You’re meeting a friend for dinner, and you were supposed to be there at 2:00 p.m. Traffic is moving at a turtle’s pace. You rush to park and you run into the restaurant sweaty and flustered. It’s 2:47 p.m. and you’re late again. Sound familiar?
If you’re like me, you may have had similar struggles getting to places on time. I call it being “punctually-challenged.” Getting anywhere has always been a very serious struggle for me. I’ve been late to dinners, weddings, graduations, exams, and hair appointments. I have always known that I have had a problem with punctuality, but I did not seriously confront the issue until I missed a flight earlier this year, and I had to pay quite a bit of money to buy a last-minute replacement ticket. Not only did I have to pay for the extra ticket, but I missed an important meeting because of the flight delay.
Eventually, I had to admit the truth: Regardless of the exact reasons for my tardiness, my inability to show up on time was turning me into a person who was unreliable, rude and inconsiderate. These are all qualities that are neither feminine nor caring. Even though I may have had very legitimate reasons for being late from time to time, it was ultimately my fault I was late at the end of the day. I could have added more time to my schedule to prepare, and I chose not to do so.
All hope is not lost, because there are a number of ways to curtail frequent tardiness. To learn how to improve my timeliness skills, I sought out Diana DeLonzor’s book “Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctuality Challenged.” In the book, DeLonzor describes a few of the root causes of lateness and procrastination, such as genetics, anxiety, attention deficit disorders and indulgent childhood experiences. Some people are thrill-seekers who need a sense of urgency to get things done, while others have a hard time saying “no” to meetings and tasks. DeLonzor argues that punctually-challenged people have time management issues for a variety of issues, such as a lack of discipline and goal-setting skills. Additionally, DeLonzor states that a large number of procrastinators have time perception issues, where they think that it takes less time than it actually does to complete work assignments.
The first step to curing tardiness issues is to take responsibility for your lateness. Decide that it is unacceptable to be late. When you decide to meet at a particular time, you are making a promise to your friends and employers to be responsible. Start to think of lateness as a “promise broken or as a loan unpaid.”
“Many people rationalize their lateness by attributing it to factors beyond their control or by minimizing the selfishness of the act,” DeLonzor writes in the book. “Yet in failing to acknowledge and take responsibility for our actions, we hamper efforts to improve.”
The next step of curbing your lateness is to change the way that you think about waiting time, such as when you are early or bored. I had an issue getting places early because I did not want to just sit around and wait for the other person to arrive. After all, bored time is wasted time, right? Wrong! Fill that time doing something that you like to do, such as reading a magazine. You can write in a journal when you have free time. Or just look out at the sunset. I now carry a small book with me everywhere so that I can always read in my extra down time. Always plan to get to your meeting early, rather than exactly on time. Aim to get places 10-30 minutes early, that way you have a buffer in case something goes wrong that causes a delay in your schedule.
Find a way to say “no!” to yourself by repeating a personal mantra. Procrastinators tend to pile on activities to fill their day, so they often convince themselves that they can get everything done smoothly, even when they cannot. DeLonzor explains:
“Create a mantra to curb your optimism. Instead of saying ‘If I hurry, I can …,’ slow down for a few minutes, take a deep breath and think about what you’re doing. Then repeat one of the following mantras: ‘Am I being realistic or optimistic?’ ‘Am I doing too much?’ ‘Is this something I really need to do now?'”
DeLonzor offers a number of exercises to help the punctually-challenged curtail their timeliness issues. Overall, it’s a great read for anyone who has experienced issues getting places on time.
What are your strategies for getting places on time? Share them in the comments below?