3 Tips for Improving your Sense of Time

Adam S. Executive Function Coach and Tutor of Prepped & Polished, LLC in South Natick, Massachusetts teaches you three strategies to improve your sense of time.

Today, we’re going to talk about sense of time. First of all, what is sense of time? Well, it’s another key component of the executive functions. You might remember last week, we talked about working memory. Well, one of the ways that you use your working memory is to interpret incoming events and analyze them against the passage of time, your own internal clock.

Now, some of us have really strong internal clocks; they tick pretty loudly; we have a good idea of how long things are taking and when we need to stop and readjust our schedules or move on, change plans, or switch gears. But for some of us, especially those with weak executive functions, time can seem much more fluid.

Our internal clocks don’t tick as loudly, and for example, something like homework continues to take hours; you know, just having fun can fly by in a matter of minutes. This can result in a variety of challenges for students who have difficulty sensing the passage of time. This kind of student tends to be chronically late; they miss deadlines, don’t know when to switch gears, and spend too much time on the wrong activity. Fortunately, there are some strategies we can put in place to overcome lapses in our own ability to sense time.

1. Use external reminders

1. Use lots of clocks

Put clocks all over your house, all over your bedroom. It’s a good passive reminder of what time it is, what’s happening, and how much time is passing. There are also some great tools you can use to help with homework. There are clocks that have a feature where you can shade part of the clock so you can actually see the passage of time as the minute hand moves.

2. Wear a watch

I know we all have the time on our phones, but it’s much easier just to peek at your watch than it is to pull out your phone, and you’re more likely to do it. Additionally, you can buy watches that will have alarms or vibrate every 10 to 15 minutes so you can be aware of a certain chunk of time passing,

3. Post signs

There are a lot of routines that we tend to struggle with, and we fall behind in big ones, such as getting ready for school and getting out of the house on time. Time yourself. If you know that you need to be eating breakfast by 8:15, put a sign in your bedroom that says time to eat breakfast. Put a sign in the kitchen that says nine o’clock, and get out the door so you can kind of keep track of your daily progress and stay on track.

2. Use alarms

We all have some kind of smartphone, iPhone/ iPod. One of the great features of these pieces of technology is that you can use them to set alarms for everything. If three o’clock everyday you need to start your homework, put a reminder on your phone – start homework. If you want to make sure you’re getting to bed on time, set a reminder on your phone 8 o’clock – time for bed. You can set these throughout the day to help keep you on track as the day moves on.

3. Use a schedule to plan your time

Make a schedule for every day, every week, and check it. You can use your smartphone to set reminders to check your schedule. A good time is the beginning of the day, maybe during breakfast, maybe again at lunch, and then again at the end of the day, to see how your day went and how things fit into your overall plan.

Make adjustments as needed

Nothing ever goes according to plan, so it’s important to be flexible and learn to update your schedule throughout the day and throughout the week.

Always check your schedule before committing to something new

See how any new commitments or new plans are going to fit into your existing priorities.

Time how long things actually take to do

Some things are different every day, but some things are pretty much the same. For example, the getting ready routine probably doesn’t change very much from day to day. So time it once. See how long it takes and then use that time estimate to build your schedule for the rest of the week.

Time and a half estimates

Finally, use time and a half, even double time estimates, especially if you have weak executive functioning skills. You’re probably going to tend to underestimate how long things are actually going to take, and nothing ever goes as planned. So you want to make sure you budget time for mistakes, for life, and for transition times. Using time and a half to double time how long you think things will actually take, is a safe way to build in this cushion.

So those are the basics of managing your sense of time. Use external reminders, put clocks everywhere, wear a watch, set alarms, use your iPhone or iPod to set reminders of activities you want to be doing or starting throughout the day, and finally, make and use a schedule. I recommend a paper schedule, something you can carry with you. Make sure you check it regularly and update it. Always check it before you come into anything, and remember to estimate time and a half to double time how long you think things are actually going to take.

Do you have a hard time memorizing things? Which tip did you find most useful for improving working memory?

Post your tips/comments below.

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