Once when I was driving to my dance class, there was no one on the freeway. I got every green light, and I found a rock star parking space with no driving around. Door to door it took me 11 minutes (I live 12 miles away). From that day forward, I allowed 11 minutes for my commute.
If you don’t participate in magical thinking like I do, you know that’s unrealistic. But apparently I believe in pixie dust when it comes to my commuting abilities (I proved it once in three years!). You won’t be surprised to learn that this makes me perpetually late for class (and everything). I am always in the back in the last row, and I didn’t really mind that much, until my contact lenses started scratching my corneas and I had to wear glasses. Dancing in glasses does not work for me (they slide down my nose and fog up), and taking them off meant that from the back of the room I could not see a damn thing the instructor was doing.
So I thought hard about my magical thinking and how it was not working. And then I thought about how I could get to class in time to find a spot closer to the front. Leave earlier! What a simple but impossible concept. I realized I have all kinds of crazy, bad, imbedded habits that prevent me from leaving early, despite my intentions.
Apparently I’m not alone, about 20 percent of the population is chronically late. And I’m about about to bid adieu to the club.
My magical thinking is the first thing to be addressed. Then I need to go back to kindergarten and learn how to tell time, according to Diana DeLonzor, a San Francisco State University researcher who published a study on lateness last year.
To develop realistic habits, DeLonzor suggests relearning to tell time. Write down how long you think it takes to shower, get ready in the morning and drive to work. Then for a week, track how long those things really take. Chronically late people are often off of their time estimates by 25 to 30 percent.
The other thing I need to do is get my thrills elsewhere.
Repetitive lateness is more often related to personality characteristics such as anxiety or a penchant for thrill-seeking. Some people are drawn to the adrenaline rush of that last-minute sprint to the finish line, while others receive an ego boost from over-scheduling and filling each moment with activity.
I mean, what a pathetic (and inconvenient) way to get a thrill.
Lastly, I need to be comfortable with downtime.
Chronically late people, however, hate downtime. They enjoy the thrill of that last-minute sprint to the finish line and crave stimulation. To be more comfortable with downtime, bring along something to fill those spare moments.
I mean I have a smartphone! It’s not that hard to find something to do while I’m waiting for someone.
This post on Lifehacker also helped me figure out why I’m always late—I fall into each and every category here.
But recently I was early to meet my friend for a shopping trip at Neiman’s, and I can already see how being punctual will change my life. About 15 years ago, I read an excerpt from The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and have wanted to read the book ever since. About two years ago I downloaded it into my Kindle and never looked at it again, until I found myself waiting for my friend to arrive the other day. Now I’ve been reading it every night before bed instead of getting depressed scanning Facebook! Also, I think my friends’ and family’s affection for me and my promptness might positively correlate. Good stuff all around. What do you guys do to be on time?