‘Sorry I’m late,” the mother announced as she hustled her kids into the car. They’d been standing at the curb for 20 minutes. Everyone else was long gone.
She felt her apology covered her tracks. But the children turned a deaf ear. Mom was always late to pick them up. That’s just the way it was.
While all of us have legitimate excuses for occasionally being tardy, for others it’s a way of life. These time-challenged folks arrive at the theater after everyone’s seated. They think nothing of making people wait. Loved ones are in a perpetual tizzy trying to get them out of the house. Still, the lagging behavior continues, creating emotional chaos in its wake.
Late people downplay any inconvenience they cause. “Calm down. It’s no big deal,” a man tells his frustrated wife. He rationalizes that she’s nagging. She hotly replies, “Then be on time!”
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The unpunctual are seemingly oblivious to the negative messages their actions convey. For instance, they announce, “You’re not important. Your schedule and mental well-being are inconsequential to me.” They also say, “I’m not reliable. You can’t count on me to be where I said I would be.” Finally, they proclaim, “My life’s out of control. I can’t manage myself or my schedule.”
Laggards never intend to cause problems. Deep down, they are caring human beings. Still, the chronic lateness drags down their performance and imposes tons of needless angst.
People are late for different reasons. For some, it stems from a mental disorder. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder causes problems with organization, staying on task and attention to detail. Sufferers report that they are frequently late and unable to stick to a schedule.
For others, tardiness is habitual. They’ve been 15 minutes late as long as they can remember. It feels normal to them.
Fortunately, no one needs to be chronically tardy. Everyone can be prompt if they want to. With commitment and a few behavioral changes, we all can arrive right on time.
HOW NOT TO BE LATE
Make a commitment to promptness. Recognize the havoc your behavior causes you and your loved ones. None of you has to be inconvenienced. The decision is completely yours.
Enlist others’ help. Ask family members, friends and co-workers to be your allies. They’ll help you develop new strategies and hold you accountable when you slip up.
Analyze where you have problems. Do you overbook? Are you a procrastinator? Do you have trouble remembering commitments? Realistically assess your habits to see what needs revamping.
Examine your daily schedule. If you have an impossibly long to-do list, you’re trying to do too much. Cut out unnecessary activities. Focus only on the essentials.
Keep a datebook. Put in the fundamental components of your day, such as waking up, eating meals and going to bed. Next, add repeated activities, such as exercise or helping in the children’s classroom. Finally, include all appointments: dentist, hair, vet or mechanic. Be sure to write everything down. Check your planner daily.
Time your activities. Decide how long you need to drive to work, make breakfast, or shower and dress in the morning. Don’t skimp on your estimates. You want to allow yourself ample time.
Develop a routine. Consistency is your best friend. A daily pattern teaches self-control and minimizes the chances of getting behind.
Pad your schedule. Add extra minutes to key activities. That way, you avoid rushing when inevitable mishaps occur.
Set a timer. Decide how long you’ll work, and then stop when the buzzer goes off. You’re more likely to complete the job and less apt to get sidetracked.
Arrive early. Don’t settle for being prompt. Get in the habit of arriving early. It’s amazing how relaxed you feel when you have 10 minutes to spare.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com .