Running Late Again – Is It a Habit?
Once upon a time it might have been OK to be “fashionably late.” It may still be so in some circumstances. However, chronic day-to-day lateness is another matter.
Some people are always late, no matter how much time they have to get ready, or how far in advance they knew they had an appointment. It is true that sometimes being late is unavoidable. But for the chronically late that is not the case. You probably know some of these individuals. They come in breathless, flustered, apologizing, usually 10 or 15 minutes behind schedule.
Have you considered that you may be one of these chronically late people? Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar?
* The last minute always finds you rushing; even though you’ve told yourself many times that it wouldn’t happen again. Time just seemed to “slip away.”
* You’ve tried setting your watch ahead, but for some reason, you’re still late.
* You’re usually at least 10-15 minutes late for meetings, doctor/dental appointments, classes, church, and everywhere else you need to be on time.
* You make excuses, such as: “I had an important call,” or “Something came up,” or “I had to stop for gas.”
* You sense people are annoyed or angry at your tardiness, they seem distant and aloof.
Do those descriptions fit? If so, isn’t it time to admit you have a problem with punctuality? Chronic lateness is not a medical condition, nor is it inherited. There is no one to blame but you.
Is it possible your chronic lateness is because you have a lack in self-discipline? Are there other things in life that you can control, such as how much you eat, how much you watch television, etc.? If so, then one wonders why you haven’t taken control of chronic tardiness.
Chronic latecomers are an inconvenience and annoyance to everyone. For example, their late arrival disrupts the class, causing teacher and students to lose their trains of thought. It puts the teacher in an awkward position – should he stop and review the materials already covered, should he ignore the latecomer, should he pause while that person gets settled, and he has regained the attention of the class?
If a meeting or a class starts at 10:00 a.m, shouldn’t students (adults included) be in their seats and ready for class at 10:00 a.m.? Likewise, if the teacher is late it sets a very bad example for the students, and diminishes his credibility.
Children don’t have a developed sense of time. They are not able to tell how long something is going to take to do, or how long it takes to get somewhere. But adults are capable of knowing these things. So, as adults, should we not be capable of budgeting our time in a more effective manner?
To paraphrase a famous psychologist:
What is your payoff? If you are a chronic latecomer, ask yourself why you are late. There must be a payoff for the behavior. You wouldn’t continue unless you were getting some reward for it. Do you enjoy having everyone turn and acknowledge your entrance? Do you enjoy the attention you get when you apologize, and explain your current reason for being late?
Examine your mental process. If you know that it takes 45 minutes to get ready and arrive at a destination, ask yourself why you would waste 30 minutes doing something non-related, and then rush to get ready and then have to scurry, hoping to make it to your destination in 15 minutes. How do you justify the behavior? No excuses – you simply didn’t plan your time effectively.
Be honest to yourself about your tardiness. If you are always late, yet you tell yourself and others that you try to be on time, you are lying to yourself. You can’t always be late unless you want to be.
Make priorities. If it helps, write a daily list. And stick to it. Don’t wait until the last minute to do things. If it would help, make a time sheet, assigning certain tasks to certain time slots. If you don’t get a task done within the allotted time, relegate it to another day, or rework your list of priorities, moving tasks with low priority to another day. Allow “down time”, time to just relax, and reward yourself for what you’ve accomplished thus far.
Be prepared. Do as much as possible in advance. Have everything ready to grab and walk out the door. However, be aware that unexpected circumstances can arise. But if you are well prepared, those unexpected events will usually be a distraction, rather than a derailment.
Firmly and deliberately apply negative consequences to your behavior. When not faced with negative consequences to your tardiness, you will continue to be late. To change this behavior, cost yourself something of value every time you are late. This will discourage you from continuing the behavior. The penalty needs to be something that is disturbing to you. For example, if you are late for church, do not allow yourself to watch television for a week. (This works very well if you have a teenager in the house who consistently causes everyone else to be late) Follow through with the self-discipline. Don’t give in to yourself.
Habitual tardiness is a habit that manifests itself by showing disrespect to others. But the good news is that because it is a habit, it can be broken and remedied with a little attention and determination. You will thank yourself, and others will be very appreciative if you make the effort to master this habit. If nothing else, it will be worth the look on everyone’s faces when you finally and consistently show up on time!
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