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Have a ‘chronically late’ personality?

If you know why you’re always tardy, Dr. Gail Saltz, a TODAY contributor, says you can take steps to change your behavior and be on time.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

It doesn’t matter what’s your appointment, you’re always late. Always. You’re late for business meetings, your kid’s play, dinner with your new in-laws … everything. As the saying goes, you could even be late for your own funeral.

Sure, your chronic tardiness bothers you, but it probably infuriates others who are constantly wasting their time waiting for you. Ever wonder what this is all about? Do you genuinely want to be on time and make your life happier and less stressful?Before you can change your behavior, you have to understand why you are chronically late. Much like procrastinators, people have different reasons for being tardy. Here are some of the main personality traits of so-called “late-niks”:

  • Risk-takers: These people are addicted to the thrill of leaving for their appointed destination only when they absolutely must. They don’t mind taking the risk of being late, because they don’t want to risk being early and waiting for others. This may be because deep-down they fear feeling rejected, if they wind up waiting for others.
  • Freedom-makers: Those who felt trapped by authority as children often grow up to be “late-niks,” who use lateness to feel free. Their intense wish not to be controlled by others may be at the root of their lateness. Or they may have a rebellious nature that essentially tells others: “You will not tell me how to run my life and when I have to be somewhere.”
  • Organization-slackers: Another reason someone may be late is poor organizational skills. They have difficulty planning out a realistic schedule and calculating how long each of their tasks will take and how long it will take them to get to their appointments on time. These people generally have poor organizational skills, though they may be very intelligent.
  • Trouble-avoiders: These people, unconsciously or even consciously, wish to avoid the people they are supposed to meet or the place where they are going. This may be the reason for their lateness. In these situations, lateness may be a form of passive-aggressive behavior. Since they’re angry that they must go to an appointment, they make others wait for them. These late-niks may not even be aware of their anger.

If you want to stop being chronically late, the most important thing to do is to decide you really want to start being on time. Then, you have to figure out which “late-nik” personality you have. Understanding the underlying reasons why you are late, will give you a shot at changing your behavior. The next time you’re planning to be somewhere, recognize your tendency to be tardy and tell yourself why you think you be late. For instance, say to yourself, “I want to take a risk and leave at the last possible moment.” Or say, “I don’t want to be controlled, so I won’t make an effort to be on time.” Or say, “I constantly misjudge the amount of time needed to get tasks done, so I don’t leave enough time to get to my appointments.” Or say, “I would like to avoid the person I’m meeting, so that’s why I’m late.”If you make a conscious decision to deal with your possible motivations for being late, you can make an concerted effort to be on time. Then, build an extra 15 minutes into your schedule when you have an appointment. Bring a book, so you won’t mind being early. If you can never be early, then you will always be late.

Dr. Gail Saltz's bottom line: Punctuality demonstrates a sense of responsibility. Being on time will impress others and make them feel valued.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie,” by Dr. Gail Saltz. She is also the author of "Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts," which helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .