Time Blindness 101: ADHD Link, Symptoms & Coping Tricks
Keeping time is perhaps one of the most regarded yet least spoken about skills you need to master as an adult. Sure, as a child, you could rely on being woken up in time for school, being told when playtime was over, and when it was time to eat.
As you grow up, however, you have to develop timeliness and know what you should be doing at most times. For example, you likely won’t have someone telling you when to switch from one task to another in the workplace. You gradually develop this timely skill and can primarily function even without a watch or alarm clock.
However, you may find that you’re always late for an important job or you never have enough time for hellos and goodbyes. Does that mean you have no sense of timeliness? Well, most people complain that time passes too fast for them, and they feel like they have no control.
While everyone struggles to keep and manage their time, it’s a never-ending uphill task for some. This is the result of time blindness, a condition closely related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). What exactly is time blindness, how does it interfere with your daily life, how is it related to ADHD, and most importantly, how can you overcome it? Here’s everything you need to know about time blindness.
During the coverage of time blindness, it’s key to remember this is a serious condition that can affect your daily life and routine. If you suspect you or someone you know could be suffering from time blindness, you can reach out to trained professionals for an expert view, help, and a way forward.
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1. What Is Time Blindness?
As a start, it’s essential to recognize that time blindness is not particularly a medical condition by definition. The term time blindness was first coined by Dr. Ari Tuckman, a famous Pennsylvania-based psychology expert and leading authoritative voice in the subject.
According to Dr. Tuckman, adults gradually develop an innate awareness to track how time passes. However, he also observed that some people are particularly keen on tracking time and its passing while others aren’t.
People with a sharp awareness of tracking time can easily understand and keep tabs on how long they’ve been doing a specific task or how long they’ve been idle or had leisure time. These people can also identify the proper time and effort to afford a task or responsibility before moving on to the next one.
On the flip side, there are other people who have a very weak awareness of time tracking and its passage. For instance, someone with this inadequate perception of time might not realize just how long they have been doing nothing. If they were to miss a meal, it wouldn’t be apparent how much time has passed since they last ate, and in some cases, they might struggle to identify just how long they’ve been in one place or spent time doing the same thing.
This weak perception of time and its passage is what Dr. Tuckman referred to as time blindness. He further theorized that the mental state related to time blindness could significantly affect someone’s life and negatively impact their daily routines and long-term life goals. Moreover, he identified that people with a history of ADHD were more prone to time blindness.
What Are Some of the Typical Symptoms of Time Blindness?
Currently, there are no clear associative symptoms of time blindness. However, you can easily recognize the condition from the reason given to tardiness by people affected by the state. These people have a particularly difficult time planning their activities, figuring out daily tasks, and managing their lives and schedules. Consequently, they end up missing out on essential responsibilities, leading to strained relationships and numerous complications.
Below is an example of how people with time blindness seek to justify their behavior and lack of time awareness in everyday life situations.
|Examples of Time Blindness||How Do People with Time Blindness Reason and Justify Their Lack of Time Perception?|
|Missing important appointments||I didn’t write down the important points because I thought I could easily remember them.|
|Being absent for key gatherings and events||I have been very busy with other important tasks.|
|Being late for meetings and not getting anywhere on time||I miscalculated how much time I needed to move from a certain point to here.|
|Difficulty managing daily life tasks||I find it difficult to switch from one task to another.|
|Difficulty meeting deadlines||I thought I could easily handle multiple tasks simultaneously.|
|Increased danger of causing road accidents||I get easily distracted when I’m driving.|
|Inability to track time when doing an activity||I was hyper-focused and didn’t realize the passing time.|
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2. What Influences How You Perceive Time?
The way human beings perceive different objects and features is a critical distinguishing ability. For example, color perception is dependent on your understanding of the difference between hues and color concentration. Shape and distance perception work in more or less the same way; as long as you can identify the fundamental guiding principles, you’ll have an easier time understanding these principles.
However, time perception doesn’t work when you can tell what time it is. In fact, watches and clocks are a reasonably recent innovation, yet man has effectively perceived time for millions of years. Time perception is a very intricate, complex, and delicate subject and process.
For millennia, experts have described man’s perception of time as an invisible interlock system set up in the brain. This system helps you know when to sleep and wake up, even without an alarm clock. For instance, if you have an early morning but forget to set your alarm clock to wake you up, chances are you’ll still wake up early. Even though you’re asleep, your brain still tracks the passage of time and will often get it right.
There are different ways of understanding and categorizing man’s perception of time. Some of the key categorizations of how you perceive time include:
The Circadian Timing System
The circadian timing system ensures you follow day and night alterations. This circadian rhythm follows a 24-hour clock in your body and runs in the background, where it affects your mental, biophysical, and behavioral patterns and functions.
The peak-time interval in humans is based on the processes of your internal clock, temporary memory, and decision making. In one study seeking to identify the efficacy of peak-interval timing in humans and how time distractors influence it, it was revealed that humans utilize peak-interval timing to help with memory, decision making, and general time alertness.
Sub and Supra Second Timing
This is a time perception mechanism based on a range of seconds and milliseconds. According to experts, your time perception hinges on various multisensory factors closely related to the sub and supra time perfection. These multisensory factors develop early in life and gradually improve as you grow. The aforementioned multisensory factors include:
- Simultaneity Judgment – This is the ability to respond to audiovisual signals effectively.
- Temporal Order Judgment – This is the ability associated with the perpetual processing of various stimuli.
- Duration Discrimination – This is the ability to differentiate minimal differences in duration between two temporal intervals.
- Regulatory Perception – This is the ability to determine and process various visual information.
3. What Causes Time Blindness?
Numerous factors can lead to time blindness. These include both internal and external factors that contribute to the disruption of your normal time perception. Admittedly, little is actually known about what exactly leads to time blindness development in humans. However, most experts on the subject agree the following reasons could be major contributors to the condition. These are:
1. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is not a luxury process or just another resting period. Instead, it is a crucial process that has a significant effect on the brain. The human sleep cycle is based on rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement.
Most of the brain’s processes regulate and run ‘cleaning’ functions during these stages, leading to improved memory storage, cognitive functions, and overall judgment. As a result, getting enough sleep is an essential prerequisite for improving your concentration, attention, and practical perception.
Through numerous studies and extensive research, it is observed that people who face sleep issues like insomnia, sleep apnea, and sleep deprivation face numerous cognitive challenges. These challenges include memory deficits, ineffective time perception, judgment errors, and lower cognitive ability. Lacking sleep has also been associated with long-term cognitive decline and reduced perception and brain processing.
Anxiety is closely related to proper cognitive and perception abilities. Consequently, this means that anxiety plays a chief role in the development of time blindness as it negatively affects the sensory-perceptual processes. Sensory-perceptual processing plays an integral role in every cognitive process occurring in the human body.
Malfunction of this processing ability can affect your ability to interpret environmental stimuli, leading to many issues, including time blindness. Additionally, research suggests that pathological anxiety can result in memory deficits, which aggravate the effects of time blindness.
Initially, depression was not one of the factors considered as contributing agents to time blindness and gradual loss of cognitive ability. However, recent research has proven a close connection between acute and chronic depression and various residual symptoms. These residual symptoms include memory degradation, loss of cognitive ability, and reduced time perception abilities.
The primary link between depression and time blindness is an effect known as pseudodementia. Although pseudodementia is similarly related to clinical dementia, the former is not caused by neural degeneration. Instead, pseudodementia is triggered by depression, anxiety, and stress.
Further research suggests that pseudodementia is one of the leading contributors to cognitive deficits. Fortunately, the condition can be managed and reversed with effective treatment and therapeutic remedies. This condition is common in older adults and the geriatric population. This is why cognitive effects like memory loss and a distorted perception of time are common with the demographic.
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4. Brain Chemistry and Functioning
Just like with external factors, internal factors can contribute to the development and advancement of time blindness. According to research, substantia nigra, or the higher brain centers, affect the normal perception of time passage in human beings.
The substantia nigra houses dopaminergic neurons, which are brain cells containing the dopamine chemical – an essential regulator in overall mood and behavior tendencies.
When you are happy or enjoying certain moments and activities, these dopaminergic neurons produce chemicals that appear to slow down your brain’s internal clock. The result of this effect is engaging in fun activities for longer, sometimes without realizing it.
This is why you can meet your friends, and no matter how long you intend to stay, you end up spending long hours together. You might only realize just how much time has passed when it gets dark or when someone points it out. This is because, as discussed above, dopamine has a strong effect on how you perceive time. The more fun you’re having, the lesser your recognition of time passing.
The relationship between dopamine and time perception has also led experts to identify its effect on time blindness in patients with a history of Parkinson’s disease.
5. Drug and Substance Abuse
Studies have found that chronic drug and substance abuse can significantly contribute to various cognitive deficits. The result is that people addicted to certain drugs can suffer from an array of issues, including time blindness, mental deficiencies, sleep issues, and chronic physical diseases.
Time blindness has also been observed in the early stages of abstinence from drugs, although it is not limited to this period. Drug withdrawal can also contribute to temporary and long-term cognitive deficits, and the lack of these cognitive functions can affect your mental capabilities and your perception of time.
6. Other Mental Conditions
Various mental health disorders have been closely linked with the development of time blindness. In some cases, these mental health disorders can also make the condition worse if it is already there. Some of the well-known mental health conditions that can lead to time blindness include ADHD, amnesia, autism, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.
4. What Is the Relationship between Time Blindness and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?
Dr. Russell Alan Barkley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the VCU Medical Center and author of several books explaining attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, says the condition is perhaps the greatest contributor to disruption in time perception. Dr. Russell suggests that ADHD greatly disrupts the reality and fabric of time of its affected patients.
It is evident that ADHD plays a crucial role in explaining why and how patients with the condition lack time-tracking skills and struggle with time perception. However, the effects of ADHD on time blindness are yet to be fully understood and can be quite disruptive to your normal life functioning.
And while people with ADHD stand the greatest risk of developing time blindness, other people without the mental condition can also develop time blindness.
What Does ADHD Time Blindness Feel like?
There’s no denying that time perception is a vital life skill. With its disruption comes an array of difficulties and complications. None are more aware of these challenges than people who suffer from time blindness and have ADHD. These people lack the awareness and typical cues and markers of time that you typically have and develop over time.
For example, someone with ADHD and time blindness cannot effectively divide their tasks in a week or even a day, even if their job depends on it. They are basically unaware of when the bus arrives, how long the train ride usually is, or the shift they are needed to work. This can have a severe effect on your professional, social, and personal lives.
Unfortunately, this is not the entire scope of how people with ADHD are affected by time blindness. ADHD patients often feel grief-struck due to missing out on key activities and events in their lives. The result of this is a reduced ability to meet new people, travel to new places, and even excel in life. Consequently, this could lead the person to lose their self-esteem and suffer from emotional volatility.
Time blindness has also been linked with self-harming behaviors in people with ADHD. This is due to the often strained and chaotic relationships with people they genuinely care about. When you have ADHD, you know that how you feel about someone isn’t necessarily reflected in your actions and behavior. Unfortunately, there’s often little to nothing you can do to remedy the situation.
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Moreover, the world has high regard for organization and time management skills, which people with ADHD and time blindness obviously lack. Because people often have little understanding about such conditions and underlying factors, they will simply assume you don’t care about them and their relationships and that you’re purposely missing out on their special days, events, and activities.
The inability to perceive and judge time passing can also worsen ADHD and emotional hyperfocus symptoms. For instance, when you are happy, you could be fixated on this feeling for hours.
However, the opposite is also true; when you’re feeling down and sad, you’ll be fixated on the feeling for hours. It doesn’t matter what is actually going on or how much someone tries to help; you will be stuck in your dark and gloomy world. This can further trigger negative emotions and contribute to suicidal behaviors and substance abuse.
Is There a Reliable Time Blindness Test for People Who Have ADHD?
Unfortunately, there are currently no diagnostic criteria or tests for time blindness. The loss of executive functions resulting from ADHD is not a medical condition yet, so there’s little help from traditional sources.
However, your therapist can work with you through assessing your experiences, symptoms, personal, and medical history. They will evaluate any underlying conditions and figure out if you have time blindness caused by ADHD or ADD.
Below is a self-assessment questionnaire that can act as your guide and initial marker to help you understand some of your symptoms. However, it is critical to mention that this is not a diagnostic measure, and only a qualified and certified medical professional can provide a clinical diagnosis.
|Questions||Option A||Option B||Option C|
|I have piles of uncompleted work and tasks.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I have difficulty getting out of long conversations.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I am often frustrated because things don’t go as I planned.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I struggle to pay attention between important tasks and non-important ones.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I often forget deadlines, dates, and figures.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I often push things to do later than end up forgetting them.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I waste a lot of my time during the day.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I struggle with starting most tasks.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I lack interest in most tasks after some time.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
|I get absorbed in things I like and forget other important things.||Mostly||Sometimes||Never|
- Each answer for option A contains 10 points
- Each answer for option B contains 5 points
- Each answer for option C contains 0 points
0-20: Normal time blindness
21-40: Mild time blindness
40-60: Moderate time blindness
60-100: Severe time blindness
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Is Time Blindness Exclusive to People with ADHD?
The short answer to this question is no; time blindness doesn’t just affect people with ADHD. However, if you have a history of ADHD, you are more prone to developing time blindness. It’s important to note that it doesn’t mean people without ADHD can’t get the condition.
Like ADHD, several other mental health conditions can make you prone to developing time blindness. Mental disorders like depression and anxiety have shown close links to the condition. Moreover, countless people do not register any mental health conditions but still get time blindness.
Most research on time blindness has been tied with ADHD because of its adverse effects. As outlined above, the impact of time blindness is magnified when the person also has ADHD. In recent times, there has also been a lot of studies relating autism to time blindness.
Autism has almost the same effect and risk factor for developing time blindness as ADHD. The effects of time blindness in patients with autism include similar challenges and difficulties.
Researchers hope that the research and effort afforded to ADHD and time blindness can help shed more light on the same condition in autistic patients. As mentioned, this is mainly because they two share external and internal cues and challenges in professional, social, and personal spheres of life.
5. How Do You Manage Time Blindness? (23 Highly Effective Coping Strategies)
A lot of life’s successes and achievements are pegged on your ability to perceive the passage of time and use it productively. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done for people with ADHD and time blindness. The effects of this condition can make it nearly impossible to realize time moving as other people do.
The worst bit is there is currently no treatment procedure for people with time blindness. However, science and technology are continually advancing, and research in the area shows some promising results. For the time being, these coping strategies can help you effectively manage time blindness, improve your response to daily activities, and achieve your life goals.
1. Use Analog Clocks
According to Dr. Tuckman, seeing time and feeling are two totally different aspects of time perception. If you are looking to improve your time management skills, you can start by getting an analog clock. These clocks are highly effective in managing time.
Watching the hands of the clock move on analog clocks triggers your awareness of the passage of time. Consequently, this can help you estimate time passage and the duration needed for specific tasks. Time blind people lack an internal sense of time passage. Analog clocks and wristwatches are a simple yet effective strategy for replacing this internal deficiency with an external solution.
2. Develop a Sense of Accountability
Typically, people get tasks done on time due to the pressure from an authoritative figure. For instance, you are likely to get work at work when your boss is around. Time blind people can borrow from this to help manage the condition. Unfortunately, you can’t have someone watching over you and pressuring you to get every little thing done.
However, you can develop a sense of accountability to help you perceive the passage of time. Undoubtedly, it will take time and effort to create an internal sense of accountability. Fortunately, you can get help from a trained therapist or medical professional. You will, however, still have to do the heavy lifting.
3. Plan Ahead with Time Horizons
Time blind people are always rushing to complete tasks in the final hour. One way you can prevent this from happening is by learning to plan ahead. With a proper plan, you can comfortably get everything done within the set time and deadlines. Time horizon is a fundamental concept of analyzing how much time you need for a particular task and planning way ahead.
For example, if you have a report due to submit on Friday next week, you can start by outlining just how much time you need to complete it. Next, create a deadline for yourself that’s closer than the actual deadline. This way, even if you’re caught off guard and have to finish the report closer to the deadline, it will still be some time from the actual deadline. Essentially, planning yourself adequately will save you loads of time.
4. Collaborate with Other People
Time blinded people face a real challenge when managing, planning, and organizing their time. An easy way to fix this is with the help of others. Instead of struggling through everything on your own, find a partner to collaborate with.
Having a partner means someone reminding you of the schedule and keeping you on your toes as the deadline approaches. Moreover, you can share your struggles and challenges with your partner, which will make you feel better and more productive.
5. Long-Term and Immediacy Planning
An efficient way of managing time blindness is being clear on your priorities. Instead of trying to keep tabs on everything, create a list with two columns. The first column should be urgent tasks that need your attention, and the second should be tasks that need your attention later or in future consideration.
With this list, you can focus only on what you need to get done for a certain time. Once done, go back to the list and mark it off, then review the list. You can also use visual aids to help you memorize and remember what you need to get done.
6. Don’t Get Overwhelmed
A major problem facing people with time blindness is trying too many strategies at once. This can quickly get overwhelming and undo your progress. Focus on one goal or strategy at a time and celebrate your small wins.
By celebrating an achievement, you boost your morale and ability to keep going. And with the gradual success of one plan, you can continually start working on the next.
7. Be Aware of Draining Activities
There are specific tasks that will always suck your energy and drain you. Identifying these activities can help you avoid or manage them. For example, if a particular job drains your energy, you can plan to get it done last once everything else is in order.
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8. Set Multiple Alarms
Alarms are perhaps the simplest way to keep track of time. Setting the alarm will notify you when a specific time has passed, and you can act accordingly. For example, if you want to listen to music for an hour to unwind then get back to work, you can set the alarm to remind you.
You can also set alarms and time notifications for other tasks, ranging from when to wake up to when you should leave the house to catch the train.
9. Keep Different Tones for High Priority Tasks
Once you’ve successfully developed alarms as part of your system, you can then use different tones to match the required task. For instance, you can use a fast-paced tone for your morning alarm to get you psyched for the day. On the flip side, when you’re watching TV and need to set the alarm to sleep, you can use a soothing alarm to relax your mind while still notifying you on what to do.
10. Break down Large Tasks into Manageable Ones – Pomodoro Technique
Time blindness causes you to see everything as a mega task. To remedy this, you can break down the tasks into more manageable ones. For example, making a meal can feel impossible. However, if you break it down to reading the recipe, fetching the ingredients, preparing them, and starting to cook, you can easily get the job done.
The Pomodoro technique advises you to break down tasks into 25 minutes of activity followed by small breaks. This feels manageable and will help you not to get overwhelmed. To keep track of time, you can use an alarm clock.
11. Change Your Focus Time to Reset Your Motivation
When you get used to the same routines, your brain gets bored and doesn’t look forward to monotonous events. For instance, if you start exercising and set a particular time to work out, you’ll likely not be looking forward to doing the same time again after a while.
To fix this, change the time you work out or the exercise routines. This excitement will trigger your mind to look forward to the change.
12. Use Clocks Effectively
While it may sound like a small change, it can significantly improve your time awareness. One way to improve your time management is through the proper use of clocks. For example, set your watch a few minutes ahead to always be on top of things, even when you feel like you’re dragging behind.
13. Figure Out the Best and Worst-Case Scenarios
Underestimating time can lead you to overlook important tasks. For example, if you need to catch a flight, identify the best and worst possible outcomes of being on time. If you’re on time, you’ll catch the plane and safely get to your destination. On the other hand, if you’re late, you’ll miss the flight and consequently be late for all your other activities. This can help boost your mind and even trigger remembrance.
14. Explore Apps and Tools
Technology and digital devices have undoubtedly contributed to the increase of time blindness. Fortunately, there are several apps and digital tools you can use to help you manage time blindness. Some of the apps developed to manage time effectively include:
- Time timer – It works great by giving you a visual sense of time.
- Activity timer – Breaks down daunting tasks into manageable ones.
- Stay on task – Increases productivity and saves you time.
- 30/ 30 – Tracks the timing of individual tasks to boost productivity.
Other great options are:
- Toggle Track
15. Use Time Boxing Strategy
This strategy works like the Pomodoro technique. It is, however, more flexible on how you can break down your tasks. You can take any large tasks and break them down into what feels manageable for you.
16. Control Your Fixation and Hyperfocus
Hyperfocus and fixation are common for people with time blindness. You can spend hours focusing on one thing and lose sight of everything else. By learning to control these aspects, you can focus on being productive and not getting lost in time. Various methods you can use to control fixation include:
- Analyzing your thought process
- Giving yourself time for deep and focused thoughts and restricting the process to the time allocated
- Writing down your thoughts instead of obsessing over them all-day
- Behavioral therapy and techniques for controlling hyperfocus and fixation
- Practicing minimizing the time you spend fixating
17. Create a Routine You Can Adhere to
A routine becomes second nature when repeated enough times. Go over your schedule and find certain aspects that you would like to repeat daily. Note them down and work on repeating them at the same time. You can start off with an alarm, and eventually, you’ll know what to do even before the alarm goes off.
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18. Use Digital Calendars
Printed calendars often feel like jumbled numbers to people with time blindness. However, a digital calendar can come in handy as you can effectively schedule different activities and plans and set reminders and notifications. You can also have one for your phone, laptop, and other digital devices.
19. Save Time by Using a GPS
GPS is an intelligent choice to help you navigate and save time on roadblocks and traffic jams. GPS also comes equipped with real-time alerts to help you know what time it is, where you are and where you need to be. They will also save you from getting lost and improve your timeliness.
20. Correct Your Sleep Cycle
As mentioned above, sleep is key to time management. When you go to sleep on time and get enough rest, you are more mentally and physically prepared to tackle the oncoming day. You will also be more alert and conscious of when you sleep compared to when you don’t.
21. Apply the Pareto Principle
The 80:20 rule or Pareto principle states that 80 % of results come from 20 % effort. This simply means you should learn to work when you’re most productive and can achieve the most, instead of just choosing to work when everyone else is.
22. Carve Out Deadlines
Time blindness affects long-term planning and memory efficacy. To fix this, write down your deadlines and outline what you need to do to get to the deadline on time. Do this for different tasks, then start working on the urgent ones and those that require more attention.
23. Create Room for Recreational Time
Nobody can plan every second of their lives. Time blinded or not; you need to create some free time to unwind and relax throughout the day. These breaks will energize you and motivate you to get back to work and finish whatever task is left pending.
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A Final Word
Time blindness is a two-sided tough-love equation where you have to work by collaborating with your family and friends to figure out the best ways to cope with the mental state. Ultimately, you should recognize that time blindness can negatively impact your life if you let it. While it won’t be easy, you can use different tactics and strategies to improve your time perception and management.
Over time, this will have a positive bearing on your relationships, daily routines, and goals. And with effective time management, you’ll be able to gradually develop and rebuild your professional, social, and personal lives.
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