The problem of tardiness affects all portions of the population equally – young and old, male and female, the wealthy and the poor. Research shows that people who are chronically late score lower on tests that measure nurturance, self-esteem, and self-discipline, and score higher on measures of anxiety and distractibility. Another finding from research is that people who are consistently late underestimate the passage of time.
If you are a late-comer to appointments, you are probably familiar with the embarrassment you feel when people, all of whom seem to be able to get there before you, begin to see you as a problem. You know well the jolt of anxiety that comes as you walk into a room late and notice glances between those who have arrived on time, and perhaps the dreaded rolling of eyes. You know the humiliation of being the target for someone’s sarcasm – “Well, we’re glad you could join us.” You know the experience of making up excuses. “The traffic held me up.” “I had to take an important phone call and the other person wouldn’t stop talking.” “I had a family emergency.” “I couldn’t find my keys.” But the excuses only work a few times – and then the raw truth sets in. People learn not to take you seriously because, frankly, they feel that you don’t take them seriously. If you did, you would be there on time. People can see through the excuses, especially if these excuses are part of a repetitive pattern, and they resent being misled. Chronic tardiness affects not only the way others see you, but also the way in which see yourself. It compromises your integrity.
People who need to stay busy claim that constant activity makes the day go by faster. They believe that they are living life to the fullest or that they are more successful than other people. Studies of the natural cycles of our bodies, however, our biorhythms, suggest that continuously staying busy simply creates unneeded stress. Nature calls for us to intersperse busy periods with down time in a cyclical pattern throughout the day. Arriving a few minutes early to a meeting, sitting with nothing to do, gives us some time to reflect on the day and to sort things through. It gives us a rest so that we can then focus more clearly on the meeting.
Self-discipline in adulthood is often a reflection of how we learned to manage responsibilities in childhood. The expectations learned within our families as we grew up influence the way we structure our activities in adulthood. Did we learn to make up our beds everyday, to pick up after ourselves, to get homework assignments in on time? (Conversely, were these tasks so formidable, or even used as punishment, in childhood, so that we gave them up altogether once we left home and felt we could finally take it easy?)Some Other Reasons for Lateness
There are several additional factors that might be associated with a person’s problems with punctuality.
If you are distractible, have difficulty with focusing, or have problems with attention, you might be prone to tardiness. For example, people with attention deficit disorder sometimes have problems with their punctuality.