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Women's Health

Always Late? Find Out Why

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3. “I need to know I’m loved” continued...

“When did it happen with your father?” I asked.

“Not often. Once in a while going to school. My dad drove me, but if I was late — even by a minute — he’d just leave, and I’d have to find a way to get there on my own.”

“He was unfair,” I said. “And he wasn’t loving, at those times.”

One way we may gauge the affection of others is to test whether they will sacrifice their time. If you keep your husband waiting for updates on your schedule, figure out why: Do you feel he should be more involved in planning dinners or resent that he complained about the last two weekend outings that you had arranged? Turn your insight into a confession of sorts: “I was thinking about why I’ve been keeping you in the dark until the last minute. And I may have figured it out. We used to alternate planning things for the kids. But lately, it’s been all me. I know that’s just the way it evolved, but I liked it when you were scoping out fun things for us, and I miss it. Can we go back to a team approach?”

If you have a friend who is always late, you can become a true healer with just one comment like this: “Just so you know, I’ll always wait for you. You’re much more important to me than getting to a movie in time for previews. But it would be great if we did leave early enough, because cutting it too close makes me stressed out about parking and all that.”

Clocking Lateness

Use the profiles delineated above to nail why you have trouble being on time. Then you can start fighting back with these practical strategies. And don’t start “later” — start now.

  • Keep a date book and be sure to carry it with you: Writing down appointments makes them real; having that record always handy will keep you honest. If you aren’t scheduling yourself on paper or electronically, you’re more likely to give yourself leeway — at the expense of others.
  • Factor lateness into your day: Create “lateness buffers” by planning to leave an event 10 or 15 minutes earlier than your first pass at scheduling would indicate. Or start getting ready a bit sooner than you think you need to, reminding yourself you aren’t the best judge of how much time you need.
  • Have more confidence in your future: When you steal time to send one last e-mail, you’re really saying you’re not sure there’s enough time for, well, your life. Try walking out on the day’s loose ends, and you’ll find they slowly lose their control over you.
  • Put yourself in their shoes: Imagine yourself as one of the people waiting for you, and his or her anxiety that time doesn’t really matter to you. Doing this exercise might motivate you to be more punctual.
  • Balance your imbalances: If you’re the chronically late one in your family and your husband is compulsively punctual, recruit him as a time coach.
  • Be sure you wear a watch: When you see that the time of your appointment has arrived, but you haven’t, you may feel just enough “good stress” to make more of an effort to be on time.
  • Take time — for yourself: For those who have trouble creating realistic schedules and sticking to them, meditation can be beneficial because it forces you to sit quietly with yourself and focus. Yoga or an exercise routine can do the same.

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