Why Optimistic People Are Always Late

I’m late for everything. Always have been. I don’t want to be. I know it’s rude to others and I’m working on it. But it turns out that chronic tardiness may be hardwired into me — a result of my natural optimism, according to an expert on lateness. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

Habitually late people tend to be optimistically unrealistic, according to Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again. Our optimism warps our sense of time. We’re sure we can workout and run three errands in the one hour before we need to pick up the kids at school. We think that because we’ve done it. Once. A long time ago. We tend to remember that day, and forget about the innumerable times it didn’t work out and we left family members or colleagues hanging.

Optimism and a positive outlook on life are good things. They are proven to reduce stress, foster success and even extend our lives. And there are situations where we should prioritize other things over running to meet schedules and deadlines. Some wellness experts suggest “clockless Sundays” where you go through the day’s activities at their natural pace without ever asking the time.

That said, punctuality has a very important place in the workplace and can impact your career. Tardy employees often work longer hours to make up for their late arrival, but that doesn’t overcome the negative impression created by lateness. Research indicates managers are less likely to promote tardy workers. But as DeLozer notes, tardiness is typically part of who we are, and changing it takes time and effort. Just telling a late person to be on time I like telling an overweight person, ”Don’t eat so much,” she says. She recommends the following to help modify your behavior:

  • Commit. Set an intention to work on the issue every day for at least a month.
  • Relearn how to tell time. Late people tend to underestimate how long a task will take by up to 30%. Start timing various tasks to determine how long it really takes to complete them.
  • Plan to be early. Building in a time cushion may go against our natural optimism, but it works to keep us on time.
  • Welcome to wait. Always be ready with a book or work papers so you can feel like you are accomplishing something during your early-arrival wait time. We optimistic types like to feel we’re always getting one more thing done!
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