This Is Why You're Chronically Late—and How to Change It

Dacy Knight

Do you find that no matter how many alarms you set or how much you plan ahead, you continually find yourself in a rush, consistently arriving not-so-fashionably late? Many are afflicted with this inability to arrive on time, and if you're of the punctually challenged set, it could be that you're wired that way.

There's been plenty of research surrounding the phenomenon of being chronically late, and Business Insider Australia recently highlighted two such studies that shed light on why the failure to be punctual is so prominent. The first study, published last year by Emily Waldun and Mark McDaniel, psychologists at Washington University in St. Louis, finds that our perception of time and consequential time management skills are to blame. We easily get caught up in tasks leading up to an event and subsequently lose track of time. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, also identifies how much people struggle at gauging how long something will take. Our miscalculations of these activities, as well as of time itself, result in our failing to be on time.

The second explanation relates directly to your personality. The Freudian understanding sees lateness as a manifestation of self-destructive tendencies. Psychologist Adoree Durayappah-Harrison offers up a more palatable explanation—for some people, being late is simply better than the alternative. In some ways, being late is more efficient (you're never waiting) and abides by certain social norms, depending on the occasion (it can be rude to arrive for a dinner party right on the dot). The most important takeaway from any analysis that seeks to explain why we're always late is recognising your own tendencies and adjusting accordingly. If you have an important interview or a special event where your tardiness could read as impolite, put in the extra effort to adjust your usual habits accordingly. For the situations where you've gotten through life being habitually tardy, you can rest assured knowing that there's a science behind it.

Want to discover more about the science that explains your tardy habits? See what your lateness says about your success and creativity.

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