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Young businessman running in a city street

This is a guest post by Brenda Berg. She is a professional with over 15 years of experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs at https://AustralianHelp.com/. She is self-motivated results driven individual who is encouraged to travel and share gained experience in career, business and self-development.

Are you the kind of person who’s always running late? Do you always have to text ‘I’m running behind by five minutes’ to the people waiting for you? Then you may have an issue with time management. There are psychological elements to being chronically late, but it is something you can change about yourself. Here’s why being constantly late is affecting you, and how you can start to make the change.

Always being late will have an effect on your life

Redhead girl with alarm clock on blue background.

Being perpetually late can hurt you in all areas of your life. Researcher Diana DeLonzor studied lateness and wrote about her findings in her book, Never Be Late Again. She says that lateness is seen as rudeness or even a power play by others, but in fact, that’s often not the case. In fact, the person that gets hurt the most by your lateness is usually you.

Think about it. If you’re continually late for work, your boss will reprimand you. If you’re late often enough, you can be fired. Be late in filing your taxes, and you can be fined. If you’re always late to meet your friends, you can even lose friendships as they feel disrespected.

As you can see, lateness is a more serious problem than most people think. DeLonzor says that lateness habits are instilled in childhood, and so are ingrained into your psyche by the time you’re an adult. As such, it can feel as though there’s no way out of it, that lateness is just a part of your personality. In fact, though, it’s something you can change so its stops having such an impact on your life.

The three kinds of late people

One of the most interesting theories DeLonzor came up with was the different types of late people. There are three main groups that she identified, all that struggle with lateness for different reasons, according to the research.

The Deadliner: This person lives for the thrill of rushing to meet a deadline. They say that they work their best while under pressure, and can’t cope if they feel they’re wasting time. That means they may overload themselves, or rush from one place to the other without a break in between.

The Producer: This person hates the idea of having any time wasted. They’re great makers of to do lists, and inevitably create lists that they can never hope to finish. They’re usually engaging in ‘magical thinking’, which leads them to believe they can do more in a day than they realistically can.

The Absent-Minded Professor: This person is easily distracted. If they need to leave the house right now, they’ll stop on the way out of the door to fix a picture that’s crooked, or to pull to curtains shut properly. They’re always late as they can’t prioritize what’s more important. It can often be the case that this person has a form of ADHD or another attention disorder that makes it harder for them to focus on what they need to be doing.

If you see yourself in any of these groups, then you have a lateness problem that you need to address. Luckily though, it is possible to turn things around, no matter how bad you feel your problem is.

How to start getting a grip on lateness

Woman holding clock looking anxiously, running out of time

Ok, so you’ve worked out that you’re really struggling to get anything done on time. However, you also feel like there just isn’t enough time in the day to get things done. How do you get around this? The answer is, says Gareth Johnson from Academized, to sit down and analyze your time. ‘I used to feel like I was working all hours of the day, but I couldn’t fit anything in’ he says. ‘I was starting to become late with my deadlines, which of course I couldn’t let keep happening. A friend suggested to me I log all of my time over a week, and see how I was really spending it.’

According to the article by Nagesh Belludi, time logging is the best way to see how you’re managing your time. Over the course of a week, log everything you do in 10 or 15 minute increments. This, ironically, can be time-consuming. However, the results are well worth it. At the end of the week, you’ll have a comprehensive account of how you’re really using your time.

Many people who try this are astounded by how much time they waste in a day. There’s many ways you could be leaking time and not even know it. You could be spending ten minutes every day talking to co-workers when you should be working. Maybe you’re busy scrolling through social media when you should be heading out to pick up the kids from school. You could also be losing time fixing unimportant things, rather than handling the main issue that’s in front of you.

You’ll also see that you’re doing work that really should be done by other people. For example, you may be an executive, but you’re still spending a couple of hours in the week booking flights and hotels for an upcoming trip. Why are you doing this? Is there an assistant who can help you by taking on jobs such as these?

Another issue that may show up in your log is that you’re wasting time as you don’t have the right skills or tools to do the work you need to do. If you’re spending too long trying to navigate Microsoft Excel, or you’re fighting with a software program that isn’t suited to the task, you’re wasting time. You’ll need to either develop the skill or change the tool in order to claim that time back.

What now?

Now you’ve gathered this data, you’ll have to decide what to do with it. What you do will be very much dependent on what you found in your log. Here are a few examples of actions you may want to take.

  • If you’re finding you’re wasting time by being unproductive, you’ll need to find ways to remove these unproductive activities from your day. This could mean you shut off your phone while you’re working, to resist the urge to scroll through Facebook. If your co-workers are eating up your time, you’ll have to start putting up clear boundaries so they stop distracting you. Whatever the issue is, you’ll need to find a way to eliminate it.
  • If you’re doing work that others could be handling, then you’ll need to start delegating. Could you use an assistant? If you don’t have one, now’s the time to start hiring one. This could be difficult, as it means you’re handing over some control to someone else. By doing this, though, you’re reclaiming time that you could be spending on the really important projects that only you can deal with.
  • If you’ve seen that you’re losing time as you don’t have the right skill or tool, obtain it. Many people put off learning an essential skill. This could be because they think they’re too old to learn the skill, or they don’t really need it. However, the time saved once you know what you’re doing is invaluable. For example, if you take a course in Excel, you’ll never lose time in trying to navigate it again. The same goes for tools. It may be expensive in the short term, but buying the right tool means that you won’t be fighting with an inappropriate or outdated tool.

Tips for managing your time better


So you already have the main strategies for managing your time better. There are lots of other strategies you can implement to help you improve your time keeping, too. Here are some of the best ones to try as you look to change your thinking on managing your time:

  • Delegate at home: It’s not just at work where you need to let others take the reins. If you’re the kind of person who feels the need to tackle everything at home, you’ll need to learn how to let go. It only makes you late in dealing with the things that really matter. Freelance writer Gina Harrison from Assignment help and the mother of three children agrees. ‘I was convinced that I was the only person who knew how to keep the house’ she says. ‘That mean most of my time was eaten up trying to pick up after my kids. I had to learn how to delegate certain tasks to them, to keep the house going and free up my time. Once I got used to that, I found I could get a lot more done in the time I had.’
  • Do the most intimidating job first: There’s always going to be that one job that you just don’t want to do. Maybe it’s been sitting in your to do list for weeks. Keep ignoring it long enough, and you’ll find that the deadline will creep up on you, forcing you to complete it in a rush. The best thing to do is every day, tackle the hardest job first. The morning is when you’re the most productive, and it gets the job out of the way. There’s a famous Mark Twain saying about swallowing a frog every morning. That way, nothing else you do that day will be as horrible. If you ‘swallow the frog’ of that task, then you’ll find it much easier to tackle the rest of that list.
  • Keep track of how much you do every day: The time log is a onetime use tool, but it’s worth keeping track of how much you do every day. Take the time, at the end of the day, to measure your output. How much have you done? Is it less than normal? Why is that? Measuring your output in this way will help you keep yourself on track. There are lots of tools online that could help you do this. If you’re a content writer or manager, then a tool like Easy Word Count would be the easiest way to see how much you’ve done in a day. Track those scores, and use them to improve yourself.
  • Budget your time properly: If you’re the kind of person who budgets their time down to the exact minute, then you’re going to find that you’re often late. This is because you’re not planning for contingencies, so any small hiccup in your plans can trip you up. The best way around this is to round up the time you think you need to take. If you think a journey takes 23 minutes, give yourself 30 minutes to complete it. That way, if you run into a traffic jam or other issue, it won’t make you late. If you find you get to your destination early, you can use that time to read, answer emails, or tackle other tasks as you wait.
  • Break down tasks: If you find you constantly procrastinate, then this may be because the task ahead of you just seems too huge to comprehend. This is common, but it can be tackled easily. Break down that large task into its smaller components. Focus on completing each smaller task, one after the other. When you complete a task like this, it’s much more manageable, and you’re much more likely to complete it in time.
  • Avoid getting sidetracked: If you relate to the Absent-Minded Professor, you’ll need help to focus on what you really need to be doing. If there’s something you can’t afford to get distracted from, try reminding yourself out loud of your main task whenever you start to get distracted. For example, if you need to get out of the house and into the car, out loud say ‘I need to get into the car’ when you find yourself going to do something else. You may feel a bit silly to start with, but doing this makes you more mindful of when you get distracted.

Use these tips and tools, and you can be more productive in your everyday life. It is possible to end your lateness for good.

This is a guest post by Brenda Berg. She is a professional with over 15 years of experience in business management, marketing and entrepreneurship. Consultant and tutor for college students and entrepreneurs at https://AustralianHelp.com/. She is self-motivated results driven individual who is encouraged to travel and share gained experience in career, business and self-development.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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