OCD can impact your time management in several ways, such as making you spend extra time on overthinking, perfectionism, and trying to focus.
Many people assume you must be meticulous if you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This stereotype means you’re expected to be great at managing your time and completing tasks — but this isn’t always the case.
On the contrary, OCD can make time management difficult.
Depending on the nature of your OCD, you might find it hard to be punctual or to finish your tasks in a timely manner due to obsessions and compulsions getting in the way. This can hurt your home situation, work, and relationships with others.
That said, there are effective treatments for OCD, and it’s possible to learn efficient time management techniques.
There are many ways in which OCD can affect time management.
For starters, obsessions and compulsions can take up a lot of time. Simple tasks can take longer than necessary. If you have a checking compulsion, for example, you might feel compelled to check all your windows and doors exactly ten times before leaving for work. This can impact your schedule and punctuality.
OCD can also be mentally draining. Because obsessions are unwanted and intrusive thoughts, they can show up at inopportune moments — say, when you’re approaching a deadline — and refuse to go away. This can make it hard to focus on tasks, which makes it more difficult to meet deadlines.
Procrastination can also result from OCD. Many people avoid their OCD triggers — in fact, avoidance can be a compulsion. You might avoid a task or put it off as long as possible. For example, you might have to drive to a certain area for a work task, but because you’re afraid of driving on a certain road, you put it off until the last minute.
Below, we look at 5 tips for managing your time better when dealing with OCD.
First things first: if you’re not currently seeing a therapist, you might consider doing so. Talk therapy is one of the most effective ways to manage OCD symptoms, and managing your symptoms is the key to managing your time.
The most common treatment for OCD is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. ERP helps you learn to manage obsessions without engaging in your compulsions. Eventually, your obsessions lose their power.
Other forms of therapy for OCD include:
- acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- Eye-Movement Desensitization and Response (EMDR) therapy
- imaginal exposure (IE)
- psychodynamic therapy
Some people might benefit from using prescription medication alongside talk therapy. You can speak with a doctor and therapist if you’d like to try medication for OCD.
For more information on OCD treatment, you can check out this article.
Perfectionism is not the same thing as OCD, but many people with OCD are also perfectionists, according to 2020 research.
Perfectionism can lead to procrastination. Perfectionists are afraid of being unable to complete tasks perfectly. This fear can compel you to put tasks off for as long as possible.
Similarly, perfectionists might self-sabotage so they have an excuse for not completing something perfectly. To avoid feeling shame about handling a meeting incorrectly, for example, you might fill your morning schedule so that you can show up late and blame something else for the meeting going badly.
You can tackle perfectionism by:
- talking about it in therapy
- identifying when and how your perfectionism comes up
- identifying and challenging harmful self-talk
- recognizing cognitive distortions, or flaws in thinking, that may be contributing to perfectionism
Consider looking for resources for perfectionists, such as The Perfectionism Project podcast or workbooks like “The Perfectionism Workbook: Proven Strategies to End Procrastination, Accept Yourself, and Achieve Your Goals“.
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Try to find healthy ways to cope with stress. You could try the following:
- deep breathing exercises
- relaxation techniques
- spending time in nature
Taking care of your basic needs — like sleeping enough and eating a balanced diet — can help you feel well enough to cope with day-to-day stressors.
Different time management techniques work for different people. If your current method isn’t working for you, consider trying another.
Popular time management techniques and philosophies include:
- time blocking and time boxing to make smarter use of your time
- “eating the frog,” meaning do your most difficult task first to get it out of the way
- the Eisenhower matrix to help you prioritize tasks
- the rapid planning method (RPM) to help you plan your progress
- bullet journaling — a method that combines mindfulness with productivity
- deep work that helps you get into a flow
If you try multiple time management techniques and find the same challenges keep coming up, take note. For example, if you constantly overfill your schedule, time management will always be tricky until you address it directly. Figuring out why you overfill your schedule can help you avoid it in the future.
When planning ahead, you can’t always predict the little tasks that will affect your schedule. Instead of squeezing too many tasks into your day, try adding some wiggle room in between tasks.
Adding in buffer time can look like:
- waking up ten minutes earlier
- giving yourself a five-minute breather between tasks
- allocating a little more time to challenging activities
- asking for an extra day to complete a work task
This is not about allocating time for you to focus on your obsessions and carry out your compulsions. Rather, it’s about accepting that you’re human and that life can get in the way of punctuality. Buffer time also helps reduce stress as you’ll feel less pressed for time.
If you’re finding it hard to manage your time with OCD, you’re not alone: OCD can make time management difficult for many.
Learning to manage your OCD symptoms can help you improve your time management skills. Consider speaking with a therapist to directly tackle your OCD.
Looking for a therapist, but not sure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.