Multiply your time estimates by 1.5x

ADHD Business Tips: Multiply your time estimates by 1.5x

As a business-owner with ADHD I’ve had my fair share of trouble managing my time and energy effectively, and if you’re reading this you can probably relate!

Can you see yourself in any of these anecdotes?

The Morning Rush

Sarah, an entrepreneur with ADHD, wakes up on a regular Wednesday morning with a burst of energy and enthusiasm. She starts her day by listing down all the tasks she wants to accomplish. Her list includes drafting a proposal, responding to client emails, updating her website, and preparing for a meeting. Despite her best intentions, by midday, she finds herself only halfway through her list. She realises that she didn’t consider the time it takes to transition between tasks and underestimated how much energy each task requires. This leaves her feeling frustrated and overwhelmed as she struggles to finish everything she planned.

The Hyperfocus Trap

Ben, a freelancer with ADHD, begins working on a client project in the morning. He quickly becomes immersed in his work, entering a state of hyperfocus. Hours pass by, and he feels like he’s making great progress. However, when he finally looks up, he’s surprised to see that the whole day has gone by, and he hasn’t even started on his other tasks. His intense focus on one task caused him to neglect other important responsibilities.

The Project Overload

Charlie, a small business owner with ADHD, is excited about launching a new product. They envision creating promotional materials, updating their online store, reaching out to potential customers, and refining the product design all in one day. They start off with enthusiasm but soon finds themselves jumping between tasks, unable to focus on any single one. By the end of the day, Charlie is exhausted and hasn’t completed most of the tasks they set out to do. They realise that the over-ambitious plan meant they were spread too thin and they didn’t actually make meaningful progress on any front.

Each of these examples highlight how optimism and enthusiasm can lead us to overestimate our capabilities within a given timeframe. The time management challenges that are part and parcel of an ADHD brain can make it difficult to get a true sense of what is possible in a set amount of time. Time blindness, optimism bias, hyperfocus and a lack of prioritisation all work against us when it comes to accurately estimating how long a task or project will take.

For this reason it can be helpful for a small business owner with ADHD to overestimate how much time they will need to complete a task. This strategy is often referred to as “time padding” or “time cushioning”. Overestimating the time needed to complete a task allows us to factor in unexpected interruptions, distractions, or difficulties that can arise, which are common challenges for ADHD brains.

By allocating more time than initially anticipated, we can reduce the stress of feeling rushed, avoid constantly falling behind schedule, and create a buffer for unforeseen events. This approach also helps in managing the inherent time blindness that often comes with ADHD, as it provides a more realistic view of the time required for tasks.

Here are some tips to make the most of time padding:

Estimate realistically:

When you plan your tasks for the day, start by estimating how much time you believe each task will take to complete. Be as realistic – and honest! – as possible based on your past experience.

Add extra time:

Once you have your initial estimate, add a buffer of extra time to it. This buffer can vary based on the nature of the task, your own working style, and your past experience with similar tasks. If you’re not sure what to add, using a multiplier of 1.5x is a great place to start. For example, if you think a task will take 30 minutes, you can pad it with an additional 15 minutes, allowing 45 minutes in your schedule.

Account for distractions:

Consider the potential distractions that might come up while you’re working on the task. These could include unexpected emails, phone calls, or other interruptions. It can also include wanting to make sure something is perfect! Time padding helps you accommodate these distractions without feeling rushed.

Minimise stress:

By giving yourself more time than you think you need, you reduce the stress and pressure associated with tight deadlines. This can be especially beneficial if you struggle with time awareness and tend to underestimate how long tasks will take.

Build in breaks:

Time padding can also allow you to include short breaks between tasks. These breaks can help recharge your focus and prevent burnout and they’re something I can easily forget to build in to my day.

Reflect & adjust:

Regularly review how long tasks actually take you to complete. This will help you refine your time padding strategy over time. You’ll gain a better understanding of how much buffer time is optimal for different types of tasks.


Use the table below as a quick reference guide to easily multiply your time estimates by 1.5x!

Download PDF Version

Keep in mind that the goal of time padding is not to waste time but to create a more realistic and lower stress schedule. It’s about providing yourself with the flexibility and space to manage unexpected challenges while still staying on track, but it’s important to strike a balance. Overestimating too much might lead to underutilisation of time and reduced productivity. By regularly assessing how long tasks actually take and adjusting your estimates accordingly you’ll develop a better sense of how much padding works best for you and your specific tasks.

Do you already make use of time padding in your day? Share your experience in the comments!

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