Chronic Lateness, and How to Cure It

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Everyone has one of those friends in their social circle that is late for everything. I had one such a friend, and he always had the wildest, most incredible explanations for those of us kept waiting. His breathless stories always kept us entertained, but after a while it seemed like too much of a coincidence that all of these crazy things would happen every single time just as he was leaving the house.

It wasn’t until he showed up an hour late to a friend’s surprise party that some of us decided to try and fix the situation. We figured if he was always late by half an hour, telling him to meet us half an hour earlier would cause him to show up right on time. No confrontation, no problem.

Until, of course, he figured it out one day when he actually managed to make it out of the house on time and was forced to wait half an hour, fuming, before the rest of us showed up, cool as cucumbers. The game was obviously up.

Some might read that story and think that my friend didn’t like the taste of his own medicine, but in some ways I think he was more upset that none of us had been honest enough to tell him how we really felt about his chronic lateness, and how much this habit affected our group’s relationship with him. Interestingly enough, after he figured out how we had tricked him, his lack of punctuality became less of a problem.

Does this story sound familiar to you? Maybe it describes someone you know, or maybe it hit a little too close to home. Running late is never convenient for anyone, but when you’re forever falling behind it can have a negative effect on your life, and affects the lives of others in turn.

One of my favorite authors writing about time management is Julie Morgenstern (I talk a little bit about her books here) and she has an interesting way of diagnosing the causes behind chronic lateness. In her book Time Management from the Inside Out, she suggests that if you’re always late by different amounts of time, the problem lies within your schedule and work habits. However, always being late by the same amount of time demonstrates a certain amount of skill and consistency that Morgenstern speculates has psychological roots.

Years later, I found myself in a similar situation with another tardy friend. Remembering how badly my friends and I had handled the previous problem, I figured my best option to fix things was to be honest.

I’m so glad that I did. My friend opened up to me about how anxious it made her to sit alone in a public place, so she would wait until the last possible moment to leave her house and avoid this possibility altogether. It made me less irritated knowing she wasn’t trying to deliberately inconvenience me and instead I was happy to help. We agreed that on our next outing I would pick her up at her place and we would walk to our destination together. The problem was solved, but it made me wish I had handled the situation with my first friend better. Who knows? He may have harbored similar anxieties.

If you’ve got a punctuality problem, then I hope you take heart in knowing that you’re not alone. Everyone is late on occasion. But the more you think about the reasons why you’re falling behind, or always rushing, the closer you are to unlocking the clues to change your habits and finally start showing up on time.

If the problem is technical, try allowing yourself bigger cushions in your schedule between appointments, giving yourself more travel time and streamlining your process for getting out the door so you’re not constantly ducking back in to grab forgotten items or complete tasks.

If the problem is psychological, try figuring out what motivates you to get out the door in time. What’s stopping you? Changing your habits completely is often a challenging task, so push yourself to leave early and plan for an activity while you wait.

Now you know why I always carry a book in my bag with me. I hate waiting just as much as you do!

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What are some of the ways that you’ve cured your chronic lateness, or the chronic lateness of others? Drop me a line at keepingbusywithb@gmail.com or comment below. I love learning from other people’s stories.

I like writing about time management and productivity because it’s something we all struggle with from time to time. (Even me. Shocking, I know.) For more advice on what to actually do when you’re running late, click here. Want to start your mornings off on the right foot and not be late at all? Check out my blog post here. Finally, if you’re looking to create a little extra time throughout your day, I’ve got a few ideas here on how to make running errands a more streamlined process.

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