Always late? Time to break that habit

Do you ever find yourself running behind schedule, scrambling to make it to meetings or failing to hit deadlines? Are you a serial procrastinator? Or do you often fall victim to surprise events that throw your plans out of whack? Perhaps you have a reputation for *gulp*… Always. Being. Late.

Whichever way you slice it, tardiness is a not great – for everyone involved. And although being late is something we’ve all been guilty of, when it happens a lot, it can impact our relationships, work, and overall well-being. 

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. In this post, we’ll dig into why people are often late, how it can affect our lives, and offer some practical tips to help you break the habit. 

The White Rabbit Habit

HappyMind Blog - Break The Lateness Habit

“I’m late, I’m late…for a very important date! No time to say “hello,” “goodbye!” I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Be honest. Are you the White Rabbit? Always singing ‘I’m late, I’m late…?” Or – and maybe more accurately – forever rushing around in a sweaty swirl of swear words and apologies? 

“Soz, I missed my train!” “Whoops – I got stuck on a call.” “FFS! I didn’t get that done when I said I would…again. Sorry!

For those who are always on time, playing the waiting game can get pretty frustrating. Some may even believe that a person’s lateness shows arrogance or a lack of consideration – but is that really the case?

The Cost of Lateness

The importance of punctuality varies wildly depending on culture and context. Like, rocking up late to a party might not be a big deal, but arriving 20 minutes into an important meeting could be career limiting.

HappyMind Blog - Break The Lateness Habit

But research suggests that constantly rushing can take its toll on your brain and your relationships. It can make you feel out of step with others (you know… the ‘on time’ folks), and cause you to miss important details. Frustrating! So why does it keep happening, despite your efforts?

What’s Your ‘Excuse?’

A helpful starting point is to shed some light on the root cause behind your lateness. For some, underlying reasons, like anxiety or ADHD, can fuel chronic lateness. Our mental health can have a massive impact on every facet of our lives – including our time management. So let’s not forget that some people are not good with punctuality for reasons beyond their control.

Once you’ve tuned into what’s causing your lateness, you can gradually tackle each issue and stay ahead of the clock. Can you relate to any of these?

It didn’t seem urgent…until now!

If you tend to procrastinate until the last minute before taking action, it’s possible that you work well under pressure and rely on the thrill of a tight deadline to motivate you. But, studies have found that procrastination can happen when we don’t think about our “future self” and how our current actions could impact us down the line. 

Pro tip: Do your (future) self a favour. Think about an upcoming event and imagine how you’d feel if you arrived late. How would others react? What challenges would you face? This exercise can help create a sense of urgency and motivate you to take action sooner. 

You just had to do “one more thing”.

Ever find yourself trying to cram in as much work as possible before finishing for the day, but still end up running late? It’s totally understandable to want to be productive, but sometimes we fall into a trap called “magical thinking” or the “planning fallacy” where we underestimate how much time it takes to complete tasks, and it can throw off our schedule.

HappyMind Blog - Break The Lateness Habit

No matter how much we wish we could, we can’t stretch time to fit more in. A minute is still a minute – no matter how you use it.

Pro tip: Make a list of the things you need to do in a day and estimate how long each will take. Then, as you work your way through it, time yourself and write down the real time. This way you can see how well your estimates match up to reality! 

You aimed to be on time, but … 

… the train was running behind schedule! Oh, and it was chillier than you’d anticipated, so you had to change at the last minute. 

No matter how valid your reason, if you plan to arrive bang on time, chances are you’ll be late. We have a tendency to work to unrealistic time frames. But just because it once took you 8 minutes to hot-foot to the station doesn’t mean you’ll hit your PB every time. Wiggle room, people. Wiggle room!

Pro tip: Take a leaf out of Obama’s book. Aim to arrive (at least) 15 minutes early. This’ll give you buffer time for any surprises that crop up. This way, you’ll feel cool, calm and in control. Or at least you’ll look that way to others (which is the next best thing, right?)

You straight-up don’t want to go

If you ever catch yourself putting off getting ready for an event and feeling uneasy when you finally start doing it, it’s possible that you’re experiencing some anxiety or reluctance towards it. In those situations, it’s understandable to try to delay it as much as possible. But, sometimes avoiding something that makes us anxious can actually make the anxiety worse.

Pro tip: Try visualising yourself succeeding beforehand. Or make a list of all the positive benefits the event could bring. It might just help you feel more positive and confident.

HappyMind Blog - Break The Lateness Habit

A few more quick tips:

  • Break your day into 90-minute chunks: With short 15-20 minute breaks in between. This can help you stay energised and focused 
  • Set an alarm or use a timer: This can be a great way to keep yourself on track and make sure you’re using your time effectively.
  • Practice wrapping up phone calls and meetings on schedule: It’s also a good idea to group your calls and meetings together.

Breaking the habit of chronic lateness can be challenging, especially when there are deep-seated reasons behind it. However, by being self-aware, you can start to beat the clock, even if it’s just occasionally. It’s great that you’ve already taken the first step! Follow us on Instagram to join the conversation.

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