Being late once in a while is understandable – we all run into traffic, misplace our keys, or just plain sleep through our alarms from time to time. But for some, being late is a way of life. These “chronically late” people are routinely 15 minutes late minimum, and often much, much later. So what makes some people seemingly incapable of showing up on time? There are several psychological and practical reasons why certain individuals are always tardy.
One major factor is poor time management skills. People who are frequently late often underestimate how long tasks will take or do not budget their time realistically. They may feel they have “plenty of time” to get ready and get somewhere, when in reality they need more time than they think. They may also overload their schedule and plan too many activities for the allotted time, making punctuality impossible.
Struggling with procrastination can also lead to chronic lateness. Some people have difficulty motivating themselves and repeatedly put things off until the last minute. Even if they know they should start getting ready to leave with extra time to spare, they find themselves wasting those minutes and delaying their departure. Then they’re inevitably rushed and late.
For some chronically late people, their lateness stems from underlying psychological issues like anxiety or low self-esteem. The thought of walking into a room where people are waiting for them causes intense anxiety, so they delay to manage their nervousness. Lateness can also be a form of rebellion against expectations or authority. The late individual exerts control over a situation by making others wait for them.
Personality simply plays a role too. Easy-going personalities are less stressed about watching the clock. They move through life at their own pace and often underestimate how their lackadaisical view of time impacts others. Meanwhile, optimistic personalities may focus more on best case scenarios – “If everything goes right I’ll get there in plenty of time!” – rather than planning for things going wrong and budgeting extra time.
Practical issues like relying on public transportation, not having a car, or having a long commute can foil the timely too. Juggling parenting responsibilities or having a disorganised, chaotic household are other hurdles. Even small things like frequently misplacing keys or phones can turn a prompt departure into a delayed one.
Ultimately, for the chronically late individual to reform their ways, they need perspective, habits, and in some cases – professional help. Understanding how their lateness negatively impacts other people is essential. Then adopting time management strategies, allowing more lead time, and leveraging productivity tools can help curb lateness. For some though, working with a therapist or ADHD coach is key to unlocking lasting punctuality.
While the notoriously late person may seem inconsiderate or lazy, more often than not, their tardiness arises from ingrained bad habits, psychological obstacles, and just plain underestimating the passage of time. With insight into why they struggle with punctuality and some behavior modifications, almost anyone can reform their late ways.
Ryan Bell is a freelance writer and avid rock climber based in Denver, Colorado.