5 ways to cure yourself of chronic lateness and save your career


Being late for work or a meeting happens to the best of us, but when it becomes a habitual problem, your career could suffer. No one likes to be late, but 29% of employees report being late to work at least once a month and 16% say it happens every week, according to a 2016 CareerBuilder survey.

When tardiness becomes chronic, it not only creates a bad impression of you as a professional, but can also make your company look sloppy.

"If you are habitually late, it suggests you are unreliable," Anna Musson, etiquette expert and founder of the Good Manners Company told the Huffington Post. "In fact, in my experience, elite business people or elite performers will tend to be 15 minutes early. This just goes to show their commitment to excellence and that next level of professionalism."

Chronically late people know how annoying it is for you to wait, and they don't like it either. "Most people really hate being late and have tried many times to fix it," Diana DeLonzor, author and management consultant told Time. "Punctual people misunderstand. They think you're doing it as a control thing, or that you're selfish or inconsiderate. But, it really is a much more complex problem than it seems."

So you hate being late and those around you hate it, too. What can you do?


Here are five steps you can take to turn your lateness around.

1. Uncover the root cause

Before you can address the problem, you must understand why you can't manage your time. Simply being a jerk and inconsiderate of other people's time is usually not the reason why you are late.

Instead it is more likely a deeper issue, such as problems with self-control, impulse control and possibly even thrill seeking behavior, experts suggest. Four basic personality types exhibit chronically late behavior, and many of these people have been dealing with this issue since childhood.

"People who are chronically late are often wrestling with anxiety, distraction, ambivalence or other internal psychological states," Pauline Wallin, a psychologist in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, told Time.

A psychologist or career consultant can uncover the root reason for your lateness, or, if you have an aversion to shrinks, you can keep track of what exactly happens when you are late: Do you try to fit in one more task before you leave — or do you keep hitting the snooze button too many times?


2. Track your blind spots

If you're unaware of the actions and behaviors that result in being late, they might be "blind spots," said Guy Winch, psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other Everyday Hurts.

"Blind spots" are repetitive, often unrecognized behaviors that make us late. Think: behaviors like turning off your alarm clock or not anticipating a congested roadway, which delays an on-time or early arrival.

Finding those blind spots is important because it gives you a roadmap to help you change your behavior: "Saying you are just going to 'try harder' to be on time isn't going to work," Winch told Mic. "You can't just strain and squint and suddenly you will be on time. Instead you must uncover those blind spots."

This means closely examining the actions that led to your lateness, Winch recommends.


"If traffic was delayed or you forgot that the subway always runs a few minutes late, write it down," he says. "Maintain a list of your blind spots and refer to the list often." Knowing what trips you up and makes you late can help you prevent the same problem from occurring again. Have the list on hand to help you remember, so you don't repeat the same pattern.  

An easy place to keep your blind spot list is on your smartphone — so you can quickly access it and build upon it as delays occur.

3. Get organized

One of your blind spots may be disorganization at work or home. Misplaced keys, paperwork or cell phones are commonly "lost" items, which can be a major time suck when you are trying to reduce tardiness.

Instead of spending 10 or 15 minutes racing around the house searching for lost items, create a landing spot at home (or at work) for keys and phones, suggests Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.

"Designate a place in your house for your key items, and put those things in that spot, every time," she writes. "I keep everything important in my (extremely unfashionable) backpack, and fortunately a backpack is big enough that it's always easy to find."


Similarly, you might want to start moving routine tasks — like showering or knocking out early-morning emails — to the night before. Or, if you still keep giving yourself too little time, there's the classic trick of setting your clocks forward by a few minutes: Some Mic staff suggest setting different clocks ahead by various amounts of time so you can't simply memorize the difference.

4. Be willing to be early

Some chronically late people are tardy because they despise being early. "They think being early makes them unproductive," Winch says. "Rather than being early and spending extra time waiting at the airport, for instance, they try to complete more tasks and race to make their flight."

Being exactly on time is challenging, so Winch says erring on the side of being early is a good idea. "You can make good use of your time while you wait too," Winch says. "You just have to have a plan."  


Make a list of what you can do with your time if you are early for appointments. "You can check emails, answer phone calls, do research or talk with your significant other," Winch recommends. "You can still maximize your productivity levels while waiting for an appointment or a flight if you have a way to spend the time."

5. Don't give up

Plan to work hard for weeks and months in order to see a permanent change, Winch says. "This is a cognitive, not behavioral habit change," he says. "Which means change is going to take a considerable amount of time and dedication, so you can't give up and just resign yourself to chronic lateness after making adjustments for just a month."

Also, start small and work up to being on time most of the time. "I thought of curing my lateness as a 90% thing," Starre Vartan, a small business owner told the Atlantic. "Like, 10% of the time, I'm not going to be successful, like anything else. If I hew to a 'perfect' standard, I fail, then get discouraged and quit."

"I've seen people make the change from being chronically late to being on time," Winch says. "With persistence and finding those blind spots, you can make the change."


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