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Health & Balance

Help for the Chronically Late

Experts explain why the key to being on time is understanding why you're always late.
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Technical Difficulties

"If you're always late by a different amount of time -- five minutes sometimes, 15, or even 40 minutes other times -- it is likely that the cause is technical," Morgenstern tells WebMD. "That means you are not good at estimating how long things take," whether it's drive times or routine activities like taking a shower.

Keating says she falls into this category. "It's a case of bad planning, of thinking you need less time than you actually do."

The solution, Morgenstern says, is to "become a better time estimator." She suggests keeping track of everything you do for a week or two. "Write down how long you think each thing will take and then how long it actually took." This will help you find a pattern, so you can adjust your time estimates.

Keating says this strategy is helpful. "You have to be realistic about how long certain things take, especially things you do routinely. If you know it takes 20 minutes to blow dry your hair, allow yourself 20 minutes to blow dry your hair," she says, "and leave a little extra time for those days when your hair is uncooperative."

Learning to Say 'No'

Another technical difficulty for some people is the inability to say "no" to additional commitments when they're short on time. You might be a good time estimator, Morgenstern explains, but "your best-laid plans get waylaid when someone asks you for something and you can't say 'no.'"

The solution to this problem is to "practice catchphrases," Morgenstern tells WebMD. Learn to defer or decline requests by saying, "I would love to help, but I'm on a deadline" or "I'm meeting people in half an hour. I can help you tomorrow."

Choosing to Be Late

"If you are literally always 10 minutes late, it's psychological," Morgenstern says. "You're arriving exactly when you want. The question is 'why?'"

Sapadin says the answer depends on your personality type. "For some people, it's a resistance thing," she tells WebMD. "It's a carryover of rebelliousness from childhood. They don't want to do what other people expect them to."

Another category is the "crisis-maker," someone who thrives on the minicrisis of running late. "These are people who cannot get themselves together until they get an adrenaline rush," Sapadin explains. "They need to be under the gun to get themselves moving."

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