Timely Tips For The Chronically Tardy

Katie Young
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Wednesday - January 24, 2007
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My friends and I had a plan: We would tell our girlfriend Jennifer that we would be meeting at the restaurant at 7 p.m. But our reservations weren’t until 7:30 p.m.

Does it sound like we were being mean? Not really. We were being smart - because Jennifer is chronically late, and it’s become a joke among our group of friends.

Personally, I have spent many nights parked outside her apartment building, waiting in my car a good 10 minutes for her to come down to meet me. She’d fly out of the building door, scurry across the walkway and fling herself into the vehicle - purse flying, makeup bag exploding on the floor with hair a wet, disheveled mess.

“You OK?” I’d laugh.

“Yup, just running a little late,” she’d reply, rummaging through the contents of her purse looking for a brush. “Just drive and I’ll put on my makeup on the way.”

At least I was driving this time. There had been car rides where I feared for my life as Jenn maneuvered through traffic with one knee as she applied eyeliner with one hand and mascara with the other.


I think Jenn really felt bad that she was chronically late, and I think she really made an effort to be on time. She just could never pull it off.

I found it difficult to understand. I was known as the friend who was always on time (if not early). I got a major case of anxiety if it even appeared I might be five minutes late. I think I get that from my father, who would always make our family arrive early to events when I was younger “just in case” something happened along the way.

But being chronically late is an affliction that affects a great many people and can have severe consequences. It can lead to lost relationships and job opportunities or missed movies and doctors’ appointments. It can lead to stress and a reputation for being flaky.

And this can all affect a person’s self-esteem.

According to a feature written about this very subject on the web-site webmd.com, being chronically late is usually technical or psychological.

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out, says technical difficulties are when you are not good at estimating how long things will take - from routine activities like taking a shower to determining drive times.

People who are suffering from technical difficulties are usually late by varying amounts of time. The solution, says Morgenstern, is to become a better time estimator. She suggests keeping track of everything you do for a week or two to help discover patterns. Write down how long you think each thing will take and then how long

it actually took. Then you can adjust accordingly.

Ladies, if it takes you 15 minutes to take a shower, 20 minutes to dry your hair and 10 minutes to put on your makeup, don’t only allow yourself 20 minutes for the entire process.

For some people, however, chronic lateness can be psychological. Some people might be unconsciously rebelling against being on time. Others might thrive on the rush of “being under the gun” to make it somewhere. Others might have anxiety about arriving somewhere early and having nothing to do but wait.

For this, Morgenstern suggests bringing a book to read or passing time by catching up with friends on the phone.


A final note from Morgenstern makes me think of my friend Jenn, who I followed up to her apartment one day as she got ready, curious to discover the secret behind her tardiness. Jenn suffers from the “one-more-task” syndrome. Morgenstern describes this as a person who is always trying to shove one more thing in before they leave. To beat it, she says, learn to walk out of the door on time, no matter what.

“I just have to send one more e-mail!” Jenn shouted from the bedroom as I was waiting on her couch. Then, a minute later, she yelled, “Oh, and I just have to put my laundry in the dryer real fast! I promise! Then we can go.

We’re not that late.”

Ten minutes later, I was dragging Jenn out of the door as she whined about not getting to find the right shoes she wanted to wear.

We were already half-an-hour late.

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