Finding Kindness for Those with Time Blindness

a person in yellow sweater sitting on the floor near the potted plants while covering face using a clock

A dear friend of mine is always running late. At first, I thought it was just a one-off thing. But more than a decade later, I’ve come to expect her to show up 15-20 minutes late. I’m the type of person who’s usually early.

We’ve talked about it. She knows she does it. But she has seemed powerless to change it. It’s baffling for someone like me who lived by the minute in my radio life. She’s a professional who must meet people for appointments, etc. She’s smart and organized. The whole thing has been a mystery.

Then last week, a young woman went on TikTok to share her frustration that “workers’ rights aren’t being prioritized.” She had been told she will never get a job because she has “time blindness”. Six million views later, people laughed and mocked her, calling her lazy and entitled. But it turns out that time blindness is a real thing.


I’m tired of workers’ rights not being prioritized in this country. And we’re entitled for suggesting it should be different… I don’t think so. #workersrights #employeerights #workers #capitalismsucks #capitalism #thesystemisbroken #fyp

♬ original sound – ♻️🌎Chaotic Philosopher♾️🇺🇸

Blind to Time

Basically, a person with time blindness doesn’t have a working internal clock. They under or overestimate how long a task will take. Their ability to gauge time is missing.

“Time blindness is when the person has difficulty with the perception of time. It’s more of a sensory difference and not an intentional disregard for time. People … don’t want to be late. It’s not a knowledge problem — it’s a performance problem.”

Adam Ly, Occupational Therapist, Toronto Star

People groaned and moaned. “Oh, great – being late is now a disability!” Being late – like being overweight – has a dug-in perception of having a character flaw, not the result of another issue. The stigma is sticky. Experts say time blindness is often associated with ADHD, autism, and even brain injury. It’s real.

Born This Way

Just think for a moment: who would want to routinely and consistently disappoint and make everyone around them mad, on purpose?

The TikToker was asking for some leeway because she recognized this behavior in herself. She certainly isn’t lazy – she’s trying to get a job. But the employer was refusing to give her any wiggle room on deadlines.

Full disclosure: I have always hated it when people make me wait because they’re late. And don’t get me started on delaying presentations because “everyone isn’t here yet.” Not only does my internal clock run perfectly, I pad my travel times because I’d much rather arrive somewhere early than late. I did think it was because of disrespect or not prioritizing the meeting or coworkers. Now, I’ve changed my mind.

My Late Friend

My friend who shows up late doesn’t intend to do it. So you might think, well, why doesn’t she stop? Maybe because she hasn’t identified the problem, until now. And even after accepting time blindness as part of her makeup, she might not be able to change. She can try setting alarms and doing all sorts of things but her perception of passing time will stay the same, regardless.

In Ontario, if time blindness is identified as part of an ADHD diagnosis, an employer may have to make accommodations for it. It’s a disability. And people are saying, do we have to bend everything for everyone all the time?

Yes. We do. Because that’s what an inclusive society does.

The last time I met my friend for lunch, I brought a magazine to read because I knew I’d be waiting a little while. We laugh about it now. It’s worse for her than it is for me, because she still has an expectation to arrive on time. I already know she won’t and I’m okay with that. In fact, when I greet her, I call her “The Late…” It would be foolish of me to expect her to suddenly be on time.

And this is what needs to happen. We need to shift our expectations a little bit. The world won’t end and businesses won’t crumble. We’ve learned to be kind to all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. This is just one more. We now understand that addiction goes deeper than just choosing drugs over not choosing drugs. People have all sorts of issues that we help them with. Because we value them. And because getting mad at them gets us nowhere.

5 thoughts on “Finding Kindness for Those with Time Blindness”

  1. Very interesting. I have a friend of nearly 50 years, who could “ be late to their own funeral”,according to most of our friends.
    I just adjusted , as many do in this circumstance , to small deceptions and white lies about the time requirement needed by making “go time” earlier than the actual designation.
    Just last week, one of their family members read about the link to this challenge and ADHD. Considering some of their other challenges this makes complete sense. Thanks for sharing .

  2. If a person is aware of their time blindness, the least they can do is be upfront about it. Eg.”Yes, let’s meet tomorrow afternoon at 4, but I am time blind so I will be late.”

    I see this Tik Tok personality is being candid with her application. If you hear how that works out for her, please consider writing a follow-up blog post because I can’t be the only one who would be interested to find out how many potential employers would make allowances for time blindness.

    Like you, I’ve worked with deadlines of varying lengths all my professional life. Before that, in school.

    When I worked in broadcasting at an all-news satellite channel, we used the 24-hour clock, which some of my co-workers could never quite grasp. They could not understand, for instance, why 1800 was 6 o’clock, not 8 o’clock.

    1. I think you’re making a great point. Anyone who has worked in time sensitive environments has a different level of self discipline . I’m the flower biz we always dealt with time influences. Three scheduled delivery pickups a day with the service or you ended up taking it yourself. Late deliveries make for disgruntled customers. Try delivering funeral or wedding flowers late.If you mess up wedding deliveries,the next funeral could be your own. It would be a hard sell to most employers I’m guessing.when you need to be on time you develop a sense of urgency. Does it stand to reason if you have this disability you end up with many burned dinners?

      1. Yes, I can see a person with this issue deliberately avoiding a time-sensitive job – but I suppose they are all time-sensitive in one way or another.

        It got me thinking about a woman I briefly worked with at MIX 999 in the 90s. Our newscasts were at five minutes to the hour. “News five minutes sooner!” The idea was to beat everyone else who did it on the hour. This woman couldn’t time out to save her life. When she was on the air, it was literally “news at 7 minutes past everyone else!” Now I wonder….

  3. My nightmare – literal nightmare (had it again this week) – was being late. Missing a flight. Not being able to find my way out, always of a hotel or a train station, and therefore a calamity was bound to happen. I’m sure it has deeper meaning like FOMO but some of it is based upon all of the years when we never had any delays/traffic to content with, as we travelled in off-peak hours in the almost-always congested GTA. I’m not sure how they’re related, but as much as I, too, lived by the clock, my sense of distance as it relates to time needed to get there, is way, way off. Betting this’ll be a good topic for Gracefully & Frankly, too! ( if anyone’s interested in our weekly discussions – and this Thursday, coffee-through-the nose laughter. E.

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