TL;DR: If you have time blindness, you might be chronically late or neglectful of your own bodily functions, or more! You’re not inconsiderate, you just can’t wrap your head around the abstract concept of time. Time isn’t real, man.
First let me start by explaining why I didn’t post last week and why this blog post is late. If you don’t care, feel free to skip ahead. I didn’t post last week as a means of self-care. I have been burning the candle at both ends, especially since returning to work, and sometimes it’s nice to just not have to stress about deadlines. Last week was the first week back and my last week of my current class so I just decided to rest. This blog post is late because of time blindness. I usually write them on Tuesday night with a scheduled posting at 3:00 AM on Wednesday. Last night I just got into a hyperfocus with something else and forgot it was Tuesday. When I woke up this morning and remembered it was Wednesday I realized I messed up! Onto the blog post.
This week I want to talk about time blindness. Time blindness is that feeling that five minutes has passed but it’s really been six hours. Or the opposite, when it feels like it’s been six hours and it’s really been five minutes. These are usually caused by opposite phenomenons of hyperfocus and lack of focus. Hyperfocus is when you’re so focused on something you can’t be bothered to stop, you forget to eat, drink, pee, or anything else. The dose of dopamine you get from the activity is keeping you going. The opposite is true of a lack of focus.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders
What Does the Research Tell Us?
So I basically already described it in the introduction to this blog post but time blindness is just the term used for the specific symptom of executive dysfunction related to time management. Those who experience time blindness may not realize how long a task is actually going to take them. Many people with ADHD and/or ASD experience time blindness and are labeled as chronically late. This might be due to getting lost in a task or simply not leaving themselves enough time to get from one place to another. Or, if you’re a student, you might not realize how long a certain project is going to take and leave it until the last minute. You think it will be quick, but it takes six hours and suddenly you’ve been up all night working on it.
Cause and effect is not something that really works for those with ADHD and ASD simply because everything is NOW. We live in the present time. The past and the future do not exist because they are not tangible. They’re an abstract, unknown concept. This is known as a “time horizon.” Just like when you’re driving and you can see the next stoplight on the horizon, neurotypicals can think about the future and see a deadline on their horizon and how long it will take to get there. Time blindness creates a much shorter or non-existent time horizon. Existing in the now is a concrete concept. It’s here. I’m doing the thing. And when I look at the time, I can see that it’s only 6:45 PM, which means it’s not time yet to do the next thing. It doesn’t process to me that the next thing might start at 7:00 PM and take 20 minutes to get there. Only that it is 6:45 and it is not yet 7:00.
So What Can I do About It?
First and foremost: I am not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. The following are skills I’ve used with time blindness and other skills from the internet (maybe a few nuggets sprinkled in from my own therapist). The best way to find how to cope with your own symptoms? Go to therapy.
Alarms. I set alarms and reminders for everything. “Take my medicine.” “Give the dog his pill.” “Schedule an appointment.” “Start waking up.” “Time to actually get up.” “Check the boiling water.” I set the reminder and I give it a name so that I don’t forget what the timer or reminder is for. Sometimes the alarm or reminder is in the form of a timer. This gives me a better concept of time. I also use these to set time constraints for myself. In 15 minutes I’m going to check my email. Set the timer for 15 minutes. Then I know 15 minutes has passed. Alarms don’t work for everyone, they don’t even always work for me.
Breaks. Take breaks. Frequently. Especially if you are someone who might neglect bodily functions such as the bathroom or eating because of time blindness. This takes A LOT of discipline when you are hyperfocused. You will need to force yourself. Sometimes it’s good to enlist the help of a friend. Sometimes, if I know I’m struggling with pushing myself to do my workout or something of the sort, I ask friends to text me in a certain amount of time so I can force myself out of a hyperfocus or even just the executive dysfunction of laying on the couch doing nothing.
Use analog clocks. This is probably the most frequent suggestion I saw in the strategies during my research. Using an analog clock tells you not only what time it is, but it expands the time horizon. You can physically see how much time has passed and how much time is left. I have an analog clock in my office that ticks VERY loud and it is directly in front of me. This makes time real for me. I also have one at home in my living room. The ticking is much quieter but it helps if I need to make time real again.
Write it down. You have an appointment? Put it in your calendar. I use my work/outlook calendar for everything. I also have a dry-erase calendar AND an agenda. All of my appointments or even hang outs with friends go into my outlook calendar. I put it in WHILE I’m talking to the person or making the appointment. If I wait until I’m off the phone or done with the conversation, I’ll forget to put it in and it will cease to exist.
Build your own strategies that work for you. Do you have time blindness? What do you do to help yourself? Let me know in the comments!