How to Stop Being Chronically Late — Permanently

A Tale of a Chronically Late Creator

How to stop being chronically late

I’m late for everything. There’s a good chance I’ll be late for my funeral. Sure, there are times when I don’t care if I’m late, but 95% of the time I’m late because I try to fit too much stuff in too small of a window.

Being chronically late is embarrassing. There are many days I’m ashamed of myself for it, but for some reason I can’t force myself to get my shit together — until today. Today was the last straw.

My son missed the bus for the umpteenth time this morning. He missed it because of me. I drove him to school as he sobbed in the backseat. He didn’t get to spend those twenty cherished minutes with his friends. I stole that time from him.

I steal time from loved ones. I steal time from my employer. I steal time from everyone who must sit and wait for me — tapping their fingers on the table.

I really hate myself for it. But it’s all under my control. I’m not going to make excuses for my lateness anymore. I’m not going to joke about it, saying ha ha, yeah, like I’ll be there early tomorrow.

I’ve got all kinds of defensive, stupid coping mechanisms for lateness. But it’s all on me. Being late is selfish. Chronic lateness tells the other person they don’t matter. My six-year-old son had to tell me that this morning — my six-year-old!

This morning was an all-time low.

It’s time to be on-time

I share my vulnerability with you, because I know I’m not alone. There are two kinds of people: those who show up early and those who are late. There’s no on-time for anything.

I work so hard on all my other habits, but lateness never made the list — like it wasn’t a big deal. It’s a huge deal. Maybe this is a taste of what rock-bottom feels like.

I developed a plan this morning. I dropped everything. I walked through everything that makes me late and I’ll undo each one, so timeliness becomes foolproof.

I’ll share my plan below.

If I can help one person besides myself, become prompt, then I did my job. Being chronically late is a disease. It effects everyone around us. Who knows what people say behind my back, but what they say to my face isn’t pretty.

I’m tired of being selfish. It’s time for a big change.

How to stop being late — permanently

I realize I’m writing this with a zero-percent track record of timeliness. The irony is not lost on me. This story is a public note to myself. I’m putting this out to the universe, because it’s time for me to grow up, stop making excuses, and take control of my life.

Here’s the seven-part, foolproof plan for never being late again:

  1. If it can be done the night before, do it the night before. Instead of my morning shower, it’ll now be my nightly shower. I’ll pack my son’s lunch and pick out his clothes in advance. This save me 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Solidify an earlier arrival time. I had a time in my head that was down to the wire. We would arrive as the kids were getting on the bus. My new time is 30 minutes earlier. I can take that time from the space I made with my night-before time. Plan for roadblocks outside your control and add them into the equation.
  3. Jettison when necessary. Being on-time is the new rule. If I skip shaving I skip shaving. If the trash cans don’t make it to the street, so be it. I will jettison anything non-essential to the mission-critical task of never being late again.
  4. Track it. I’m going to track my daily timeliness. My goal is to never be late for 30 days, then 60, then 180. If I can hit 60 I’m confident I’ll be cured. I’m making the public statement here that I’ll do an updated story in 60 days (if I hit this goal). If there’s crickets, I blew it.
  5. Get a tiny reward. I’m going to reward myself each day I’m on-time. rewards are an important part of habit-building. They help the brain solidify the need to repeat the same behavior. I can’t do this by sheer willpower. I installed a sobriety counter app called Nomo (I have no affiliation with them). The app gives out virtual sobriety tokens when I’ll hit certain milestones (one day, ten days, two weeks, etc.). There are thousands of ways to reward and track your habits. Pick one that works for you.
  6. Reflect. Chronic lateness is an addiction. I need to treat it as such. I plan to check-in once I get to work, reflect on my progress, and meditate on how much smoother my morning went, being proud of myself for hitting my milestones.
  7. Give yourself a big reward. I plan to order a bronze pocket coin I’ve had my eye on — not one for addiction, but one related to stoicism. If I make it all 60 days I’ll buy myself this bigger reward, which will help as a daily reminder I’m on the right path.

I have no doubt there will be a few days where I’ll fall off the wagon. I don’t want to feel this way again. Lateness is ugly. It effects my relationship with my family, because I get frustrated with people when I’m in a hurry. It effects my work. Chronic lateness is insidious and needs to be corrected. I stand (sit) here today, affirming to do something about it.

Will you join me?

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