Overcoming Time Blindness

Feb 17, 2023 
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Do you always feel like you’re losing track of time? Would you describe yourself as an underachiever? Is it difficult to plan ahead for your future? If any of these questions resonate with you, then either you or someone you know may have a problem with time blindness. Time blindness or future blindness can affect anyone, but can be particularly challenging for those with executive function related disorders, such as ADHD. In this article, you’ll learn more about time blindness, including the ways it manifests and ways to help.

What is time blindness?

The ability to plan and organize space and time is a critical executive function skill. Everyone struggles with time management and organization once and a while, so how do you know if your time management issues are normal or are signs of time blindness? Those who are time blind demonstrate weakness on assessments that evaluate flexible thinking, inhibition, working memory, and task initiation. Such executive function deficits make it difficult to set goals, focus, problem-solve, and sequence and prioritize tasks. 

Difficulties perceiving and managing time can go beyond completing daily tasks and can even affect how you approach the big picture of your life. Don’t get me wrong. There’s value to living in the moment. Carpe diem! However, if you’re so focused on the present that you become incapable of preparing for the future, there could be some serious consequences. A psychologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., MBA, uses the term “Time Horizon” in his article “Are You Time Blind? 12 Ways to Use Every Hour Effectively” to describe “how far you can look into the future to plan ahead.” He notes that those diagnosed with ADHD “often have shorter time horizons than do neurotypical people.” So teens with ADHD and others who may have time blindness may struggle to develop college and career goals, which can sometimes make it more difficult to get motivated to work in high school without something to work toward or look forward to.

How do you recognize time blindness?

While time blindness can manifest differently, there are some common signs to look out for. You might have time blindness if you:

  • Have difficulty telling stories sequentially.
  • Struggle with multitasking, initiating tasks, or switching between tasks.
  • Can’t write coherent sentences or generally struggle with writing tasks, especially research papers that involve multiple steps and attention to detail.
  • Get lost or stuck approaching large projects or solving complex math problems.
  • Tend to be reactive and impulsive rather than stepping back and thinking things through.
  • Note a discrepancy between measures of IQ or ability and actual measures of achievement, such as grades.
  • Never seem to have all the materials you need to complete an assignment or task.
  • Procrastinate.
  • Describe yourself as easily distracted.
  • Frequently miss deadlines or are chronically late.

What can you do about time blindness?

Individuals with time blindness can often get by in elementary, middle, and high school because parents and teachers provide much needed support and structure. When teens go off to college, however, that’s when things start to fall apart. You can get ahead of the problem by implementing recommended interventions. It’s never too late to seek help and develop time management strategies.

Some strategies to consider:

  • Start small. Even if you have what seems like a lot of time to complete a task, don’t put it off until the last minute. You’ll never know if something else will come up or an assignment will turn out to be more difficult than you expected. As soon as you can, try to get started on the easy stuff. 
  • Use visual aids. Visible timers, clocks, and time organizers (e.g. calendars, planners, whiteboards) enhance how you “see” time. 
  • Set alarms and notifications. Stay on track by setting an alarm for the amount of time it should take to complete an assignment. Set up notifications in a calendar or task app to alert you about upcoming activities or due dates. Vary your alarm sounds to differentiate between types of tasks. 
  • Know your time sucks and avoid them. If you lose valuable time because you can’t say no to a friend who wants to hang out, make sure you put your needs first. On the other hand, if  you frequently find that you’ve blown through an hour of your time browsing TikTok or gaming, then delay gratification. Put the phone away or do your homework in a different room than the one you use for gaming. When you’ve completed the urgent tasks on your to-do list, reward yourself with some chill out time.
  • Break up big tasks. If you can’t look too far into the future or have trouble staying on task, don’t bite off more than you chew. Nibble away at work by breaking it up into smaller tasks.
  • Focus on the start, not just the end. Make the time you start work on an assignment or leave for an appointment just as memorable and important as deadlines or appointment times. If a test is on Friday, focus on Wednesday as the latest deadline to start studying instead of waiting until the last minute.
  • Allow yourself free time. It’s possible to have too much of a good thing, so don’t overschedule and forget to leave yourself some free time so you can relax and have some flexibility in case something unexpected happens.
  • Set aside time to plan. Don’t just expect plans to be easy to make. To give planning the focus it needs and deserves, set aside a time at least once a week to plan ahead.
  • Always have a Plan B. If you’re time blind, then you probably overestimate and underestimate how much time it takes to complete a task. Be prepared for things to not work out the way you thought they would by planning for the worst case scenario. For example, set a due date for a group project a day or two ahead of the actual due date to leave room for any problems coordinating schedules or getting materials together.
  • Get help. Sometimes the do-it-yourself approach to self-help doesn’t work. Tutors and academic coaches are a great way to support someone with time blindness. Seek out mental health professionals or physicians who can assess executive function disorders and provide additional resources and support (e.g. counseling, medication, etc.).  

How can A+ help?

Time blindness can affect anyone. If you think you or someone you know might be time blind, then A+ Test Prep and Tutoring can help! Our new Executive Function Coaching Program offers students a comprehensive assessment of their executive function skills to diagnose and address the root causes of why a student is struggling and create strategies and routines for success. Students and their coaches set goals and develop personalized strategies for organization, time management, study skills, and much more. 

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, our Client Service Directors Joelle Faucette can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at office@aplustutoring.com.

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