How to Stop Yourself Always Running Late

  • April 1, 2019

“Lateness is the artist’s prerogative”—André Maurois, novelist

Amusing quotes and flashes of wit might be perceived as charming when it comes to artists, but being late can cause true agony.

Have you already had an opportunity slip through your fingers because you were late? Do you finish your projects at the last minute and totally stressed out? Have your efforts to change come to nothing, affecting you and those who count on you? If so, this article is for you.

Welcome to the Jungle will help you understand why you always end up being late and how to change this (bad) habit.

Why am I always late?

1. I don’t have a sense of time

Always running late? In a study carried out with 181 subway conductors in New York in 2003 by Jeff Conte at San Diego State University, it was reported that some of the conductors were not able to be punctual because their perception of time was different from others’. Where one minute was perceived as 58 seconds by “efficient” conductors, it represented 77 seconds to others. If this 19-second difference seems low to you, calculate that over one day.

“Never plan to be exactly on time. Always plan to be early. This will help you arrive right on time”—Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again

2. I’m late because of my personality

Certain psychological factors contribute to chronic lateness. A study carried out in the 1990s by Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, highlights the links between people who are compulsively late and certain character traits, such as anxiety or lack of self-esteem. In the book, she identifies seven profiles for people who are late.

  1. Deadliners are the most common. The profile refers to people who can only be productive in crises and who say they only work well when under pressure. Deadliners battle with procrastination on a daily basis.

  2. Producers like to do as much as possible in the minimum amount of time, but they also underestimate the time they need. They plan too many activities in one day.

  3. Absent-Minded Professors are easily distracted and cannot get from point A to point B without taking a detour through points C and D. Instead of moving forward efficiently on a single project, those with this type of personality divert their attention to secondary tasks.

  4. Rationalizers will never admit they’re the type of people who run late, preferring to blame their tardiness on uncontrollable causes such as traffic jams and delayed trains. Unfortunately, when this person is working within a team, everyone suffers because of these excuses.

  5. Indulgers have a hard time managing their time and blame themselves for being late. They convince themselves it’s impossible for them to fight this bad habit.

  6. Evaders try to overcome their anxiety by wanting to control everything. For example, they can only leave the house if it is perfectly clean, even if this will result in them being late to appointments.

  7. Rebels adore being late because they love the idea that others are waiting for them. These are often people who lack self-esteem and take pleasure in knowing that someone is anticipating their arrival.

Do you recognize yourself in one or several of these profiles? The suggestions that follow have been organized by personality type, but they are all worth following to help you manage your tardiness.

Four recommendations for improving your punctuality

1. For Deadliners: beat procrastination

Who can say they never left studying to the last minute when they were at school or college? The tendency to put off unappealing tasks is understandable, but procrastination can result in your daily life being affected. Projects end up not being delivered on time, or if they are, the quality suffers. Nevertheless, finishing a project is gratifying and it helps to build self-esteem.

  1. Put together a to-do list that’s as detailed as possible 2. Create little reminders for yourself to help you start your day. For instance, put a few well-placed sticky labels on your desk the day before to guide you on the things you need to get done.

  2. Break down larger tasks into smaller ones.

  3. When you complete a task on time or finish the first part of a project, give yourself time for a break.

  4. Set yourself a time limit for each task. Establish a minimum amount of time to achieve certain things (such as reading five articles a week) and a maximum time limit for others (for instance, no more than 30 minutes for going through your emails in the morning).

2. For Absent-Minded Professors: stop spreading yourselves too thinly**

Stopping yourself from being distracted requires the discipline and training of an athlete.

The next time you feel like you are going to diverge from what you are doing or you are ready to stop working on it, try the following:

  1. Stay and work for another 15 minutes. By not giving in to your urge immediately, you are working on your willpower.

  2. Ask yourself if it is really worth going on social media when you could be finishing your work earlier instead. Compare the benefits between immediate pleasure (distraction) and long-term efforts.

3. For Producers, Evaders, or Indulgers: give your organization skills a workout

Willpower works like a battery—the more you use it, the weaker it gets. At work and home, the key word is “organization.” There are simple techniques to use so you don’t get overwhelmed:

  • Save time on repetitive tasks that use up your energy. At work, take advantage of the available technology as much as possible.

  • Each weekend, make a list of personal and professional goals that you would like to achieve during the week.

  • At the end of each day, cross off what you have accomplished and transfer the remaining items to the next day’s list.

  • Put your thoughts, ideas, and projects in writing: lists, flowcharts, notes tacked to the front door—any tricks that will help you remember these things are good to use.

4. For everyone: take care of yourselves and sleep

Lack of sleep is a major cause of running late, so consider going to bed at an hour that will allow you to get enough sleep. Nothing is more important than quality sleep before beginning a day.

SleepyTime is an app that tells you what time you should go to bed and get up in order not to break your rhythm. When you sleep, you go through a series of approximately 90-minute sleep cycles. This means that, even if you sleep for eight hours, you can feel tired the entire day if your alarm clock goes off in the middle of one of your cycles.

What does my tardiness say about me compared with the rest of my tribe?

Punctuality is a characteristic that companies look for. It’s seen as a sign of civility, manners, and reliability. Do you always arrive late, but because you get the day’s work done before it’s time to leave, tell yourself it doesn’t matter?

You are still a source of stress for the rest of the company and it makes you appear disrespectful and unreliable. Since your team cannot count on you being on time, you become a source of disruption to how it functions. What’s more, your colleagues who arrive on time have already been working for a while by the time you show up.

What do I risk by being late?

Your company will have been very clear about your work hours. Lateness caused by events out of your control, such as storms or disruptions to transport, can be excused. However, repeated tardiness without a solid reason can lead to warnings, sanctions (such as withholding your pay), and even being fired. That should give you food for thought about this bad habit and why you need to work on yourself to change.

By using willpower, it’s possible!

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Translated by Mary Waggoner-Moritz

Margot Peignier

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