"Fashionably late" is no longer in fashion.
In today's heavily
scheduled world, it is the punctual who are respected and
admired. Even though most of us know this, some people are
always late, no matter how much time they have to get ready.
may be one of them. Do any of the following sound familiar?
Some telltale signs
If you can identify with two or more of the above, you have a
problem with punctuality.
- You're always rushing at the last minute, even though you've
promised yourself countless times that you wouldn't let this
- You've tried setting your watch several minutes ahead, but
you're still late.
- You may be punctual for work (barely) but you're usually at
least 20 minutes late for meetings, appointments, class, church,
theater or other non-work situations.
You make excuses, such as: "There was traffic, or Something
came up," or "I was going to call you but I didn't want to be
even more late."
- People become impatient or angry at your tardiness.
- You believe that you are more motivated when in a time
crunch, or that you move faster under pressure.
No, it's not in your genes!
Chronic lateness is not a psychiatric
diagnosis. Nor is it a genetic condition, even though some
people treat it as such. They say things like:
"That's just the way I am. I don't like it, but it seems that I
am incapable of being on time."
"My mother was always late; I'm always late, and so are my
"I don't mean to be late. It just turns out that way."
Chronic lateness is related to procrastination.
procrastinators have trouble not with time, but with
self-discipline. They may also have underlying anxiety about the
task they're faced with.
It's all about your "inner brat"!
If you have problems with being punctual, especially for things
that are a bit threatening, such as doctor's appointments, new
social situations, or meeting with people you don't like, then
your lateness is anxiety-based. Putting off the inevitable is
how your mind tries to cope with anxiety.
But if you are habitually late for routine business and for
events that don't cause you much discomfort, then the problem is
mainly with self-discipline and your "inner brat," the part of
you that balks at exerting itself, and at being told what to do.
Here's an example of how your inner brat sabotages your efforts.
Suppose that, in order to be at work by 8:00 a.m., you must
leave home by 7:30. So you set the alarm for 6:30 -- no, let's
make it 6:15 just to be safe.
The next morning when the alarm rings at 6:15, your inner brat
says to you, "Just press the snooze button. You didn't really
intend to get up till 6:30 anyway."
And 9 minutes later when the
alarm rings again, your inner brat says, "Just one more time.
It's not 6:30 yet."
You might press the snooze button 2 or 3 more times. By the time
you do roll out of bed you feel a little rushed, but you
convince yourself that you can still make it out the door by
7:30 . . . 7:40 at the latest.
Uh,oh...who opened that door?
Oops -- what have you just done? You have inadvertently allowed
your inner brat to negotiate. The 7:30 departure time is no
longer firm. Now it's moved to 7:40.
Plus, you have opened the
door to further delay as you get closer to 7:40.
As your morning routine progresses, you find several little
things that didn't seem urgent last night or the day before, but
which need to be taken care of right now.
Checking your watch
(which you've set 10 minutes fast) you see that it's 7:35.
"It's really only 7:25," you remind yourself. Your inner brat adds
that you have at least 15 minutes, since you can still make it
to work on time if you leave at 7:40, providing traffic is not
Next thing you know, it's 7:55, and you go flying around looking
for your shoes, your keys or that recipe you promised to Gladys
Now there's no way you're going to be there by 8:00.
But tomorrow for sure . . .
Archenemy of focus, master of distraction
How did this happen? You can see that the problem is not lack of
time -- you have enough time to get ready.
The problem is what you do with the time. Your inner brat
distracts you, makes excuses about the urgencies of nonessential
tasks, or rationalizes that you don't have to conform to a rigid
And it's not just work or other obligations that your inner brat
It also balks at preparing for things that you're
looking forward to. Just as with work, getting ready for
positive events requires focus and blocking out distractions.
Since these involve effort and concentration, your inner brat
wants nothing to do with them.
As you can see, if you want to be successful at mastering your
chronic lateness, it's not enough to merely rearrange your
schedule. You must also understand how your inner brat sabotages
your best efforts to be on time by distorting your priorities.
Once you get to know your inner brat, you'll be on your way to
breaking your lateness habit.
Pauline Wallin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, and
author of Taming Your Inner Brat: A Guide for Transforming
Self-defeating Behavior (Beyond Words Publishing, 2001).
Visit http://www.innerbrat.com for more information, and to subscribe to her free, monthly Inner Brat Newsletter.