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Hands up who's late?

Lateness?  Hands up who’s late?  Do you turn up at meetings feeling anxioius and on edge? Have you ever thought about why you, or others are perpetually late?


It’s hard to say how many people are regularly late and if this lateness occurs in their work or personal life. Surveys conducted have suggested that between 15-20% of us are “consistently late”. That’s a lot of lateness.


Consistent lateness can lead to missed meetings, appointments and travel, but it can also put a strain on relationships. When we turn up late to meet someone it can send a message to them that they don’t matter to us.  So why are some us late?

Why are some people always late?

There can be a huge number of reasons why people might be late.

Upbringing: We could have grown up with people who were often late, and therefore developed a lax approach to time, or grew up around people who were overwhelmingly time-conscious. If your upbringing was super strict for time keeping then the result could be that you want to rebel and be late in your adulthood.


How we view time: Another factor is our individual relationship to time. We all have a differing relationship to time. Some of us are future oriented, or inclined to make decisions based on future plans. This group of people tend not to be late. Other people are more present oriented, and generally make decisions based on what they need in the moment. This group leans towards being late because they are thinking less about the future and more about the now, they plan less.


Overscheduling: Sometimes, people simply have too much going on. They are trying to juggle too much in their lives and they don’t allow any contingency in their schedule for appointments running over, traffic, etc. This can result in a knock-on effect and appointments being pushed back and ultimately, that person is then late. We all only have a limited amount of attention and time. If we are multi-tasking day and night, the most meticulous plans can simply fail because we don’t have enough resources left to carry those tasks out successfully.


Aversion: In some cases, people just don’t want to do the task and being late is their way of avoiding a situation. This can be common with Therapy clients if there are areas they don’t want to discuss and they aren’t able to tell the therapist that they don’t want to attend.


Are lateness and procrastination different or the same?

Aversion can also lead to procrastination. Disorganisation and procrastination can both result in lateness. However, experts say the root causes of these two issues are very different.

In reality time management has very little to do with procrastination. Procrastination has more to do with mood management and possibly, general anxiety.

If you are procrastinating on any area in your life, it’s important to identify what feelings are coming up for you. Are you avoiding a situation and why? It could be that there’s something about doing that task or finishing that task that is threatening to you, so you avoid it. It could be that someone is worried that they're not going to be good enough, or it’s not going to please somebody.

If mood regulation is the issue, then time management can’t help with this. It could be, that there are deeper feelings of self-worth and lack of confidence present that need to be addressed, potentially with a therapist.

How can people learn to be on time?

Being late can be a developed habit in some of us that can be worked on.

One of the ways lateness can be worked on is to learn to prioritise tasks.

Consider whether tasks are important, which means thinking about if the tasks advance your personal goals or not. If tasks are urgent, meaning they have a hard deadline and need to happen in the next week or so; or both then these naturally are prioritised highly. From there, it’s easier to identify what needs to happen in the next day, week or month, and figure out how much time each task will take and allow more time for these tasks.

It’s important to be realistic about this last step and allocate the correct amount of time to the task. To find out how long something takes, it’s important to time various tasks, if you can and allocate enough time for that task. If you don’t allocate enough time, it will have a knock-on effect and ultimately make you late.

Also, identify why you’re late. Are you avoiding something by being late and can you think about why you are avoiding that situation? Once you figure this out you can think about why you are avoiding that situation and what you can do to resolve this.

Regardless of how late you are, it’s important to be gentle with yourself and give yourself time to think about why you’re late.  It’s natural to struggle with negative feelings about something that you think if contributing to being late but rather than feeling like you’re the worst person in the world for doing that, face up to your emotions, work on them and try not to them overwhelm you. Good luck xx


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