Three ways to overcome Lateness
TWO boys wrote invitations for a gathering to be held at their home on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Remembering that two of their friends were usually late arrivals, one boy said: “Why don’t we just write 1:00 on their invitations? They’ll probably come at 2:00, right on time.” And that is exactly what happened!
Not all problems with punctuality are solved that easily. In fact, failure to be on time can cause serious difficulties for the latecomers as well as for any who are forced to wait for them. True, not all cultures place great stress on punctuality. But regardless of where you live, likely you need to be concerned with being on time for such things as airplane flights, formal meetings, business appointments, and even some social events.
So if you are frequently late, what can help you be on time? And if you are often kept waiting by others, what can help you effectively cope with this prevalent human shortcoming?
Are you habitually late? Try first to identify the cause. Are you easily distracted? Do you have great difficulty organizing yourself or your family? Such influences toward lateness can be overcome by conscious effort. For example, time your routine activities and plan accordingly, allowing more than enough time for everything. Check the time every hour or so. Instead of trying to be exactly on time for important commitments, aim to be there earlier than expected. However, might your lateness problem be more deeply rooted?
Sometimes there are hidden motives behind lateness—that of avoiding unpleasant activities, showing one’s own importance, getting attention, or avoiding the need to wait for others.
Dr. Dru Scott comments on an even more subtle cause of lateness: “A salesman who gets himself all set to leave the office on time for an important client meeting turns back at the door to make ‘just one more phone call.’ A lawyer on the way to catch a plane feels compelled to delay her departure by dictating ‘just one more memo.’ They get negative stimulation from this form of procrastination. It automatically creates a need for that exciting last-minute rush.”
Yes, last-minute excitement—though unpleasant—can actually serve the purpose of providing needed stimulation. If you suspect that you may be “addicted” to this kind of excitement, how can you overcome it? Dru Scott suggests: “Stimulation is a basic need, one we all share. It doesn’t show lack of maturity to seek it. Healthy human beings recognize the need. They learn how to take care of it productively.”
In other words, look over your weekly plans. Have you included some positive activities to fill your own need for excitement or stimulation? Or is your schedule one list of monotonous, mediocre routines? Nobody has complete control over his activities, but if you make it a point to provide stimulation where you can, you may more easily tolerate the routine aspects of life without having to resort to lateness to provide excitement.
“But I Perform Best Under Pressure!”
Some people claim that when they wait until the last minute, they perform better. And if that is really true in your case, well and good. But be honest with yourself. Do you really do your best when you wait until the last minute?
In his book Working Smart, Michael LeBoeuf observes: “Few, if any of us ever do our best work under pressure, despite what we would like to believe. . . . First, if you are forced to work at an accelerated pace, you increase the odds of making mistakes. . . . Second . . . , something may come up that’s extremely urgent and rob you of those few precious moments you allocated to doing the job. . . . Third, assuming all went well and you did get a lot done in a little time, it only means you know how to be effective but don’t choose to unless you are under pressure. You are cheating yourself by failing to become more of what you are capable of.”
Do You Hate to Wait?
Perhaps you are punctual but are repeatedly forced to wait for others who are not on time. How can you help or at least cope with family members, friends, or associates who are habitually late?
You may be able to help habitual latecomers by reminding them in advance of their appointments or by having an honest talk with them about the problem. It may be that some latecomers, because of their background or personal weaknesses, do not respond to help and continue to inconvenience others by failing to show up on time. If your circumstances require that you live or work with such individuals, you can accept their lateness as a fact of life and develop strategies to cope with it effectively.
For example, you can anticipate waiting time and prepare for it. Perhaps you can arrange to meet in a place where waiting is enjoyable, such as a store or a restaurant. Or bring some work or reading material with you to keep you productively occupied while you wait. Set your appointments with them early so that their probable lateness will not cause you to miss your own deadlines. In certain instances, your good judgment may dictate that you not include habitual latecomers in your plans.
Reward Your Good Behavior
If you do have difficulty with being on time, do not excuse this weakness or apathetically tolerate it, expecting others to wait for you. This would be inconsiderate of the lives and feelings of others. Consider the case of a bride who was three hours late for her wedding. As a result, the ceremony had to be hurriedly moved to a private home, resulting in great inconvenience to the more than 200 in attendance. Certainly, being thoughtful of others should move us to be punctual!
No doubt your efforts at punctuality will result in your being not just on time but early for many appointments and activities. When this happens, reward yourself! Says Dr. Scott: “Found time is like found money. Don’t put it into your everyday budget; spend it on something you enjoy. Think about all the things you’d like to do if you had an extra ten minutes each morning, or a half hour in the evening, or just a few minutes here and there during the day. Have some ideas ready, so you can give yourself an enjoyable reward whenever you are early.”