OCD and Time Management

by digitalart freedigitalphotos.net

Thoughts on time management as young people head back to school and college. A version of this post first appeared on my blog in April 2013…

Time management is a hot topic these days. Whether related to the workplace, school, homemaking, child-rearing, or our personal lives, there just never seems to be enough time to do all the things we need, or want, to do. We are so overloaded that there are self-help books, as well as experts and entire companies dedicated to this subject. When did it all get so complicated?

And if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, there’s a good chance you’ll have even more obstacles to overcome.

To me, one of the most frustrating aspects of my son Dan’s severe OCD was how much time he appeared to spend doing absolutely nothing. He had schoolwork and responsibilities to attend to, yet he’d just sit in a “safe” chair for hours and hours on end. I now know that he spent this time focusing on his obsessions and compulsions, which were in his mind and not obvious to me. As Dan’s OCD improved, the chair sitting stopped, but he still often took longer than others to complete his school assignments. This seemed to be attributed to his difficulty balancing details within the big picture, perfectionism, and  over-thinking.

While Dan’s problem of apparently wasting time is common for those with OCD, the opposite end of the spectrum can also be an issue. Some people with OCD  might feel the constant need to be busy and productive, as well as having every event and task of the day carefully planned. For Dan, spur-of-the-moment plans were not even a possibility when his OCD was in control.

Something else those with OCD might deal with in regard to time management is lack of punctuality. This might be because they feel the need to finish whatever task they are working on before they can move on to something else (even if most people wouldn’t consider it important), or perhaps due to trouble with transitions. Of course, time spent attending to obsessions and compulsions can always account for any struggles with time management.

From what I’ve written, it is easy to conclude that people with OCD do not manage their time well. But actually, I think the opposite is true. Those with OCD are excellent time managers. Look at everything they have to manage! For example, even though my son Dan sat in his “safe” chair for hours on end, somehow he was still able to meet all his responsibilities. Many of those with OCD not only fulfill their own obligations, they meet the “obligations” of their disorder as well. Of course, not surprisingly, this load might finally become too much to handle.

In my opinion people with OCD don’t need lessons in time management. What they need is to fight their OCD. Obsessions and compulsions are time-consuming, as is constant worry. Getting back the time that OCD consumes is nothing short of a gift and can open up a world of possibilities to not only those who have OCD, but to the people who want to spend time with them.


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11 Responses to OCD and Time Management

  1. Doris says:

    I agree with this – I initially bought a book to help my “slow” child gen though he excelled at school. It is all now starting to make sense. I I would like to know how Dan got better as we are still getting to the point where my son recognizes the extent to which OCD impacts him – so far, he only acknowledges “habits”

  2. Eric says:

    I agree, OCD is a time thief, I have spent 20 years struggling with this condition and it has cost me good jobs, mostly due to time management. My rituals include too much planning, preparation, researching and sorting information, the outcome is poor time management.

    Planning, preparation, researching and arranging preparation material is mostly in my mind, family members are too frustrated to help, I sometimes wish the rituals were able to observed by others, “in his mind and not obvious to me”.

    Finding experts in OCD or ERP is not easy, here in Australia.

    • Hi Eric, I am so sorry to hear you have been dealing with OCD for so long. I believe there is a Facebook Group for those with OCD in Australia? Also, there are self-help workbooks and some websites that can be helpful. Feel free to email me at ocdtalk@yahoo.com to discuss other potential resources.

  3. Janet, thank you for sharing this! The punctuality issue is one that “gets” so many of the amazing people I’m honored to work with. It interferes with getting to school on time; it interferes with getting to therapy on time. It creates an extra load to carry. And it’s amazing to see that become a thing of the past when the rituals start to get dismantled.

    • Thanks for commenting, Angie! I know it is tough to watch OCD wreak havoc on someone’s life, but then it’s great to see the same person functioning so well after their OCD is treated!

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