Last week I spoke with Jennifer Liu at LearnVest about the topic of promptness. Specifically, Jennifer’s lack of punctuality. Why was she late everywhere? What could she do about it?
I, as a classic “upholder,” often get places early. I can tell when I’m dealing with someone like me because our scheduled 3 p.m. coffee can generally commence by 2:50 p.m. Once upon a time, I assumed that people who were chronically late were just rude. They valued their time more than other people’s time, and so they were willing to make them wait, so they didn’t have to.
This is probably the case with some anti-social sorts. But normal, nice late people like Jennifer hate being late. They hate the anxiety and the rushing. So what’s going on?
Over at LearnVest, Jennifer writes about a few insights and strategies we discussed. You can read her (quite enjoyable!) article here.
A few take-aways: Late people have no idea how long things actually take. Many have a picture in their minds of how long a recurring event (like a commute) takes, but this picture is informed by the one day when absolutely everything went right. In Jennifer’s mind, it took 20 minutes to get ready (because it did one morning) and 20 minutes on the subway to get to work (which happened one morning when apparently no one else in NYC was commuting). Normally, it takes a lot longer. But she’d find herself thinking, if she had more than 40 minutes before her first thing at work, hey, I can hit snooze, or take my time, because I don’t need to leave yet!
Needless to say, she was usually late.
Late people tend to be very optimistic. They think they can take care of one more thing, and it will somehow all just fit. Maybe I can just empty the dishwasher before I go! It’ll just take a minute! (It doesn’t. It takes 5-7 minutes.)
Late people are also often people-pleasers. If someone takes more time than he or she asked for, the chronically late person doesn’t feel comfortable ending things.
Being optimistic and being focused on the person in front of you aren’t bad things on their own, but they can cause problems with time. I had Jennifer look at her time for a few days. I had her think about her anxiety, and whether emptying the dishwasher was higher up the priority list than making a friend happy. I suggested setting a phone or watch alarm when talking with people when she needed to be somewhere afterwards, so it would be the alarm saying it was time to go, not her. And then there’s this old standby: just add 15 minutes to everything (The Frugal Girl has a good post on this). If you’re chronically late, you clearly have no idea how much time it takes to do things, so just add 15 minutes. Maybe sometimes you’ll be a little less late, and some times you’ll be early, but it should do the trick much of the time.
She tried some of this and was actually a few minutes early to meet a friend to see a movie!
Are you generally early, on time, or late? Have you changed from one to the other? I’ve actually gotten more comfortable with getting to the airport with less time to spare.