Summary of Causes of Chronic Lateness

Note that for the sake of brevity, I refer to the various issues leading to lateness in terms of types: e.g. “improvisers” who are late because they take an improvisational approach to planning. These types are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, I have found that most chronically late people show the characteristics of more than one type.


remedies for ineffective planning

Improvisers never create a comprehensive sequence of tasks. If they plan at all, they take a casual “grab bag” approach to planning in which they randomly make a mental note of the tasks that happen to come to mind.

Idealists plans are too good to be true. They:

    • don’t factor in possible delays and time spent waiting;
    • don’t consider their previous experiences, and instead fixate on their very best times;
    • believe that they are more efficient than they really are;
    • and in some cases, make totally unrealistic underestimates that suit their needs and wants.

Task Omitters forget to budget time for one or more preparation and/or transit tasks.

In many cases, people with these planning issues are right-brain dominant creatives whose thinking is:

    • based on non-linear networks of sensory and emotional associations, rather than on left-brain language, making it more difficult for them to plan out a comprehensive sequence of tasks;
    • dominated by emotion and imagination, which makes them more likely to idealistically imagine things going like clockwork than to remember the numerous frustrating times when things didn’t go as they planned.

Creatives also typically like to be spontaneous. They find routines boring and constricting. They resist detailed planning and go off plan if they do.

Alternately, or additionally, persistently late people may not budget enough time because they are:

    efficiency shouldists who rigidly believe that things should go like clockwork and that they themselves should always be perfectly efficient;
    task-value shouldists who believe that tasks that they consider less valuable should take less time to do; or
    mastery seekers who believe that they if they just keep trying they can find a way to make things work perfectly.




Some people knowingly risk lateness when they plan.

Waiting Avoiders risk lateness because they would sooner be late than wait.

Prioritizers consider other things to be more important than being exactly on time.

Sprinters look forward to beating the odds by arriving on time in spite of leaving at the last minute.



Chronically late people may go off-plan due to:

Competing Motives:

Indulgers can’t resist, and can’t stop doing, pleasurable off-plan activities. They also find it difficult to curtail pleasurable on-plan tasks.

Achievers go off-plan because they look forward to completing off-plan tasks.

People Pleasers are delayed because they can’t end conversations or say no when others ask them to do things.

Sleepers’ morning fatigue makes them silence the alarm and go back to sleep.

Preparation Avoiders, Transit Avoiders and Destination Avoiders feel negative emotions that make them drag their feet. Transit and destination avoiders may decide to postpone departure.

Speeders overestimate how much time they can save by speeding up tasks.

Justers repeatedly delay getting on-plan by short increments of time.

Attention Problems:

Immersives’ attention becomes so tightly focused on what they are doing, that they forget about the time, the plan and the goal of being on time.

Flitters lose track of the time, plan and goal because they are easily distracted.

Drifters are late because their attention is difficult to engage. Only when they are almost certain to be late does the fear of lateness get them focused on preparation.



Punishment avoiders are only motivated to be on time in situations where they expect that there will be negative repercussions.

The Punishment Immune believe that there won’t be repercussions for lateness.

The Punishment Insensitive know that there will be repercussions for lateness but aren’t worried about them.

The Punishment Resigned don’t believe that they are capable of being on time or they expect failure and rejection even if they are on time, making the idea of trying to prevent lateness seem pointless.



Power Games:

Masters feel superior when they imagine others willingly waiting for them.

Top dogs feel dominant when they imagine others resenting their lateness but feeling powerless do anything about it.

Rebels’ lateness serves as an empowering demonstration of their independence.

Servants keep those in power waiting in order to make them feel as disempowered as they feel.

Victims are motivated to be late by passive-agressive anger at people who they feel have wronged them.

The Love-Entitled Tardy expect others to react to their lateness in a way that makes them feel valued and cared about.

Love-Testers are late to find out whether others care about them.

Attention Seekers find any attention to be better than being just another face in the crowd.

Instrumental Self-saboteurs use lateness to provoke consequences they want to happen, e.g. being fired from a job they dislike, but don’t want to take responsibility for.

Preemptive Self-saboteurs use lateness to provoke the rejection or failure that they believe is inevitable. They look forward to getting it over with and feel empowered by taking matters into their own hands. They would rather be rejected for being late than being rejected for their self-perceived unlovableness or incompetence.

Self-handicappers look forward to succeeding in spite of lateness. They also know that if they do happen to fail they can blame it on lateness.

Next: Becoming Punctual