work on your project.

If you remember another task that needs to be done, simply write it down (so you won’t forget it) on a pad of paper next to you and carry on with your project. If you feel mentally restless, look at the timer and see how many minutes you have left. Knowing that you have a mini break soon, allows you to focus for the remaining time. As your body and mind get used to working with the timer, you will be able increase the time to 30 or 40 minutes. 

When the timer rings, get up, stretch your legs, have a glass of water, then go and set your timer again.

Children can use the timer in a similar way when they are working on their homework. How long you set the timer for will depend on your child’s age and what task they are doing. Experiment with different times until you find their optimum focus time.

 

2) Helps Procrastination

Procrastination is something that many people with ADHD experience. Sometimes procrastination can happen when a task feels large, and you don’t know where to start. Other times the task causes you anxiety every time you think about it so you delay starting it. It could be filing your taxes, paying a speeding ticket, organizing important papers, etc.

Whatever the task is that you are delaying try this: Set your timer for five minutes, and use that time to write a list of steps you will need to do to finish the task. If it is a really big task, you might not know them all, so just write the ones you do know. If it is a simple task, it might seem silly to write steps that seem obvious. However, write the list anyway. Next, set your timer for 10 minutes and start to work on the first item on the list. When the timer rings, you might feel a little annoyed that you have to stop because you were starting to build momentum. Next, set the timer for 15 minutes. Breaking the task down into small steps and then working on them in small time chunks is a very effective way to overcome procrastination.

3) Helps With Boredom

There are some tasks in life that are boring to do but necessary—for example, taking the trash out, washing clothes, or picking up clothes from the bedroom floor. Using a timer to help you do these types of tasks turns them from boring and dull into a fun game.

You could see how many dishes you can wash in five minutes. Then in the next five minutes see if you can beat that number. You are not compromising your standards or safety but are just adding a sense of urgency and excitement to an otherwise dull activity.

You can try this with your child too: "Can you pack your bag for the next day in five minutes?" or "Can you get ready for bed in 10 minutes?"

4) Concept of Time

Many people with ADHD struggle with the concept of time. Time seems to travel differently for them. In addition, they often struggle to give a realistic estimate of how long a task takes them to perform. Underestimating the amount of time is very common. This means deadlines are missed, you are constantly running late and you are horrible about disappointing the people in your life.

Time how long it takes you to perform tasks you do frequently. You can then use this information to help plan your day. For example, when you know how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, you can decide what time you need to set your alarm clock to arrive on time for work. 

5) Hyperfocus

If you are in hyperfocus mode, you can be so immersed in the activity that you block everything else out. There are definitely benefits of being able to focus this intensely. However, you might find that you forget to eat, miss appointments and spend so long on the hyperfocus activity that there is not enough time to perform your other tasks. 

Before starting a hyperfocus activity, set your timer. Choose one with a very loud ring and place it at least few steps away from your desk. When you have to physically move you are also forced to mentally disengage from your task.  This is helpful as some people report they do not hear their timer, or they turn it off without realizing it and continue to hyperfocus.

Because it is hard to stop a hyperfocus activity and transition to another task, you will be setting your timer for a much longer period than in the previous points. Perhaps an hour or longer, depending on what your day looks like.

What Is The Best Type of Timer?

Timers generally fall into two types: digital and wind up.

Digital 

Digital timers are typically quiet until the alarm goes off. These are good if you are working on a project that requires deep concentration or are easily distracted by sounds.

Wind Up

Wind up timers often make a ticking noise. This can be helpful for tasks where you want to be reminded that you are being timed to keep you on task and moving but do not require deep focus, such as getting ready in the morning for work or school or decluttering an area of your house.

Can I Use My Phone?

If at all possible, do not use the timer on your phone. Your phone is full of tempting distractions.  Instead, have a timer whose only job is to help you with your tasks. 

How Many Timers?

One of the great things about a kitchen timer is that they are fairly inexpensive. A basic timer is approximately $5 and can last for years. This means you can invest in more than one. Why not have one for each room in your home, including the bathroom. This is helpful because there will always be a timer nearby.

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