Why Are People Chronically Late?

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Yes, some people are chronically late. It may not seem like a big deal to them, but it most certainly is to everyone else. And it doesn’t just affect relationships. Tardiness is estimated to cost the U.S. over 90 billion dollars in lost productivity every year. So, if being late can strain (and sometimes ruin) relationships and cost a lot of money, why are people STILL constantly late?

Why Are People Chronically Late?

If we’re going to find a resolution, a way to solve this problem, we have to start with an investigation. A collection of facts. Let me share with you some of those facts. And hopefully, in the process, dispel some of the myths and misconceptions that are causing turmoil in really important relationships.

One study at San Francisco State University found that over 20% of the population is chronically late. Research has shown that people who are always late, on average, underestimate how long it takes for time to pass by as much as 40% off the mark. 

But it’s not because late to the party peeps don’t value other people’s time. You see, that’s a misconception. It’s actually far more complicated than that.

The brain of someone who’s chronically late looks a little different from the brain of someone who’s an early bird.

In fact, blood flow in the brain of latecomers suggests that many people who are late have a pattern of brain electrical activity that’s referred to as the cortical slowing. It’s characterized by an elevation of low frequency theta waves, and a reduction in high frequency beta waves in the prefrontal cortex.

Your prefrontal cortex is the area of your brain that’s responsible for planning things, complex cognitive behaviors, decision-making, moderating social behaviors, and adhering to rule learning.

The Prefrontal Cortex Has Something To Do With Being Late

It’s in your prefrontal cortex that your brain figures out what to do with conflicting thoughts, like:

Hmm. Should I organize my sock drawer? Or, should I grab my keys and leave?”

Discovering this was pretty interesting for me because before I started down the path of healing my brain, I had almost no blood flow to support my prefrontal cortex. At that time, I was chronically late.

By the way, I know this is true due to my brain SPECT performed at the Amen Clinic (Google that if you’re interested in having one done for yourself or a loved one). 

At the height of my ADD, I was really struggling with making simple decisions, like:

I know I’ve got 30 minutes to get out the door, but I also know I want to do an Instagram post. And my closet is a mess. Should I do the Instagram post and also clean my closet, or should I get ready and leave on time?

Now, this is not to make an excuse for those who are late, rather… it’s to help minimize the anger that you feel at someone who’s always late.

How To Minimize The Anger You Feel Toward Someone Who Is Always Late

When you’re waiting on someone, it’s not personal. They don’t think better of themselves. Most likely, it’s that their brain (prefrontal cortex) doesn’t function as clearly as someone who’s punctual. But don’t let that discourage you!

Everyone has the potential to improve this area of their brain and adopt the habit of punctuality.

While those are just some of the facts ma’am, there’s much more to the story! All of which you’ll find on The Chalene Show episode, titled: How To Be On Time Part 1!!!

In this CAN’T MISS episode, you’ll hear:

  • Many additional differences between those who are always on time and those who struggle to be punctual
  • Up-to-the-minute studies explaining why you’re late or early
  • How punctual behaviors are formed during childhood
  • Several personal anecdotes which really exemplify how lateness is learned
  • Why couples can be so different (in the punctuality department) yet learn from each other
  • A candid / real-life phone call with my parents – who taught me how to be, ummm, late
  • Dozens of audio messages from my listeners venting their frustrations with those who are late

Make sure you’re subscribed to The Chalene Show and check out PART II of this podcast series on lateness!

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2 responses to “Why Are People Chronically Late?”

  1. Wow Chalene that is fascinating and very helpful as I have struggled with being punctual all of my life. The thing about trying to decide what to get done first, when there are always multiple things to be done, can feel overwhelming, and I hate getting chewed out for being late when I respect and value others and their time. Great article, very insightful, can’t wait to listen to the Podcast. Thanks for sharing, have a great day!

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