Does time seem to slip through your fingers?
“I’ll just check Facebook real quick,” you say to yourself, and two hours later you realize you haven’t moved from your chair. You’ve read scores of posts, plus the comments, clicked the related links, etc.
You didn’t mean to spend so much time doing it, but you were just oblivious to the time passing. (And yes, I’m attuned to the irony that you might be reading this on Facebook. Keep in mind, the issue is not the platform, but the time you spend on it.
This is time blindness.
And it is commonly seen in those of us with ADHD or under-developed executive function skills.
Why is time blindness a concern?
Because knowing what time it is now, how quickly time is passing, and especially knowing how much time is remaining while you’re involved in a task are three critical pieces of time management.
First it helps to understand what Ari Tuckman, Psy.D. calls the time horizon. As he puts it, the time horizon “is essentially how far you can look into the future to plan ahead.” Sounds like a useful skill, right?
But what if you can’t see the horizon because it’s too foggy or the sun is too bright? Similar to the temporary blindness you can experience from looking directly at the sun on the earth’s horizon, time blindness can be caused by hyper-focus (i.e., when you get so involved in something, you tune out everything else).
Consider the cost.
Not being able to accurately feel time passing hurts productivity, both personal and professional. You might not feel the time passing, but you definitely feel the stress and the embarrassment when yet another deadline goes whooshing by.
At home you might get frustrated with yourself, because you started a decluttering project and didn’t get very far (again). Perhaps you dived into your pile of old moving boxes with the best of intentions, and instead of staying focused on the task and the time, you sat down for “just a sec” to re-read a couple of old birthday cards and letters… then an hour passes before you even look up and realize you’re still on your first box.
Time blindness happens to all of us at some point or another. Especially if we’re prone to hyper-focus. It’s not a moral failing, and there are ways to rein in those trips down the murky rabbit holes.
For example, people who struggle with time blindness tend to do better in jobs with a lot of structure, team support and work that moves quickly (e.g. nursing, fast food or the military). A different type of job where time blindness wouldn’t be a significant hindrance is truck driving. It’s not quite as simple as hopping in a big rig and driving from point A to point B; however, there is a beginning and an end, and as long as you stick to the route, go the speed limit, and take only the scheduled breaks, you don’t have to worry about your ability to manage the passage of time to get to the ultimate destination.
I’m not suggesting you go out and change jobs.
Since good time management is a key component of work productivity, improving your time management skills would benefit you no matter what career you’ve chosen.
Some people do find more fulfillment in jobs that better match their strengths and don’t exacerbate their weaknesses. But there are ways to add external structure to your existing job (as well as your personal life) to help with your time-management skills.
Strategies for Better Time Management.
Speaking of your personal life, there are definitely tools and strategies that will improve your time management in that area, too.
If you would like some practical strategies, feel free to download my “5 Time Management Tips” starter guide — at no cost to you. The practical advice inside will help you immediately improve the way you manage your time.
In Part III, I’ll reveal the one thing you need to master for effective time management. It’s not what you think!