We all have people in our lives who are always late for everything, and, let’s be real: That’s almost always because they value their own time more than your time. Of course, chronically late people have plenty of excuses, and now there’s another one: TIME BLINDNESS, and it’s actually a real thing.
It’s not an actual medical condition, but doctors use “time blindness” as a way of talking about the concept of losing track of time. And some people can be more prone to it than others.
Our brains are constantly shifting between two types of Attention. Automatic attention and directed attention. “Automatic attention” is your “happy place”, it’s how you focus when you’re doing something you like or find interesting. “Directed attention” is what you use when you’re engaged in things you have to do, but don’t really want to do.
During periods of automatic attention you can get so engrossed and hyper-focused that you lose track of time, but during directed attention, it can be hard to stay focused at all.
Time blindness happens when people have trouble balancing the two. For example, people with ADHD or autism tend to have overly-strong automatic attention. In those cases, it’s more hard-wired.
For others, it can be manageable, but you need to make an effort. Here are some tips to disengage when automatic attention has kicked into overdrive:
1. Set a timer on your phone to alert you when it’s time to move on.
2. When you don’t have a lot of time, try to avoid activities that you KNOW you have a tendency to get lost in. So don’t start watching an addictive show RIGHT before bed, or make plans to catch up with an old friend just before an appointment.
3. Try the “if-then” technique: Set goals for yourself to reach, like making dinner. And then AFTER you do that, then you’ll do the next thing on your list, like read two chapters of a good book.
(Here’s a TikTok of a woman going viral talking about how she thinks there should be more accommodations for “time blindness.”)