According to a San Francisco State University study, 20% of the US population is chronically late. Lead researcher, Diana DeLonzor notes that it’s not because they don’t value other people’s time; in fact, it’s more complicated than that.
“Repetitive lateness is more often related to personality characteristics such as anxiety or a penchant for thrill seeking. Some people are drawn to the adrenaline rush of that last-minute sprint to the finish line, while others receive an ego-boost from over-scheduling and filling every moment with activity.”
According to DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, our relationship with time often begins in childhood and becomes an ingrained habit. “Telling a late person to be on time is a little bit like telling a dieter to simply stop eating so much.” This is a surprisingly difficult habit to change but observing the habitually timely person can help. What are some of their traits? How do they plan?
1. They are realistic thinkers Punctual people know how long things take. The chronically late engage in “magical thinking” also described as inconsistent, positive reinforcement. So, for the one time you were able to get to your office in 20 minutes, you may generalize and use that as your time requirement, when realistically 30 minutes is the minimum.
One suggestion is to relearn telling time. Record how long it takes to get ready in the morning and drive to work. For one week, track the time. According to the author, chronically late people often underestimate their time needs by 25-30%
2. They give themselves buffer time Punctual people are usually early. They don’t like feeling stressed or rushed by being late. Late people get stressed out from being late too, but they don’t strive to be early, tending to arrive at the last possible minute.
A punctual person plan to arrive 10-15 minutes early, taking into account any unexpected traffic delays, reviewing directions or even driving the route in advance to be familiarized with the location.
3. They are organized The habits of people who are on time, are highly structured, according to DeLonzor. They set routines and follow them on a regular basis. Chronically late people don’t have a structure and hope that next time the result will be better.
To improve in this area, it is most important to make a plan the night before to organize for the next morning. It may be necessary to lay out wardrobe, prepare lunch, gather paperwork, keys, etc. and create a new habit.
4. They are comfortable with downtime Chronically late people hate downtime. They may be anxious about making small talk with the receptionist or co-worker. When there is commotion or a whirlwind of active when they finally arrive, the attention while uncomfortable briefly also acts as a buffer.
Arriving early is a chance for the punctual person to freshen up, review notes, check e-mails or simply get centered and enjoy a peaceful moment to gather your thoughts.
It is far easier to create a new habit than it is to break an old one. Our brains are receptive to making new pathways and are plastic enough to change no matter our age. With a commitment to making time to track your realistic time requirements, you will see results not only in your level of anxiety but in the way others respond to the new, punctual person arriving with minutes to spare. ©MWeisner 2014