by Dr. Thor Bergersen
From the sundial to the atomic clock, humans have been obsessed with measuring the passage of time. Philosophically controversial, the idea that a sequence of events takes place, one after the other, and that we can accurately use the terms before and after have given time the status of a dimension. Physicists often use the term “spacetime continuum” to put their theories in context.
Most people seem to have a sense of time passing. Studies have shown that, even in the absence of timekeeping devices or environmental cues such as daylight, humans will settle into their own rhythm of life, sleeping and eating with regularity. Although the average length of a human’s “day” tends to be a bit longer than 24 hours, it’s pretty predictable.
Why is it, then that some people have a difficult relationship with time? It seems that some of us don't “feel” time as it moves along. When we really get into something interesting or fun, hours can feel like minutes. On the other hand, when we have to wait in line, read something we’re “supposed” to, or listen to our coworker drone on about the idiosyncrasies of their cat, seconds can feel like hours. Time can slow down or speed up, depending on the situation.
People with ADHD experience this “relative time” frequently. One common manifestation of this involves doing “just one more thing” before leaving to get to the next scheduled activity, whether that’s an appointment, a meeting, work or school. In reality, there isn’t enough time to do just one more thing. The inability to estimate how much time is required to complete one or two tasks, plus travel to the destination, plus park the car, plus walk into the building equals chronic lateness.
Another way in which time senselessness can sabotage good intentions is hyper-focus. When completely absorbed in an activity, like trying to find the perfect instructional YouTube video on how to fix a hole in the wall, or deciding that every single cabinet door in your kitchen is slightly loose, requiring the tightening of every screw in every hinge, half a day can pass in what seems like the blink of an eye.
Impaired time awareness need not result in serial tardiness or tunnel vision vortices of time sucking traps. When not innate, sense of time can be outsourced. Frequent, even constant reminders of time must be present whenever possible. Automated reminders, alarms and prompts should be placed at every intersection of the day. Maximize the technological potential of every device at your disposal. The desktop, laptop, tablet and phone must all work in unison to cajole, persuade and push you along to the next item on your agenda, whether that’s waking up, eating or going to bed.
Failing that, a wristwatch, pad of paper and pencil should do the trick.