Alone In Your Time Zone

Are you plagued by chronic lateness? Here's how to tell -- and what you can do to change.

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Do you have a chronic lateness problem? Be honest with yourself. We won’t call you out, but you know who you are. If you don’t, then here is a clue: You miss deadlines and appointments at least 30% of the time (leaving behind lost opportunities and a damaged reputation). Need more clues? Here are a few others:

Every encounter begins with an embarrassing apology and/or an elaborate explanation. You often exaggerate — sometimes you even lie.

You are often in hot water with family members, friends, and supervisors who are frustrated by your habitual tardiness.

People resort to giving you false deadlines in an effort to trick you into being on time.

You often cancel plans at the last minute (or just fail to show up), choosing absence over the embarrassment of having to explain yet another extremely late arrival.

The truth is, most punctually challenged people are fully aware that they are habitually late, but few understand why and how they fell behind schedule, let alone how they can catch up once and for all. According to Diana DeLonzor, a time-management expert and author of Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged (Post Madison; $13.95), figuring out why you are chronically late is critical to your ability to move out of the behind-time zone and into the in-sync-with-the-world zone, where punctuality is expected and rewarded.

Symptoms of chronic lateness are similar to other self-destructive patterns, such as gambling, eating disorders, and alcoholism. All of these habits have the potential to damage and even destroy careers and long-term relationships. But because chronic lateness is less socially unacceptable than other habits, we rarely go beyond the surface to understand and analyze its root causes. Therefore, we fail to recognize how difficult it is to overcome. However, understanding the root cause is the key to conquering a problem that, while not considered as harmful as other compulsive behaviors or addictions, can be just as devastating to your professional reputation, personal relationships, and self-esteem.

“Most chronically late people actually dislike being late,” DeLonzor, an admitted former “member of the punctually challenged,” explains. So why do they do it? “The motivations are often subconscious, related to personality characteristics such as anxiety, lack of self-control, or a penchant for thrill-seeking. While some people are drawn to the adrenaline rush of that last sprint to the finish line, others receive an ego boost from over-scheduling and filling each moment with activity.”

DeLonzor says that the usual tactics people use to trick themselves into being punctual (such as setting their alarm clocks ahead by an hour) do not work. “It doesn’t matter what time chronically late people get up in the morning,” she says. “Instead of using the extra time to arrive to their destination early, they just find more things to do before they have to leave.”

But it’s not entirely hopeless. If you recognize chronic lateness as a serious problem, rooted in everything from childhood experiences to your family and cultural background, you can adopt strategies to change your routines and your

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