Dashing out the door, just getting there in time, stuck in traffic, running to your next meeting, fashionably late, working until midnight to meet your deadline, missing your flight, frantic, busy, always on the go…
Does this sound like you?
There’s a big group of us that are chronically late. Last minute is our nickname. Procrastination is our frenemy. We pack in as much as possible. For most of us, leaving things until the last minute is a part of our nature we’ve just come to accept. It’s who we are. Or is it?
Even if late is your M.O., it’s something you can change. However, you might not be motivated to change your behavior. Being late probably doesn’t bother you. It does bothers your friends, lover, and co-workers (especially the ones who arrive early and like being uber prepared). I’m going to venture out and say that if you are part of this fashionably late club, you enjoy adventure and excitement. It could be the reason you are late so often.
Last minute tendencies are usually a clue that you crave more spontaneity, adventure, and fun. If your lifestyle isn’t fulfilling your need for uncertainty (read: thrills), you’ll find ways to make even the mundane and ordinary seem exciting. For example: cleaning your house is not particularly fun. When you’ve got one hour to tidy up before your guests arrive for the big dinner party you’re hosting, the excitement level rises way up. Racing against the clock gives almost any activity a game like aspect. Ever tried making love under a time constraint? It heats things right up!
When being late becomes the most common way you meet your need for excitement a couple problems arise:
- Behavior becomes habit. Meeting your need for uncertainty a couple times by barely making it in time is totally fine. However when you are behind on just about everything, an unhealthy habit has formed. Once a late habit has formed it’s much trickier to disband it, but not impossible.
- People don’t appreciate tardiness. Nothing says, “I just don’t really care” like showing up super late. Just because you don’t mind missing the first act of the performance, doesn’t mean everyone else is okay with it. Be considerate of others time and preferences. If you want to keep your friends and job, consider being known for showing up on time.
- Rushing causes long term stress. Racing causes our system to go into survival mode; the fight or flight response. When you are running through the airport to make your flight, your system produces extra adrenaline and pumps it through your muscles to help you get to where you need to go in warp speed. Overtime adrenal fatigue takes over, and a feeling similar to burn out happens.
How do you change your behavior then, even if you don’t really want to? You certainly aren’t going to see any changes if you’re only shifting your habits because “you should.” Could and should are not great motivators.
Tap into the pain or consequence of being late by asking: What is it costing me being late?
Maybe you have to take cabs all the time, instead of the train, or have to re-book your missed flight. That means you’re losing money. Being late could be costing you your relationships. Perhaps you’re missing out on connection and precious time with family and friends when you only get there for dessert. You might experience anxiety and tension from procrastination, which means your health is in jeopardy. Once I had to stay home on a Saturday night and finish a program I had been putting off. After missing the opportunity to see an outdoor concert with my best friends, I finally realized the negative effect of my behavior. When you connect being late with the negative feelings of missing out or losing money, you’ll be much more motivated to change.
The other way to create lasting change, is fulfill your need for uncertainty in other ways. How can you add more excitement to your everyday life?
Take a new route to work. Surprise someone you love with a spontaneous outing. See how quickly you can get things done (ahead of deadline). Make friends with that person you see every week at the gym or yoga studio but never talk to. Check out deals for activities like racing cars or sky diving. Do something you’ve been wanting to do for awhile, but have been putting off. Make a bucket list for the rest of 2013, and have fun checking items off!