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Time-blindness and ADHD: Five Strategies to Avoid Losing Time

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

It’s Wednesday, the week’s been crazy, and you’re starting another day of work. Resisting the urge to stay in bed, you get up and start your morning routine. It’s 7:00 am, great you have plenty of time. Pleased, you put on a podcast and focus on making breakfast. Your partner enters the room. “Don't you have work?" "Yes," you say, confused before checking your phone. "Damn, 7:40! How did that happen?" Breakfast forgotten you run to the bathroom, quickly run a brush through your hair, and race through your chores. Why does this keep happening? It feels like no matter what time you get up, you constantly find yourself rushing to avoid being late!

If you recognise this experience, you're not alone. Many people with ADHD struggle with time blindness, specifically knowing how much time has passed or how long something will take. Many studies have found that those with ADHD found it more difficult to judge how much time had passed or whether one period of time was longer than another compared to their neurotypical peers (Meaux & Chelonis, 2003; Radonovich & Mostofsky, 2004).

Recent research has also focused on whether specific parts of the brain might be responsible for some of these time-blindness issues. Evidence from studies of ADHD and brain injuries where time blindness occurs have indicated that the cerebellum, frontal lobe, and basal ganglia are likely areas (Meaux & Chelonis, 2003; Radonovich & Mostofsky, 2004; Toplak et al., 2006; Toplak & Tannock, 2005). There is also an argument that the issue might not be with one single location but rather in the connections between these parts of the brain.

So what does this mean if you have ADHD and struggle with time-blindness? One of the strategies recommended by research is to find ways to externalise time (Meaux & Chelonis, 2003). Externalising makes time immediately evident in your physical environment rather than relying on your mind. Below are five recommendations for externalising time and supporting time-blindness. If you need more support with time management, you can contact me for a free 20-minute coaching consultation here.


1. Note How Long Tasks Take

If you struggle to estimate how much time is passing, chances are you also have trouble estimating how long something will take. Using a digital tool like Toggl, or even a paper and pen to note down how much time is spent on what will help you develop a reference point throughout the day. You can then come back to these references to make time estimations more accurately.


2. Invest In A Watch Or Smartwatch

Often, people rely on their phones to tell the time. While this can be useful, having the hands-free, distraction-free watch option can help when you're rushing between tasks. In the case of a smartwatch, if you use an online calendar system like Google Calendar, you can set the watch up to remind you before any important appointments.


3. Include Transition And Travel Times

Similar to our previous article about transition times, not being able to accurately see time passing can also result in not knowing how long it will take you to get ready and go to an event. To combat this, whenever you use a planner or set up an appointment, block out time for travelling and getting ready. Bonus points if you can connect this time to an alarm or reminder on your phone, which will beep or vibrate when you need to start getting ready for your event.


4. Consider A Speaking Clock

If routines aren't for you, but you still want to keep track of time, an alternative can be using an app like the Speaking Clock to ring or speak regularly throughout the day. This reminder can let you know how much time is passing without committing you to a schedule.

5. Time Can Be Fun And Functional

Did you ever visit an older relative's house and notice their clocks? Maybe it was a large grandfather clock, a water clock or something that had parts that moved around every hour. Whatever the mechanism, these clocks had something that made you look! If you'd like to bring more external sources of time into your life, consider going down the same route and purchasing clocks or timers that fit your decor, as well as ensure you're focusing on the time. You might be surprised by what you like!

Overall, when it comes to ADHD, it's important to understand our difficulty with time blindness. Hopefully, these tips help you start externalising time for yourself. Who knows, maybe a grandfather clock will become your new favourite item!

Talk to you next week,


Skye.



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References

Meaux, J. B., & Chelonis, J. J. (2003). Time perception differences in children with and without ADHD. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 17(2), 64–71. https://doi.org/10.1067/mph.2003.26


Radonovich, K. J., & Mostofsky, S. H. (2004). Duration Judgments in Children With ADHD Suggest Deficient Utilization of Temporal Information Rather Than General Impairment in Timing. Child Neuropsychology, 10(3), 162–172. https://doi.org/10.1080/09297040409609807


Toplak, M. E., Dockstader, C., & Tannock, R. (2006). Temporal information processing in ADHD: Findings to date and new methods. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 151(1), 15–29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneumeth.2005.09.018


Toplak, M. E., & Tannock, R. (2005). Time Perception: Modality and Duration Effects in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 33(5), 639–654. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-005-6743-6