Are You Always Late? 7 Tips To Arrive On Time.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Seven tips if you’re chronically late.

Feeling as though you’re always running twenty minutes behind schedule is an unhappy feeling. Having to rush, forgetting things in your haste, dealing with annoyed people when you arrive…it’s no fun.

If you’re chronically late, what steps can you take to be more prompt? That depends on why you’re late. As my Eighth Commandment holds, the first step is to Identify the problem – then you can see more easily what you need to change.

There are many reasons you might be late, but some are particularly common. Are you late because…

1.You sleep too late? If you’re so exhausted in the morning that you sleep until the last possible moment, it’s time to think about going to sleep earlier. Many people don’t get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation is a real drag on your happiness and health. I’ve become a sleep nut since I started my happiness project. Getting enough sleep is really important.

2.You try to get one last thing done? Apparently, this is a common cause of tardiness. If you always try to answer one more email or put away one more load of laundry before you leave, here’s a way to outwit yourself: take a task that you can do when you reach your destination, and leave early. Tell yourself that you need that ten minutes on the other end to read those brochures or check those figures.

3. You undestimate the commute time? You may tell yourself it takes twenty minutes to get to work, but if it actually takes forty minutes, you’re going to be chronically late. Have you exactly identified the time by which you need to leave? That’s what worked for me for getting my kids to school on time. We have a precise time that we’re supposed to leave, so I know if we’re running late, and by how much. Before I identified that exact time, I had only a vague sense of how the morning was running, and I usually thought we had more time than we actually did. My daughter goes into near-hysterics if we’re late, so that motivated me to get very clear on this issue.

4. You can’t find your keys/wallet/phone/sunglasses? Nothing is more annoying than searching for lost objects when you’re running late. Designate a place in your house for your key items, and put those things in that spot, every time. I keep everything important in my (extremely unfashionable) backpack, and fortunately a backpack is big enough that it’s always easy to find. My husband keeps his key items in the chest of drawers opposite our front door.

5. Other people in your house are disorganized? Your wife can’t find her phone, your son can’t find his Spanish book, so you’re late. As hard as it is to get yourself organized, it’s even harder to help other people get organized. Try setting up the “key things” place in your house. Prod your children to get their school stuff organized the night before—and coax the outfit-changing types to pick their outfits the night before, too. Get lunches ready. Etc.

6.You hate your destination so much you want to postpone showing up for as long as possible? If you dread going to work that much, or you hate school so deeply, or wherever your destination might be, you’re giving yourself a clear signal that you need think about making a big change in your life.

7. Your co-workers won’t end meetings on time? This is an exasperating problem. You’re supposed to be someplace else, but you’re trapped in a meeting that’s going long. Sometimes, this is inevitable, but if you find it happening over and over, identify the problem. Is too little time allotted to meetings that deserve more time? Is the weekly staff meeting twenty minutes of work crammed into sixty minutes? Does one person hold things up? If you face this issue repeatedly, there’s probably an identifiable problem – and once you identify it, you can develop strategies to solve it — e.g., sticking to an agenda; circulating information by email; not permitting discussions about contentious philosophical questions not relevant to the tasks at hand, etc. (This last problem is surprisingly widespread, in my experience.)

Late or not, if you find yourself rushing around every morning, consider waking up earlier (see #1 above). Yes, it’s tough to give up those last precious moments of sleep, and it’s even tougher to go to bed earlier and cut into what, for many people, is their leisure time. But it helps.

I’ve started getting up at 6:00 a.m. so I have an hour to myself before I have to rassle everyone out of bed. This has made a huge improvement in our mornings. Because I’m organized and ready by 7:00 a.m., I can be focused on getting all of us out the door. (On a related note, here are more tips for keeping school mornings calm and cheery.)

My husband and I actually have the opposite problem: chronic earliness. It’s a great quality to share, because it means that both of us are happy to arrive early at the airport or a teacher’s conference. However, we often have to walk around the block a few times, as we wait for the proper time to ring someone’s doorbell, and we have a lot of empty time before movies start.

But if you conquered chronic lateness, what are some strategies that worked for you?

*If you’re a freelancer, or want to hire a freelancer, check out Freelance Switch. A terrific resource.

* If you’d like a free, personalized bookplate for your copy of the print book of The Happiness Project, or if you read an e-book, audiobook, or library book and you’d like a free, personalized signature card (with the Paradoxes of Happiness on the back), email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com. Ask for either, or both; feel free to ask for as many as you’d like; I mail them anywhere in the world. But be sure to include your mailing address!

  • Nadine

    This is the one thing that drives me crazy about my husband! It makes my son crazy too. He always cuts everything to the last second so we arrive rushed, out of breath either exactly on time after having run some lights or slightly late. I am an extremely punctual person. I think it shows respect to the people who are meeting you as well as it makes me feel centred to arrive somewhere on time. When I am late I feel so scattered. My husband suffers from the doing just one more thing and not calculating his time accurately syndrome. It is the only thing in our marriage that makes me crazy after 23 years. All the other things I just say well I’m sure I do something equally annoying that he is overlooking but this bugs me because of how unravelled I feel when we get to our destination as well as how rude I feel it is to be late. So I have begun to explain to him how annoying I find it and slowly but surely he is getting better. I think the fact that my son is equally irritated has helped. So now what really annoying thing have I been up to all these years….

    • I noticed you said that you feel like “it shows respect to the people who are meeting. . . to arrive somewhere on time.” It took me some time to understand this, but I also think that arriving on-time is a way of respecting one’s self. For instance, “I’m good enough to be fully present to what is happening,” or conversely, “I’m not good enough to be fully present to what is happening, so I’ll arrive late.”

      It’s hard to fault anyone for this habit of cramming as it seems our culture breeds it, especially when you look at it from a business standpoint where every minute is worth “money,” so I’ve got to get everything I can out of every minute, so as to get as much “money” as possible. :-

      Like Gretchen noted, I like to err on the side of earliness. Most importantly, I find that with the time I have arrived early to an event, I am able to center myself, calm my nerves (should they be activated), and prepare for whatever is about to happen. I notice that I am often more calm (when I arrive early), especially more calm than the other patrons/colleagues. 🙂

      With Love and Gratitude,


  • My lateness comes down to #6 for sure–I don’t really hate my job, but there are so many things I’d rather be doing. The more I force myself to go, the harder it is to get there on time. I’m working on the life change–give me a little over two more months, and I intend to be out of here.

  • KCCC

    The way I found to deal with #7 was simply to allow for it. My departmental meeting always run longer than it’s officially booked for, and I finally realized it just was going to do that. (I don’t have the authority to make it end. The root cause is a person in a position of power – a VP – who does not respect meeting boundaries.)

    So, I blocked “Meeting Overflow” time on my calendar right after the officially-scheduled time. That way, I don’t HAVE something else right after. (And if the first meeting does end when it’s supposed to, woo-hoo! Found time!)

    I admit I take a perverse pleasure in ending the meetings that I do control RIGHT on time. I keep hoping that consistently modeling this behavior will have an effect.

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s a great idea. I like that phrase, “Meeting Overflow.” Captures the

  • I have a problem with being late first thing in the morning–or however late my first appointment is–I have almost solved it with a great (short) haircut, and foolproof Bobbi Brown makeup–I still need to vet outfits ahead of time–I have been losing weight and some things that were failsafes are no longer very smart.

    Have a routine and a pre-approved outfit, and save the creativity for other times, like special events.

  • haha! Just like you and your husband I also have to get to places very early. Living in NYC I often wonder if that’s an un-NY thing to do.

  • Mariam

    I used to do all 6 of the above. Then when i realized it was time to quit, i figured a sleep schedule was the first thing that needed to change. And it did, and it made me have much more energy throughout the day, and i keep a to do list in my head, and i figure out how i want to spend the day, enjoying it or doing errands, the day before. That got everything organized, and also always add more time to events, that i know is going to take longer than i expect.

    Oh and mapping to dos and errand as per locations -inside or outside the house-, saves me a lot of time, and i don’t get to need to postpone them for another day.

    But my mothers always starts talking to me when i’m going out the door, now that i can’t do much about.

  • Great post Gretchen. I have the problem with my co workers who are always behind the schedule and i would share this post with them so that there will be progress in future.

    Singha Roy

  • My problem was super-hero syndrome. I was always able to fit in that last task and be more productive than anyone else. I was very rarely actually late for meetings and social events, but would always sweep in at the last possible moment. I thought it was cool. Then one day as I made my dramatic entrance I happened to glimpse an expression of sardonic amusement in the eyes of someone I admired. I made a conscious decision to calm down a bit, stop trying to fit so much in, and have a bit more respect for those around me. It worked!

  • Lynnel

    Sounds like some great tips! My husband would definitely say I have a problem with trying to cram in too many things at the last second/doing something unessential to “getting out the door”- calls it my dilly-dallying. He is the main person to help me ask that question- does this NEED to be done now? Most of the time, no.

    I solved my daily late-for-pre-k-pickup issue by setting my phone alarm half hour earlier. I don’t actually need to leave til 15 minutes before to get there a few minutes early, but having that alarm beep every 5 minutes has been effective to get me moving.

  • onlyjayne

    I love these, especially #2 which I will be trying from now on in an attempt to cure my chronic lateness. I think it just might do the trick – thanks!

  • chellie

    I have lateness tendencies, mostly related to #2 & #3. My husband is chronically early. We have resolved our differences mostly by my doing things his way. Since I have gotten over the indignity of changing my ways, some nice things have happened in my non-husband activities. Work related traveling is so much easier: instead of charging around anxiously watching the clock I might enjoy an audiobook or have a minute for a kombucha, which is a treat I only have during said work related travel. My gas mileage is better. I knit more. I often enjoy personal errands, instead of feeling harried.

    Sadly, I have not hit on a solution for my husband’s chronic irritation at others’ (social) lateness. His irritation is not be mine to fix; still, I find myself irritated when he tweaks me about this issue a propos my family & friends that I brought to our relationship. Well, *that* is a happiness issue for another day.

  • I definitely used to be late all the time and it came down to two things: No #2 – I would always work right up to 5 minutes before the meeting fitting in one last thing – silly really. Then I would underestimate the time it took to walk to the meeting. I stopped that habit by setting the calendar meeting for 10 mins earlier so I’d leave earlier. Turn up early and be calm and collected and prepared. Another way I now avoid it is looking at my calendar every morning to know what’s coming up and what I can organize in advance.

  • Liane

    Being an extremely punctual person (yes, chronically early to everything – I was taught that 5 minutes early is on time!), my constant frustration is the fact that most people in my social circle can’t seem to arrive on time for anything. You say dinner starts promptly at 7, no exceptions, the first people trickle in at 7:15. I feel it’s respectful to arrive on time, to respect others’ time and effort to be there, but it’s not the case for my group of friends. It’s like it’s ingrained in their very being to be late. I’ve had one-on-one conversations with people and those have been effective for more personal interactions, but when you get the group mentality and momentum behind showing up late, it’s really hard to change. Perhaps someone has pointers for how to deal with this – besides what I already know, to lighten up and just accept it?

    • Mary in CA

      Actually, you may want to adjust your start time to compensate for it. When you think “Ahh, I want everyone to sit down to eat at 7:00 sharp – invite for 6:30, set out a bowl of nuts and assign someone to mix drinks. When they stroll in between 6:40 and 6:50, you still have a chance of eating at 7:00.

      I apply this against myself a lot. I have to aim about 15 minutes early to get anywhere on time. 🙂

      • I have a friend who plans his arrival time based on who he’s meeting.  If he has plans with me, he aims for the agreed upon time.  If he has plans with another friend of ours, he’ll show up a few minutes late (and still inevitably get there before her). 

        I’ve attempted to do that with a few of my chronically late friends, though with my chronic earliness it just goes from me waiting half an hour for them, to me waiting fifteen minutes.  I wonder how many people have to think fifteen minutes early when making plans to meet punctual me.  Fun food for thought! 

        • Liane

           Catgirl, I do this too! At work I show up 15 minutes early. For certain friends, on time. For other friends, half hour late (and I’m still there first…). For family, early again. It’s made a world of difference.

    • jenny_o

      I second Mary in CA’s suggestion.  (And, like her, I use this on myself too!)

  • This is so funny. I used to be such a stickler for time. My whole day was scheduled right to the minute. Then, I moved to Spain, where NOONE cares about time. There’s no use getting upset about people being late – you’d be upset all the time. Now, I no longer care. I don’t wear a watch, I arrive about 10-15 minutes late for just about everything (along with everyone else), unless it’s been specifically agreed that we arrive on time. And you know what? Life is so much easier this way. If I have to wait for someone, I pull out my iPod or people watch. I think it’s funny when people get so upset over something they can’t control, especially when it’s something social, like a dinner or a party. Is it really worth getting all stressed out about 15 minutes? I no longer think so.


  • I would add what is often a more basic issue – that you don’t see being late as a significant problem. Some people see being late as exceedingly rude, while for others it is a family or cultural norm and not really a big deal.

    Having lived in several distinct parts of our country, I have found that there is a local perception of what is “on time” “slightly late” and “unacceptably late” (and it differs based on the event/meeting/gathering). Those who move in from another location are often running on another perception of what is early or late, which leads to frustration. We actually frustrated folks by showing up “on time” to things in peoples homes because the host was never ready that soon!

    If you tend to be late, take some time to learn the acceptable “on time” range for the people you meet with, and honour them by being on time based on the group norm.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is a very important point. Different places have different customs.
      Very important to know your community.

    • Holly

      Agreed on this being an important point. For example, my husband and his family view time very loosely, and for them to say dinner at 6 generally means more like 6:30 or sometimes even 7. It took a lot of frustrating events before I finally learned that I had to run on their time, and to plan accordingly.

      • gretchenrubin

        Very good point.


  • Margotr

    “when you’re late, you assume your time is more important than my time.”
    A friend once told me when I was late meeting her for dinner…when she put it that way, I was never late for her (and mostly on time) and others.

    • Kate

      My older brother drove home this point to me while I was in college. And oh man, did it ever stick. 

      However, being a chronically late person in recovery, I aim to be as understanding as possible if someone else is running late. I always appreciated people’s understanding in rushed moments.

  • Alice F.

    My parents have the problem of chronic earliness, and that can be irritating too … especially if you are their child & subject to their preferred way of doing things. 🙂 I have a lot of memories of having to sit in a movie theater bored to tears because we got there 45 minutes before a movie started, and being embarassed (and again bored) because we got to a restaurant half an hour before our reservation time. Sounds petty, I know, but trust me — it can be as irritating as chronic lateness when taken to the extreme.

  • Rita David

    “To be late” isn’t really my problem but I’m always running behind the time 🙂 I’m always stressed with all the things I have to do and always postpone, as much as I can, to do the things. I’ll practice the points showed here

  • I’m also chronically early (love that phrase!) and have found that one of the key aspects to this is the fact that I overestimate my commute.  I’ve had the same work commute for over three years, and I still can’t tell you how long the drive actually takes.  I keep a book in my purse, and read if I’m early meeting friends or to an appointment.  Heck, the bulk of The Happiness Project was read as a result of my chronic earliness. 

    That’s my suggestion for people who are chronically late, and wish to change that.  Overestimate your commute.  That way even if you do try to finish that one final task (I also have a problem with that; checking this site was the one last thing before starting dishes), you can still make it to your destination on time.  Hope that works!  

  • CB

    I learned lateness from my mother. She was a drama queen and NEEDED to be in a frantic swirl for everything (or is wasn’t worth doing, in her opinion). I was 26 (!) before I realized I didn’t have to be in a dither over every little thing. Now I arrive on time, or no more than 5 minutes late depending on the event (for some reason people get weirded out by early party attendees).

  • Anyone with little kids knows all the rigmarole you have to go through to even get out the door so since becoming a mom, I became chronically tardy. Have you ever checked the clock and seen you had plenty of time, so you ended up doing random non-urgent tasks, only to later realize now you were going to be late? Now I just get the troops ready and leave, even if it means we are a little early.

    Another thing I used to do was set my clock forward 10 minutes to build a little cushion. Even though I knew, seeing the time made me hurry up.

    • gretchenrubin

      My watch is 7 minutes fast. It really does help!

  • Augh; I’m guilty of all of the first 5! Could be worse; I could relate to all 7 🙂

    Such a tough one giving up sleep … I deviate back and forth between waking extra early to exercise and write and therefore feeling productively amazing all day, OR I decide to prioritise sleep and therefore feel resentful at life ‘happening’ in the first half of the day when I wish I was exercising or writing!

    Do you know what; I think one other reason so many of us are late to so much of our lives is simply that we overestimate how much we can truly fit in! Who isn’t too busy these days? Last week I managed to eek some time out (at 5am!) to re-write my big goals, values etc and my NEW plan is going to be to focus predominantly on doing the stuff that really makes me come alive and feel passionate rather than ALL the other stuff. To the point where I am even going to change aspects of my business and home life to reflect the stuff I really feel is important. That being said I know I still need to work on the ‘one last thing’ syndrome …

  • Think the key that you have hit is that perhaps we really do NOT want to go there in the first place.  So the first thing is to consider do you really want to go – more time thinking about this to either lock in or say “No .. not going” is time well spent.

  • Great article. I think you missed a couple of main reasons people are late, though.  One is thoughtlessness. Having no thoughts whatsoever about the other people waiting. The other is fear of show up early and Having Nothing to Do.  Here’s a post on how to deal with that:

    • Andrejia

      I don’t think it’s true that a person who is chronically late is “thoughtless”. I perfectly understand that everyone is always waiting on me, & while I don’t think it’s an admirable quality, nor do I think it makes me a horrid human being. I work f/t outside the home, in addition to having 3 kids, so sometimes I’m late because I suck, while other times I’m late because that’s just life. The people who matter most in my life don’t get upset about the 20 minutes I’ve deprived them of my presence; rather, they account for it & ask me to make pit stops for all the items they forgot in their rush to be on time. It’s a perfect win-win deal.

      • Alison

         Andrejia, one point in reply to this – do you not agree that everyone has busy lives? Others are as busy as you and can still get there on time

  • Shelly

    I was surprised to learn that one reason I was always late is because I feared getting some place early and having to wait. Sitting around waiting for someone made me anxious, if I was meeting a friend at a restaurant, I feared that was time I would just sit around being noticed by other people. I didn’t want people looking at me, it just makes me feel self-conscious, so I would try to get some place exactly at the right time.

    Unfortunately, I also struggled with underestimating the amount of time it takes me to get ready so that always pushed me into the late zone. I also like to nap, and would allot an extra 10-20 minutes of nap time with the hopes that I could make up for it when getting ready. Very rare that this ever truly played out.

    There is something comforting about being snuggled in bed, and delaying the start of the day, or end of a warm nap can be challenging for me. Not using this as an excuse, it’s the unfortunate reasons behind my tardiness which I am working hard to overcome. For one thing, I don’t allow myself the extra indulgence of sleeping in, instead I envision how good it will feel to be somewhere on time. To receive whomever I’m meeting at the appointed time–it starts the meeting on a great vibe!
    I guarantee more people fear being early than are willing to admit it.

  • I think being late a sign of poor planning and inability to make a commitment and keep it…it’s rude and disrespectful.  I don’t wait long for people…professionally, I wait 10 minutes…personally, it varies but a person can never be surprised if they show up late to find that I have gone on without them.  I learned at a very young age that I could miss out on things by waiting for others…so I don’t do it…life is too short to spend it waiting on someone who I’m not important enough to to get themselves there on time.

  • jackie

    Don’t know if I missed this or not (reading fast b/c I’m late for something else…ha ha) but I’ve realized that the reason I’m chronically late is a factor of ADHD and the same reason I procrastinate everything. I need adrenaline to force me to do something. It is next to impossible for me to do something if it’s not pretty much urgent that minute…including getting ready to go somewhere. I’ve managed pretty well most of my life (even being married to a chronically early man) and have chosen or ended up with a majority of chronically late friends so we’re all late together!! Thanks for your blog and book!

  • It’s one thing to be 5-10 minutes late. It’s quite another to be hours late. We have friends who live their lives by their own “flexible” schedule. That’s fine, but consistently waiting hours for them to show up got irritating. So, we now put in a substantial buffer for their arrival time. “We’ll be there for lunch at noon” means that we eat lunch on time and save the leftovers for when they arrive at 4:00.

  • Fab40foibles

    I suffer from earlyness (or is that earliness?!) too, the kindle has made this more of a bonus, 10 mins extra reading whenever I can 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m more in this camp myself. My husband and I are chronically early. So I’ve really learned to bring something with me to use the time.


  • Lisa W

    I had not considered being late a cause for unhappiness, but you have hit it on the nail.  When I am running behind, I quickly lose my patience for my kids.  Of course, that just feeds into a confrontation an argument or crying (by all of us).  I try to be on time, and usually am, but I can definitely improve my heeding to #2 (Trying to Get One Last Thing Done).  This is definitely me, especially if things are going well and I think I have extra time to kill.  I like the suggestion to take one of those things that I ‘need’ to get done with me and do it at my destination.  I’ll try it.
    Lisa W.

  • Maggie Meneghin

    I will admit it: I am a chronically late individual and always have been. (As a child, my parents and I never knew the congregation at church shook hands at the beginning because we always missed the first ten minutes of the service….)I am also aware other “on time” people view this as being disrespectful and irresponsible, when in fact I consider myself very reliable and hard-working in all other areas of my life. Thanks to the list, I can identify one of my main reasons for my tardiness is #2- trying to get too many things done before I leave home. And, on top of that, I tend to move at my own pace (could be a result of studying in Spain!) I am now working on be more aware of my time commitments. But I would also ask that those who must arrive fifteen minutes early to every event be more understanding of us “late people.” Everyone has areas to improve, and this is one of mine. 

  • MT

    I suffered from being chronically late for YEARS. For me it was a bit of #1, #3 and #4. It wasn’t until I moved to London, England where I had realized I couldn’t live like that anymore and had to make some changes in my life. 

    Problem number one was that I’ve always had problems getting out of bed. Then once I’d finally drag myself out of my glorious bed, I had a hundred places for all my things and it wouldn’t be an uncommon situation where I’d find myself leaving 15-20 minutes late due to having lost my keys or not being able to find my black cardigan. Lastly, I was never realistic about the length of time I needed to allow for my commute. I experienced ridiculous anxiety from always having left too late and then getting stuck on the Tube. Having to sprint up escalators and down the street – literally arriving at my destination dripping with sweat. I was always so envious of the people strolling to work with leisure, stopping for a coffee and croissant, arriving early and fresh with plenty of time to organize and prepare themselves. 

    I realized that not only was I starting my day in a frantic sweaty frenzy, I was being disrespectful to the people waiting for me. My colleagues and friends would joke about it constantly and I realized that me always being late wasn’t the joke – it was me that was the joke! I finally got it and it was so simple – If you always show up on time, people will respect you. They know that you are reliable and dependable. And those qualities are the qualities I want people to think of when they think about me. 

    I now take much pride in the fact that I lay things out the night before, I force myself out of bed much earlier than I ever thought possible and I leave myself plenty of time for my commute. I’m now the one leisurely strolling to work, having time to stop for a coffee and a croissant, starting my day off right. 

  • Rachel

    I read a study once that people who are chronically late versus chronically early actually perceive time differently.  I don’t remember where the study was, but it described asking people to read for what they felt was 5 minutes, and then stop.  The late people read longer than the early people.  They thought 5 minutes was longer than it really was.  So that may be the issue when we try to get that last little thing done.

    Soooo… It’s not entirely a character flaw.  I tend to be late, so I plan to get there early, and end up rushing in just in time.  I really dislike rushing, so I might sometimes be a little late somewhere so that I don’t drive myself crazy.  I improved and started to be an on time person, but then I had a baby.  I find that I seem to have plenty of time to even be early, but then somehow between the house and the car, 20 minutes pass, so I end up rushing.

    For the people who think us late arrivers are being disrespectful… really, it has nothing to do with you or how we view you.  It’s our issue, and we don’t mean to make you wait.  We perceive time differently, so it really is a greater challenge for us.  Maybe I should move to Spain.  That sounds great.

    • Ron Helpman

      Hey Rachel,
      I’m a punctual person but I understand that it’s difficult for some people to be on time. There’s another study in which they found that the more people remembered what they read, the more they underestimated how much time had passed. When you are immersed in something, you lost track of the time: “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
      I’ve found when I’m preoccupied with the time, I overestimate the time and am constantly checking the clock. Makes me overestimate how long I need to budget fo things.
      Which makes me wonder if it might be an attention issue for you.
      Wonder if you recognize yourself in these descriptions:

    • vanessa

      Can I double like this? My boss and I were talking one day about my tardiness and when we were finished she asked how long I thought we were talking. I thought it had been 3-5 minutes…. it had really been around 15. I look at the clock in my bathroom, just need to get my socks and shoes on, and then get into the car. I think that should take 1-2 minutes but just like you said, all of a sudden 10,15,20 minutes had disappeared! I understand other’s feeling disrespected when I’m late, but they have no idea how much I beat myself up over this issue. I feel like I try SOOO hard to correct the problem but my best just isn’t cutting it. I’m starting to wonder if I need to be on some sort of meds. My parents were fairly late people, my sisters and I are very late people, I don’t want the cycle to continue for my sons. But at this point I’m out of ideas of how to change the problem. when I lived at home and my parents would get me out of bed or when my husband was alive and he would drag me out of bed it was ok. So short of finding a new husband…. idk

  • Ron Helpman

    You might have read that in Diana DeLonzor’s book, Rachel, though I never found the study in any journals.
    I’m wondering if losing track of time might be an attention issue for you. When people are immersed in what they are doing they lose track of the time–hence “time flies when you’re having fun.” If you experience something as taking less time than it does, then the next time around you might underbudget time for it.
    On the other hand, some people need very intense stimulation to get focussed and moving–and then may become immersed. And then there are those that are too easily distracted to stay on track and who lose track of the time amidst the 101 things they end up paying attention to.
    There are also people who have an associative, non-linear and emotionally-based “right brain” style of thinking. They have little interest in measuring time by the clock and like to navigate by how they feel. Keeping to routines–a characteristic of most punctual people–feels restrictive to them.
    I’m curious, when you write “somehow betwen the house and the car, 20 minutes pass…” what actually happens?
    Ron Helpman
    (I have 2 sites on this topic: which is a short article, and which goes into depth about the various causes and ways to become more punctual.)

  • Lorne Evje

    Primo stuff…!

  • Rosie Holroyd

    This is a really interesting subject. I’m usually early and if I’m late its because its somewhere I don’t really want to be! Good to find some balance though – I think better to be prepared and late than unprepared and early.

  • Dr Judith

    Like you, Gretchen, I prefer to be 10 minutes early or at least ON TIME…and I come from a family like that. My sister and I joke about the time we met in Philly’s train station and she came in one door and I through the other to meet in the middle as the clock struck noon. However, in my work as a psychoanalyst for decades, I have found all kinds of interesting, unexpected, and surprising “reasons” why people are compulsively late.

    Sometimes the techniques and excellent solutions you suggest will not work or be effective until the insights as to WHY the person has a compulsive pattern to be late.this is different from Melody’s comment and obvious conscious decision in a different culture with different time expectations.

    I have one friend, a successful and prominent attorney, who explained that he has “separation anxiety,” and it causes him serious stress and agitation to wait for others. He also has trouble with his “unbearable ideas” and fantasies and thoughts that occur to him while waiting. Sometimes things are not so simple as they seem on the surface, as i am sure you also know – and I know I’m “singing to the choir” here! Thanks for an interesting blog.

    Judith Logue, Ph.D.
    Port St. Lucie, Florida and Princeton, NJ

  • Holly

    I’ve worked on being late for years. The thing that made the most difference is that I told everyone I my new goal was trying to be on time. If I was late, I owed my guest(s) $1. It really wasn’t about the money, it was about having to hand it over which was acknowledging my being late.

    Now when I arrive early, I have some activity with me to use the time–maybe it’s my Kindle, maybe it’s a note card to write a note to someone, maybe it’s working on my “to do list” or planning for a vacation. That way waiting for others–doesn’t feel like I’m wasting my time.

  • Katherine Leer

    I am always told how great of a worker I am, and always do my best to complete the job at hand. I am, for the most part, very disciplined. However, I have always had one problem: I am always running late. Most of the time I am between 5-15 minutes late. Sometimes I run up to 20 minutes late. I currently live little more than across the street from my workplace. I want to get better at being on time, or being early. I know I tend to beat myself up for no good reason, but this is an exception as I have always been taught how important it is to be on time. I feel there is no excuse for me being late, as I live so close to my workplace. I would say, there are three main reasons for my being late: 1. I have a horrid habit of hitting the snooze button. I try not to, and am constantly telling myself that it is not only bad for time management, but for health reasons as well. However, it is my vice. I have tried a couple of things to remedy this: going to bed early and taking more vitamins (I have a potassium deficiency–don’t know if that has anything to do with it). However, no matter how much I sleep, I am still tired when my alarm goes off. Also, I am very cold natured, but my roommate is hot natured. I sleep right next to the air-conditioner, but she is always turning it down. Frankly, I’m afraid of getting out from under my warm covers in the morning. Besides this, cold makes me lethargic. I see this as a weak excuse, but it’s hard to leave it behind. 2. I underestimate travel time to work. Even though, as I said, I live little more than across the street from my job, the traffic between my dorm and there is atrocious. I don’t walk unless it is daylight savings time because I get off after dark, and my parents tell me they don’t want me out walking after dark. Driving, however, does not always get me to work exceedingly quick. There are always accidents and crazy people out on the road. 3. There are times when I wonder why I even came to work. Sometimes I have a good day with fourteen or so documents for me to tutor (I forgot to mention that I am a tutor). Those are the days when I feel like I really did something great. Others, not a single document is sent in for tutoring. On those days, time cannot go by fast enough. If I don’t have any office handouts to make or edit, or am not doing homework (which, I have been trying to do more of at work. For some reason, it’s become more difficult to get motivated into doing so. I now normally work on hw in my dorms, where I cannot be distracted by my coworkers–Senior year blues), I normally sit at my desk, doing nothing productive. Thus, I feel useless anyway. Still, I do know that it is always possible I will be needed upon my arrival, and that I can get A LOT done in my first thirty minutes. For this possibility, I wish to be more gifted with punctuality.

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  • micronick

    You could also use fun apps like these to remind you to leave on time :