If you are late one more time…

Newsletter - Mar 1015 - LateSpring fatigue is a well-known phenomenon, afflicting many, with one of the main symptoms being a lack of energy. This lack of energy makes it more difficult for some to get out of bed in the morning, leading to arriving late to work or making other appointments on time. There is also another type of individual who typically arrives late regardless the time of the year, or even the time of day. László Bíró, one of FirstMed’s psychologists, has some insight about those who chronically late.

“The one who arrives early suffers from anxiety, the one ‘on time’ is compulsive, and the late one is narcissistic.” – a joke among psychologists.

Most of us react frantically to those who are chronically late, questioning him sternly for his behavior, blaming him for thinking he is superior to us, not giving us enough respect, to our time, our work… Moreover, he probably enjoys the extra attention that comes with this problematic behavior. Let us just imagine: he enters the group, all eyes get fixed on him, and thus all the, probably subconsciously craved, attention is his. Yes, the type exists that by arriving late relishes becoming the center of attention even though he may not be doing it intentionally. At the same time, according to studies carried out in this field, there is another type, one who is late no matter what the circumstances are.

No matter how many reprimands, all the events missed for which he also feels the disadvantages of, the lectures about respecting others, despite his most sincere endeavors, he will always be late.

Let us try to believe for a moment that he cannot help it.

We are adamant that he is just finding excuses. He says he perceives time differently. That triggers another bout of anger in us, questioning the ability to perceive something uniquely that is the same to all. He now adds that he is notoriously late everywhere. “You should have learned your lesson by now” – we strike back. He keeps on moaning about how bad it feels to miss appointments like job interviews or the kids’ Christmas play at school, or arriving at the shop just as they stop allowing shoppers in. Hearing this we may feel a sense of satisfaction, thinking that at least he gets punished for his sins.

So a suffering soul, who routinely inflicts suffering on others as well, is standing in front of us and we do not believe him. There are only a handful of psychological studies which bear evidence for the possibility of some psychological background to chronic tardiness. It seems obvious that being late is simply procrastination in essence; we do not want to do what we eventually have to, so we keep delaying it. Procrastination, on the other hand is a more widely studied area, being a related state to, and an indicator of, depression and anxiety.

An old theory describes tardiness as a characteristic of those suffering from a compulsion that results from childhood difficulties to be potty trained; those people who went through a strenuous learning curve in this department are more prone to experience hardships in managing themselves as adults. Well don’t know, I guess if you enjoy watching HBO’s ‘In Treatment’ then this theory may resonate for you.

There are results confirming the theory that the consistently ‘tardy’ perceive time less coherently; for them an hour lasts longer than 60 minutes. More increasingly ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is being related to this abnormality, this may also be due to many more ADD studies.

Of course this is the most scandalous explanation for arriving late: ‘I am late because I do not want to arrive early’. What?! How does someone excuse themselves by saying arriving early is not the proper use of their time. That there would be nothing useful to accomplish during the few minutes of waiting or that the inconvenience of it is just too unbearable. Maybe it’s the feeling of unease from waiting.  Some would add that “you do not arrive at a party early or the time when it starts…very unfashionable”. They are the ones who do not value punctuality, rather the opposite. Where is the world heading?

What recommendations could be made for those who would like to change? There is much advice on the internet that could be summarized the following way:

  1. Reevaluate the time it takes to accomplish routine chores or travel; like getting from A to B or getting ready for work in the morning.
  2. Round up the allotted time (say 20 minutes) for accomplishing a task rather than exact times (17 minutes).
  3. Write up a list of things you want to do in order of importance, divide the list into two parts. The most important above the line and that which it is not necessary below it. The important list items are done in the given timeframe. Since there are only so many thing you can do in an hour make sure you draw the line.
  4. Think through the value of the relation to which being early is unfavorable. Do not only aspire to change your behavior, but also to change the way you think about being early or late.
  5. Try to perceive arriving early as a favorable act. Make a list of those things that you could be doing if you arrive early.
  6. Create a strategy to avoid being late. Just like with any diet; eating healthy is not enough in itself, it needs to be implemented.

The only thing I would like to add to the above is the importance of self-knowledge. It can be fruitful to carry out a self-reflection so that we understand ourselves and our habits better. This may be the hardest but it is also the most rewarding way.

László Bíró is available for consultations. Please call +36-1-224-9090 to arrange a visit with him.