Time Blindness

Do you find yourself always late for appointments because you have not factored in the “true” time it takes to get ready and get there?

Do you miss deadlines, because you think you have plenty of time left to complete your work?

Do little microbreaks from your work tasks end up consuming your whole day?

Have you ever sat down to plan a budget or get ready for a big life event and felt as though it was impossible to conceive?

If some or all of these scenarios seem familiar, it’s likely due to time blindness.

First popularized by ADHD researcher Dr. Russell Barkley in a 1997 paper about self-regulation and time perception in people with ADHD, Dr. Barkley also called this phenomenon temporal myopia. Put another way, literal near-sightedness to time.

Some folks in the disability community are uncomfortable with the term, but as of this writing, there hasn’t been a widely accepted alternative.

It’s important to understand that time blindness is the result of perception so working with your strengths and calling in support when you need it can really help.

​Time horizons

Many adults are able to conceive and plan three months into the future, but with ADHD’ers, it’s closer to a week or two, sometimes even less. The future can feel like an abstract fantasy, which leads to a lack of urgency.

Reduced time horizons make it difficult to plan for the future and set goals. 

The good news is there are proven ways to address this.

Watch out for time sinks

Social media, with its potential for infinite scrolling can rob you of valuable attention and time throughout the day. Logging on to post a photo can lead to an array of rabbit holes and may even trigger feelings of inadequacies, the last thing neurodiverse people need!

Try blocking specific times of day to interact via social media. Many people report holding off until later in the day when work is done also helps lower the chance of being exposed to negative news. There are also blocking apps that will prevent you from accessing social media during certain times of the day.

Track your days

Add a day in your calendar to record how long it actually takes to do things. For example, when answering an email, set a timer and log the amount of time it takes into a document. Making lunch? Set a timer.

Record every activity, even leisure time. Don’t sweat it if some tasks take longer than others, this is simply a way for you to get realistic about how long things take during the day so you can approach your work and responsibilities with more ease and realistic expectations.

Use alarms

Speaking of alarms, set up reminders and alarms on your devices and have a wall mounted or digital clock within your field of vision. It’s a good idea to build in some transition times for screen breaks and exercise. Being pulled from one task to another without a sufficient break can be extra taxing for adults with ADHD, so work with your abilities, not against them.

Schedule planning time

When you put your goals and budgets into a planner or document, it gets easier to see how much time you have to meet your deadlines and responsibilities. Having dates on your wall calendar can help with visualizing where tasks are at and what still needs to be accomplished.

Chunk it down

ADHD’ers can get overwhelmed with multiple projects and assignments, that’s why it’s key to create small doable tasks and set a timer to track how long it will take to get work completed.

There is also a risk of being given too much time, without tools and a blueprint of action, it can feel like being sucked into quicksand.

Building in small wins throughout the day, which provide extra motivation will help keep you on track to your goals.

Bring in a coach

Working with a coach can help you get back on track when things feel out of control in your day-to-day responsibilities. Many coaches offer programs aimed specifically at supporting you in time management.

Time blindness can cause unwanted frustrations throughout the day and can impact your long-term health, career and personal goals, but by setting yourself up with supportive apps, careful planning, a coach, and setting alarms, you’ll be well on your way to managing it.

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