What Is Time Blindness, and How Does It Affect Your Job?
You might have seen the viral TikTok featuring a young woman in tears talking about a potential employer’s lack of understanding for people battling “time blindness,” or those who struggle with showing up to work on time.
But what exactly is time blindness, and how can it affect you on the job and in your day-to-day?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, time blindness can manifest as a skewed perception of time or of how much has passed in a given moment. It can particularly affect those with the neurodevelopmental disorder ADHD or other neurodivergent diagnoses.
Seeing a person overcome with emotion, asking about a potential dispensation or accommodation for something they clearly struggle with, helped lead the viral charge for this clip and pushed the phrase “time blindness” onto many people’s lips.
For many employers, a lack of punctuality or an inability to attend work on time is a nonstarter. It’s a core tenant of professional behavior at work for most.
For those who knowingly struggle with time blindness, however, being upfront and honest about those battles—and willing to find and work on solutions—can lead to better answers in the workplace and potentially better standing with your company.
What is time blindness, and how does it relate to ADHD?
According to the National Institutes of Health, 4.4% of American adults suffer from ADHD. The NIH describes the symptoms as including “difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (over-activity).” More recent studies conducted worldwide by the Journal of Global Health push that number to 6.8% of all adults globally.
Long prevalent in children, an adult diagnosis of ADHD can explain impairments in many facets of life that could lead to problems at home and in the workplace. One of the many ways it can manifest is as “time blindness.”
Time blindness itself can affect your work in myriad ways, including habitually showing up late, over or underestimating the passage of time, difficulty sticking to a schedule, missing deadlines and losing track of time.
While there is not a specific medication to treat “time blindness,” those that more broadly treat ADHD could help in this area. If you start checking off multiple boxes, seek out a mental health professional to help you understand the how and why.
Time blindness in the workplace
Depending on the job, time blindness could be exhibited in different ways. Punctuality issues can crop up as failed attempts to clock in or show up to meetings on time—even virtually. That tardiness, in turn, could lead to disciplinary action.
For many in the workforce, deadlines are a necessary part of the job. For those struggling with time blindness, making those deadlines can be difficult at best and can lead to other issues, like decreased productivity, added stress or burnout.
Time blindness can also show up in other time management-related tasks. Setting goals, short and long, as well as honing your organization and prioritization skills, can all help in finding solutions to potential problems.
Coping with time blindness
Understanding your shortcomings as an employee—be they part of a medical diagnosis or not—can help you find more solid footing in the workplace and could even lead to advancements and more responsibility.
In dealing with time blindness, it’s critical to have a plan of attack in how you deal with it.
Try the Pomodoro Technique: In short, the Pomodoro has you work in 25-minute blocks followed by a 5-minute break. Complete four blocks and you get a longer, 15-20 minute break. Cordoning off the workday into these more digestible chunks can help many people stay on task and provide reachable goals throughout the day in lieu of facing the day as one large, seemingly impossible task. Even if working in such small blocks isn’t doable for you, set a timer for when you can step away from your desk and take a break to recharge and/or reset.
Set deadlines: Let’s say your current project has one stated deadline, two weeks from now. Do yourself a favor and set smaller goals in the days leading up to it—not only to consistently knock out work, but incrementally encourage you to keep going. These small victories pile up, and you’ll feel rewarded for putting in the work.
Try an analog clock on your desk: It seems too simple, but watching the hands swing around the face of a clock can give you a greater sense of time physically moving and help keep you on task.
Use that calendar: There are tons of great calendar apps out there to help you block time in your day, set goals for the day to come and let your coworkers know when you’re busy and/or on task. It can help you find accomplishment in your day and limit distractions to aid in your focus.
Body doubling and ADHD in the workplace
For many of those diagnosed with ADHD, the practice of body doubling has proved productive in helping certain individuals overcome some of its symptoms.
In short, body doubling is when a person affected by ADHD works in tandem with another person—a family member, friend or co-worker—to keep them grounded in the present moment or focused on the task at hand.
While the effects of body doubling have not been proven in a scientific setting, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to seek out and potentially find a solution that could work for you. The concept of body doubling grew out of ADHD self-help groups and can take shape in many different forms, including virtually via video conferencing.
Overall, these kinds of working partnerships are just one of many solutions to helping those facing issues like time blindness. Understanding the personal limitations you bring to the job is an important first step in learning how to mitigate their impact on you and the work you perform every day.
How to talk to your boss
If you feel like a reasonable accommodation can be made to help you in the workplace, you can go about asking your boss to integrate these changes into your job. It’s important to grasp what may or may not be a reasonable accommodation at your job and to familiarize yourself with your rights in your jurisdiction.
While you should ask for any help as soon as possible, coming to the table with solutions and a plan of action will help your employer understand your specific needs and how they can support you in helping you accomplish your job.
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