Do you struggle with chronic lateness or the tendency to lose track of time? Are friends, family, coworkers, or professors getting annoyed with you for missing deadlines? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Time blindness — or the inability to properly sense the passage of time — is a common struggle with those of us with ADHD. Not surprisingly, time blindness can interfere with our ability to manage commitments for work, school, and even our relationships. Here are 5 strategies to help you combat time blindness and minimize its impact on your daily life.
1. Make time visible, so you can “see” the passage of time.
To compensate for the missing internal sense of time, it’s important to use external tools to visualize the passage of time. Here are a few possibilities:
- ANALOG CLOCKS — Unlike digital clocks, analog clocks allow you to see how much time has elapsed and how much time is left in an hour.
- VISUAL TIMERS — A visual timer (such as the Time Timer®) is particularly useful for visualizing time for tasks that require less than an hour, especially to make sure that you don’t spend more time than you intended.
- CALENDARS AND PLANNERS (with month-in-view and week-in-view layouts) — These tools give you a great overview of your time and allow you to see how much time you have left for different appointments, commitments, and deadlines.
2. Use alarms to “alert” you to the passage of time.
Alarms can be very effective time tools for alerting or jolting you to increase your awareness of the passage of time. It can be particularly helpful to use different alarm sounds to signify different tasks since varying alarms are more difficult to ignore. For example, if it’s time to start getting ready for work, you might use a loud alarm to alert your brain. If you need to leave for an event within the hour, perhaps use several alarm sounds to track the time you have left — one sound at 30 minutes before you need to leave, another alarm sound at 15 minutes, and the loudest at 5 minutes.
3. Practice estimating how long tasks will take.
For many of us, time blindness involves a poor understanding of how long various tasks take to complete. With this in mind, it can be particularly helpful to track how long it takes to do routine tasks, so you have a good benchmark of how much time you need. When estimating time, it’s important to account for additional factors, including transition time and unexpected scenarios. For example, ask yourself, “How long does it really take for me to get to work?” If it’s a 15 minute drive, you can’t just budget for 15 minutes. You’d also need to account for the additional time that it takes to gather your things, get into your car, and walk from your car to the office (perhaps 10 minutes). You might also encounter some light traffic or limited parking, which could add another 10 minutes to your commute — so maybe a more realistic time estimate for your commute is 35 minutes … not 15 minutes.
4. Be aware of those tasks that make you hyperfocus or lose track of time.
Do you have certain activities where you tend to “hyperfocus” — or become so intensely focused and engaged that time just “slips away”? It’s particularly important to become aware of those activities and to resist doing them when you’re in a time crunch. For example, if you tend to lose track of time when you engage with technology (Tik-Tok, playing games, watching YouTube), make it a point to avoid doing this right before you need to meet a friend for dinner or attend an event.
5. Find an accountability partner to help you with urgent and important tasks.
For really important events or deadlines, it could be helpful to ask a friend or family member to hold you accountable and keep you on track. For example, if you need to get to your best friend’s wedding on time, it could be useful to ask a family member or good friend to alert you when you need to start getting yourself ready — and perhaps alert you again, to make sure you leave your house on time. Sometimes having someone check on you (i.e. being accountable to another person) can increase your sense of urgency and awareness of time.
For those of us with ADHD, time blindness can create many obstacles in our daily lives. However, by gaining an understanding of our time blindness challenges, and actively practicing strategies to combat this issue, we can learn to successfully manage our time at work, school, and home.
Andrea Yellinek, MS, OTR/L, CACP
ADHD Coach and Life Coach, Executive Skills Coach