event-based time

All posts tagged event-based time

Some time back (lol) someone asked me if I was “time-blind”. Lovely pejorative, huh? I thought first about how ridiculous of a question that was, and then thought about it for a while more and realized that there is more than one way to perceive time, and neuro-diverse (ND) people seem to be prone to it.

Let’s go there.

The traditional perception of time is based on the clock or calendar. I will call this clock-based time or calendar-based time. It is focused on units of duration – how long something takes to happen or do or whatever. A meeting is one hour long. A week is seven days long. A car trip is seven hours. Going to college is four years. And so on. The world basically runs this way. Neurotypical (NT) people generally run this way.

ND people are often found to be less focused on duration – we can become engaged in topics and lose track of clock-based time, frustrating those around us. This does not mean we are “time blind”, it means that we perceive time differently than those who perceive clock-based time and the durations that characterize it. Time either happens or does not happen for us. That’s why an ND person may tell you something is happening “tomorrow” and mean next month. “Tomorrow” in this case is the next time that whatever is going on will happen again.

This standard thinking of time as limited to standard units of duration such as hours and months is insufficient and inconsistent for people like myself. Instead of perceiving time in units of duration, we perceive it in units of events. Each event has a start and finish. I have three event states – not started, in progress, and finished. For example, when someone asks me how long a task will take, it is hard for me to estimate. Instead of hours, I see the task in terms of steps that have to be linked up and completed. I call this type of time event-based time to differentiate it from calendar-based time or clock-based time. Keeping event-based time is part of the systemizing skill group.

The value of event-based time is best demonstrated when laying out a Gantt chart. Durations are important, but without the correct linking of task starts and finishes, the chart is meaningless and adds no value to the project plan. This is the area where event-based time people excel – lining up things so the work gets done in the correct order and the overall task completes on time.

Next time you want to call someone “time-blind”, please take a step back and ask yourself if they instead run on event-based time. Once the architecture of event-based time is established, the event-based person can start to plan for better recognizing clock-based time and the clock-based time person can start to recognize the value the event-based time thinker brings to the table.

Hopefully, we can retire the pejorative “time-blind” in the near future.