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ADHD & Time Perception
A person with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can sometimes struggle with time management and schedules⌚. Many people affected by this neurodivergent condition may frequently come late for meetings or rendezvous or may compensate by arriving way too early because they are afraid to disrupt the schedule of others. Many neurotypicals experience the same struggle, but how does ADHD affect a person's inner clock differently? Do people with ADHD have a different perception of time, or are they just too distracted by other things?
Numerous reports have already suggested that people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have their brains wired differently. They often use this description to refer to our brain's cognitive functions, specifically our executive functioning, which is mainly responsible for how we handle organization, planning, and time management📅.
If ADHD affects executive functions, then people with this neurodivergent condition might have a deficit in time perception or in how they understand time. This can result in struggles with setting and defining schedules, significant differences in daily routines, and problems with time estimation. Generally, with ADHD, a person can develop Time Blindness.
The Idea Of Time Blindness
Do you have difficulty being aware of the time? Or do your ADHD symptoms make you perceive time differently? If you do, please know that an ADHD brain can really struggle with “Time Blindness.” 🥺
Time Blindness usually points to how an ADHD brain perceives time differently. We may either disregard the concept of time altogether or struggle with planning and being future-oriented. When you are “time blind,” it may be difficult for you to know how much time has passed or how quickly it is passing, making it difficult to accomplish tasks.
Note that people with ADHD are not making “excuses” when they say that their Time Blindness made it more challenging for them to complete chores or reports😭. It really is an occurrence among people with this neurodivergent condition.
Struggling With Time Management
Time Management is complex, even for neurotypicals. It doesn't only involve a simple timetable of activities for the day, but may also include time allowance or time sequencing between chores or events. We must manage time effectively to make the most of our days and be productive. But, how do you do it when your ADHD inherently makes it difficult for you to handle schedules? 🤔
As an adult with ADHD experiencing time blindness, I can share with you what other ADHD adults who are time blind are experiencing.
First, it’s challenging for us to manage time and schedules📅. There are moments when I have difficulty estimating the needed time to get to the office from my home. There are also times when my lifestyle habits are messed up because my schedules are all over the place. Case in point: once, I had to attend a seminar with ADHD groups at the same time I had set an appointment with my mental health professional.
These events may sometimes result in an “ADHD tax,” wherein we pay for the consequences of our ADHD symptoms. Time management is one of the most difficult skills I have to hone. The good news is, as I grow older and become more experienced, I realize that it is not impossible to develop this skill. Like any other skill, it only takes time, practice, and effort.
Future Time Perspective
As I grew up, I remember always telling myself that I “should have done something more significant by this time.” Like you, I set goals for myself within a time period and work hard to achieve them. Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan, and “failures” often result in feelings of disappointment and discouragement.
Whenever I am asked about my plans or where I see myself a couple of months from today, my vague perception of time kicks in. If, for instance, you ask me to outline my goals for 2024, I might feel as if it's a couple of months from today, when in reality, 2024 is more than a year away! 😅 This different perception usually affects how I set my goals.
That's what Time Blindness is all about. You often have trouble with time perspectives, which can be a big deal in planning out essential milestones in your life. It might also influence your daily functioning: you might become more impulsive (as you might feel you don’t have enough time to decide) or have difficulty prioritizing the tasks.
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Time Disappearance Due to Hyperfocus
Some individuals find hyperfocusing a "superpower," or at least one of the most awesome adult ADHD symptoms. Hyperfocusing is a term used when we focus intensely on a specific task to the point that we are unaware of the passing time 😵. We may be in a state of "flow," wherein we are so engrossed in what we are doing that we don't notice our surroundings. But, as much as it can be beneficial, hyperfocusing can also be detrimental.
Hyperfocus can sometimes be associated with our difficulty with time perception. There are moments when we feel like we are inside a bubble - too immersed in a certain activity to know what time it is or how quickly time has already passed. Lucky for us if the activity involved helps us finish our goals. The thing is, there are moments when we become so fixated on unimportant tasks that it causes time to disappear.
For example, an individual with ADHD may get caught up playing video games for hours and not realize how much time has passed. Other times, we get so engaged in browsing Tik Tok feeds 📱 of entertaining people that we forget to eat, exercise, or do essential chores, thus causing negative health outcomes.
Meeting Deadlines and Procrastination
Having an altered time perception does not mean our clocks run faster or slower than others’, that’s why it is mostly a disadvantage. Since Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) makes it hard for us to raise awareness relative to time, we may deeply struggle with procrastination and beating deadlines ⌛.
Procrastination usually hits us when we don't want to do a particular task because it's either too difficult or we are not interested in it. Instead, we would do other more pleasurable things and leave the challenging ones for later. However, many individuals with ADHD find it difficult to manage time, often thinking they still have enough time to do a task even if it is already due tomorrow.
Procrastinating combined with the difficulty in beating deadlines can be disastrous for one’s school life or career. That’s why having ADHD Time Management skills are crucial for doing time-bound tasks, whether it is for work, school, or personal endeavors👌.
More on ADHD & Time Management
Not all adults with ADHD struggle with time perception on a regular basis. But there may be a point in their lives where they experience time blindness from time to time, in particular activities.
They might experience it in cooking, which requires a hefty amount of patience and waiting. Likewise, they might be time blind when commuting from Point A to Point B, causing them to arrive too early or too late.
Time estimation (the assessment of the amount required to do a task), time sequencing (the order of events that will happen), and time reproduction (the amount of time necessary to repeat a job) are areas where some people with ADHD may encounter a problem. Top that with other ADHD symptoms and things can be overwhelming.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), difficulties in time perspectives are not part of the official ADHD symptoms. However, many adults with ADHD truly struggle with time-related tasks. Plus, plenty of ADHD Symptoms can be related to the challenges in perceiving time, such as:
- Exhibiting poor organization (schedules, appointments, etc.)
- Lacking attention to detail (time blindness, time perspective)
- Getting easily distracted (hyperfocus, daydreaming)
- Having difficulty waiting for their turn
- Feeling of always on the go or rushing things
All these may be why you feel like an altered time perspective is one of your ADHD symptoms. It is essential to remember that not all people with ADHD will experience difficulties regarding the perception of time. But, if you feel like it is something you are struggling with, do not hesitate to ask for professional help.
Managing ADHD & Time Perception Difficulties
To minimize the effects of ADHD symptoms, manage our time efficiently, and avoid adverse health outcomes resulting from improper time management, we need to be more mindful of how we spend our time💪. Professionals have several tips on how to manage our time well despite ADHD. You can try doing things on the list below to improve your time management capacity and minimize the negative effects of time blindness:
- When struggling with planning tasks and time blindness gets in the way, you can try to break the activities into smaller and more manageable chunks. Doing so allows you to focus on completing one thing at a time instead of getting overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done.
- Make a journal or a checklist of the tasks that you have finished📝. This way, you can have a sense of accomplishment every time you accomplish something, which can act as a motivation to do more.
- Learn to reward yourself for every milestone you hit. Simple things, like taking a break can help ease the stress you are feeling and can also be a good way to motivate yourself.
- Utilize the tools that you have. You can set alarms or reminders on your phone for what you need to do. This way, you will not forget about your tasks, and you can be more mindful of your time.
- When dealing with ADHD Time Struggle and a “weaker” executive functioning, you can try using Reverse Scheduling. This tool is done by planning things backward. You have to start with the end and plan each step from there.
- When Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder causes problems with procrastination, you can try the Pomodoro Technique. This is a time management strategy where you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. It is one of the most recommended ADHD tools that you can utilize for concentrating on tasks.
- Get an ADHD diagnosis if you haven't had one yet. Understanding how our ADHD brain works and how it can perceive time differently can make it easier to find the best coping mechanism for us. A licensed clinical psychologist 👩⚕️ or an experienced mental health professional can give accurate advice for your struggles, like taking ADHD medication or having a therapeutic tool for you to use.
Remember, even if we perceive time differently and experience a lot of struggles, we can find ways to manage our time more efficiently🙌. Time management skills may be difficult to hone, but it’s not impossible. If you continuously work on it, it will become easier for you over time to understand how much time you'll need for a particular activity. Just be patient with yourself and do not hesitate to ask for help from a professional if necessary.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder does not need any cure, but is a condition you can manage. Individuals with ADHD should not be defined by their disorder, but instead seen as people with different ways of perceiving and managing time. People with ADHD can lead fulfilling and successful lives with proper understanding, support, and care 😘.
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.