Have you ever been so engrossed in a report that you completely forget about all of the other tasks you had to do during your workday? Or maybe you just simply sat down at the end of the day to watch a short episode of a TV show to wind down and a blink later it’s deep into the night. That is time blindness.
Sometimes people can’t seem to get to their appointments on time, or they completely miss due dates for work, impacting their personal and professional lives. If they miss enough events, it could even lead to points of no return for their careers or relationships.
But is time blindness just a flimsy excuse for disorganized people or is it a very real phenomenon that some suffer? And could time blindness be affecting your workplace productivity?
Time blindness is a term that has been used to describe when someone loses track of time, and more importantly, when someone just can’t track time. Most adults, according to experts, have a natural sense of time. Say you understand how far ahead 10 minutes are, or how long something should be in the oven. Still, there are certain people who can’t seem to measure time appropriately.
According to Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., MBA, adults usually develop an innate sense of time and an ability to track its passing. This can typically be measured on a scale of “hard” and “soft” time awareness, with soft being that which people don’t feel the passage of time.
At least once in everyone’s life, time moves at a faster pace than you can feel. Not only that, it can happen when you’re working on something and completely forget about the other tasks that you should’ve started that day. In a way, time blindness is just being “in the zone” or hyperfocus. Hyperfocus, or becoming engrossed in an activity, is pretty much the cause of time blindness. It makes sense when you become engrossed and lose track of time.
Being time blind is just the other side of the coin to being hyperfocused. Getting so preoccupied with something doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but if it’s not kept in check, it could negatively impact people’s personal and professional lives.
Earlier this summer, time blindness came into the conversation because of a viral TikTok. In the video, a person was in tears after being reprimanded after asking for accommodations for her time blindness. This video was met with mockery on the internet, with people constantly pointing out that being on time is a need in professional environments, and that she was just being flimsy or lazy and looking for excuses.
Time blindness is commonly linked to ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder). It is one of its most common descriptors, but experiencing it every once in a while does not mean that you have ADHD or ADD.
In an article published in 2015 by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), Zara Harris, MS, OT, went into a deep dive about what triggers time blindness for those who suffer from it.
As the writer notes, ADHD has historically been a condition considered “little-known,” especially when it comes to the idea of adults in the workplace. While this article focuses on raising awareness of how ADHD continues to impact children into adulthood and how they can manage it, the author lays out some practical strategies for anyone who’s been time-blind to be fully productive in the workplace.
But not everyone who is time blind has ADHD. You don’t need an ADHD or Autism diagnosis to get “in the zone” and lose track of the day, but people with these conditions do have a higher chance of being time blind. There are many factors that can contribute to poor time management and workplace productivity. A night of bad sleep can preclude an ineffective day, or even a meeting that’s run too long.
Now, if you do suspect that ADHD/ADD, Autism, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health disorder is affecting your productivity, you should speak to a professional about how to manage it.
Organizing yourself to reach your goals is essential in life and the workforce. Now, there may be many variables which you might face in your career, like remote teams, so you need to have a good strategy for improving your time management, time blindness or not.
Dr. Ari Tuckman gives notice to the “time horizon,” a concept in time management where you see how far you can look into the future for planning ahead. Knowing where your time horizon is, maybe an hour, a day, or a week on, can help you make more manageable plans.
“The important thing is that you take some time to really think about where you want to be in a year, and plan what you’ll need to do to make that happen,” said Dr. Ari Tuckman.
What’s the thing that eats up your time, is it an app on your phone? Television? The inability to reply to emails? Recognize those black holes and try to work around them, using an app to block unnecessary apps, only watching TV as a reward, and having some pre-drafted templates for emails.
Zara Harris, MS, OT, says that to avoid overcommitting you should have a list of all the things you have to do in a day. Checking what you’re supposed to be achieving helps keep yourself accountable. But as there are many unpredictable things you might face, she recommends subtracting one task if you add another to avoid overwhelming yourself.
Mixing up your strategies helps keep you interested. If you have alarms, suggests Dr. Ari Tuckman, change the way it rings once in a while. If it’s not something that’s time-sensitive, switching when you do stuff can help you fall into a rut.
Avoid feeling overwhelmed by goals by breaking them into something more manageable. Maybe you need to do a big project, start by lining up what you need to do, step by step, and start with the easiest one.
There is no shame in relying on others. In any setting, being clear about your shortcomings is the best answer. So, if you know that you just can’t remember to pick up a new carton of milk, asking a friend to text you after work about milk can jog your memory. It’s the same in a professional setting, just remember that everyone else has their own work to do, so what Zara Harris suggests is updating the team constantly on what you’re working on to keep yourself accountable.
All in all, experts recognize that time blindness, even if it disproportionally affects people with ADHD, can and should be managed to avoid professional mishaps.
Time blindness is something that anyone can suffer from, from people with mental health issues to just about anyone that had a bad night. This is an alarming condition, but there are many ways to overcome it. If you’re constantly suffering from chronic tardiness, experts recommend getting an ADHD test to see if time blindness has anything to do with it. But if you’re not sure you want to go down that path, you can keep it under control with several of the tips listed in this piece.
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