What Kind of Late Are You?
Some people are chronically late. Scientist Tim Urban proposed in a very humorous blog post that lateness is a form of insanity; however, most people agree that it is just a problematic habit. Like any habit, it is hard to change, but possible if you try. Sometimes, your lateness might not be a problem for you or anyone else. But, when it is a problem, lateness tends to be a big problem. Learning to recognize how and why lateness occurs is the first step towards managing it. Managing it really will help at school, in life, and eventually your career.
Five Common Lateness Personalities
Adrenaline Addicts. Many people love the adrenaline rush of anxiety that fuels them to complete tasks. They feel like superheroes overcoming insurmountable hurdles. Most people are not capable of meeting a deadline under that stress and require extensions. They are often very angry with themselves for the repeated cycle of procrastination and anxious effort. Learning to space work out over a longer time takes the acceptance that you are simply human and, like most, need to sleep and eat in order to get things done. A very small group of people do manage to remain in superhero land for much of their careers; they are lucky that situations allow them to take extensions. I always worry about the day they don’t get one and lose a major opportunity.
Dreamy and Distracted. This person would be on time, except that all sorts of distractions occur along the way. These people miss the bus stop because they are staring out the window, listening to their music, and forget what they were doing, where they were going, and when they needed to be there. The real question is why they are spacing out even when important things are happening or need to happen.
Self-focused. Their precious time would be lost if they arrived before others. Being late ensures that things have started. They don’t consider what effect this has on other people’s schedules. Here, the issue is recognizing the impact you have on others, because what you do and how you do it matters for yourself and those around you.
Busy-Bees. These people agree to do too much and can’t do it within the time frame they imagine. They try to fit errands and tasks into every time slot. They always have more to do and so are always fitting one more thing into their day. Assessing the time for activities can help them become more realistic planners.
Victim—Things always happen to this person on the way somewhere. The bus was late. There was an accident. The rain slowed traffic. The list is endless. It’s never their fault and so they don’t understand why anyone is irritated. Being a victim has never led to success. It suggests that you are not in control of yourself or your own life so how on earth could you be made responsible for others?
Steps to Overcome Lateness
Recognize yourself in any of the above descriptions? That’s okay. You aren’t alone. The following tips can help you manage time better:
Time your routines. Time your morning routine for a week to get an accurate sense of what you actually use each day. Look up your commute online to learn how long it usually takes, including typical delays.
Be generous. Don’t give yourself 13 minutes to get somewhere. Round up. Take 20.
Stay active. Have something to do when you get where you are going so you don’t feel like you are wasting time if you are early. Use that time to ask the teacher or boss a question, check in with your peers, review your notes or the reading for class, prepare notes for an assignment, or write a thank you note to your grandmother who sent you cookies and a really ugly sweater.
Schedule! Use Your Phone. A huge part of time management is about remembering what you need to do and when. The easiest way to deal with that is a schedule, a calendar, as well as many reminders, and we all have those at our fingertips with our smart phone.
Despite many claims otherwise, lateness is a choice. Chronic lateness is a habit and though hard to change, you can do it with slow, steady, consistent attention to shifting the patterns.
By Charlotte Kent, PhD | Private Tutor and Executive Function Coach