Procrastination. Distraction. Frustration. They’re all familiar for kids and adults with ADHD when attempting to get stuff done. Whether you’re trying to help your third-grader tackle her homework or make a dent in your own tax return, it can be hard to master the art of ADHD time management for yourself or alongside your children.
Luckily, we have a time management method we’d like to share called Time Blasts. A more flexible version of the Pomodoro Technique, these blasts are all about breaking tasks down into manageable chunks. You focus on one thing for a short burst of productivity—with a visual timer to keep you honest—then reward yourself with a break.
How a Time Blast Works
With the traditional Pomodoro Technique, you set a timer for 25 minutes, focus on one task and work on it until time’s up. Then you reward yourself with a small break, usually around five minutes. String four Pomodoros together, and you’ve suddenly written half that essay or cleaned your whole kitchen. Then you take a longer break around half an hour in length.
Time blasts differ in a couple key ways. First, we recommend a little flexibility on the overall amount of focused work time by choosing either a 10-, 15- or 20-minute blast length before you begin your focused work period. This gives you the ability to match a blast to you or your child’s needs and abilities. A 10-minute stretch might be perfect for a third-grader, and an adult might jump right in with a 20-minute Time Blast.
Second, we think choosing an ADHD time management tool can help you find success with this method. We recommend working with our Time Timer PLUS® 20 Minute as a best match for this technique. It features a blue disk on this compact timer that disappears along with the minutes, so you can see time. This visual cue serves as a powerful reminder of time passing that can help you focus and stay on task. It’s a great ADHD timer for all ages.
Sample Child Time Blast
- Pick one task you’d like your child to focus on and choose a 10- or 15-minute blast length. Let your child know they have just 10 (or 15 minutes) to work only on their spelling test. Then set your Time Timer for the chosen time length and place it where your child can see the disappearing disk.
- Once time’s up, give your child a 5-minute break, using the timer to stay on track.
- Tackle a second Time Blast with the same working and break lengths as needed or desired. Depending on your child’s age, he or she may be able to manage this process alone after the first few times.
Sample Adult Time Blast
1. Choose one task you’d like to focus on and choose a 15- or 20-minute blast length. Set your Time Timer for the chosen length and work on only your chosen task until time’s up.
- Take a 5-minute break, using your timer to keep yourself honest.
- Tackle a second Time Blast with the same working and break lengths. Repeat as needed or desired, building in a long break every 3 or 4 Time Blasts.
Why Time Blasts Work for ADHD
Time blasts—or timed working intervals—aren’t just a fun way for boosting your productivity. It turns out they’re recommend by a number of experts as a good approach for tackling time management for ADHD.
Francesco Cirillo, creator of the Pomodoro technique, wrote about how timed intervals can help kids with ADD/ADHD, especially if they simply write down any distractions that run through their heads during a Pomdoro. Then immediately return to the focused task.
In ADDitude magazine, one ADHD coach recommends the Pomodoro technique by name and another expert in the same article suggests setting a timer for 20-minutes—or whatever increment doesn’t seem intimidating for you.
But why does it work? Experts say timing helps limit distractions, boost motivation, build determination and deliver the quick feedback kids and adults with ADHD need. Plus, learning time management skills can help boost executive function.
It’s a great list of reasons to break out a timer and stop procrastinating on that task you’ve been dreading. Or help your child do the same. Ready, set, Time Blast!