To advance her career and to improve her personal life Diana DeLonzor needed to learn how to be punctual.
DeLonzor was suffering from a problem that apparently afflicts upwards of 17% of the population. She could never get anywhere on time. She was chronically late. It was undermining her business relationships and turning her personal life into constant drama.
MSN Lifestyle offers her description of her problem:
“It didn’t matter what time I got up. I could get up at six and still be late for work at nine,” she recalls. She was reprimanded at work, lost friendships, and her timely husband was always mad at her. She couldn't stand being late, yet she just couldn’t change.
“Most people really hate being late and have tried many times to fix it,” DeLonzor says. “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.”
Chronic tardiness is rude. It is insensitive. It is inconsiderate. Someone who consistently fails to be punctual is disrespectful.
So, rather than tell people to boast about their superior capacity for empathy, our culture should be telling them to make a point of showing up on time. If it’s too difficult to be on time, be early.
In some way it’s a tale of two ideas of human happiness. (See previous post.) In the one personal fulfillment is the meaning of happiness. In the other respect for others and harmonious social relations are the path to happiness.
The first fosters tardiness. The second encourages punctuality.
According to DeLonzor there are different ways to be late chronically.
Some people like to work to deadline. They enjoy the rush of doing the all-nighter to get the assignment in. They might not get it in on time, but they have convinced themselves that they work best under pressure.
Some people are easily distracted. They have it in their minds that they need to leave the house in order to get to the restaurant on time, but something comes up… because something always comes up.
Some people thrill to their own productivity. They are so happy to be getting so much done and so fulfilled getting it done that they lose track of time.
Other forms of chronic lateness are, MSN says:
... the 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).
This leaves us with the largest question. How can someone who is chronically late learn to be punctual?
You might think that he should learn what his symptom means, what message he is trying to send, what trauma he is repeating in being late. Such would be the answer offered by psychoanalytically oriented therapy.
The more effective cognitive approach is simpler and more difficult. The only way to learn to be punctual is to be punctual.
MSN lays down some parameters:
Transforming yourself from chronically late to perfectly punctual is a big task. [Psychologist Pauline] Wallin says it is important to make deadlines non-negotiable, “like a promise to yourself.” Start with something easily attainable, like vowing not to hit snooze tomorrow — not even once. “If you can't commit to a small inconvenience like that," she cautions, "you are not ready to tackle your chronic lateness.” Before jumping in, try an experiment: Get somewhere on time. Just once. Just to see how it feels. Note your reaction. Are you relieved or anxious? Proud or bored as hell? Then work your way up from there.
As for other tips, try these:
Step 1: Relearn to tell time. Every day for two weeks, write down each task you have to do and how long you think it will take. Time yourself as you go through your list — showering and dressing, eating breakfast, driving to work, picking up the dry cleaning, doing the dishes — and write the actual time next to your estimate. Many people have certain time frames cemented in their brains that aren’t realistic. Just because once, five years ago, you made it to work in 12 minutes flat doesn’t mean it takes 12 minutes to get to work.
Step 2: Never plan to be on time. Late people always aim to arrive to the minute, leaving no room for contingency. Say you need to get to work at 9 a.m. You assume it takes exactly 12 minutes to get to work, so you leave at 8:48. If you miss one traffic light or have to run back inside to grab an umbrella, it becomes impossible to make it in on time. Don't chance it. Both DeLonzor and Morgenstern say you should plan to be everywhere 15 minutes early.
Step 3: Welcome the wait. If the thought of getting anywhere ahead of time freaks you out, plan an activity to do in the interim. Bring a magazine, call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, or go over your schedule for the week. Make the activity specific and compelling, so you’ll be motivated get there early and do it.
It takes time and effort to change a habit, but changing this one will do wonders for your life and your mental health.