The Reason I Am Always Late


I’m always late. I think it is hereditary as my mother is always late and we both firmly believe we can get anywhere in 15 minutes. As a child, I never got to see a movie trailer as we would always be late to the theater and miss the previews, and maybe even the first few minutes of the movie. As an adult, I have to give myself extra time to get to work appointments so that if I run late (and I will), I will still be on time from the perspective of my clients. My 3pm appointment is going in my calendar for 2:30pm and I will end up being 15-20 minutes early. In my personal life, my husband tells me a much earlier time to leave for road trips and my friends know to order me a tea and that I will be there before it’s time to place the rest of our order.

I recently read an article on how rude it is to keep someone waiting, especially when perpetually late people meet their antitheist, the early bird. Oh, man. That was not my intention. I never intended to be rude; I just truly believed I could get there in 15 minutes. 

It’s no surprise that often in Knoxville traffic, I can’t get anywhere in 15 minutes (unless it’s Target, ‘cause that is only four minutes away, much to my wallet’s demise). If I understand time and distance well enough to alter my work calendar appointments so that instead of being perpetually late, I am on time, why don’t I learn my lesson and just be on time? Instead of creating some life hack, why can’t I get some time management skills? And in my lifetime, will I ever get to watch a movie trailer in an actual theater?

The Reason I am Always Late

First, let’s talk about why people that are always late just can’t be on time.   

Part of it could be culture. Depending on where you come from, it may be widely acceptable to be late. If you’ve heard of the concept of “island time,” you’ll know what I am talking about. But since I live in Tennessee and we run on Eastern Standard Time, that is definitely not my excuse. 

There is also a concept called the “planning fallacy,” where you chronically underestimate how long a task will take to complete (sometimes by as much as 40%). This sounds much more like me, especially since I still firmly believe I can get almost anywhere in 15 minutes. This concept can be exacerbated when you combine a few things: having a Type B personality (that would be me) and not having a good of a concept of time (at least compared to the Type A folks). 

Being an optimistic person can also hurt your chances of being on time. You tend to think on the bright side of things, but this also leaves you unprepared when things go wrong, like when you get caught in a traffic jam. If you prefer to multitask, you are also more likely to be late. In terms of workplace tardiness, a psychology professor at Beloit College found that employee tardiness can be predicted by the age of an employee’s child, where the younger the child, the more likely the employee will arrive late. This has me described perfectly: an optimistic multitasker with a toddler in tow. So, can I just blame it on the toddler? Probably not, since this tardiness issue started long before she was born. But there are some things I can do about it (and you can too, if you are also an often tardy, but still optimistic multitasker with a toddler in tow).

Below is a list of the best be on time hacks I could gather:

  • Break tasks down into smaller, more detailed steps, and then assess how much time each task will take.
  • Block your calendar into 30-minute increments.
  • Add travel or transition time to your calendar for all appointments and meetings.
  • Plan to get to a meeting early to review your notes, grab a coffee, and relax (I do this when I have to meet with clients so I am always on time for them).
  • Consider the consequences of being late (I also do this, but unfortunately it is usually while driving to the appointment for which I am already late).
  • Get enough sleep so that you are thinking clearly (I have a toddler and a puppy, so I am going to count this one out).
  • Move your alarm across the room so you have to get up to hit the snooze button (because I know you are tired). 
  • Set a warning alarm on your phone for when you need to get ready to leave and another alarm for 10 minutes before need to get out the door.

My advice to you (and also to myself) is to plan ahead, think things through, and then make a bunch of alarms go off until you are on time. Hope this helps us both! 


  1. Can I just forward this post to my boss? 😉 I am also an optimistic multitasker, and I love that label because it makes my chronic tardiness sound like a positive thing. Hey, Peter Parker was chronically late too, but it’s because he was Spider-Man and he was busy saving the world! 😂


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