What Is Time Blindness?

Your ADHD Time Blindness 101

Published on
January 5, 2024

Time is an essential factor when carrying out our daily activities. Awareness of time helps us to plan and prioritize our activities, make informed decisions, and appreciate the fleeting nature of moments, fostering a deeper sense of mindfulness and purpose in our lives. The human brain helps us keep time and manage our activities properly. It tells us how much time we have spent on a task and how much time we have to go about our business.

Yet, for people coping with ADHD, the brain's perception of time can be somewhat distorted. This distortion can lead to poor time management and challenges completing tasks within set time limits. This phenomenon is called time blindness.

What Is Time Blindness?

Time blindness is a not a standalone condition. Time blindness refers to a difficulty with estimating how much time has elapsed or predicting how much time it will take to complete a task. A person who has spent more time than necessary on a particular activity due to losing track of time has demonstrated time blindness.

This distorted perception of time is beyond a person’s control. While time blindness is not yet fully understood, neuroscientists believe it may be related to lower activity levels in the prefrontal cortex and other key brain regions for executive functioning. It may also be related to dopamine dysregulation.

Dopamine dysregulation, and lower brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, are also highly correlated with other ADHD symptoms. Thus, time blindness is particularly common in people managing adult ADHD. The brain is a network, a series of pathways through which neurons (brain cells) communicate with one another. Interconnected brain regions make up this network. The network lights up when the mind wanders away instead of deliberately engaging in a task. We can see this phenomenon in brain imaging studies.

Disruption of these connections in the network hinders the ability of people coping with ADHD to perceive or conceptualize the passage of time.

What Time Blindness Looks Like

Time blindness, as a symptom, can cause a range of challenges in a person’s life. For example:

  • Lateness to activities: People who struggle with time blindness may habitually arrive late to work, school, and other activities. Sometimes, they miss appointments altogether. This has a tendency to snowball, in that missing or being late to one activity or appointment can throw off the rest of the day’s commitments.
  • Relationship challenges: Time blindness may impact relationships with friends and family members, who might feel the person with ADHD is purposefully missing essential appointments, or that they just don’t care. Unfortunately, people with ADHD may still be late to or miss events they truly care about, no matter how hard they try, simply because this brain function is faulty.
  • Prioritization challenges: Time blindness often involves underestimating how long it takes to finish a task. People with time blindness may spend much more time on a task than is needed, or more time than they intended, because they lose track of how much time has passed or cannot gauge if they've spent enough time on the task.
  • Difficulty creating or maintaining a schedule: People who have time blindness often find it challenging to develop and stick to a fixed schedule. They may spend an hour on an activity one day, and only fifteen minutes on the same activity the next day.
  • Overcommitting: If someone with time blindness tends toward underestimating how long a task will take, they may chronically overcommit and end up missing, cancelling, or rescheduling events frequently.

How To Manage Time Blindness

Simplify Your Activities

  • Divide work into smaller, manageable pieces: Break down complex activities into small portions. For instance, if you want to clean your house, make it seem manageable. Break it down into smaller tasks like "dust the sitting area," "wash the dishes," "or arrange the closet." It makes the tasks more straightforward to achieve once broken into smaller pieces.
Pro Tip: Break down tasks into chunks of time no longer than one hour. It’s much easier to keep track of time in smaller ‘chunks’ with the use of timers, reminders, etc.
  • Use visual aids: Tools such as calendars and applications help you manage your activities. They give you a clear picture of what you need to do. When you set a time limit on such tools, there is an urgent need to get more stuff done quickly.
Pro Tip: Visual timers can be especially helpful for people with ADHD. Try an app like Tiimo - a daily planning app designed for people with ADHD. Tiimo features like visual to-do lists, routines, a focus timer, and AI-powered checklists that let you break down big tasks with one click, are all super helpful for combatting time blindness.

Set Up Schedules and Alerts

  • Set reminders or alarms: Reminders and alerts are a perfect way to help switch tasks or shift attention to other tasks. For instance, schedule breaks or change tasks at certain times to help boost productivity and manage time properly.
Pro Tip: It can be easy to habitually turn off or ignore reminders without realizing it. To prevent this, try apps like the Shake-it Alarm, which makes you perform an action (shaking the phone, shouting, or vigorously tapping the screen) before ignoring or turning it off. (Also great if you struggle with chronic snoozing in the morning!)
  • Adopt routines that are constant every day: When you have a continuous pattern, you are stable and not uncertain about tasks. When you eat, sleep, work and study at certain times constantly, it will help establish a routine.

Seek External Help

  • Consult your family and friends for help: Share your struggles with those you can rely on to be supportive. Take part in online forums or support groups devoted to time management techniques. They can help develop coping skills for adults with ADHD.
  • Get coaching or professional help: Seek professional guidance and support for managing ADHD. An adult ADHD coach or expert specializing in ADHD management can help individuals with ADHD learn how to manage time blindness and other symptoms, develop personalized strategies, and achieve their goals.

Bottom Line

Time blindness can significantly affect the daily lives of people managing ADHD. It can disrupt schedules and even affect relationships. Yet, there are practical steps to take and support systems in place to manage time blindness effectively.

Breaking down activities into smaller bits and engaging visual aids can help. Scheduling tasks and focusing on the most important goals is also essential.

Professional help from adult ADHD coaches or seeking virtual ADHD coaching can also work wonders. You can find affordable ADHD coaching near you, or check for an ADHD coach online, to offer tailored coping strategies in ADHD management. A life coach for ADHD will provide invaluable help in managing ADHD symptoms and thriving with adult ADHD.

Coping with adult ADHD is possible with the proper support and strategies. You can begin your journey to manage your time correctly and enhance your daily living now!

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