Understanding Time Perception in ADHD: How To ManageTime Blindness

Understanding Time Perception in ADHD: How To ManageTime Blindness

ADHD Time: How It Affects Perception and Management

Many people with ADHD often experience 'time blindness,' a unique challenge where they struggle with accurately perceiving and managing time. This can lead to difficulty in estimating how long tasks will take and organizing daily activities effectively. Understanding and adapting strategies for time management are crucial for those with ADHD, helping them navigate their day-to-day lives more efficiently and reduce the impact of time perception challenges.

Published on
15/9/2022
Updated on
23/11/2023
estimated reading time
minutes

Written by

Alice

The mini Adhd coach

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In this Article

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A word form our expert

5 Ways You Might Have With Time Management If You Have ADHD (And How to Overcome Them)

Does time always seem to slip away from you? If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), your relationship with time is likely a complicated one. In this article, we'll explore the most common time management struggles many people with ADHD face and how they relate to adult ADHD symptoms. 🕒

We'll discuss:

  • Underestimating task duration and its impact on productivity.

  • The overwhelm caused by extensive to-do lists.

  • Procrastination patterns and last-minute rushes.

  • Difficulties in maintaining a consistent schedule.

  • Chronic lateness and its underlying reasons.

  • The clinical implications of time blindness in adult ADHD according to insights from research.


Read on to discover insightful strategies to help you navigate the complexities of time management with ADHD and learn how to take back control of your schedule when you perceive time differently.  👇

  1. You Underestimate How Long Things Will Take You To Do

It's all too common for those of us with ADHD to feel like we're constantly racing against the clock, underestimating how much time tasks need. 😯This struggle isn't just about poor planning - it's a deep-rooted challenge many of us have struggled with our whole life, leaving us overwhelmed and frustrated. 😞

Why It Happens

ADHD can mess with your sense of time, impacting those crucial executive functions. Now, this is more than forgetfulness or distraction - it's a deeper issue where the brain perceives time differently, making it challenging to judge how long things will take. 🧠

How To Manage It

Luckily, there's a way we can tackle this root issue – time-tracking tools. 👍 By showing you an accurate picture of how you spend your time, they can help you recalibrate your internal clock. 😉It's about learning and adjusting to how we perceive time, not just a quick fix. With consistent use, you'll start planning more effectively, feeling less stressed about deadlines. 🥵

2) You Feel Overwhelmed by To-Do Lists

Many of us with ADHD know the feeling of staring at a to-do list and feeling a wave of anxiety. 🤯It's not just a list; it feels like a pile of urgent tasks demanding immediate attention. 📣

Why It Happens

This overwhelming sensation is deeply rooted in our altered perception of time, meaning our ADHD brains often trick us into thinking everything needs doing right now. It's not just about procrastination or poor organization - it's a significant aspect of ADHD that alters how we perceive and prioritize time.

How To Manage It

To manage this, I've found prioritizing and planning to be incredibly effective. For example, every Sunday, I spend half an hour planning out my week, day by day. 📅This approach breaks down my list of endless tasks into manageable pieces. Assigning specific days to specific tasks reduces anxiety and brings a sense of control and achievement as I tick off each task, turning my list from chaos to order. 🧘

3) You Leave Things To The Last Minute

Many of us with ADHD tend to push tasks off until the last minute, leading to unnecessary stress and panic. 🥵When we do this, it's not always about avoiding work; it's often about underestimating how long tasks will take and seeking the pressure of a looming deadline to motivate us.

Why It Happens

This tendency stems from a unique interaction with time and deadlines. Our perception of time can make tasks feel less urgent until the deadline is looming directly over us. 😬

How To Manage It

One way to tackle this is by breaking tasks into smaller steps and planning backwards from deadlines. This method helps create a sense of urgency and progress early on, reducing last-minute rushes. 😎

For example, I might set weekly goals for a project due in a month. I plan one week for research and planning, followed by a week dedicated to writing. Then, I spend the next week actively editing and proofreading. When I submit the work, I feel confident about its quality without the stress of spending the night before working on it. It's about turning a big, overwhelming task into smaller, manageable chunks. ✅

4) You Can't Seem To Stick To A Consistent Schedule

Sticking to a consistent schedule can feel nearly impossible for those of us with ADHD. Our days might include starting work at varying times or getting sidetracked by unplanned activities like scrolling on social media or chatting to a friend about our plans for the weekend. 🙈

 

Why It Happens

This struggle often arises from the ADHD brain's approach to time management and executive functioning, affecting our ability to maintain routines. Distraction also plays a significant role here, particularly for those with inattentive presentations. 👀It's not just about forgetting or overlooking details; it's a more profound challenge where our brains might find it hard to filter out irrelevant stimuli, making it more challenging to stick to planned routines and tasks. This constant battle with distraction can disrupt our ability to maintain a structured day.

How To Manage It

Time blocking, integrated with Pomodoro timers and visual timers with alarms, can be a game-changer for managing ADHD. This approach involves setting specific time blocks for various activities and using alarms to stay on track. These tools can help maintain discipline and prevent burnout. 

Additionally, I rely on smart devices like Alexa to set reminders for breaks, like a 15-minute social media timeout, ensuring a balanced approach between work and leisure and helping to maintain structure in my daily routine.

5) You're Always Late - No Matter How Hard You Try

One of the common challenges we face in the ADHD community is chronic lateness. 😭 It's not a matter of not trying hard enough; it's often a result of how we perceive and manage time.

Why It Happens

Being late all the time can be traced back to our unique relationship with time estimation and planning. It's a challenge many of us with ADHD can relate to on a personal level. Imagine you have an appointment at 12:30, and Google Maps says the journey will take a smooth 30 minutes. Sounds pretty straightforward. But here's where the ADHD twist comes into play. 👇

You should be ready to leave at noon - but you haven't factored in the time it takes to ensure you have everything you need. 😬 So, by the time you finally step out the door, it's 12:15, and you're still reassuring yourself, 'I've got plenty of time; it's just a 30-minute drive.' But have you considered the possibility of unexpected traffic jams, unforeseen delays, or the extra five minutes it might take to find parking? These factors tend to sneak up on you, and before you know it, you're in a frantic race against the clock to be on time. 😂

How To Manage It

It's helpful to incorporate buffer time into our schedules. For example, setting appointments or alarms a bit earlier than the deadline or appointment can act as a safety cushion for lateness. This simple yet effective strategy can compensate for our natural tendency to underestimate time and gives us the leeway to arrive on time more consistently and reduce the stress of constant lateness. 

And who knows - you might even get those precious five extra minutes to grab a coffee and settle in before your appointment or event starts. 😉

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What The Research Says About How People With ADHD Perceive Time

While the DSM-5, a key diagnostic tool for mental disorders including ADHD, does not officially list time perception issues as a symptom, research suggests that time management is a significant challenge for many with ADHD. 🧐

For example, one study suggests that individuals with ADHD often experience difficulties in time estimation, discrimination, and retrospective assessment of time spent on tasks. They also tend to perceive time as passing more quickly than it does. Other studies suggest that time perception challenges are associated with abnormalities in the ADHD brain, particularly in the mesolimbic and dopaminergic systems. 🧠

Furthermore, ADHD medication may improve time perception; one study investigating temporal perspective (the perception of time) found that individuals with ADHD who were medicated for ADHD were more likely to be future-oriented - in other words, better planners. 💊

Although time blindness is not a primary diagnostic criterion, these challenges are increasingly recognized by clinicians and researchers as integral to the lived experience of ADHD, who argue that we need more awareness and understanding in both clinical and everyday settings. 

And finally, as unmanaged ADHD can lead to negative health outcomes, including increased stress and difficulty in maintaining personal and professional relationships, it’s important to raise awareness of the ‘unofficial’ ADHD symptoms such as time blindness that affect lifestyle habits and the overall wellbeing of people with ADHD.  👍

Key Takeaways

  • Many individuals with ADHD struggle with an altered time perception, also known as time blindness.

This difference in perception of time can lead to people with ADHD having significant difficulties with:

  • Meeting deadlines
  • Arriving on time for events
  • Staying on top of responsibilities within everyday life.
  • Specifically, many adults with ADHD experience the following struggles:
  • Underestimating how much time things take due to difficulty estimating time accurately.

  • Getting overwhelmed by to-do-lists due to challenges with their future time perspective.

  • Leaving things until the last minute due to needing the pressure of imminent deadlines in order to get motivated.

  • Struggling to stick to a consistent schedule due to challenges with executive functioning.

  • Being chronically late for appointments, meetings and events due to challenges in time perception and planning.
  • Research reveals that people with ADHD often experience time perception issues associated with brain function. While not a formal criterion for diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for ADHD, these findings are gaining recognition for their impact on the lives of those with ADHD.
  • Adults with ADHD can manage time blindness and improve their overall mental health by using the following strategies:
  • Time-tracking apps 
  • Prioritizing and breaking tasks into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
  • Planning in reverse from a due date
  • Time blocking, Pomodoro techniques, and using smart devices
  • Setting alarms or appointments earlier to allow extra time.


What’s Next?

Want to learn more about how to manage life with ADHD, particularly if you struggle with time blindness? Check out these related articles. 👇

Understanding the Unique Characteristics of an ADHD Brain

Meeting Deadlines Successfully with ADHD

ADHD and the Challenge of Punctuality

Choosing the Best ADHD Planner for Enhanced Productivity

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ADHD and Time: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is ADHD Time Blindness?

Time Blindness can happen in some people with ADHD. If you are time blind, then it means that you might have difficulty perceiving time well. This points to not being able to estimate how much time you can spend on a particular activity or identify how quickly time is passing by. 

How do problems in time perception manifest in people with ADHD?

Due to Time Blindness, a person with ADHD may have problems with procrastination and beating deadlines. For instance, because they cannot estimate how much time is remaining for a specific task, they might fail to set a schedule for other tasks. They might also have difficulty in planning out their days, weeks, or months. 

Is there a way to address Time Blindness?

There are many ways to address Time Blindness. The first step, of course, is to get a clinical diagnosis and discuss with your doctor the best ways for you to manage your time effectively. You can also use tools, like calendar apps to set your schedule, or alarms so you wouldn't forget your tasks.

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