Health & Medicine

Getting the better of chronic tardiness

Are you constantly 15 minutes late to every appointment? Do family members gnash their teeth in frustration in their attempts to get you out of the house in a timely manner? Then your behaviors are speaking volumes about your character — and you may not like what they say.

For instance, chronic tardiness says, “I don’t respect you,” to those awaiting your delayed arrival. Your actions proclaim, “Your event and time are so insignificant in my life that I don’t have to arrive when I told you I would.”

While inflicting unnecessary stress and embarrassment on your loved ones, your repeated infractions scream, “I don’t care how you feel. I’ll continue to voluntarily wreak havoc on your psyche every time we’re scheduled to leave the house.”

Chronic lateness even connotes a subtle power struggle. The more punctual partners try to enforce an agreed-upon time of departure, the more habitual dawdlers dig in their heels. They find new distractions. They embark on pointless projects. All of which declare the petulant viewpoint, “You can’t boss me around!”

Chronic foot-draggers will invariably deny these accusations. They feel they’re being picked on. They blame loved ones for overreacting. They minimize the transgressions as paltry, and sincerely wish their spouses would chill out. They may even make weak attempts to change their straggling manners. But they often revert to their old ways.

It’s no surprise that constant tardiness strains relationships. Otherwise high functioning couples find themselves locked in a never-ending battle over their differing approaches to time. Because the issue is laden with so much emotional baggage, it quickly gains a personality all its own.

A delay of a mere 15 minutes becomes a matter of not being respected or loved.

Chronic lateness isn’t genetic. It’s learned when we are young. If we’re raised in a household that values organization and promptness we’re likely to absorb those values and skills as our own. We also improve those skills as we get older and recognize their importance to business and personal success.

Lateness is also incredibly selective. One man who is perennially late when he visits his in-laws may be Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to watching his favorite bowl game. And a patient scheduled for surgery seldom fails to show up on time.

Of course, even the most punctual folks have momentary lapses. A last-minute phone call or household calamity can cause anyone to occasionally falter.

The difference is that prompt people are only late when there’s an actual emergency. They feel truly remorseful when it happens. And they take appropriate steps to remedy an ongoing problem so that it’s unlikely to happen again.

Tips for being on time

Need help being punctual? Follow these sure-fire techniques:

Admit that you have a problem. Recognize that only you can change your habits. Then do the work to overcome your shortcoming.

Develop a routine. Identify what behaviors you always perform to get ready to leave the house. Perhaps you shower and shave or style your hair. You may need to tend to a pet or talk to a baby sitter. Adhere to your routine with religious fervor to avoid time-consuming surprises.

Determine the length of your routine. Time your routine down to the minute. Be leisurely; don’t race to get it done. Add five minutes for unexpected mishaps. That’s the time you need to get out the door.

Designate a specific time of departure. Long before you start getting ready, decide when you’ll need to leave the house. Include such factors as the length of your commute, the amount of traffic you’ll encounter or if you need to stop for gas. Be generous in your estimate. Don’t cut things too close.

Count backward. Once you know when you’re leaving, determine when to begin your routine. That’s the time you’re completely finished with the breakfast dishes or have come home from the gym. Nothing interferes from this point forward.

Don’t get sidetracked. It’s easy to dream up distractions. You may discover your shoes need to be polished. Or it’s time to clean out the dresser drawer. All those tasks can wait until later. Your job is to be on time.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit