How to Be on Time

Help for the chronically late—and the people who wait for them.

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| January 22nd, 2013
How to Be on Time

What Kind of Late Are You?
The first step toward timeliness, says DeLonzor, is self-awareness. Sit down and go over your history and patterns. Are you late to everything or just some things? How do you feel when you’re late? What causes you to run behind?

Julie Morgenstern is a professional organizer and productivity expert. When meeting a new client she always starts with the same question: Are you always late by the same amount of time or does it vary? If it’s always the same, that is indicative of a psychological hurdle. Maybe you’re afraid of downtime, or feel that you have to fit as much as humanly possible into your day (even if it’s not humanly possible). If you arrive late by 10 minutes to one thing and 30 minutes to another, the problem is likely mechanical. Your time management skills need work.

MORE: The Pros and Cons of Multitasking

DeLonzor describes seven types of late people. Most fall into the top three categories:

The Deadliner enjoys the rush of the last minute. She thrives on urgency and often claims to work best under pressure. Sometimes it’s difficult for Deadliners to motivate unless there’s a crisis (even if that means creating crises of their own). Rushing from here to there serves as a way to relieve boredom.

The Producer needs to get as much done in as little time as possible. She feels better about herself when she’s checking things off a massive to-do list. Producers tend to engage in “magical thinking,” consistently underestimating the amount of time their tasks will take. They hate wasting time, so they schedule themselves to make use of every minute of the day.

The Absent-Minded Professor is easily distracted. Distractibility is thought to have a genetic basis and can range from full-blown attention deficit disorder to innocent flakiness. Absent-Minded Professors often lose track of time, misplace car keys and forget appointments.

People typically identify with more than one lateness personality. The other four are: the Rationalizer, who never fully admits to her lateness (many late people are at least one part Rationalizer); the Indulger, who generally lacks self-control; the Evader, who tries to control feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem by being late; and the Rebel, who arrives late to assert power (Rebels are usually men).

QUIZ: Are You Under Too Much Pressure?

What Is Making You Late?
Watch yourself carefully to identify what is actually making you late. Producers often schedule more tasks, chores and appointments than they can get done in a day (without a Star Trek transporter and a time machine). Perhaps you suffer from what Morgenstern calls the One More Task Syndrome. “I think this is a technical fix for a psychologically-driven behavior. You feel you have to be productive, so you shove one more thing in before you have to leave,” she says. DeLonzor says many late people— including herself—have an aversion to leaving the house, and suddenly feel the need to straighten the blinds or open the mail when they should be heading out the door. To combat this she uses a mantra of sorts: “When I catch myself doing this, I’ll snap or clap and say ‘This can wait.’”

A note to late-leavers: Texting that you're "five minutes behind!" doesn't absolve you—or buy you extra time for one last thing. Allow us to reimagine an old adage. Stop (yourself). Drop (what you're doing). And roll (on outa there).

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