Are you always running late for work? Here's how to break that bad habit this week
We all know someone who’s chronically late for everything – but being late to work has consequences. If you are one of these people, breaking the habit can be hard... really hard. According to Jeff Conte, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, who studies lateness in the workplace, there can be some deep-rooted personality characteristics that make lateness a difficult habit to break. Once you figure out what’s really going on, you have a much better chance of breaking the habit.
Habitually late people often hate being late. Many have tried to fix it countless times. It’s not simply a “control thing” or that you’re selfish or inconsiderate. It’s a little more complicated. In her book, Never Be Late Again, Diana DeLonzor suggests that there may be fundamental differences in the way people perceive time: late people consistently underestimate the passage of time. There may also be some underlying links to anxiety and low self-control.
DeLonzor describes several types of “late people.” Of the seven categories she mentions, most people fall into three main types:
1. The Deadliner enjoys the last-minute rush and urgency of working under pressure. This type has a hard time motivating themselves without a looming deadline or crisis.
2. The Producer is compelled to squeeze in everything that needs to be done in the least amount of time possible. These people constantly over-schedule their days. There’s no way to get it all done in the time allotted.
3. The Absent-Minded Professor is very easily distracted and may even have an attention-deficit disorder. This type has a hard time getting out the door without noticing some last minute thing that need to be fixed, turned off, or adjusted.
The other four types are: 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).
Transforming yourself into a punctual person is a tall order. Figure out what’s making you late and address that problem with some of the following steps:
- Determine how long it really takes for your morning routine: Don’t rely on your internal clock… you have to actually time yourself a few times to re-evaluate how long it actually takes. Then add 20 minutes for unexpected interruptions.
- Focus only on getting through your morning routine: No checking Facebook, email, the TV news or reading a newspaper. These are only distractions that cause you to lose track of time. If you don’t start, you won’t get lost in the activity.
- Do not hit the snooze button: Never, not once. Move the clock across the room if you have to. A few minutes of extra sleep isn’t going to make a difference.
- Try out a few different routes to work to see which is the most efficient: Make sure you have gas in the car the night before.
- Arrive 15 minutes earlier than required: Plan something you can do with your spare minutes when you arrive early. Some tardy people get anxious when they have free time and feel like they’re wasting it.
- Don’t engage in “split second timing” by trying to arrive exactly on time. Shoot for 15 minutes early.
- Commit to a routine task to be done earlier than usual: For example, commit to your co-workers or your boss that you’ll come in and have coffee ready early, 3 days/week. And then do it! If you force yourself to live up to those you’ve committed to, you’ll have an extra incentive to follow through.
- Wear a watch: Believe it or not, when you can see the time easily, you will be able to keep better track of your time. Get in the habit of looking at your watch periodically to keep yourself on track.
- Motivate yourself by focusing on all the benefits of being on time: Your reputation as reliable, reduced conflict with coworkers, less stress, etc.
- Review your “to-do” list: Chances are you won’t get absolutely everything done on your list. Take a few minutes to decide what is a “must-do” and what can be done later. And schedule some downtime every day.
Choose a few of these tips and get started. You’ll have to make a real effort at first, but it will get easier and pretty soon you’ll find people commending you for showing up on time and being available when needed. It’s time to figure out what’s making you late and use these strategies to help you break the habit.