“I’m Late! I’m Late!”

by Alexia Camfield on October 29, 2014

RabbitWhenever I have a client come to me for help with being on time, I cringe because I too share this problem. Regardless of how early I start my day, I typically begin slipping into a pattern of falling behind schedule which has a tendency to snowball until there is a break in the day that serves as a catch up, and then I’m back to being behind again before I know it. This Summer I had a client who was facing dire consequences with her employers if she did not resolve her lateness issue. Eager to help her find a solution and a moment of self-reflection that I too could benefit from some tuning up in this arena I decided to research this matter and see what exactly can be done to help the chronically late become more timely. This is what I found:

  1. Research shows that “late arrivers” tend to perceive time differently than their punctual peers. A simple test to try is to choose a few pages in a book and start reading. Stop reading when you think 90 seconds have elapsed. Check your watch to see how accurate you were. Punctual people almost always stop reading before 90 seconds pass while the late arrivers stop well after.
  2. There are several different types of people who are prone to being chronically late:
  • Adrenaline Rush Seekers – some people have a hard time motivating themselves without the last minute adrenaline rush that comes from a looming deadline. Then as they realize they can not make it on time they become discouraged.
  • Producers – people who consistently over schedule their days and believe they can get an unrealistic amount accomplished in the time that they have.
  • Distractible – people who are easily distracted, possibly who have ADHD.
  • Rebels – enjoys being late knowing others waiting for them.
  • Rationalizer – doesn’t fully admit the problem, blames it on external variables.
  • Indulger – struggles with self-control (“I don’t feel like going”).
  • Evader – Tries to perfect a situation before leaving or moving onto the next.

By identifying what type(s) best represent you, it becomes easier to decide how to intervene. It appears to me that I am trying to produce too much in the time that I have, I do not factor in margin for variables, and it is difficult for me to move onto the next situation if I do not feel I have perfected what I was working on.

Next, I reviewed what strategies are recommended for better results with punctuality:

  1. Re-learn how to tell time. Reevaluate how long your routines really take. Late people tend to remember the one time they got ready in 20 minutes or the one time they got to work in 7 instead of how long it usually takes them. Challenge: Write down your daily habits and estimate how long you think it takes you to do each one. Then spend a week or so writing down how long each thing actually takes. This exercise helps clean up any false ideas about time.
  2. Change your thinking not just your behavior. Challenge: Write out all the positives that come from being on time. Think of things that will motivate you to be on time that you can remember the next time you notice yourself falling into one of the behaviors that result in lateness.
  3. Budget time in round numbers. Late people often engage in what is called “split second timing”. They budget exact times, like 7 minutes, to get somewhere which doesn’t account for variables. Punctual people tend to use round numbers, like 10 minutes which has built in buffer.
  4. Reschedule your day. Consider categorizing your to do list for the day in terms of priority items and items that can be rescheduled if needed. This will help know which items are ok to drop off in the event that time does not permit. Having predetermined these items makes it easier to “let go” of them.
  5. I have decided to start by writing out my schedule for each day and how long I think each task will take. I will also apply the strategy of using round numbers and plan to keep track each day of how long the tasks of my day actually take. I also decide to out what benefits I believe I will get from being on time and post this in my daily calendar. My client was also able to identify with a few of the personality types and has chosen to try out a few of the suggestions as well. Next month I will let you know about our results!

If you have challenges with time I invite you to join me in this experiment. Please email me and let me know what you learned about yourself and what interventions you put in place and the outcome. If you are one of the punctual brained people in the world and you have insights or tips to share I would love to hear those as well!  Email me…

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