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Being Late is All in Your Head

He’s redefining "on time."

Don’t Be Late

Is your most common greeting, “Sorry for being late”? We assume you’ve tried setting your watch forward and fooling yourself into thinking your appointments are earlier than they are.

If those tricks haven’t worked, chances are, your tardiness is all in your head. Your lateness is real, of course, but the causes are all psychological.

You’re probably not a jerk, even if your friends who waited 20 minutes for you to show up for dinner might secretly think so.

“Repetitive lateness is more often related to personality characteristics such as anxiety or a penchant for thrill-seeking,” Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, told Fast Company.

We’ve gathered a few of our favorite timeliness tips that prove you’ve been psyching yourself out of being on time. You (and your coworkers and dinner dates) will thank us.

Quit Your Magical Thinking
Diana DeLonzor blames your lateness, in part, on “magical thinking.” You’re not alone in your beliefs. The author and researcher found that about 20% of the U.S. population is chronically late, in a San Francisco State University study.

“If once, 10 years ago, they made it to work in 20 minutes, they believe that’s how long it should take,” she told Fast Company. “They forget about the 99% of the times that took 30 minutes.”

She suggests relearning to tell time rather than relying on magical thinking. Write down how long you think it takes to do everyday things–taking a shower, packing your lunch, getting dressed–then actually time yourself. You’ll be surprised.

Downtime = On Time
To keep her New Year resolution to stop her tardiness, Quartz editor Georgia Frances King, got to the root of her problem. She discovered she didn’t have any concept of downtime. Rather than flicking through a magazine or starting to sweep the floor when she has to leave in five minutes, she plans to be still.

“I’ll learn to sit with myself for 10 minutes, even if that means the bathtub goes un-bleached, emails un-sent, and Instagram images un-posted.” King wrote. “I’m not a superhuman cyborg, and life isn’t just one long to-do list. Every minute of the day doesn’t need to be scheduled for maximum efficiency.”

Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than Before, and generally a get-things-done guru, agrees with King. “If you always try to answer one more email or put away one more load of laundry before you leave, here’s a way to outwit yourself: take a task that you can do when you reach your destination, and leave early,” she wrote in a blog post.

Apparently, emails are making everyone late.

You Look Fine
Hillary Dixler over at Eater has some strongly worded advice on getting to dinner on time. “Don’t change your clothes before dinner. Your dining companions should not have to wait through your decision paralysis over a tie, dress, belt, shoe, purse, or cufflink. Instead, wear your restaurant outfit to work and just do your best to not stain it,” she writes. “Make decisions in advance, rest easy knowing you already look good — and are on time.”

What about laying out your clothes beforehand? Just a thought.

Redefine On Time
Sorry, you cannot redefine “on time” to mean 10 minutes late. But you can figure out what “on time” means for those important but undefined appointments.

Chronically late writer Locke Hughes at Greatist changed her ways after figuring out what arrival times made her comfortable.

“In an office where we don’t have set hours, I decided to set my start time at 9:45 am,” she wrote. “For other scenarios—dinner with a friend, a workout class—my start time would be a few minutes before the actual event time, as experts say you should plan to arrive early rather than on time.”

Just because you’re not technically late, doesn’t mean you’ll feel any worse about arriving after everyone else.

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