If you are someone who has problems being on time, or you live, work or socialize with a person who does, you know how much of a problem lateness can be. Chronic lateness stresses personal relationships and undermines careers. By making a bad impression on a date or at a job interview even a single lateness can change the direction of a person’s life.
I am a psychotherapist who has worked with many chronically late clients. When I decided to write about this issue, I reviewed the psychological literature, only to find that very little has been written specifically about people who have problems being on time.
Diana DeLonzor is the only psychologist who wrote specifically about—and for—people who are chronically late in a variety of situations. In her self-help book “Never Be Late Again” she writes about seven lateness syndromes.
Rationalizers refuse to accept that s/he has a problem, believing that others are too “uptight”, blaming lateness on uncontrollable circumstances, and failing to see the selfishness of her choices.
Producers squeeze as much as possible into a day. They repeatedly underestimate how long even routine tasks take. They ignore possible delays, fixating on rare, perfect, outcomes.
Deadliners leave at the last minute because they enjoy a fast paced, pressured, risky lifestyle.
Indulgers find it difficult to postpone gratification.
Absent Minded Professors are late because of distractibility (potentially as a result of ADD), forgetfulness (e.g. of appointments and of belongings such as keys) and a failure to consider others as a result of being caught up with their own thoughts.
Rebels have some combination of a desire to feel powerful (often to mask a sense of powerlessness), difficulty accepting authority (resulting from an authoritarian upbringing), &/or a need to feel special or unique by defying social norms.
Evaders have low self-esteem, manifesting in anxiety and/or depression. They avoid situations where they expect rejection and failure. They may use lateness as a self-esteem preserving excuse for failure.
DeLonzor offers good practical exercises. However, her analysis of what causes these issues doesn’t go very deep. She also fails to discuss two of the most important and most neglected causes of chronic lateness: sleep issues and transit avoidance.
Sleep issues—which can be caused by a variety of factors including night owl tendencies. lack of sleep and poor sleep—create morning fatigue that makes people press the snooze button.
Although solving sleep issues may not be easy, the person is usually aware of how this contributes to his or her lateness. This is often not the case with transit avoiders who are often not aware that this is the reason that they find it so hard to get out the door. Without awareness of the problem, it is not possible to solve it.
In order to address the limitations of what has been written to date, I have created lateness.org. You will find a comprehensive exploration of the causes, and techniques for becoming punctual.