A former boss of mine was known for saying, “If you’re not early, you’re late.” My father is early everywhere he goes. When Dad says he’ll be there at 4:00, you better be ready by 3:00. Needless to say, I am imbued with the notion that lateness is, well, not the best thing in the world.
However, not everyone wants to catch the proverbial worm. I have been late to appointments and hold no delusions that it will not happen again. Everybody is late from time to time. However, for some people, “late” is the norm. A study from San Francisco State University* found that 17% of participants were chronically late.
Being organized is important, but that may not cure chronic lateness. So, aside from mastering good time management practices, how can you be on time?
If you are chronically late, the first step is to understand why. Most bad habits serve some ulterior purpose. What is being late doing for you? What function is it serving in your life? For some people, perpetual tardiness helps them:
- Alleviate boredom
- Enjoy a crisis-based adrenaline rush
- Assert power over others
- Believe that more work got done in a day
- Project the image that they are busy/in-demand/overburdened
Once you identify your drivers of tardiness, it may become easier to readjust your thinking.
If your causes of tardiness elude you, keep a time diary for two weeks. Note all activities that occur, planned and unplanned, and start and end times for each. If you are late to an appointment, highlight it on your diary. At the end of two weeks, assess the following:
- How many times were you late compared to punctual? What was happening in the hour prior to your late arrivals that differs from your on-time ones?
- Are you consistently underestimating the amount of time it takes to get from point A to point B? Do you forget to include parking and walking into the building in your travel time estimates?
- What activities are you doing prior to leaving for an appointment? Are your good intentions to get “just one more thing done” delaying you?
- How many of your late arrivals were caused by factors outside your control? What could you have done differently to mitigate those factors?
Tips for the Tardy Crowd:
- Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to all appointments when you drive.
- Plan to arrive 5 minutes early to all appointments within walking distance of your office.
- Have an “early arrival” folder filled with interesting articles to read. That way you have something to do (that can easily be put away) while you wait for the meeting to begin.
- Institute your own late fees. Put $5 into a jar in your office every time you are tardy to an appointment. Then, donate the money to a charity at the end of each month.
- Book travel time in your calendar just as you would do for an appointment – especially if getting there will take more than 15 minutes.
- Add 20% more time onto any travel estimates you make.
When assessing your own timeliness tendencies, don’t strive for perfection because it is simply not possible. Do remember that punctuality is an indication of the respect with which you hold others, though. Call me today and let’s talk about your penchants for punctuality. I can help even the tardiest of folks get to work on time.
Because…those early birds really do get the best worms…or seats…or bagels…or…
* As described in Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged by Diana DeLonzor
Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at [email protected] or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.