Life Area: Personal and Professional
Topic: Time Management
Are You Chronically Late?
Many people have the habit of constantly running late … er ah, let me re-state that: I used to have the habit of constantly running late … and it drove myself and others crazy!
Some have the opposite problem – they often arrive too early. This is annoying as well, but in a different way. In any event, more people seem bothered by chronic lateness. Feeling as though you’re always running 20 minutes behind schedule is an unhappy feeling. Having to rush, forgetting things in your haste, dealing with annoyed people when you arrive… it’s no fun.
There are many reasons you might be late, but some reasons are particularly common. The first step is to identify the problem – then you can see more easily what you need to change. Are you late because…
1. YOU SLEEP TOO LATE?
If you’re so exhausted in the morning that you sleep until the last possible moment, it’s time to think about going to sleep earlier. Many people don’t get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation is a real drag on your personal energy and health. Try to turn off the light sooner each night.
2. YOU TRY TO GET ONE LAST THING DONE?
Apparently, this is a common cause of tardiness. If you always try to answer one more email or put away one more load of laundry before you leave, here’s a way to outwit yourself: take a task with you that you can do once you reach your destination. Tell yourself that you need that 10 minutes on the other end to read those brochure drafts or check your CFO’s figures.
Figure out the precise time that you need to leave for your typical commute by testing it day-by-day at that hour.
3. YOU UNDERESTIMATE YOUR COMMUTE TIME?
You may tell yourself it takes twenty minutes to get to work, but if it actually takes forty minutes, you’re going to be late. Have you exactly identified the time by which you need to leave? Figure out the precise time that you need to leave for your typical commute by testing it day-by-day at that hour. Then you will know when you are supposed to leave in order to be on time, or you’ll know that you are running late and can give a heads-up to those who will be affected.
4. YOU CAN’T FIND YOUR KEYS/WALLET/PHONE/SUNGLASSES?
Nothing is more annoying than searching for lost objects when you’re running late. Designate a place in your house for your major out-the-door items, and put those things in that spot, every time. I keep everything I need as I go out the door in a bowl on a credenza nearby. If you still can’t find your keys, or whatever, click [here] for a clip from the Today show on some tips for finding misplaced objects featuring Michael Solomon, a self-proclaimed “findologist”.
5. OTHER PEOPLE IN YOUR HOUSE ARE DISORGANIZED?
Your wife can’t find her phone, your son can’t find his Spanish book, so you’re late. As hard as it is to get yourself organized, it’s even harder to help other people get organized. Try setting up a “key things” place in your house. Prod your children to get their school stuff organized the night before—and coax the outfit-changing types to pick their outfits the night before, too. Get lunches ready, etc.
6. YOUR CO-WORKERS WON’T END MEETINGS ON TIME?
This is an exasperating problem. You’re supposed to be someplace else, but you’re trapped in a meeting that’s going long. Sometimes, this is inevitable, but if you find it happening over and over, identify the problem. Is too little time allotted to meetings that deserve more time? Is the weekly staff meeting twenty minutes of work crammed into sixty minutes of time? If you face this issue repeatedly, there’s probably an identifiable problem – and once you identify it, you can develop strategies to solve it — e.g., sticking to an agenda; circulating information by email; not permitting discussions about contentious philosophical questions not relevant to the tasks at hand, etc. (this last problem is surprisingly widespread, in my experience).
7. YOU HAVEN’T CONSIDERED HOW YOUR BEHAVIOR AFFECTS SOMEONE ELSE?
A friend was chronically late dropping off her son at sports activities until her son said, “You’re always late dropping me off because it doesn’t affect you, but you’re always on time to pick me up, because you’d be embarrassed to be the last parent at pick-up.” She was never late again.
8. YOU HATE YOUR DESTINATION SO MUCH YOU WANT TO POSTPONE SHOWING UP FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE?
If you dread going to work that much, or you hate school so deeply, or wherever you’re heading, you’re giving yourself a clear signal that you need think about making a change in your life.
My favorite days are when I’m going a 100 miles an hour with back-to-back-to-back meetings, phone calls, appearances, or whatever, and it just flows. I love it! I broke the chronically late habit long ago by implementing many of the above ideas and by beginning my day the night before and being intentional and deliberate about every minute of the day. Late or not, if you find yourself rushing around every morning, may I suggest you simply experiment to find what change would make the most impact. Start by considering just waking up earlier (see #1 above). Yes, it’s tough to give up those last precious moments of sleep, but it’s even tougher to go to bed earlier and cut into what, for many people, is your needed “gear-down” time.
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