Everyone has a friend who is always late – the guy (or gal) who will turn up puffing and panting to every social event, and who constantly misses flights and trains.
But what is actually wrong with them?
Some researchers believe that some people are actually ‘born to be late’ – with a personality type that means they find it hard to be punctual.
One theory, according to Professor Justin Kruger iis that people who are often late tend to grossly underestimate how long it will take them to do common tasks.
But there could be more complex psychology at work, according to Alfie Kohn, writing in Psychology Today.
Kohn says, ‘ Maybe tardy arrivers enjoy the attention they get from making an entrance and breathlessly describing to the assembled group whatever detained them on this occasion.
‘Or maybe such people are simply indifferent to the effects of making others wait for them, a symptom of a more general egocentricity; they’re caught up in their own needs and preferences and fail to take the perspective of others — a prerequisite, perhaps, to making an effort to be on time.’
But Kohn says that for some people – especially those who inconvenience themselves, by missing flights, for instance – it may be a defect that they struggle to control.
Kohn writes, ‘I suspect that those who chronically show up late don’t do these things. Perhaps they have a tendency to lose themselves in whatever they’re currently doing and don’t discover what time it is until it’s too late.
Don’t try to multi-task
But how can ‘late’ people make themselves arrive on time? One key thing could be to stop trying to multi-task.
Dr Jeff Conte of San Diego University says that personality differences between people mean that people who are often late tend to underestimate how long tasks will take.
If you try and take on several things – such as finishing work, getting dressed, and putting the kids to bed – you’ll be even later.
Imagine how long other people think something might take
Another could be to think through how long the ‘steps’ on the way to getting ready will take you.
For many people who are always late, the problem is that they underestimate the time common tasks such as getting ready will take them.
Psychologists have suggested that thinking to yourself about how long a task would take from the perspective of an outsider can help ‘late people’ overcome their habits.
So, imagine how long the person you are meeting might think it will take you to get ready. Leave that amount of time.
Set lots of small goals
If you’re trying to get places, set yourself a lot of small goals, rather than larger, vague ones.
Psychologists believe that breaking down a complex task – such as getting ready – into smaller goals, such as putting on shoes, can help.