June 9, 2011

Are You Punctually Challenged?

Many years ago, long before I became a Professional Organizer, I was chronically late for professional appointments, activities, engagements with friends, etc. You name it; I was late for it. One day, my dearest friend in the world had finally had enough and she let me know it. I was mortified, but I deserved her anger. Her reaction really hit home with me because she was the most gentle, forgiving person and rarely got mad at anyone for anything. I knew that I had unintentionally crossed a line and I had to do something about it. From that day forward, I was never late again to meet her. How did I do it? I did it by taking the time to figure out exactly what the reason was for my chronic lateness and giving myself a serious attitude adjustment. I just made up my mind that I had to change my behavior because she and our friendship were more important to me than whatever internal need was driving me to be chronically late.

According to Diana DeLonzor, a time management expert, the chronically late fall into seven categories. The ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR is caught up in his own world, easily distracted and forgetful. The DEADLINER subconsciously enjoys the thrill of the last-minute sprint to the finish line. The EVADER‘s environment makes him or her feel anxious and creates a need for control over it; being on time runs a distant second to their own needs or routine. The INDULGER tends to procrastinate and exercises less self-control. The PRODUCER is always busy and tries to squeeze as much as possible into every minute. The RATIONALIZER has a hard time taking responsibility for lateness and blames outside circumstances. The REBEL resists authority and the imposition of rules and uses running late as a form of control.

You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge so acknowledging that you have a problem with lateness is an essential first step. Many problems in life are symptoms of psychological issues so if you’re punctually challenged and driven by internal needs to be that way, an understanding of the reasons underlying your lateness can go a long way to helping you deal with it. Recognizing that the costs of being chronically late are considerable is also essential. Those costs include negatively impacting the lives of your family, friends and colleagues, subjecting yourself to reprimand at work and the possibility of losing your job or promotions, developing a reputation for unreliability and a lack of integrity, increasing your stress level and hits to your self-esteem, among others.

Punctuality is the result of good planning and a habit that you can develop, if you honestly put your mind to it. It takes commitment and a willingness to be on time, as well as the recognition that to achieve your goal you need to change your habits and attitude. Achieving better time management requires that you learn to think differently about time and what can be achieved in a given amount of time. You can become a better time estimator by keeping track of everything you do for a week or two. Write down how long you think each thing will take you to do and then how long it actually took. This exercise will help you to hone your time estimating skills.

Chronic latecomers have to fight the temptation to do one last thing before leaving the house or office. No making the bed, watering the plants, unloading the dishwasher, sending just one more email, returning one last phone call, etc. Make a commitment to arrive for appointments and activities early, instead of just on time. If you have a fear of downtime or think of it as a waste of time, convert it into time that is productive and pleasurable by reading a magazine or book, catching up on your email or with friends on the phone. This strategy can actually give you an incentive to be on time.

Be sure that you know exactly how to get to your destination. If it’s a new one for you, build in additional travel time to account for traffic and public transportation or parking delays. Write down the directions, print out a map and get public transportation schedules ahead of time. Write down when you have to leave in your planner or calendar and leave then. Set a kitchen timer for 30 minutes before you have to leave and when the timer rings, out the door you go. No procrastinating!

Make a note on your calendar or planner to remind you to pay your bills. Don’t wait for late notices to motivate you. Go to bed earlier and get up earlier. Learn to say “no” to additional commitments when you’re short on time. At work, don’t over schedule your day. Start and end meetings promptly. Schedule a follow-up meeting, but only if it’s really necessary.

Breaking a bad habit like chronic lateness requires effort, patience and willpower, but the peace of mind, self-esteem and positive regard from others that you gain and are well worth the struggle. If you’re punctually challenged, try a 30-day trial of being scrupulously punctual and see what you’ve been missing. All you have to lose are all the negative consequences that come from being late!

If you're committed to making positive changes in your life, help (including a free phone consultation) is just a call -- (212) 228-8375 -- or an email away.



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