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Detoxify Your Life: Eliminating Bad Habits Effectively

The Early Bird Gets The Worm: Quit Being Chronically Late

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Nobody wants to be associated with a time waster. A person who habitually shows up late or makes submissions just in the nick of time is no good to anybody. He will only cause unwanted stress and unnecessary panic to the people who are waiting for him.

Often, those with the reputation of being always late, whether it’s for something as important as a curtain call or something as relatively small as a delayed birthday greeting, are not thought of with much lauding and respect. If this were to be compared to a little league baseball team drafting, the chronically late has an equal or greater chance of being picked last as the smallest, most feeble kid in the group. Such people are considered as liabilities or reasons why others would think having them around is a handicap and could lead to failure.

Lateness: The Ultimate Annoyance

Unlike smoking and alcoholism, chronic lateness does not impair one’s health. However, it can cause extreme damage to a person’s mental and social well-being. When taken in tandem with procrastination (another nasty bad habit), perennial lateness is just about the most annoying, reputation-tainting ill habit there is. Like procrastinators, time wasters are social pariahs. They don’t outwardly exhibit their ‘monstrosities’, but they can be quite the vicious leeches they are characterized to be.

We exaggerate, yes, because we have, at least once in our lives, experienced waiting on end for somebody who has not even bothered to call or give ample warning, or somebody who has been calling to say he’s just five minutes away an hour after he’s made his first call of twenty.

Just thinking about it already makes your blood pressure rise, right? Not only did this other person waste your time, but you also neared suffering a stroke from all the anger and frustration. When the culprit finally shows up, you are too tired to argue and simply feel happy that he has finally arrived so you can move on with your business. And the other party finds himself getting away with it and manages to do it again next time. The cycle never ends.

Or this person could be you. You could be aware of how much damage you’re inflicting on the other person, but think that since you do still show up or hand in your submission anyway, things go back to normal and all your mistakes will be absolved. They don’t. People remember. They may forgive, but they don’t forget.

Although they let you off the hook without much repudiation, you can definitely count on being last on the list when picking time comes. Worse, you won’t be on the list, at all.

It’s Not A Medical Condition, But It’s a Disease

There is no cure to chronic lateness, except will. It cannot be addressed by going to the doctor or by taking pills, nor will it naturally disappear if you meditate and concentrate hard enough and hope for telekinetic powers. Lateness, although not a medical issue, can also be considered a disease – a mental and behavioural affliction.

What Causes Perennial Lateness?

No, you can’t simply say “It’s the way of the world.” That’s not how things go. Here are some common causes of chronic lateness.

  • People tend to underestimate time and how long it will take for them to finish things. They tend to accept too many projects and pile tasks on top of each other, and are usually overly optimistic about their capacity and speed to reach the deadline. Such individuals are normally overconfident of their multi-tasking skills.

  • People get a certain ‘high’ or experience a sort of euphoria when they are pressuring themselves to beat a deadline. Thus, they keep on delaying tasks to the last minute and often find themselves frantic and panicky when the real crunch time comes. This state is both painful and fulfilling for some. However, the end result is almost always dissatisfactory.

  • People are scared of facing responsibility, so they procrastinate. They fear either failing or succeeding and being held accountable for whatever the job’s outcome is. Hence, they put things off as long as they can and simply make up excuses or turn in sloppy work. There are people who would rather be accosted for their failure to meet schedules than for their inability to perform well.

  • People are easily distracted. This is not true for all and distractions are often excuses not to plod forward. A more clinical version of this is ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. There truly are certain types of people who cannot focus on a single thing for a significant amount of time. For this case, it is usually the people around him who adjust, because he lacks the mental capacity to organize and plan.

Qualifying The Time Bandits

Have you seen the Stephen King novel-turned-movie “The Langoliers”? The creatures in the story eat time and cause surroundings to disappear. This is what perennially late people do; only they don’t literally eat buildings and concrete roads. What they do, however, is worse. They gnaw at our patience and self-control.

What Are the Usual Habits Of Time Bandits?
  • Most time wasters do not care if they are late. Because they already have a reputation for always being so, they expect other people to make adjustments for them. Their friends and colleagues often find themselves setting false deadlines for these people just to ensure that things continue to run smoothly. If the time waster becomes aware of this technique, beware. He is a trained saboteur.

  • People who are always late try to shield their rude behaviour by being very nice and apologetic. They are often aware that they have this nasty habit but will exercise all niceties to make themselves appear truly sorry and considerate. That’s why even after waiting three hours, we don’t throw tantrums at them. How could we? They instantly greet us with apologies and cutesy smiles on sight. Time wasters are frustrating and tiresome to deal with.

  • Time wasters do not like waiting themselves and will not buy your excuses (because they know every excuse ever blurted out in history), even if you’re only five minutes late. Most of them consider their personal time too precious even at the expense of other people’s time. They are selfish, but they do not appear to be so.

  • Time bandits usually have cluttered minds and are highly disorganized, even with their personal belongings. This is because they tend to squeeze in too many things into so little time. They enjoy the feeling of being ‘busy’ and important, but fail miserably at completing these tasks with flying, or even satisfying, marks. They are also prone to cancelling appointments and commitments at the last minute, usually after discovering they have bitten off more than they can chew.

  • Some chronically-late people are drama kings and queens. They do so because they want to elicit reactions from their targets. They just want to be talked about. This is true of individuals who enjoy making grand entrances at parties.

Always late people are quite a dangerous breed. And it would do well to set a game plan to save yourself from potential anxiety or just avoid them altogether. If you’re always late, thinking of an excuse is futile because people won’t really listen to your excuses and sob stories anymore.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Please Don’t Join ‘Em

You can’t correct a mistake by making another mistake. Hence a time waster will not be better dealt with if you decide to just jump in and be one yourself. The objective of this book is to not become a nuisance to other people and their time.

What You Can Do

Nip the nasty habit at the bud, before it becomes a full-blown rose and pricks everyone with its thorns. Thus, if you’re reflecting any of the above symptoms and mindsets, you need to be alert. You could be on your way to being everyone’s least favourite person. And, surely, you don’t want that to happen.

Remember, people have lost jobs, money and meaningful relationships because of their chronic lateness.

Here are some tips:
  • Start by admitting that you are a time bandit. Understanding and acknowledging that you have a nasty habit and that you need to change it is the key step in overcoming it.

  • If you sense you’re going to be late, give notice to the concerned party immediately. With the proliferation of cell phones and the advancement of communication, this should not be difficult to do. In fact, you really have no excuse.

  • Be honest about your excuses. If you’re going to be late for 30 minutes, don’t create false hopes and say you’ll be there in ten minutes. Being late is already an infraction. Lying about it magnifies the hassle tenfold.

  • Learn to say ‘no’ to certain jobs and requests for favours. The less you have on your plate, the easier it will be to finish them all at the end of the day.

  • Avoid overestimating your capacity to perform. Even superheroes have their limits. Allow enough room for changes. You never know what will happen along the way. When calculating how long it will take you to accomplish a job, add around 30% to allow a greater margin for error and unexpected events.

  • Relish in the thought of finally being early. Realize that being where you need to be beforehand causes fewer wrinkles and attracts less criticism. If you want to be respected, you have to also learn how to respect other people. Don’t be contented with being just in the nick of time.

  • Prioritise. Weed out things that are irrelevant and focus only on what really needs to be done. You have to prepare for a crucial office presentation tomorrow; do you really need to see a movie now? Qualify your choices and rank them according to importance.

  • If your chronic lateness is difficult to deal with at first, you can start by being early for an appointment or submitting your report a day before at least once a week. Gradually increase the number of such accomplishments as the weeks go by. It all has to depend on your pace. Work at a rate you’re comfortable with. The process is slow; but at least, you’re doing something about the habit.

  • Reward yourself for the positive. Keep a log of your progress so you have something to look back on and keep yourself consistently motivated to get things done on time or ahead of time.

  • Do what you can today and now. Try not to procrastinate anymore. Post reminders where you can easily see them everyday, like your bathroom mirror. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time planning that you fail to actually execute the actions. Set alarms on your watch, mobile phone, PDA, or what-have-you to keep yourself from forgetting commitments and obligations.

Wrap Up

Battling chronic lateness is not easy. In fact, it is a slow process that requires a lot of willpower and discipline on your part.

Whenever you feel yourself straying, pause immediately and reflect. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to do this?” Perennial lateness can be controlled if we quit rushing to agree to certain things. Asking yourself this question won’t really take more than a few seconds. It’s a good time investment, considering how much stress and frustration it will save you if you find yourself unable to perform in the future. Remember that you are only human and you are allowed to err. But deliberately making the same mistakes is another story.

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