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Help for the Chronically Late

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

Technical Difficulties continued...

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."

Planning for Wait Time

For most people, running late has more to do with anxiety about where they're going. "There's a fear factor in which people are anxious about going at all or about getting there too early and having nothing to do," Sapadin says.

Morgenstern agrees. "There is a tremendous fear of downtime, an anxiety associated with doing nothing and waiting." You know you're in this category if you'd rather be late to a massage than spend one minute sitting in the waiting room.

To overcome wait time anxiety, Morgenstern suggests planning "something highly absorbing to do while you wait." Try to arrive at every appointment 10 or 15 minutes early and use the time for a specific activity, such as writing notes to people, reading a novel, or catching up with friends on the phone. This strategy can help convert dreaded wait time into time that is productive and pleasurable, giving you an incentive to be on time.

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