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I recently ran across the term time blindness and wondered what it meant. Maybe you are unfamiliar with this concept too. Have you ever worked with a teammate and wondered if they were slow on certain activities? OR, were they overworking a task? Have you worked with someone where you wanted a task done in a day, and you didn’t understand why it took three days? Can you trust your colleagues to finish activities on time? Perhaps your colleague or friend has ADHD.

Lo, and behold, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association:

Time blindness is the inability to sense when time has passed and estimate the time needed to get something done. It isn’t an official diagnosis, but it can significantly affect how you plan and carry out your daily activities. [Source]

That description makes me wonder if some of the people I have worked with struggle with time blindness. It also causes me to wonder about all the research on flow states.

Everyone talks about flow as though it’s the objective at work, and I confess that the state of finding my work pleasant and easy, compared to struggling through a particular task, is the way I prefer to spend my days.

And yet, if we are going to deliver work to the client regularly and rapidly, we must find a way to reach closure on tasks and push the submit button, so to speak. In this blog, I’ll dig into three techniques for avoiding time blindness. And I’ll offer you some practical suggestions for implementing two of the techniques.

Three Techniques for Avoiding Time Blindness #tips #projectmanagement #leadership #smartprojex Share on X

1. Not understanding that time blindness can be a real thing

Once we name a problem it’s easier to solve it. So, my first suggestion is to do your homework on time blindness and pay close attention to how you work first. I suspect we have all had tasks which took way longer than we wanted them to take or thought they would take. It might have been that we overworked them, or changed our approach mid-way through when something just wasn’t working for us.

Talk to your colleagues and ask them if they are familiar with this phenomenon. Engage on the need to understand more about this and to be able to recognize it when it is happening.

While it is typically associated with ADHD, I suspect anyone, especially someone who frequently finds their flow state, can become time blind.

2. Letting meetings go excessively long

I have friends and family who are on committees and come home from excessively long meetings simply wiped out. It’s a problem at work and in our volunteer roles. And it’s not fair to families and co-workers. I wonder if this happens due to time blindness on the part of the meeting leader. Here are some ways to tackle that problem but it’s critical to realize that well run meetings don’t happen by accident. It takes preparation and thought.

Include a time slot for each item on the agenda

When I see that there are five items on the meeting agenda and one is supposed to take 45 minutes and the other four are supposed to be quick and easy, I know how to spend my preparation time and when I should ask questions that I might have outside of the meeting time.

Set clear objectives for the meeting and each item on the meeting

I’m astounded at the number of agendas that I look at that have no clear objectives for the meeting, or the items on the agenda. When your team doesn’t know why they are meeting and what they are supposed to achieve, it’s no wonder they are bored, complain about, and dread meetings.

Use written communications for status reports and using meetings to solve problems

While I’m a huge fan of teams meeting together and talking with each other, there is simply no reason why standard progress reports can’t be done in writing. Use your meeting time to solve complex problems. And if you don’t have any complex problems, why are you meeting?

Use written communications for status reports and meetings to solve problems. There is simply no reason why standard progress reports can’t be done in writing. Use your meeting time to solve complex problems. #teamwork #Productivity… Share on X

3. Allowing a team member to overwork an activity

I learned a long time ago that the only person who I could control was the one in the mirror. Nevertheless, to build a team that is stronger than the sum of its parts requires colleagues to support and empower one another. Perhaps openly addressing the problem of time blindness on your team will help. Here are three ways to do that.

Use short standing meetings to hold team members accountable

I’ve long been a fan of standing meetings, though not necessarily every day. A well-run standing meeting is a place to uncover problems or issues that haven’t surfaced yet. It’s a time to get people excited about what they are doing, particularly if they are unusually stressed from a personal dilemma. I’ll let your team work on ways to make your standing meetings more effective over time. And if you haven’t started using them, here’s a primer on standing meetings that I wrote long ago.

Encourage people to use alarms and appointments as stopping points on discrete tasks

I’m guessing that my never-ending quest to be more efficient explains why my cell phone is loaded with alarms that go off all too frequently. I find it helpful for me. It might not work for someone else. And maybe the 30-minute reminders to get up and stretch aren’t necessary for colleagues in their 20’s. But I wonder if it’s better for our health. Let’s face it, staring at a screen for three hours is just not healthy. Maybe you or your colleague needs a periodic stretch break, or lunch down the street. I’ll leave it up to you and your team to figure out how to best support one another.

Ensure that the meaning of done is understood before someone spends too long on an activity

I’ve written about the meaning of done before and so has Brené Brown. She calls it Paint Done – an expression that she coined when her teams were getting off track. It means paint me a picture of what you think I mean by this request. It is very helpful for those seeking to improve project results and can also be used on operational work.

In closing, time blindness was a new concept for me. I still wonder about the difference between between time blind and finding flow. I’ll let someone else research that.

For those in the US, have a Happy Thanksgiving holiday!