ADHD Being Late

ADHD and the Challenge of Punctuality

Consistently being late is a common issue for individuals with ADHD, often due to difficulties with time management and task prioritization. The tendency to underestimate the time needed for tasks, get sidetracked, or struggle with initiating activities can result in habitual tardiness. This aspect of ADHD can affect professional and personal relationships. Implementing strategies like setting multiple reminders, planning buffer time for tasks, and using time-management tools can significantly improve punctuality. Recognizing this symptom and actively working on time-management skills are key steps towards mitigating the impact of ADHD on daily scheduling and commitments.

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ADHD & Being Late: Is Tardiness an ADHD Trait?

Although Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), formerly known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), is not a serious illness in and of itself, it can cause major difficulties when time management is concerned. 

While there are many different theories on why people with ADHD tend to be late, the most likely explanation is that they simply don't experience time the same way as others do. For example, a person with ADHD may not be able to estimate how long it will take to complete a task accurately. They may start a project and get caught up in the moment, losing track of time completely.

Another reason why people with ADHD may be constantly running late is that they have difficulty focusing on tasks that are not interesting to them. This can make it hard to stick to a schedule or complete boring tasks promptly.

for many people with ADHD, being on time is not easy

What is Chronic Lateness?

Even if you don't have an ADHD diagnosis, there is a particular behavior associated with someone who ends up always being late. According to the Wellness Centre, this is called chronic lateness. The majority of these issues resulted from a lack of organization, motivation, or even misplaced priority. 

There are probably adults without ADHD diagnoses who are greatly affected by this specific behavior. It may be difficult for them to keep track of their calendars and tasks, and making plans ahead of time may also be stressful. Despite their awareness that what they're doing might impact other people's time, the habit they've developed has already affected everyone else's.

when you're late because of your lack of time awareness

What Causes People to be Chronically Late, and How Does This Relate to ADHD?

So how did most people develop this unfortunate habit? According to experts, there are two types of chronic lateness: internal and external.

Internal types have a hard time dealing with their feelings and emotions, which is why self-control-demanding tasks and schedules become an obstacle. Meanwhile, an external sort of chronic tardiness occurs when a person can't manage their time effectively.

So how does being late relate to ADHD? As we all know, people with ADHD have a neurodivergent brain, which affects their executive functions. Executive function is a term that refers to a set of skills responsible for the organization, time management, and regulation of emotional responses. Having ADHD can result in miscalculation of time and other critical skills that can be used to manage executive functions.

People with ADHD sometimes also lack the motivation to do things that others may misjudge as laziness. If there are any instances that a person with ADHD has to choose from laying in bed for five more minutes or going out and socializing with their friends, they will choose the extra time themselves (and maybe extend it to five minutes more...or longer).

when you're late because you answered impusively
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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: The Concept of Time Blindness

Another ADHD trait that can affect a person being chronically late is the concept of time blindness. This event happens when someone cannot sense the passing of time. Dr. Russel Burkley, an ADHD researcher, appears to have coined this term. According to him, individuals with ADHD have difficulties in sensory processing; they are unable to relate themselves properly to the passage of time. To put it into simpler words, time flies for people with ADHD.

Take me as an example. When I have a meeting to attend, it's either me arriving early before anyone else or getting there too late and having them wait for me. There is always no exact time for my arrival. One more thing I happen to struggle with as well is deadlines. I often procrastinate- thinking I have enough time to do them and eventually miss deadlines. Another thing that affects my punctuality is my lack of impulse control. There's this one time that I had to attend a scheduled movie date with a friend, but when I was preparing to go, I somehow ended up missing it because I was distracted when I saw a cute little dog and pet him for a while that I forgot about our theater schedule.

when you're late because you got distracted

Time Sensitivity: Masking ADHD Symptoms Related to Time

ADHD Masking is one of the common habits of people with ADHD. Based on research, ADHD Masking is when they control their symptoms to the point where it almost disappears. This is done to minimize other people's judgment of a person with ADHD's life and behavior.

One more thing about ADHD masking is that it can affect a person's hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. This means they have to focus all their energy on concealing the symptoms of ADHD. It takes a toll on them because they might feel exhausted after putting up a front for a long period.

When it comes to time and being late, many young adults with ADHD often set the alarm, a reminder, or a sticky note not to forget the event and arrive on time. However, these measures might result in them arriving too early rather than late, putting them in the position of having to wait longer than usual instead of late.

when you're early because you were afraid to be late...

How to Improve Your Time Management Skills If You Have ADHD?

There are certain measures you may take to manage your time and turn your tardiness into timeliness. As an ADHD coach, here are some of the things that you can try to do to avoid getting late:

  • Create a visual cue if working on a timeline. Having something to look at can help you analyze time and see it differently.
  • Planning using task apps can significantly aid you in your time management skills. These phone applications are automated and can provide you with reminders and save you from the trouble of thinking of these events frequently.
  • If you aren't familiar with using technology, you can write a notice on an easy-to-spot place in your room and be reminded of your schedule.
  • Use navigation applications such as Waze or Google maps. These applications give a rough estimation of your arrival at a particular place when leaving at a specific time. Set an acceptable buffer zone for unforeseen circumstances such as heavy traffic and accidents.
  • Focus on your end goal, then work backward. This technique is called "reverse scheduling". You create and imagine the desired outcome, then figure out how to get there in steps and time.
  • Set your phone alarm in intervals. The first alarm goes off, indicating that you need to do this activity by this time; the second alarm gives you a cue to move on to the next task and a final reminder to get up from your bed if you choose to sleep off.
  • Ask for help from your friends or family. Get details regarding their experiences in traveling from places and ask for tips on adequately saving time going to and from a certain point. Sometimes, there are shortcuts and other life hacks that other people do know and would be helpful for you.
  • Don't use analog clocks, especially if you have Dyscalculia or difficulties in numbers. There's a good chance that having to recognize time by calculating the hand positions of the clock to determine the present hour and minute will make it hard for you.
  • Practice planning a week before the event. Try to schedule a doctor's appointment ahead of time instead of last-minute schedules. As cliche as it may sound, mental health professionals can aid you in achieving your goal: to be on time.

When anticipating a meeting or a scheduled event, one of the worst parts is waiting. If you think you will be late than the scheduled time, please let the person waiting for you know. Updating them frequently may help them ease their emotions and impatience.

Sometimes, being late is okay and acceptable. However, if it has a significant impact on other people's lives to the point that their activities are being impeded, it is no longer acceptable. You can always take measures to prevent this type of scenario by using the tips stated above.

when you're late because you forgot your appointment


In conclusion, ADHD and being late are often intertwined. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to manage time and arrive on schedule. Many techniques can be used for an individual with ADHD to be successful in their endeavor to be on time. Asking for help from family and friends, using technology applications, and focusing on the end goal are a few examples of what can be done. Lastly, practice makes perfect! Try planning a week before the event to get a hang of things. Remember: always update the person waiting for you if there is any change in your estimated arrival time. Thank you for reading!

ADHD and Being Late: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Will I always be late if I have ADHD?

No, you will not always be late if you have ADHD. However, it is often a trait associated with the disorder.

What can I do if I'm struggling to be on time?

Many techniques can be used such as using technology applications, asking for help from friends and family, or focusing on the end goal. If these tips do not work for you, please speak to your doctor about other strategies that may help manage time.

What should I do if I'm already running late?

If you're already running late, try to update the person waiting for you frequently. This will help them ease their emotions and impatience.

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