Time blindness is a common symptom of ADHD, where individuals struggle with perceiving, managing, and effectively utilising time. It is characterised by difficulty in estimating the duration of tasks, planning and organising time, keeping track of deadlines, and maintaining a consistent schedule.
People with ADHD often experience time blindness because they struggle with executive functioning skills, such as working memory, attention, and cognitive flexibility. This can result in a feeling of time slipping away, leading to procrastination, missed appointments, and unfinished tasks.
For many individuals with ADHD, time blindness can also cause difficulty with self-regulation and self-motivation. I have often heard it said that people with ADHD can understand only two time states: now, and not-now. The finer gradations of timing can cease to exist until an event it close enough to become now. People with ADHD often find it challenging to prioritise tasks, set goals, and plan for the future. This can impact their personal and professional lives, leading to feelings of frustration, overwhelm, and a sense of failure.
Click here for an informative article about time blindness.
Some examples of how time blindness presents:
Having an appointment later in the day and being unable to start any task prior for fear of forgetting the appointment.
Waiting and waiting for the time to start something and then forgetting you are waiting and missing it.
Being surprised by how much time or how little time a task has taken - time can seem to constrict and dilate wildly depending on the task and your focus on it.
Persistently over or underestimating how long a task will take to perform.
Finding it difficult to get ready for work or school in the morning and then arriving late no matter how well intentioned the person was to arrive on time.
Managing time blindness mostly comes down to externalising as many aspects of time as you can so you don't need to rely on your internal time perception.
Use a calendar or diary to record all important appointments and events. Web-based calendars that can sync between devices and can be programmed to give reminders can be a game-changer for some people. I recommend multiple reminders for each event, and I do this myself.
Use a highly visible timer to set times to complete discrete tasks. The Time Timer (and generic ripoffs from Aliexpress) are a great option. I've got three of these at home to time events for my son.
Set alarms and reminders for important daily things, like taking medication, eating, and other tasks you want to get done but have difficulty remembering spontaneously.
Always agree to an appointment reminder when one is offered (I send all my clients a reminder the day before their next appointment and subsequently have fewer missed appointments considering most of my clients have ADHD).
If you have regular events you are always late for, put some time into carefully estimating the time that the main steps will take, and then writing these all down in a list to follow. I had one client who set the alarm on their phone every ten minutes in the mornings to remind themselves that they were supposed to be getting for work.
Click here for an hour-long ADHD Experts presentation about time blindness and strategies to cope, presented by psychologist Dr Ari Tuckman.