Coping with Time Agnosia (Time Blindness) : an ode to burnt noodles

Most people with ADHD have some amount of time agnosia (or time blindness), which means that we don’t naturally have a strong feeling for the passage of time.

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Apr 13, 2021

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April 13, 2021
Maaya Hitomi
Maaya Hitomi is the ADHD Coach with a Master's in Psychology. They are the voice behind Structured Success @StructuredSucc

Most people with ADHD have some amount of time agnosia (or time blindness), which means that we don’t naturally have a strong feeling for the passage of time. At some points, such as when we’re hyperfocusing, time moves much faster than we expect. At other times, such as when we’re uninterested in what we’re doing, it moves much slower.

This disconnect between how much time we feel has passed and how much time has actually passed impacts other aspects of ADHD, including our ability to plan, estimate the length of tasks, or be on time. Considering that planning, estimating time, and sticking to a schedule are required skills for everything from cooking to career advancement, time agnosia can have serious effects on the lives of ADHD’ers.

Strengthening our relationship with time

There is some evidence that time agnosia is an innate aspect of ADHD and that it can be reduced by taking ADHD medication. As with the treatment of all aspects of ADHD, however, the best approach is multimodal, involving appropriate medication and learning strategies for better coping. So recently, I asked #ADHDtwitter the strategies that they use to cope with time agnosia, and below I list 5 strategies that might help you strengthen your relationship with time.

1. Watches and clocks

While “get a watch” is sometimes offered flippantly by neurotypicals when ADHD’ers express our struggles with time, it was also the most endorsed strategy in the discussion. On top of that, it’s one of the strategies that I use and have found helpful. To make the most of this strategy, the clock or watch needs to be visible from where we’re working (or playing). Without having the clock or watch in view, the rules of “out of sight, out of mind” apply and we’re honestly back where we started.

Also, it’s important to pick the watch or clock carefully so that it works for you and the environment it’s going to live in. Many ADHD’ers mentioned that analog clocks and watches seem to work better for them, as they seem to better develop the feeling of time passing. However, folks with dyscalculia (which regularly co-occurs with ADHD) may struggle more than most with reading an analog clock, and for some, one that ticks may be distracting or abrasive.

 2. Specific timers

The next most popular strategy was setting a timer or a series of timers. This strategy is less focused on building a better relationship with time, and more about having a safety net to catch us when we do blink and lose an hour. Smart devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, were regularly mentioned as being incredibly helpful, as were more analog alternatives such as the Time Timer.

Just like clocks, for timers to help develop a better sense of time, they must show the passage of time visually and be visible from where we’re using them. Perhaps more importantly, however, for timers to be useful at all, we need to listen to them. When the timer goes off, something has to happen before the alarm is stopped. If you tell yourself that you’re going to do whatever the timer was reminding you of in “just a minute” or “after this thing,” you will probably forget… and that’s how we get burnt food.

3. Repeating timers

This was a strategy that I didn’t think of before asking Twitter, but multiple people mentioned that it really helped them to have an app or a series of alarms that go off at regular intervals (similar to the way that cuckoo clocks do). For these folks, the interval between alarms was as little as 15 minutes and as much as multiple hours. While this isn’t a strategy that I’ve tried, it makes a lot of sense especially if you find the right interval for your task and your needs. However, it’s important to consider whether a timer going off every so often is something that might pull you out of what you’re focusing on. If this is the case, perhaps one of the other strategies would be a better fit.

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4. Music, Playlists or Television

In a similar vein to the previous strategy, a couple people mentioned that they have playlists for daily routines or as a means of estimating how much time has passed. A few others mentioned something similar with television shows. While there’s an obvious potential for distraction with this strategy, the additional stimulation can be really useful for getting started with tasks or making uninteresting tasks more interesting as well.

Playlists have the added benefit of being wide ranging and very customizable. If you need 5 minutes and 5 seconds for one aspect of your routine, but only 3 minutes and 22 seconds for another, you can do that. If you need something more stimulating for one part, and something less stimulating for the next, you can do that too. This variability and customizability makes this a great option if you have the time to set it up and you can balance the stimulation with the potential for distraction.

5. Calendar apps and similar

Almost no one in the discussion explicitly mentioned calendars or similar apps for helping to make time visible for them. It’s likely that some of those who mentioned reminders or timers were using calendar apps for that purpose, but they definitely deserve a much bigger mention here as they are a really useful strategy for making time visible not only during a single task or day, but also making time visible over the course of a week or more.

There are many different apps and so many different ways to use them, but in general, similar rules to those above apply here. For this strategy to help build your relationship with time, the calendar or app needs to be visible where you’re working (or playing) and there has to be a noticeable change over time. For me, I get this from the red line slowly moving down my google calendar throughout the day, but other apps approach this differently and different users may like different approaches.



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Overall, time agnosia (or time blindness) is an innate and difficult aspect of ADHD. While medication has shown some promise in helping ADHD’ers develop the relationship with time, additional strategies are almost certainly necessary. The wide-ranging suggestions by #ADHDTwitter makes it clear that no one strategy is going to fix our relationship with time, but trying some of the strategies listed here might just make that relationship a little bit better. Now if only these strategies could unburn my noodles.

Maaya Hitomi is the ADHD Coach and Academic Strategist behind Structured Success, where they work with ADHD, autistic, and otherwise neurodivergent clients to develop strategies for better coping. They have their Master’s and undergraduate degrees in Psychology, and 4 years experience as an ADHD Coach. More importantly, They’re (probably) autistic, and definitely ADHD and dyslexic, and rely on their structures and strategies to support their own success. Connect with them & get in the conversation on time agnosia on Twitter!

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