“Wow, your hair smells really good.” It’s an odd thing for someone else’s husband to say to you, but it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it.

And when the wife hugged me, too, as we all sat down to our restaurant meal that evening, she repeated the sentiment: “Your hair does smell good! What do you use on it?”

Alas, that’s one compliment that will never come my way again. It wasn’t what I used on my hair – it was when I used it. Rather than a recitation of my shampoo and conditioner brands, the appropriate response to my friends would have been, “Of course it smells good. I washed it, like, 20 minutes ago.”

Perpetually Late

For much of my adult life, at about the moment other people would be getting in the car to get to an appointment, I was typically stepping out of the shower, feeding the baby, finishing up an email, or sewing a button on the blouse I intended to wear.

I never knew what it was like to be the one waiting for the other party to arrive. I could just swoop in, and the table would be ready, the meeting underway, or the movie previews ending.

My patient companions were willing to not make a friendship deal-breaker out of whatever “so much traffic” or “the babysitter was late” excuse I’d mumble.

My husband complained and from time to time one friend or another would suggest that I try to be more prompt, but it was my kids who really let me have it.

They were the ones stuck shivering in January as they waited outside for their mom to pull up. They had to deal with getting off the afternoon school bus only to find the house locked up and no one answering the bell.

They bore the burden of providing an explanation to the teacher or the coach or the other kid’s mom eager to get the class, game, or party started. It was rude to be a tardy friend, but it was borderline abusive to be a chronically late mom.

Why Are We Late?

I wasn’t a procrastinator in general, so I looked for an explanation to my tardiness. There isn’t a lot of research, but the studies that exist point to four categories of rationale for those of us challenged in this way:

We Are Unrealistic

In many instances, our view of time is simply unrealistic. We don’t realize it takes longer than we think to get ready, drive, finish what we were working on, etc. We tend to calculate the time needed by relying on the one instance we made it there without hitting a single red light.

We Are Easily Distracted

Often, we get distracted by background noise. So, this time we really were on schedule – until the phone rang, a major news story broke, or the cat looked really cute and wanted to play.

We Don’t Think Ahead

Many of us aren’t used to thinking ahead. Naturally, it isn’t our fault that it started raining and we had to find an umbrella, the dog tracked in mud, or we forgot we had to stop at the gas station.

We Are Inconsiderate

And in many occasions, we are simply inconsiderate of others. Waiting is boring and a waste of our very precious time, which we secretly view as more important than other people’s time.

An honest evaluation indicated that my issues hit every button on some level, so I instructed myself to navigate all four roadblocks.

While people used to try to fool themselves by setting their clocks 15 minutes ahead, in today’s digital age that’s no longer applicable, so I had to come up with something else.

It’s never too late to learn! If, like me, you’d like to transform yourself from Late Kate into Early Shirley, try these strategies:

Get Ready First

Shower and get dressed hours ahead, if possible. That includes shoes. Then there’s time, if necessary, for repairing a hem, switching purses, searching for the matching earring or wiping off the first try at eyeliner to reapply it.

If time still permits, it’s okay to do some work or empty the dishwasher. Since we underestimate how long things take, experience shows that time will rarely permit.

Stay in a Bubble

When you are running on a schedule, ignore distractions – turn off the TV, put away the laptop, lock the pets out of the bedroom, and attend to the phone only to make sure the text or call coming in isn’t from the person you’re meeting.

Make Your Plans Earlier in the Day

What will traffic look like at that hour? Is the gas tank full? What’s the weather forecast? Last-minute crises can be avoided with something promptness-minded people do – “planning.”

Enjoy the Wait

Cell phones have helped with the waiting, providing something to read, a game to play, or a text conversation to catch up on. Waiting time need no longer be wasted time. This is the easiest hurdle to remove, because all it takes is a change in attitude: my time is no more important than anyone else’s.

Although realizing how inconsiderate it is to keep people waiting was the catalyst that moved me to change my ways, I confess that I’ve been most successful when I’m the one who must pay for the tardiness.

I have not missed a plane in years, I build in more than enough time for any type of job interview or meeting with a new client, and I get to doctors’ appointments at roughly the appointed hour.

I’m still a bit challenged by casual lunch meet-ups and walking dates, but I think my family and friends would agree that I’m trying to fix me.

If you’re “late to the party” on this self-improvement endeavor, you can catch up the way I did!

How often are you late to an appointment? How is that usually received? What is your attitude toward your own (or others’) tardiness? What do you think is the best remedy? Please share with our community in the comments below.

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