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The Stress of Being Late

By Blogger
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My wife and I went to a movie and then lunch. As we were lunching, it occurred to me that we did a smart thing without even knowing it!

The smart thing we did was to have lunch after the movie. Why was this smart? Because if we had planned on lunch before the movie and were running late and the service was slow, or if there was an unanticipated waiting list, we would have been very stressed about being late for the movie.

Of course traffic could slow us down as well, but that would be a possibility no matter how we planned the day (see tips below).

My point here is that sometimes you do have control over your schedule and can take advantage of that to reduce your stress or, maybe a better term in this case would be to avoid some stress.

We are chronically late, so I have devised a system to avoid, or at least reduce, that possibility. I don’t like to be late for things for two reasons: 1) it’s rude and in some cases, can cause major delays in the case of medical appointments and tests, etc. and 2) I have tremendous stress when I know I’m going to be late and I don’t need any more than I already have, thank you very much.

With all of our medical appointments during my wife’s treatments (280+ appointments and still counting) I’ve learned a couple of tricks that will help you avoid being late and suffering the resulting stress:

1.When calculating when you have to leave, remember to add time to find a place to park, and then to travel from the car (usually walking, but not always) to the ultimate destination. Don’t forget about waiting for elevators, slow moving elevators, security, etc.

2. Add some time for unanticipated travel delays.

3. Will you need to stop for gas? That will take a few minutes. (Some of these things are pretty minor, but you will be surprised how they add up!)

4. Add the average amount of travel time assuming no unexpected delays.

5. Add a few minutes to be early: if you have to be there at 10:00, plan on getting there at 9:50.

6. Add a few minutes for delays in getting out of the house.

Example: you have a 10:00 appointment and it takes 30 minutes to get there.

Add a Comment5 Comments


My problem isn't so much with bunches of projects, but with details of the projects I have and the tantalizing myth of "it'll only take a second."

First of all, it rarely takes "only a second." (And if it really DOES only take a second, then there is time for another one, right??) Secondly, there is never only one of those things at any given moment.

I seem driven by the ghastly possiblity of actually arriving somehwere earlier than necessary and wasting one of those "seconds" that a one of those little tasks would take.

For example, I'll be ready to go somewhere, on time (!), and I think, "I'll just check my email real quick... it'll only take a second." That's when the Internet connection decides to be really slow, or someone sent me a very large "cute" video that takes a long time to download (and then I have to watch it , of course, due to my curiosity), or there is an important email that just can't wait to be answered, etc.

June 16, 2009 - 11:30am

Hmmm. The fact that you have ADD makes me want to try this. I like the thought of "taking my distractions with me."

In future posts I would love to know how you plan your days. And how you keep the "piles" of projects from overcoming your life when each one is so interesting/important/you really wanted to do it!

June 16, 2009 - 9:57am

Hi Diane

Thanks for your post. I heartily understand your ADD because I have it too... that's one of the reasons we needed all the rules!!

You have to remember that getting there early is NOT lost time, at least it doesn't have to be. See if you can bring some of your distractions with you and then you can do them when you are so early because everything went smoothly!

I think we are often afraid of wasting even one second... plan on having the extra time when you are nice and early.

August 13, 2009 - 8:49am


Great SHARE. One of the best things I ever heard (I also tend to be perenielly running late) is that people who are late all the time are optimists -- they think that on each day, the bus will run perfectly on schedule, the car will be full of gas, traffic will be easy, they will hit all green lights, find a parking place, and be right on time. It's not a conscious process as much as it is an assumption -- all will go well.

I have a different challenge. I have fairly rampant ADD and I can get distracted soooo easily. There are times when I'm just nearly ready to walk out the door 45 minutes before an appointment that is 25 minutes away and end up being late. The dog needs to go out one last time, or I decide after all to change my shoes, or I forget to get my checkbook from the counter and have to go back in the house. Or I get out of the house on time but decide that since I factored in extra time, there are enough extra minutes to drive through Starbucks -- and then the line stalls at the window two cars before I get there and I end up 5 minutes late.

So I could completely use your suggestions. But somehow it seems so defeatist to have to budget an hour and 15 minutes to get to something 30 minutes away.....

June 15, 2009 - 8:51am
EmpowHER Guest

Great suggestions... Thanks!

June 12, 2009 - 9:31pm
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