Why chronic lateness affects friendships and what you can do about it

For a lot of people there are three little words that crop up when they enter an appointment with their

For a lot of people there are three little words that crop up when they enter an appointment with their hair stylist, dinner with friends, or meeting with their bank: ‘Sorry I’m late’.

The occasional late arrival to an appointment or social engagement is tolerable, but when someone is late all the time it can be difficult not to conclude that they value their time more than yours and can leave you feeling jaded and upset.

“I started telling my son our family dinners were an hour earlier than they actually were just so that he and his wife would turn up on time,” Kathy says, highlighting they would often turn up to a restaurant an hour or more after the reservation when all the family had arrived on time and was waiting patiently.

Running late, or almost running late, can create unnecessary pressure. Who likes rushing to an appointment only to get there and realise you have forgotten to bring your glasses or your wallet or even an important document if it’s a meeting of a more business-like nature?

Just as people who don’t like being late often turn up early, those who don’t like being early will purposely turn up late.

“My daughter despises the uneasiness of being early,” says Claire. “She feels awkward and uncomfortable at having to wait, but does that give her the right to turn up 15 minutes late? Her tardiness makes me feel uncomfortable.”

There can be a heavy toll for those who continuously turn up late — lost relationships, lost friendships, lost jobs, as well as the stress — of having to reschedule an appointment, or miss out on a movie or theatre performance.

Psychologist Linda Sapadin found that a person who is chronically late often falls into one of four categories:

  • The Perfectionist — who arrives late because they cannot bear to leave something unfinished.
  • The Crisismaker — who enjoys the thrill and excitement of constantly being under pressure.
  • The Defier — who is sending a clear message by being late.
  • The Dreamer — who uses magical thinking to estimate travel time and considers there is time to stop along the way.

According to science, lateness is just a habit. It’s the result of an action being performed that has created a neural pathway in your brain that then becomes a default behaviour.

The good news is that a bad habit — including tardiness — can be broken, you just have to make a conscious decision to change.

Things you can do to fix chronic lateness

First, you need to change your attitude about punctuality. Don’t make excuses when you are late or running late, instead own up to the problem. Once you’ve done this you can work out how you can correct things.

Consider your appointments as being 15 to 30 minutes earlier than they actually are, and write this into your diary, appointment book or electronic calendar. Be conservative in the time it takes you to travel to the location by adding five to 10 minutes to the total commute.

Get yourself ready beforehand. If that means choosing your clothing, your accessories, and even your handbag in advance, do it. Such action will have you avoiding delays looking for things at the last minute.

Don’t hit snooze when the alarm goes off. If you find yourself chasing the day because you couldn’t get out of bed on time, the only way to fix this issue is by getting out of bed when the bell sounds.

Reassess how long those daily tasks are taking you. If you only consider your five-minute shower in the time it takes for you to get ready, you might want to revisit all of the other bits that go into getting you out of the house. How long does it take you to get your hair done? Are you wearing make-up today? If the real time it takes you is 30 minutes you might need to revise how much time you’re giving yourself to get to an appointment on time.

Don’t overload your schedule. If you schedule back-to-back appointments without leaving enough time to get from ‘here to there’ you might want to consider giving yourself a buffer or five to 10 minutes.

How well do you manage your time? What tips do you have to ensuring you are on time for appointments and engagements?