You can’t control most of the external circumstances that lead to stress—traffic, weather, other people, I could go on. But you can plan for at least one of the biggest stress-inducers: Being late. When you’re late, harmless old ladies on the street are conspiring against you, the slow cashier is a jerk. When you’re late, the universe is not a friendly place.
Chronic lateness (you’re always off by a few minutes or more) not only adds to your stress, but may signify something else you’re not quite ready to deal with.
In “Overcome Your Lateness,” published on Huffington Post, Amanda Schupak (writing for youbeauty.com), interviewed management consultant Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again, who found some interesting things in her research about the kind of people who struggle with lateness.
Schupak writes, “In a study she led at San Francisco State University of 225 people, [DeLonzor] found that about 17 percent were chronically late. Among them, there were clear patterns. Late people tended to procrastinate more, demonstrated trouble with self-control (were more prone to habits such as overeating, drinking too much, gambling and impulse shopping), showed an affinity for thrill-seeking and displayed ADD-like symptoms–restlessness, trouble focusing and attention issues.”
Changing this is not simply a matter of hammering into your brain to be on time. But here are some things to try:
- Be honest. One of the most thoughtful issues raised in the article is the question of why—what’s motivating chronic late behavior? So ask yourself: What do you tend to be late for. Is it always the same things and not others? Are you dreading what you have to do? Afraid of standing alone in public? Love the rush of almost making it? Being aware of your pattern is the only way to change it.
- Get a reality check. Most of us misjudge how long a task will take, writes Schupak. So for a few days, jot down a task and how long you think it will take to do. How does your estimate measure up against real time? Yeah, thought so. You might have underestimated that a bit.
- Aim for early, not on time. If you give yourself only as much time to get to your destination exactly at the appointed hour, you increase your chance of being late, says DeLonzor. You leave yourself no margin for error, traffic lights, or any number of things that could hold you up. Rather than aim for the 2pm appointment, aim for 1:45.
- Don’t fear downtime. With all our moaning about how little time we have to ourselves, it’s amazing how much we fear the spare moment. Getting somewhere early gives you the time you swear you don’t have—to call a friend, catch up on email, or, even better, just sit and relax.
Terri Trespicio is a media personality, lifestyle expert, and coach. Visit her at territrespicio.com.