If you make plans for things only to find yourself constantly running late, you might have what’s known as time blindness. If you have ADHD, this is a surprisingly common struggle.
It might seem that no matter how hard you try, you can’t ever be on time. You think you have plenty of time, and then all of a sudden you look at the clock and you have two minutes before you’re supposed to be where you need to be – and you haven’t even gotten dressed or left the house yet.
As a therapist who specializes in ADHD brains, I see this with a lot of my clients. So what’s up with ADHD time blindness, why does it impact neurodivergent folks in particular, and what can you do about it?
ADHD impacts executive functioning in the brain. Executive functioning helps with things like planning, remembering, multi-tasking, self-control, and concentrating. People with ADHD struggle with these cognitive skills due to differences in their brains and nervous systems.
Many behaviors that stem from ADHD are a direct result from executive dysfunction. Here are some examples of these kinds of behaviors that you might recognize:
These are all things ADHD brains struggle with. And they are all directly related to differences in the ways ADHD brains process and delegate information.
Another thing people with ADHD struggle with is accurate estimation of time. If you have ADHD, it can be difficult to properly estimate and relate to time. It can feel like time passes by way too quickly or that time passes by without you being able to accomplish the “correct” amount of things in that time.
Time blindness in ADHD is thought to be connected to executive functioning processes. These processes are likely similar to the ones that cause struggles with attention, memory, and difficulties with organization.
If you struggle with ADHD and time blindness, you may experience some or all of the following:
In general, if you constantly feel like you don’t understand how time works or why everyone else seems to do just fine with all the time-related things you struggle with, you probably have time blindness.
Being susceptible to time blind ADHD behaviors can feel frustrating and shameful. Your friends might tease you. Your boss might ask passive aggressive questions about you being late. It might feel like something is inherently broken about you. You might think, Why can everyone else get places on time and I just never can? What’s wrong with me?!
Let me be clear: nothing is wrong with you. It’s the way your brain works, and you probably do the best you can to be on time even if you struggle.
But we live in a world of hustle culture and timelines, and sometimes being late is just not ideal. Luckily, there are tools and skills you can learn to be more on time. Here are a few of my favorites:
Or multiple alarms! Use technology to your advantage. If you struggle every day to get to work on time, set a few different alarms. And I don’t just mean alarms to wake you up. You can set alarms so you can track your progress with brushing your teeth, making your breakfast, and heading to your car. You can also do this when you have to go somewhere else that isn’t a part of your daily routine. Set an alarm a couple of hours before you need to leave so you can start to mentally prepare to get ready. Set another one an hour ahead of time to actually get ready. And set one a few minutes ahead of when you need to leave to remind you to get out of the house.
If you need to work on a project but can’t seem to focus, try setting a timer for a certain amount of time. That way, you have some accountability and don’t have to track the time yourself. Try 20 or 30 minute increments and see how that feels. You can work your way up or down depending on what works for you. You can also try the Pomodoro Method, which is when you set a timer to work for 25 minutes and then take a break for 5 minutes, and repeat as needed.
ADHD medication can help improve certain executive functioning in the brain, including time blindness. It can also help boost focus and thinking, decrease hyperactivity, and make you feel generally more operational in your life. However, medications won’t address your underlying thoughts and beliefs, and they won’t automatically change your behaviors for you. And as always, I am not a doctor, so this is merely a suggestion to talk with your doctor or psychiatrist about to see if medication is right for you.
Therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy in particular, is really helpful for changing your thoughts and behaviors around ADHD. Therapy with someone who understands ADHD brains will help you come up with specific strategies to help you deal with the problems you’re having now – like time blindness.
You don’t have to stay stuck in repeating patterns that don’t serve you. If you want help figuring out how to improve your relationship to time, I'm here to help.
Together, we can help you gain awareness around your habits, change behaviors that aren’t working for you, and figure out strategies and tools for overcoming time blindness and ADHD.
You’ll learn to step confidently into the world, knowing you have the tools to manage your time and your life the way you want.
I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to get started.
Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.