I don’t like to criticize, but you’re not living up to your end of the bargain.
I turned in this column right on deadline. My sainted publisher put aside important news and common decency to bring it to you. And where were you? You could have been reading these words of wisdom ages ago, with the obvious benefits that would imbue, but instead you busied yourself with nonsense like working and sleeping and watching “Cooking with Paris.” (Her Frosted Flakes French toast really is the bomb, right?)
In short, you were late, and I’ll bet it isn’t the first time.
But with a little help from Laura Clarke, it could be the last time.
Since you apparently believe that your chronic lateness is charming and endearing, you may be surprised to know that in her helpful article for BBC Worklife, Clarke argues that “a look into the psychology of lateness offers a glimpse into a mind that may be malfunctioning.”
As result of this malfunction, you can be perceived as “disorganized, chaotic, rude and lacking in consideration.” Of course, you are disorganized, chaotic, rude and lacking in motivation, but don’t you really want to keep all that under wraps, especially if you’re someone who needs a paycheck, or friends?
Before you start bristling — and you know how you love to bristle — forget those wonderfully creative excuses for which you are so famous. While “some excuses, particularly for acute lateness, are fairly universally accepted,” Clarke writes, “an accident or illness, for example … others aren’t so easy to swallow.”
Yes, she’s talking about your pathetic attempts to blame your computer or your internet connection. And be honest now — how close have you been to explaining that your dog ate your report? Frankly, at this point, your boss would be happier if your dog did the work, and you ate the report.
Interestingly, one of the major malfunctions of persistent lateniks is optimism. You sincerely believe you can get to work on time, despite the fact that leaving five minutes to travel from your bed to your office has never worked, even when you appeared at the morning status meeting in your pajamas.
And speaking of minutes, a study by psychology professor Jeff Conte shows that while Type A people ( “ambitious, competitive”) could, without clocks, accurately judge that a minute took 58 seconds, Type B people (“creative, reflective, explorative”) felt a minute had gone by after 77 seconds.
(Though it is not mentioned in the research, it is well known that any minute spent meeting with the Human Resources Department feels like it takes 3,456 seconds.)
Or maybe you think the quality of your work excuses the fact that you can never turn it in on time. Nice try, but to psychologist Linda Sapadin this represents “an obsessive thinking problem.” You believe the need to wear the perfect jacket on a date is so essential, you get to the restaurant a half-hour late. You care so much, you end up looking like you don’t care at all.
But you do look great, sitting alone at a table for two.
If the above exegesis has made you want to conquer your chronic chronological disfunction, here are some tips.
If it’s a problem at work, moving your internal deadline backwards can both make you late, which you like, and make you right on time, which your boss will like. Though a project is due on Friday, you convince yourself that it’s actually due on Wednesday and work like the devil to get it done by Thursday. You think you’re late, but in the real world, where your bosses live, you’ll be right on time.
(This doesn’t mean you should turn the project in early, lest your boss assumes that you don’t have enough work and gives you more to do. This will not end well.)
You should also encourage your colleagues and friends to “take a stand and set boundaries.”
When author Clarke was an hour late for a run in the park, her fellow runner announced that “she wasn’t going to make any more plans with me.” You can imagine the result of this kind of behavior.
You may never have to go for a run again. Or work on a soul-killing project for which you will never get sufficient credit.
Play this right, and you won’t even have to read this column the instant it appears.
Which is OK with me, as long as your dog reads it first.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.