Time Blindness

As a details-oriented person (and thus a bit of a pessimist), one of my biggest frustrations is people around me who are “time blind”. Let me give you an example…

It’s 9:15 am, you’re deep into solving some difficult problem, and someone calls you up and asks you to review an estimate for them. Let’s assume you can’t just say no.

You go sit down with this person and you review this quote. It involves changing the auto sequence on some widget maker so that on this one particular recipe it stops the conveyor, runs backwards 2 stations, dispenses some new chocolaty cream filling, and continues on.

The first thing you point out is that the quote only specifies 90 minutes total for 2 customer meetings. “That seems a little low, don’t you think,” you say… “after all, from the time you step out of your car at their office, it takes 20 minutes before you even get to their board room, we always spend about 10 to 15 minutes waiting for some last minute guest to arrive, and I’ve never been in a meeting with them that didn’t go at least an hour.”

“So, you think we should put down 2 hours total?”

“No, I think it’s more reasonable to expect each meeting will take 90 minutes, and by the way, in what universe can you make it across town and back in 30 minutes? You’ve only got 1 hour here for total travel time for those meetings. It’s 30 minutes one way in normal traffic. What about walking to and from your car? What about waiting in the lobby?”

“No, you can get there in 20 minutes most days.”

“So you rounded down to 15?”

“We have a contingency amount of 10% over here.”

“10% of 15 minutes is 1.5 minutes… besides contingency is for unknowns… never mind.”

Of course this goes on forever. At 11:30 you leave this meeting, your co-worker looks at his watch and says, “How long are you logging for his meeting? An hour and a half?”

Time Blindness

Rampant in business circles, typical sufferers include new hires with no experience, and overly optimistic managers. Unfortunately those afflicted with Time Blindness also tend to be in denial. Some are experts at hiding it from themselves, going so far as to work extra hours without counting those hours against their projects, reinforcing the “truth” of their misguided beliefs about how long things take.


There is none. Just don’t get sucked into their unrealistic commitments, and be careful not to get blamed when their projects invariably go over budget.

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