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  • Writer's picturenidhi

13 What's the time?

Updated: May 19

It is 8:20 am on a Friday morning. I have just turned off the first of my seven, checkpoint alarms. I am lying in my bed with my phone beside me contemplating: is the time written on my phone is actually correct, how long will I need to get ready, how much longer could I possibly stay in bed, have I planned enough time to reach my 10 am tutorial at Whittington Hospital…

Amidst the never-ending questions another three alarms have gone off, and now I am sure to be late. I scramble to get ready and at 9:13 I realise I still have 7 minutes until my scheduled departure from the house. I pace up and down my room whilst considering whether to sit tight and wait for 9:20 to come or leave early. As a compromise I leave the house at 9:16. I walk to Camden Town station and take the tube to Archway, a total of three stops, arriving at 9:32.

So now I am officially flustered, what do I do?

My tutorial starts at 10, and it is currently 9:32. I have approximately a 10 minute walk to the hospital, but no matter how slow I drag my feet it definitely won’t take me 28 minutes. Hence, I loiter outside the station as I don’t want to be the first student to arrive. At 9:40, I amble to the hospital. Despite my attempt to plod sedately, I am the first to arrive at my tutorial room at 9:50 – not a surprise! I wait awkwardly outside until others show up, and finally, YES FINALLY at 9:58 am I enter the tutorial room. Out of a group of eighteen, at 10:00 there are only five of us present. We wait another seven minutes for people to arrive, and then the tutorial begins.

Now, why am I telling this story?

Well, this is my life.




With any planned event.

Because… I have time blindness.

Time blindness is a subsect of executive dysfunction (the disruption of a person’s ability to manage and regulate their own thoughts, emotions, actions and behaviours [Cleveland Clinic, 2022]). Simply put, it is the difficulty or inability to sense the passing of time or accurately measure time and it is common among autistic and ADHD individuals [Choosing Therapy, 2022].

The effects of time blindness include:

- Being chronically late

- Being chronically early to prevent being late (my personal nemesis)

- Missing deadlines

- Having trouble sticking to a schedule

- Losing sense of time

- Reacting too slowly

- Trouble making plans

For most individuals, it may sound trivial or utterly confusing, as time is predominantly an unconscious practice. However, for myself and many others, it is a hugely anxiety-provoking concept. On a day-to-day basis it poses several challenges. Time blindness can lead to many struggles and severely impact someone’s quality of life, relationships and mental health.

As much as I enjoy socialising, I dread having to make future plans, when most of the time I have little insight as to what else may be happening on the day. Additionally, I struggle on the days leading up to an event, as I overthink and over-plan preparing. For example, a netball match at 3pm would require me to leave the house at 2pm, which means getting ready at 1:20pm, eating lunch at 12pm, making lunch at 11:30am, waking up by 10:30am – my brain ruminates over organising a schedule. Thus, by the time I actually arrive at my destination, I am mentally drained. And when I return home after an event, I really and truly cannot handle any other social interaction, often needing time to decompress and sleep. Whilst I now recognise this pattern and I have gotten better at planning and managing my time more effectively, on occasions my time blindless discourages me from socialising, especially when I am feeling already depleted. Moreover, as much as having a timeline can be helpful, in practice life is jam-packed with unexpected obstacles. Plans change at last minute, and living in London, tube strikes can mean than a routine 30 minute journey can become an agonising hour of sheer chaos.

I think it is important to note the significant impact time blindness has on a plethora of facets in an individual’s life. I promise this next tale is the complete truth even though I recognise that it does challenge the boundaries of belief. When sitting my 2.5 hour online UCAT (medical school entry exams) I had given my mum explicit instructions not to disturb me. However, at the three-hour mark she was itching to see how it had gone. She knocked on my bedroom door and cautiously asked if I had completed the test.


I hadn’t even started!

The instructions were to wait until the exam uploaded on to the screen after the pre-exam checks. Well, the monitor remained black, so I waited. And waited. And waited some more. In fact, I waited all of 3 hours. I probably would have continued to wait if my mum hadn’t interrupted. In complete disbelief, she asked me why I had sat quiet for so long, but I had no idea of the time that had passed as I had no clock in the room. I definitely felt my impatience growing but then repeatedly told myself off for being so. Suffice to say there was a software error, hence the exam was pushed forward, yet I was absolutely wiped out and all for doing nothing but sitting staring at a black screen!

So how have I learned to cope, in a world that is dictated by time (and transportation strikes)? Personally, having time blindness has been a source of increased anxiety, as I constantly feel on edge and out of control. Thus, I have tried to develop strategies to help counteract these feelings. I have found experimenting with and implementing various techniques as below has improved my daily life:

  1. I always set multiple alarms as checkpoints throughout the day. I think of this as almost a way to trick my mind into believing I am in control such that there is no way that I can be late!

  2. Setting alarms or vibrate mode with different ring tones for different purposes in order that I am aware of what I should be doing and how long each task should take.

  3. I keep a clock on me (my phone, watch or even computer) so I can refer to the time. (Let’s say once bitten twice shy.)

  4. I have a weekly schedule which is easily accessible so I can constantly remind myself of my plans for the day (and following days). I write this out every Sunday and use the same formatting every week to allow for some routine and consistency.

  5. I keep a to-do list alongside my weekly schedule. When I am attempting a big task, I break it down into small, manageable parts. After completing a small task, I reward myself with a short break. This also helps me stay on track and maintain focus.

  6. Using the Pomodoro method has been useful when studying. This allows for 25 minutes dedicated to focused work followed by a rewarding 5 minute rest.

  7. I have previously timed how long daily tasks take, so I now have a better understanding of how long things should take me. For example, I know that my morning routine takes 22 minutes, and that my showers usually take between 8-11 minutes.

Time is still a highly confusing aspect of my life, but understanding my time blindness, and being open and honest with friends, family and colleagues has helped to reduce my anxiety and some of the associated challenges I face. Once you recognise you have time blindness, learning how to cope with it and implementing strategies to help you manage it, can have a noticeable, positive impact on your daily life.

So, thank you for reading and until next time (whenever that may be...),

Nidhi :)



Cover Image: bogdandimages (Shutterstock)

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Feb 03, 2023

Interesting read Nidhi !

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