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Time blindness can lead to many struggles and severely impact someone’s quality of life, relationships and mental health. Some people feel so overwhelmed and confused about handling time challenges that they lose jobs and relationships and suffer emotionally. Learning what time blindness is and how to cope with it can help you manage your time and feel better about your life.
What Is Time Blindness?
When someone has time blindness, they struggle with their awareness of time passing. For many people, their internal body clock helps with tracking time. They understand when it is time to check on the water boiling on the stove, plan how much time to spend on tasks and arrive on time for events.
When someone has time blindness, this internal system does not function properly. They may:
- Have difficulty planning and using time effectively
- Appear to be irresponsible or unable to manage their time
- Lose track of time while reading a book
- Miss deadlines because they are unsure of the time needed for tasks
- Arrive late because they take too much time to prepare or drive to the destination
Examples of Time Blindness
When someone has time blindness, other people quickly label them as deficient based on the struggles that come along with time blindness, including:
- Not knowing how much time has passed since last looking at the clock
- Not being able to figure out how long it will take to accomplish a task
- Routinely turning in assignments or projects late
- Arriving late
- Trouble planning a schedule and adhering to it
- Losing sense of time
- Feeling like time is “slipping away”
- Reacting too slowly
- Trouble controlling how fast or slow they are moving
- Difficulty measuring when something happened in the past
The Relationship Between Time Blindness and ADHD
Many people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can experience struggles regarding time. Research has identified a connection between the symptoms of ADHD, the brain functions of people who have ADHD, and time blindness. Some common challenges related to ADHD and time management include:
- Understanding how much time has passed
- Awareness of the amount of time until an event
- Recalling the correct sequence of events
- Doing a task in the same amount of time it took the first time
People with ADHD quite often struggle with impairments in their executive functioning. Executive functioning involves the part of the brain that controls thoughts, emotions and behaviors related to goal-directed actions. Sensing and managing time are part of the executive functions of the brain.
Research has suggested that the symptoms of ADHD related to executive functions are likely connected to the time perception problems with time blindness. Understanding this connection can help better guide people with ADHD in learning to manage and strengthen their awareness of time.
Other ADHD researchers have examined the relationship between emotionally stimulating tasks and time perception. This research has suggested that people with ADHD do better with time perception when they work on more emotionally arousing tasks. In contrast, people who do not have ADHD typically have more difficulties with time perception when working on a more emotionally stimulating task.
The Negative Effects of Time Blindness
Time blindness can adversely affect someone’s life and relationships. It can impact school, work, friendships and family relationships.
When someone has time blindness, they frequently arrive late to places. This can be because they are unsure how to manage their time to get ready, lose track of time while preparing to leave or cannot measure how much time it will take to get ready and drive to the location.
This pattern of being late can lead to many problems in relationships. Other people may think the person with time blindness is intentionally late or does not care about them or the event. They might think, “If she cared about me, then she would have been here on time!” The other person might respond with anger, frustration or hurt.
This pattern of arriving late can cause problems at work and even lead to termination. Coming to work late or walking into a meeting after it has started can seem irresponsible, incompetent and inconsiderate. Co-workers and supervisors may lose trust in the employee, not want to assign responsibilities and even leave the person out of social connections in the workplace.
Time blindness can strain relationships when someone has difficulty managing and completing tasks and responsibilities. For example, someone with time blindness may have trouble taking care of their household duties, such as laundry, cleaning or fixing a meal on time. Their partner may feel like they have to “do everything” in the home, and the other person does not care or respect them enough to do their share. It can result in arguments, distance in a relationship, resentment and even an end to the relationship.
How To Cope
Once you have recognized that you have time blindness, learning how to cope with it can help make positive changes and improve your life. Dealing with time blindness does take some work, but the results can help you better manage any underlying conditions like ADHD and improve relationships and performance at work. Some suggestions to help cope with time blindness include:
- Keeping a time log: A time log can help you better understand how much time you spend on certain tasks and activities. Over time, it can guide you to understand better how long it takes to complete something. Include time for breaks or finishing the day if you’re working on a more extended project. You can use a time-tracking app, spreadsheet or notebook.
- Wearing a watch: It may sound very simple, but wearing a watch helps you pay more attention to the time and have a better awareness of time passing. Smartwatches can provide alerts to strengthen your time perception further.
- Use alarms: Setting an alarm, timer or notification can alert you to move on to a particular task or activity. You can set multiple alarms to give yourself a buffer or warning and then an alert when it is actually time to transition or begin something new. Mobile phones, computers and smartwatches can help with this alert system.
- Calendars: Using one calendar to track all appointments, meetings, social events, household responsibilities and even errands can help guide you to arrive on time, complete what you need to do and remind you of the event. Using a digital calendar, you can set up alerts and reminders directly on the calendar and sync them across multiple devices and programs.
- Clocks: Strategically placing clocks in visible locations can be guides for tracking time, similar to a watch. Whether you are sitting at your desk, on the couch or making dinner in the kitchen, it can help to have a large and visible clock announcing the time to you.
- Digital assistants: A digital assistant can give you reminders, countdowns or several other skills to help improve your time perception and management skills.
If you or someone you know wants to get help with time blindness, the Nobu app can help. You can access free mental health support, including learning coping skills, journaling prompts and goal setting. You can also connect to a mental health professional and begin online therapy sessions. The app is available for download on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.
Take Control Of Your Mental Health
- Nazari, A; et. al. “Emotional stimuli facilitate time perception in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Journal of Neuropsychology, June 12, 2018. Accessed October 31, 2022.
- Ptacek R, Weissenberger S, Braaten E, et al. “Clinical Implications of the Perception of Time in Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A Review.” Medical Science Monitor, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2022.
- Rodden, J. “What Is Executive Dysfunction? Sign and Symptoms of EFD.” ADDitude, July 1, 2022. Accessed October 31, 2022.
- Tuckman, A. “Are You Time Blind? 12 Ways to Use Every Hour Effectively.” ADDitude, January 3, 2022. Accessed October 31, 2022.