I’m always late to everything!

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m a recent-ish college grad and am working my first position related to my college major (although I’ve been working since I was 17). My entire life I’ve been late to everything. I have no idea why. I’ve tried clocks and timers and tricks, talk therapy and even hypnotherapy and medication, all to no avail. It’s not that I don’t care about or respect people I’m meeting/bosses/coworkers, I just can’t be on time. This has been going on my whole life. I’m often even late to work right now while I’m working from home.

The only reason I haven’t been fired from my current job is because I’m the top ranked employee in my company (despite being 15-20 years younger than everyone) and often finish a whole day’s worth of work in 2-3 hours.

I’m currently looking into moving from where I currently am (a suburb) to a very big city where no one has a car and everyone uses public transit. But I have friends there who say the public transit is constantly late and takes at least an hour and a half to get anywhere. I’m still debating whether or not to take my car with me. If I can’t be on time to open my laptop to start work or get in my car and drive 20 minutes to my office, how on earth am I going to be on time to catch public transportation early to make sure I get in on time? Are bosses in big cities more lenient about punctuality? Is there a ‘perk’ or something I should look for in job descriptions that allows me to continuously be 20 minutes late? Flexible scheduling? Should I just give up?

Please help! I don’t want to be like this anymore.

Readers, what advice do you have for this writer?

{ 840 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi all. The possibiilty of ADHD has been mentioned, and so I’m asking that we focus on other advice for the letter-writer now (because it’s not helpful to have zillions of comments about it if in fact that’s not the case). Thanks!

  2. Littorally*

    You’ve tried so many techniques, but what I don’t see in your question is — what is it that makes you late? You say you “just can’t” be on time but, blame and generalizing aside, what occurs in the time between when you should be sitting down in front of the computer for work and when you actually do sit down for it? You can’t fix what you can’t effectively troubleshoot.

    Is it that you always find yourself thinking “oh, I have time for five more minutes”? Is it that you start an activity thinking you can finish it before you have to move on to work, but the activity takes more time than you anticipated? Is it that you tend to underestimate how long it takes to get ready once you’re at your desk getting logged in to start your day? You have to target what is actually happening in order to see effective change.

    I have ADHD, which comes with an attendant time blindness, and I’ve gotten very good at managing that element of myself. For me, it is all about knowing when I can’t start a new activity. It is better to stop sooner and start getting ready, even if it means I’m a little early — or a lot early. There is something to do when I get there.

    1. Myrin*

      Yes, that was the first thought that popped into my head immediately after reading this letter – what exactly happens in the time before you’re officially late? I feel like this is crucial information, not just or even particularly for us to give you apt advice, but also for yourself so that you might be able to tackle the situation more easily.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        LW is very “DRIVEN.”
        It’s not always a plus to finish a day’s work in 2-3 hrs. as she says. She may burn herself out like a car engine revving too fast, or get a job where they want it “good” more than “fast.”

        Asking herself what kind of boss she is to herself, in her own head, is a good question that therapy may not have covered. What does she tell herself? This is about one’s work philosophy and approach. She can read books or talk to a coach or therapist about it but it’s a BELIEF SYSTEM — not a DIAGNOSIS.
        People don’t always realize what they’re telling themselves until they think about it.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Yeah. As a reformed late person, one habit I found really hard to kick was telling myself little stories to justify why my lateness was okay or inevitable, such as “I’ll make up the work later, it won’t take long!” or “but last time X said they didn’t mind!” and so on. And I knew, actually, that making up the work definitely would take a long time and X definitely did mind, but so long as I could tell myself these stories then I kept on being late. “I’m a top performer 15 years younger than everyone else and can get a full day’s work done in two hours!” reminds me a lot of those stories.

          I am not saying that it is not true, but I will say that jobs where they will pay you for 8 hours of work that you can get done well and completely in 2 hours are not that common, and OP is leaving the one that they currently have and absolutely should not rely on finding another. And I’m concerned that they will end up in a job where 8 hours of work really will take 8 hours, or where they are only an okay performer, and they will keep telling themself this story even when it is no longer the case.

          1. skipping girl*

            I have ADHD and this is a common issue with it. It’s called Positively-Valenced Cognitive Avoidance. Basically you stress out “oh no I have a task/thing I need to do” and then immediately comfort yourself with “but it’s ok because I work better under pressure/get things done quickly”.

            The result is reinforcing avoidance behaviour patterns and not actually learning how to manage what you need to do.

            There’s a paper called
            “Incautiously Optimistic: Positively-Valenced Cognitive Avoidance in Adult ADHD” by Laura E. Knouse and John T. Mitchell that I found fascinating

            1. Jaydee*

              Wow. That’s EXACTLY what I do! And I know that both things are lies. I know that the thing I’m anxious about probably won’t be as bad as I think it will. And I know that putting it off will absolutely take more time or make someone else upset. But I keep falling for them just like Charlie Brown keeps kicking that football.

              1. skipping girl*

                Because, according to that article, you (and I) are using the positive thoughts to escape from the stress and anxiety we have about a task, which, the researchers argue, actually decreases the likelihood that we’ll Do The Thing.

                “We propose that these thoughts, despite their feel-good content, function to help the patient escape from negative emotions and that they often represent the first step in a pattern of behavioral avoidance.”

                They also talk about how the people in their case studies seem to treat Doing The Thing as something they’ll “want” to do later. Like “I’ll clean out the garage this weekend” with the underlying unconscious assumption being that you’ll wake up on Saturday *wanting* to clean the garage. Which you won’t. No one wants to do that.

                I’m not going to be a different person on Saturday than I am on Tuesday. I don’t want to it now, why would I think I would wake up with a clear desire and drive to do it on Saturday?

                That article gave me an absolutely fascinating understanding of my own unconscious thought patterns.

            2. Jess*

              Just read the paper–I’ve realized I was already doing many of the suggestions for addressing it with CBT. I kind of backed into them via trial and error, but they work most of the time and those are pretty good odds :)

      2. Anne*

        Surprised a therapist hasnt brought this up and developed techniques with OP. Maybe a very very specific timetable to get them out the door in the morning.

        OP, I think I’d find another therapist to help you with this, because I don’t think the ones you’ve been seeing have been helpful. (It can take an awful long time to find a good one)

      3. Bluesboy*

        “what exactly happens in the time before you’re officially late?”

        I obviously can’t know if this is the OPs situation, but I know it is for my wife – it’s basically as described above by Littorally.

        My wife always keeps herself busy. She’s also not very good at judging time. So, say she knows she needs to go out at 8am, and she’s ready at 7.50…she will start doing something else in the meantime!

        As she can’t judge time very well, maybe the thing she has started takes 15-20 minutes to finish. So she leaves late. That can have knock-on effects, like hitting traffic, or missing a tram.

        The only thing to do is literally force herself to stop doing things. Just sit down for ten minutes. Maybe watch the news for ten minutes (there is a clock in the corner of the screen which is helpful). She wanted to load the dishwasher? It will wait till we get home. As long as she’s washed and dressed, and the cats have food and clean litter…anything else can wait.

        1. Sasha*

          Wow, I had no idea my husband posted on here! (I’m sure you aren’t him, but you are saying exactly what he says to me)

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This is me, plus with my dyscalculia, it’s hard to judge how much time something will take. Sitting around makes me anxious so I’m more likely to leave early and arrive WAY TOO EARLY just to avoid being anxious about leaving too late. Or, I will wait too long and then be almost late anyway. :P

          I’m going to try that advice.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        I was hoping someone would reference that comic; it’s such a great explainer (as a chronically punctual person it helped me understand and sympathize more with a relative of mine!)

      2. Thoughtful*

        If anyone figures out how to override the resistance to transitions, I am 100% here for it. That is my exact problem.

        I have literally just…stood at the bathroom sink in the morning after brushing my teeth, because my brain doesn’t want me to turn around and exit the bathroom.

        1. MissCoco*

          I do the same thing with brushing my teeth!

          I no longer do that in front of the bathroom mirror. I walk around my house brushing my teeth and do stuff like locate my backpack, check that it’s not currently raining outside, etc.
          I usually rinse at my kitchen sink because my bathroom is some kind of morning routine black hole, and kitchen usually is close to a next step (get coffee, find keys, etc)

          1. Suspiria*

            off-topic but FYI it’s best not to rinse after you brush your teeth, because you want to keep the fluoride film toothpaste leaves on your teeth undisturbed for as long as possible so it can do all its good work for your dentine!

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Surely that also means that all the crumbs and dirt you’ve dislodged from the nooks and crannies in your teeth also stay in your mouth?

              1. Sasha*

                My dentist says that too. He said if you must rinse, do a second brush with clean toothpaste.

                1. Courageous cat*

                  I’ve heard this many times and think it’s mildly ridiculous, plenty of people don’t get cavities and have healthy teeth and still rinse. Future dentists can pry rinsing from my cold dead hands.

            2. Spessartine*

              I tried this after my old boss (a dentist) recommended it, and I started getting a ton of canker sores! Google told me it could be related to the sodium lauryl sulfate that’s in a lot of toothpastes. I’m not sure if there’s any real science behind that claim but I do know I was plagued by them a lot less once I resumed rinsing after brushing. It was a bummer because I’ll confess that I’m really bad at flossing and my mouth can use all the help it can get.

              1. Anlina S.*

                I am super prone to canker sores, but I get them far less often after switching to a toothpaste without SLS.

                (Sensodyne is the only brand I found that is available most places and isn’t like $10 a tube and marketed towards the all-natural crowd.)

        2. SqueezyCheese*

          I am sorry this is happening to you, but man, reading your comment and seeing the comic made me feel less alone. I thought it was just me. I have also just stood or dawdled in place because I can’t seem to move to the next thing.

          The only thing that kind of works for me is literally, out loud, telling myself in my best drill sergeant voice “SQUEEZYCHEESE GO RIGHT NOW”.

          1. Ann Nonymous*

            I boss myself around all the time and definitely give myself a mental list of the next three tasks to do. I try to not let myself think about it or if I “want to” or “feel like” doing X. It usually works.

          2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

            My version of this is hearing my grandfather say “Do it now” lovingly but firmly. It was one of his cardinal rules. His voice in my head is one of the few things that will break me out of the stupor.

        3. Filosofickle*

          Transitions is mine too! Or one of them. That’s so helpful to see. I used to stall going to bed for hours, like a child, no matter how sleepy I was. It was the transition! Plus a dash of shame that I didn’t do half of my to do list and if i go to bed I’m acknowledging this day is over with it all undone. And also if I go to bed I’ll have to wake up tomorrow and face the music. Staying here is safe and known. Transitioning forward is risky.

          I used to be late chronically. Rarely to timed events, like a dinner reservation or a meeting, so i can’t say I have time blindness even though I can lose track easily. But I was always 20 minutes late to work and hangouts, anything where a strict time didn’t matter. I was definitely optimistic about how long it would take to get there and tended to do “one more thing” to avoid leaving. For me, what finally did it was fear of the anxiety monster. I was so stressed every second of my drive there, tapping the steering wheel, panic rising, cursing at myself constantly for being late…again. It wrecked me and sent me spiraling at the beginning of every day/event. In the end, I discovered avoiding that anxiety was stronger than avoiding the transition.

          1. yala*

            “lus a dash of shame that I didn’t do half of my to do list and if i go to bed I’m acknowledging this day is over with it all undone.”

            Oh.

            Oh MAN.

            That is EXACTLY how my sleep habits got so messed up. My insomnia became a Genuine Problem at my last job for all of those reasons (and because once I went to sleep, the next things that would happen would be: wake up and go back to That Place). But largely because “Wait, I was Supposed to Do More Things.”

            Even now, sometimes the only way I go to “bed” is by lying down on the couch and telling myself I’m just going to “take a nap.”

        4. SchuylerSeestra*

          I have to stop myself from sitting on the edge of the tub after a shower. Otherwise I’ll just get lost in my thoughts and lose track of time.

        5. it's me*

          My mother takes ages, ages, ages, to make a move or a decision, and I’m wondering if this is why. While I’ve briefly looked into ADHD/executive dysfunction as an explanation, I haven’t seen the aversion to transitions addressed or discussed this way before so it’s very interesting.

          1. mrs__peel*

            Not to armchair diagnose, but having difficulty with transitions is also a common autism spectrum thing as well.

        6. yala*

          Same tho.

          I try to pray first thing in the morning, because I won’t manage it at all if I don’t do it then.
          But it usually translates to anywhere from 3-10 minutes of me kinda kneel-sitting on the floor, blinking and trying to remember how to be a person before I actually DO anything.

          Transitions are the WORST. “Ok, I need to eat dinner/shower/go to bed/get up, instead of the thing I’m doing now…” but it’s like there’s a disconnected wire somewhere.

        7. Anathema Device*

          I work with children, some of whom have ADHD or are on the Autism Spectrum, or just hate transitions, and I recommend transition warnings to caregivers/parents ALL the time. We often do this with kiddos naturally (“we’re leaving in 5 minutes!” or “finish up your math because science starts in 5 minutes”), but for some kiddos, this is not enough. I tell parents to use multiple warnings, and have the kids acknowledge this (“we have to leave the park in 10 minutes” then have the kiddos repeat this back, and do it again at the 5 and 2 minute marks).

          I’ve had some older kids tell me they use alarms to help with this. They will set one alarm ~5-10 minutes before they have to stop something so that they can start wrapping up whatever they are doing without it being an abrupt transition when their second/final alarm goes off that lets them know they have to stop. Many, many people struggle to switch attention, so these warnings help to start disengaging ahead of time, making the actual transition easier.

          Also! Try not to go from a fun/preferred activity right to something you hate! That will make it so much harder to follow through.

          1. Who is the asshole*

            Oh I like the pre-alarm. I do the alarm, but having advance warning might make it mentally easier.

            1. saxicide*

              This is what I do!
              The snooze feature on my phone alarm is 10 minutes, so I’m a fan of setting the pre-alarm for 10 minutes before I need to leave. Alarm goes off? Hit snooze, put away whatever I’m doing/prep to transition activity. Snooze goes off, time to actually transition.

              I also have an alarm that prompts me to make a decision about whether I’m going to bed on time (in which case it’s time to get started on my long ass bedtime routine) or if I’m staying up late. Without the check in of the alarm, I end up staying up late unintentionally AND unhappy about it way too often.

        8. BBA*

          I don’t know if this helps anyone struggling with transitions, but similar to Spoon Theory, someone by the name of Luna Corbden has written about what they call “spline theory” – the mental cost of transitioning when dealing with things like executive dysfunction and hyperfocus. They talk about transitioning as requiring the generation of a new, or at least different, network, basically. A network of ideas, sensory perceptions, connections, etc.

          They’re writing from the perspective of an autistic person, but it’ll might translate okay for anything related to executive dysfunction and hyperfocus.

          To quote – “When I switch tasks, I am making a network of all the projections and grooves and slots and shafts and strips of metal and curve-drawing tools and geometrical maths used to draw up the task. I am loading and linking together all the details in my brain that are connected to the project at hand. And that’s going to take time, whether that project is making a phone call, disciplining the dog, or writing a novel.

          It doesn’t just take time. It takes a bunch of energy and processing resources. It isn’t fun at all. My brain has to work really, really hard.”

          Link incoming…

        9. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          Saying “I am having trouble with this because transitions are difficult for me” is surprisingly effective for shifting my brain from I CAN’T I CAN’T to oh hm, I’m having some trouble here and then to remembering the best thing is just to push through the discomfort and get on to the other side of it where, in minutes, I will have forgotten I was ever uncomfortable because either I’m hyperfocusing or the time blindness has kicked in. If I’m going to be like this then I’m damn sure going to USE the parts of it that are relatively beneficial to me.

        10. Who is the asshole*

          Slow down (but continue moving).

          For me it’s usually that I am low-key exhausted and have been for a while and my body is like “REST!” and standing in the middle of a room is nicer than running around and doing executive function like a boss.

          So I allow myself to stand there for some moments without pushing myself (= “getting some rest”, at least psychologically) and then I focus on deliberately doing one thing at a time in a measured pace that feels natural, but not running around, if I can avoid it at all. Of course if you’re in a time crunch there’s only so much you can do of that. In that case at least allow yourself to let every task that is not vital at the moment to fall by the wayside.

          But if I have the time and listen to my body about the pace it wants, I actually feel better after some minutes of doing this. (Just don’t go back to the original speed at this point or you’ll land right where you started.)

      3. Persephone Mulberry*

        I can actively feel my brain unraveling from the cognitive dissonance of needing to read this article (and the procrastination one) RIGHT NOW even though I’m supposed to be working.

      4. anone*

        Thank you for that. I’m a chronically early person but in a way that is also dysfunctional and this comic helped me understand why. I get to places so early that it’s AWKWARD and inefficient, but I’m so terrified of being late and so hyperaware of all the things that might happen to slow me down that I literally can’t be at peace until I am AT THE PLACE. It’s like having the red screamy anxiety monster there from the beginning even when it’s totally out of place. I guess that’s the ‘early person is fundamentally pessimistic’ to complement the ‘late person is fundamentally optimistic’.

        LW, I don’t know any certain answers, but if you think about what it is that you gain from being late (e.g., the part of you that you are protecting or nurturing by doing whatever it is you’re doing that leads you to be late), forgive the hell out of that part (important step! self-loathing is de-motivating), and then also think about, “ok, if this part of me is a toddler that means well but needs some firm and loving guidance, how can the adult part of me work with that?”, that is how I approach all my many anxieties and weird brain-things. Not fighting with myself but lovingly acknowledging, accepting, and re-directing.

        Otherwise yeah, it’s a bit of a crapshoot to find an employer who will be ok with you being chronically late. Some might, many won’t, and it doesn’t matter where you live.

        1. it's me*

          This is interesting — if anything, I’m chronically early, leaning toward tendencies like you’re describing. If I make an appointment at the end of the day or middle of the afternoon, I’m distracted enough knowing that it’s coming up that I feel like I can’t start or do other things first.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            I am SO MUCH the same. I wake up with that anxiety monster and get almost nothing done before important meetings or appointments as a result.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I love this response and so agree that there could be some gain from being late. You are heavily invested in defeating your own self, OP. I know several people who are in their 70s and 80s that remained chronically late all their lives. What they got in return was a long list of missed opportunities and regrets.
          If you spend any time watching them you’d notice that getting from one day to the next is PURE struggle.
          Tasks that should not be hard for some reason are painfully difficult.

          One of these people, who is actually a dear person, cannot make even the simplest decisions without long and involved agony. For example: Dear Person is in the store and spots two pairs of earrings. She likes both but decides to only buy one pair. I timed her. It was 45 minutes deciding between the two pairs of earrings. One set was $15 and the other was $16, they were a similar style and equally nice. Cost was not an issue, as she had a very healthy checking account due to indecision on how to invest the money. (Yes, VERY healthy account.) After 45 minutes or so, she finally picked one. When she got out of the store, she regretted the choice. I couldn’t even get upset, this person just appeared to be so tortured to me. Everything followed a similar pattern and consumed HUGE and unthinkable amounts of time.

          In the middle of the agony, I suggested what I do in those instances which is I just walk away and I don’t buy either one. That was not an option she said.

          In that moment, I noticed another pattern. This dear person had a hard time trusting the advice of others. She would hire a plumber or car mechanic and then question their ethics. I got so I hesitated to recommend people to her.

          So add this one up:
          She has difficulty making a decision.
          She has difficulty figuring out if something is important or not.
          She has difficulty trusting even the closest people to her.
          She had put up walls all around herself designed to keep other people out.

          And it worked. As the decades rolled by, people just dropped out of her life. She was left alone with her worries and her knowledge gaps. The sink is not repaired because she does not know how plumbing works. She did not buy a vacuum cleaner because she did not know which one was the best one to buy.
          This list goes on. Her house is not livable any more. She’s had legal issues because of her tardiness. We won’t talk about the pets. Her car has left her repeatedly stranded because she kept putting off repairs.

          OP, I could go help 10 other people and get them pointed in a different direction in the time I spent trying to help her. In talking with her, she sincerely believed that our country should go into other countries to help them by just SITTING with them. No don’t bring them food, water, clothes- rather just sit there with them. And “BE” with them. At our respective cores, we were two very different people. This gave me huge insight as to how she thought life worked.

          1. Ally McBeal*

            Is it possible that your friend is actually Chidi Anagonye? ;)

            In all seriousness, I am a chronically, awkwardly EARLY person and cannot deal with chronically late people, mostly because I had a mother who insisted that “15 minutes late is the new 5 minutes early” up until her anxiety monster hit and she drove recklessly as a result. I don’t know why she did this, it wasn’t analysis paralysis like your friend suffered from. But being in the car with her was terrifying (my friends would always get offended when I habitually hung on to the door handle or the little handle you hang your dry-cleaning on, until they rode with my mother for the first time). Arriving late and having everyone stare at us was embarrassing.

            Thank goodness for smartphones and all the apps that allow me to kill time after I have arrived, usually 15-30 minutes early, at my destination.

            1. Frieda*

              Ah, this is me, anxiously early for EVERYthing, in response to a mother who does stuff like try to clean the (whole) house before running one errand because it’s “so nice to come home to a clean house.” She does not do mornings, in a chronic and unresolvable way. Once despite my best efforts she sabotaged my attempts to cheer a friend on at the finish line of a marathon – I made it with seconds to spare despite my many many efforts to get us out of the house on time.

              My partner is often 5-10 minutes late when it doesn’t matter. He’d never be late when it does matter, and he always texts to let me know. It doesn’t bother me at all.

            2. Anon for this*

              I’m generally early too (which is fun in covid times where the hospital says you can be at most 10minutes early and I have to walk up and down outside for somehow 20minutes :p). In my case I have a particular fear of lateness if I’m going to meet my dad because he is always on time and expects others to be too (and will grumble about it if they’re not). This caused some issues with my ex because his family was much more ‘we’ll arrange a time and maybe we’ll show up sometime within the next hour, maybe not’. I found it honestly incredibly stressful to act that way…

            3. allathian*

              I didn’t grow up with a chronically late mother, but I’m at a point in my life where I’ve just had it with people who can’t be on time. I don’t really care if it’s laziness, executive dysfunction, or whatever, I just think that lateness, whatever the reason behind it, is profoundly disrespectful of everyone else’s time. My life got much better once I decided to cut systematically late people out of it. I’m misanthropic enough that if a person is chronically late to everything, there’s nothing in the relationship that could possibly compensate for that sufficiently to make me think it’s worthwhile dealing with the frustration that their lateness makes me feel.

              That said, I’m glad that my employer has embraced flexible working hours. We’re only expected to attend the meetings we’ve agreed to attend and to get our jobs done. But I realize this is a privileged position and that a lot of jobs can’t be done this way.

          2. armchairexpert*

            My Mum’s a lot like this. Not to the extent where her house isn’t liveable, but it definitely gets super messy/dirty because she gets stuck in a loop like: the kitchen floor needs mopping. But to do that, I’d need to sweep first, and that means cleaning off the counters beforehand. But one of the things on the counter is the mixer, which really needs to go in a cupboard, but it doesn’t fit because it still has that broken sandwich maker in there, and I need to take that to the bin but I’m not sure if you can put electronics in the bin, and also maybe it can be repaired, and I know there’s a Repair Cafe every second Sunday but I can’t remember which Sunday, so I guess I could Google it, but my internet connection is down and every time I ring the helpdesk they’re condescending to me so I haven’t fixed it yet.

            It’s a combination of distrust (she once didn’t get an ADSL line because the person on the phone couldn’t guarantee that there would be an available…port?…on the central server?….because they were like, there are thousands, there’s always room? And she was like, thank u next), anxiety, plus the absolute rock solid conviction that there is always an Optimum Way to approach a task and you have to figure that out first and more than a sprinkling of ‘most people don’t take the time to optimise but I’m much smarter than the average bear’.

            And yeah, she’s always late to everything.

        3. Spotted Kitty*

          I’m chronically early as well. I also can’t be at peace until I’m at the place, even if it means I have to walk around the block seven times before I can go in. My therapist had me actively work on being five minutes late to things just to try to get some exposure therapy in.

      5. Anon today*

        This comic makes me twitchy. I work in radio. If I’m not in the studio by 6:02 am, everything turns off and the station goes dead air. It has made me not very tolerant of lateness.

      6. Forrest*

        • I’m in this picture and I don’t like it.

        (About ten years ago I answered a silly online quiz question of “what’s the biggest lie you wholeheartedly believe?” with “It’ll only take me XXX minutes to get there”, where X can be two minutes, twenty minutes, two hours etc as long — and this is important! — as long as it’s approximately between 5-20 minutes shorter than it actually takes me.)

        1. nonegiven*

          I asked a friend how long it took to get from her house to school. She told me 20 minutes if you hit all the red lights but I’ve made it in 12.

          1. green beans*

            Oh, my friend and I got into a big argument one time because they held that it took 45 minutes to get somewhere – and it did, if literally everything went perfectly from the time the door closed until you got there, including getting to the subway station when a train was actually in it.

            But the average time it took was 45-50 minutes. That was a very eye-opening conversation into why they consistently ran late.

      7. SeluciaMD*

        This article was fantastic – and the comic was even better! I used to be chronically late (and there are still things I struggle with) but I’ve gotten better over the years at differentiating – maybe even only in my weird brain? – between the things that are NBD to be late to, and the things that are (like work). I’m not perfect, but I am much better.

        My BFF, however, is DEFINITELY 100% a CLIP. She’s wonderful and creative and, yes, optimistic and I adore her – we’ve been friends for nearly 30 years. But her problem is absolutely the first one in the article: despite being a human who has lived on this planet for nearly 45 years, she consistently and chronically underestimates how long things take. How long it takes to corral her wonderful, nutty kids to leave the house. How long it will take to get to point B from point A at a certain time of day. How long it takes to get through the check-out line. How many times we’ll need to stop on our annual road-trip to the beach because REASONS. Her family is all like this too. I refer to it as [Family Name] Time because it is like they run on their own completely independent construct of time. I plan around them accordingly and it has made my life infinitely better LOL because I’ve just made peace with the fact that despite their best intentions, they are unlikely to change.

        For me, when I was at peak “late to everything, all the time, without fail” the thing that I was able to do that helped me shift my behaviors was to stop allowing myself to do that “one last thing” before….whatever. Like, if I said to myself, “I can take 5 minutes to read this article before I leave” I would bookmark it and tell myself I could read it when I got to wherever I was going because I’d be early and I’d have time then. I also put a wipe off board thing on my fridge so when I was tempted to empty the dishwasher/look up that recipe/deal with the overflowing recycling/clean the cat box before leaving to go somewhere (“it’ll only take me X minutes! I’ve got time!”) I would write it on the wipe-off board so I knew I’d remember to do it later and then I left. It wasn’t a perfect system, but it did help me retrain myself to not give in to that impulse to do that *justonemorequickthingitllonlytaketwominutes* without worrying that I’d end up forgetting to do it all together (which was often a driving fear behind my doing of things at the last minute when I thought of them).

        It’s not a perfect system and it didn’t work 100% of the time but it did help me develop new, better habits. I’m still a few minutes late for work stuff – I don’t think I’ll ever be the “early is on-time person” but I’m better! Good luck to you OP!!

        1. Quill*

          So my mom is a chronically early person and I firmly believe that this is a primary conflict between her timekeeping and mine: I know better than to allow myself to do one last thing. She, on the other hand, insists on never having One Last Thing to do, because the dishwasher MUST be emptied as soon as it’s done and someone has free time, etc. (While I find this the surest way to just waste time by having to restart whatever I was previously doing with less presence of mind, it doesn’t count as restarting if I have to go make a cup of tea but if i have to make another chore happen while I’m there the thoughts are gone.)

          1. nonegiven*

            I try to unload the dishwasher while I’m waiting for the microwave, toaster, water to boil, etc, no matter how many things I have to wait on to finish it.

      8. Nikki*

        Thank you, this comic made my day!

        I particularly love the red screaming lateness monster. Deeply relatable.

        I am a chronically late person and talking openly with punctual people has helped me better understand both ways of being. :) I have improved a lot on my lateness, but it remains a challenge. I’m so glad that people who find punctuality natural and important are empathetic towards people like me! I’m not intentionally doing it, I do value your time, and I’m often devastated when I fail to control my lateness.

      9. Frankie Derwent*

        I used to be a CLIP but I’ve progressed to okay late. I think I started being more mindful of time when I had weekly meetings with my thesis adviser in another country where the culture was less relaxed with tardiness.

        After graduate school, I started working and my one-way commute typically ran from 1.25 to 2 hours. Whenever I was doing something that I didn’t want to quit, I reminded myself that I could still read my book during commute, or thought of the expense of taking a cab (and there was no guarantee of having one any time before 10AM), and how embarrassed I would feel if I came in late.

        I also loved the scenery between the train station and my office building so I factored in extra 15 minutes to enjoy the walk.

        It also helped that my work had some flexibility (we could start anytime between 7 and 9:30) and I always aimed to be there at 8:30 so I could eat breakfast first. More often, I arrived at around 8:45 to 9AM, so I missed my real goal, but I had some buffer. I was still late maybe once or twice a month, though, but I live in a city with notorious traffic and a rundown train system, so when I was late, I could count on a few others being late, too.

    2. ThatGirl*

      I wonder this too, and asked similar questions above. To me that matters as much as anything.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      You’ve tried so many techniques, but what I don’t see in your question is — what is it that makes you late?

      Seconding this! We need to understand the behavior(s) that cause you’re lateness before we can troubleshoot.

    4. Properlike*

      I also have ADD, and one of the reasons it took SO LONG to get diagnosed is that I am *never* late, to anything. Don’t miss deadlines, either; at least, not ones imposed by outside entitities.

      Putting this here anticipating “but I can’t possibly because I finish all my work faster than anyone else!” Medical professionals might say that to you as well. But also this, to dovetail with what Littorally says, above: Medication does not magically fix bad habits. I’m medicated, and it is wonderful for keeping me focused once I’m sitting down to work, but rubbish until I do the *sitting down to work* step. Medication is not magic, and the particular medication may not have been what would work for you, or the dosage wasn’t right, etc. etc. Also, you can set all the alarms in the world, but if you snooze them or shut them off, it doesn’t work.

      As for the lateness: it’s not a big-city vs. suburb thing. As Alison has pointed out in numerous posts, “late” matters to the person in charge of deciding what late is. I live in a city full of public transportation, and maybe that would be an excuse a couple times, but not weekly, and not every day. I can picture you bouncing around and around for the newest thing that will “fix” you, but I wonder if you’ve really been committed to getting it fixed, or if your ability to be a high performer has made that fix optional? If you’re committed to making long-lasting change, then possibly an ADD coach would be your best bet.

      1. Lizzo*

        Re: coaching, a coach who focuses on executive function and has an understanding of ADD/ADHD would probably be the best fit.

        And yes, I will second the thought that it will require determination and persistence to form new habits and make them stick for the long term. That’s true regardless of any diagnosis.

    5. NW Mossy*

      Yeah, mapping yourself out in instances of lateness can help a lot in identifying aspects of your behavior that might be good candidates to help you break the cycle of chronic lateness. For example, if part of your struggle is misjudging how long a task will take (“oh, I’ll just answer this email real quick” becoming 20 minutes), you can target your efforts on just that aspect for a couple of months can be more effective than a generalized “stop being late.”

      If you live with someone that you trust, it would be ideal if you can ask them to observe you getting ready for work or another scenario where you’re often late. They may see things that you don’t even consciously register that you’re doing, and those insights can be really helpful.

      1. JustaTech*

        I had a coworker who was like this: she was always late or very nearly late to everything except time points in the lab, because she always took longer writing than she anticipated.
        We’d be headed to the lunch room “I’ll be right there!”, and she’d show up in 15-20 minutes. Going to the lab for something that *didn’t* have an exact starting time? 15 minutes after when she’d said.

        After a little bit everyone just got used to it because 1) she never missed anything really important, 2) she wasn’t goofing off she was working, 3) she never missed deadlines (though she might get real close) and 4) she was really, really good at her job.

    6. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, my experience of the perpetually late people is that they have no accurate sense of time passing. They think literally everything takes “five minutes.” You know what you can do in about five minutes? Walk two blocks. Brush your teeth and wash your face. Find your keys if they are lost in a minor way and you’re rifling around your counter. Five minutes is a short period of time! It won’t take you five minutes to drive to work unless your work is really close by, for example.

      I can’t say I’ve had any luck with late people, really, but I don’t think it would hurt to try to figure out how long it actually takes you to do things. Put a timer on and see how long it takes you to do activities. Heck, maybe just have an alarm going off every 5 minutes to startle you and remind you to keep track of time?

      1. Littorally*

        That’s something that helped a lot for me, actually. Realizing that “oh I’ll just do X real quick” actually meant a time commitment of 10-15 minutes if I actually wanted to do it all the way through did a lot for my ability to plan my time.

        It can help, too, to think of the time things take in terms of each other, rather than as compared with an objective measurement on the clock. If you have no internal sense of what “five minutes” feels like, then it’s rather meaningless. But “the time I spend in the bathroom brushing my teeth, using mouthwash, and running a comb though my hair” makes sense to me.

      2. JJ*

        This is very interesting, I wonder if you reset your “X takes Y minutes” defaults, it could help? For example, I assume anywhere I need to drive to is 20 minutes away.

        What if you reset whatever you do before work in this way? What if “It takes me 5 minutes to get dressed and ready for work” becomes “It takes me 30 minutes to get dressed and ready.”

        Also, are things like getting coffee/breakfast happening before you sit down at your desk? Maybe move them to post logging-in-to-work.

        1. Quill*

          Oh god, it takes 20 minutes to get anywhere in my hometown if I can navigate by a memorized route.

          (it actually does. until I have to pull over because I have no conception of WHERE THE HECK I AM because they closed a road and I have to find a new route.)

        2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

          I started literally timing activities so I could revise my behavior accordingly. Now I know that it takes me seven minutes to shower if I’m not washing my hair and twelve if I am. Now I also know that doing everything I usually want to do before bed takes at least one hour and sometimes two. I still get to bed later than I’d like, but starting my bedtime routine at 10:30 in hopes of going to sleep before 1 a.m. has really done a lot for me.

      3. SchuylerSeestra*

        Yeah, I don’t really have a good sense of time. I’ll get stuck in the weeds of a task and not realize how long I’ve spent on it.

      4. boo bot*

        Yeah, this is huge for people with ADHD – an inability to gauge the passage of time is really common (and by inability, I mean literal inability, not just a failure to pay sufficient attention to it – it’s a form of executive dysfunction, or what I think of as “brain stuff”).

        I think an alarm every five minutes would drive me insane, but for a while I set an alarm every three hours during the day for exactly that reason; it didn’t make me any better at perceiving the passage of time (see again: literal inability) but it did really make me understand *how bad I was* at perceiving the passage of time. Sometimes, it felt like a whole work day had passed between alarms; sometimes the 12 PM alarm went off, then the 3 PM alarm seemed to go off 15 minutes later. It was kind of trippy and I’m glad I did it for informational purposes, but it definitely didn’t fix anything.

        In terms of being on time, I default to assuming everything takes 30 minutes to an hour instead of 5 minutes, which gets me where and when I need to be, but eats up a lot of my life, because a lot of things don’t actually take that much time.

        (Also complicating this: I cannot necessarily find my keys in five minutes if they’re lost in a minor way and I’m rifling around my counter, because objects disappear when they’ve been in the same place for more than a few minutes, but that’s a different issue.)

        1. RG*

          Hmm, this reminds me of a time (before I was diagnosed but heavily suspected I would be) when I tried to plan out the literal blocks of my day. I mean, 7:30-9AM to wake up/shower/eat breakfast, 9AM-6PM for work (since my work calendar was variable), 6PM-7PM for dinner, etc. Like you, it didn’t make me better at perceiving the passage of time, but more aware of how bad I am at perceiving the passage of time, and estimating how long something will take.

      5. Aileen*

        Someone posted the wait but why article above, that helps, and then what Aggretsuko is saying is absolutely true.
        I was chronically late (I’m still late, but way less often) until I figured out how long it actually takes to do something. I had to really dedicate myself to focusing on this aspect of my life for a year for it to really take hold, but here’s what I did:
        1. I timed EVERYTHING. Getting up, getting out of bed, brushing my teeth, running back upstairs for my phone… everything I did.
        2. I used Waze and Google maps. Anytime I needed to be somewhere, I put it in my calendar and let Google tell me when to leave. It was almost always before I thought I needed to.
        3. 1 and 2 now go together – I need to leave (be actually driving) at this time, it takes me 10 minutes to get out the door to the car, 30 to get ready, etc.
        4. No more last minute things – if I need to put a load of laundry in? it has to wait. If dishes aren’t done from dinner? need to get them later. Eventually I figured out how to get these things done ahead of my “time to leave” but for the first few months, it had to be drop everything, I’m leaving. This solved the perfectionist aspect where I couldn’t leave until I got something completed.

        Other stuff I did – reset my calendar at work to remind me at both 15 minutes and 3 minutes for meetings. Since most were online, I got the 15 minute one and was like, I don’t need to go anywhere, and then before you knew it, I was late to a meeting where all I had to do was click a link!

        Good luck! It’s hard, but it’s so worth doing. I feel way better about myself now!

    7. MissGirl*

      I’d also like to know if you’re ever on time to things. I have a brother who’s always late except when it’s something HE is excited about.

      1. JJ*

        This is SO annoying! I had a roommate who would not only do this, but make everyone wait WITH her. Sometimes for literal hours! As a hyper-punctual person it was agonizing.

    8. Colette*

      One of the things I’ve started messing up in the past year is forgetting that getting out of the house to the car – especially in the winter, when I have to put on boots and a coat, grab my stuff, remember that I forgot a mask and go back to get one, and all the other stuff that goes with getting on my way. So if I am going somewhere that’s a 15 minute drive, I have to leave 20 minutes before to account for that time.

      In the case of getting to work, are you accounting for travel time + getting out to the car + parking + getting from the car to the office? You really need to factor in all of those pieces, as well as add on a buffer (5 minutes at a minimum).

      1. EPLawyer*

        This is exactly what I do. Okay, I have to be at work at 9, it takes 20 minutes to drive, so that is 8:40, it takes me 15 minutes to get dressed, that is 8:25, it takes me half and hour to wake up, eat breakfast, that is 7:55, add in a 15 minute buffer for “I forgot my keys” or whatever, that is 7:40. I have to wake up NO LATER than 7:40 to get to work on time.

        Also, one thing that REALLY helps me is I have my bag for work packed the night before. That means it is by the door ready to go. It gives you time to remember — oh crap I forgot the charger for my laptop BEFORE you absolutely have to be out the door and don’t have time to stop to go get it. More oganizing the night before makes it easier to get out the door in time. WFH has much the same plan — don’t be LOOKING for the file you need for the first meeting of the day just as you sit down. Have it by your computer the night before (presuming no privacy concerns of course). Your calculation of when to get up is still based on what time you have to be in front of your desk and how long each thing ACTUALLY takes, not how long you think it takes.

        1. sofar*

          Yep, prepping the night before changed everything for me (as a chronically always-15-minutes-late person). Before lying down to sleep in bed, I have:

          – My lunch packed, zipped in my lunchbag, in its spot in the fridge.
          – My laptop bag and purse (with keys in it) by the door. Hunting for my car keys was often the reason I was late.
          – My gym bag packed and IN the trunk of my car.
          – My entire outfit (down to jewelry and underwear) set aside on a designated chair.

          It also helps to have the makeup/skin care I always use every morning in a little bucket by the sink, so I’m not wasting time tearing through drawers and cabinets looking for my facewash/day moisturizer/mascara.

          I am NOT a morning person (I move slowly in the a.m.), so I can generally accomplish this all within 15 minutes at night, as opposed to 20+ minutes in the morning when I’m cranky.

          Also, before leaving work for the day, I put (on a fresh sheet in my notebook) a quick to-do list for what I MUST do right away in the a.m. to prep for whatever my first meeting of the next day is.

          1. Quill*

            oooh, yes. If I need to use it every day? IT MUST REMAIN VISIBLE. Minimalism can go to hell, my pills and toothbrush must be ready next to the sink, nothing that I need as part of a routine should ever be put “away”

            1. sofar*

              There have been times I’ve rifled through the same drawer multiple times and TOUCHED the item I needed and shoved it out of sight multiple times in the morning. So I feel you.

          2. DeweyDecibal*

            Yes! I’m always missing my phone/keys/wallet. My husband actually bought me this keychain and wallet insert (they’re called tiles) that sing if you need them to via your phone or make your phone ring with you press the keychain (even if the phone’s sound is off). Has drastically changed my ability to not be late!

            1. sofar*

              Tile is life-changing. I just got a new keychain b/c my old one’s battery ran out. Sometimes, I find myself in the predicament of not being able to find my phone OR my keys, in which case I use Alexa to ring my phone and then use the phone to find the keys.

              I am a mess.

          3. EmmaPoet*

            I am not a chronically late person, but doing this helps a lot in the mornings, because I am a daydreamer (and getting on my laptop in the morning can suck me into a “I’d much rather read something fun than get dressed” spiral where I suddenly need to be dressed/made up/hair done and making breakfast in five minutes instead of the more relaxed 20, and so I’ve started banning it in the AM.)
            Even on days when I don’t work, I lay out the clothing to keep the routine going. And back in the days when I got to go fun places, I’d pack my bag the night before with whatever I needed for a day of museums/libraries/wandering through little towns with fun stuff. Now it’s more like, “I have to go to CVS, so I bring an extra bag for the stuff and any coupons I have.”

        2. Aerin*

          Yes to all of this! Whenever I have anything with a firm start time I work backwards to account for all the stuff I have to do to figure out what time I have to get started. Building in buffer time is always super important. Like, if I have to be there at 8 and it takes 10 minutes to get there, I’m leaving by 7:45. In the beforetimes, I aimed to be out the door for work by 6:15, but I knew that as long as I was in the car by 6:30 I’d be okay. (Of course, the problem with fake deadlines is knowing they’re fake, so whenever that starts slipping I have to get more strict about aiming for the 6:15 to rebuild the habit.)

          Creating a solid routine for both bedtime and work mornings has helped me a lot. Prep like swapping my daily pill case and prepping lunches happens at night, and before I head to the bedroom I’ll do a final mental inventory of anything out of the ordinary that I might need to prep for tomorrow. Anything that requires me to make a decision (even if it’s just wanting to dress a bit nicer than usual) happens the night before as well. That way in the morning all I have to really worry about is hygiene, putting on clothes, and getting out the door.

          A current thing with WFH is that I don’t shut off the alarm on my phone until I’m actually logging in for work. It buzzes every 10 minutes and gets snoozed even after I’m out of bed, so if I’m zoning out on the toilet or something I get a reminder of how much time I have left. Having clocks in near-constant view helps combat the time-blindness. (One of the best purchases I ever made was a clock to hang over the living room TV.)

          One last thing: I think part of why people struggle with being on time is that they’re averse to being somewhere too early. But there’s a lot about being too early that’s a good thing! Even if it just means I sit in my car and dink around on my phone until it’s time (with alarms ofc), I’ve got enough stuff on my phone that I enjoy doing to make that time pleasant. Being at my desk early means I can take my time getting settled in instead of having to rush to dive right into taking calls. The chance to have a few moments to relax always helps me err on the side of being early.

      2. DataGirl*

        This is what I was thinking about. All the people in my life who are chronically, and often extremely, late, don’t think about all the steps that go into getting someplace. They’ll think ‘It’s a 15 minute drive’ and start getting ready to walk out the door 15 minutes before they have to be somewhere- but by the time they put on coat/shoes/grab a drink/put on music in the car/start their map app/buckle their kid into the car seat- whatever- they are already late. Then if there is traffic or any tiny, extra issue they are even more late. Personally I always account for extra time to walk to/from the car, park, account for traffic, etc.

        Back to OP- since you are currently working from home I agree with others to really analyze what is happening in the time between when you should start work, and when you actually start. See what types of things are delaying you, then book in extra time for those things. When searching for a new job one with flexible scheduling would be ideal, especially if you are going to be using public transportation. That way if you arrive 20 minutes past when you intended to arrive- you just stay an extra 20 minutes.

        1. Yorick*

          My husband is like this. We live in a high-rise so it can take up to 5 minutes to get from the front door to the car, and that’s after grabbing your stuff and putting on coats and whatever. But if it’s a 20 minute drive he thinks we can start leaving at 12:40 and be there by 1:00.

          1. Anne*

            Yes, OP should make a list of all the things they are doing in the morning.
            Probably time each one for a few days and see what is eating up the time.

            CBT maybe to them stop them from magical thinking (oh, I have 5 minutes for this, it takes only 15 minutes to get there, stopping for coffee wont take a while)

        2. Zephy*

          Time blindness is real and it’s incredibly frustrating to people who don’t have this affliction. My husband is like this, but his (already inaccurate) internal timer for “how long it takes to get to x” doesn’t account for the time it takes to get out of our neighborhood. We live on a street that’s basically U-shaped, connecting to a major thoroughfare at two points about a mile apart, and we live at the bottom of the U. Some mornings, between lawn services and waste management and people jogging or walking their dogs (and, in normal times, the school bus picking up kids), it can take easily 15-20 minutes just to get off of our street.

          1. Emma*

            Do you live in a suburb in the US? I have been watching a YouTube series about US city planning and this sounds very like a US suburb, and it’s also something I’ve never experienced anywhere I’ve lived.

      3. BlueberryFields*

        One thing that I find helpful is keeping duplicates of things that might make me late in my car, bag, or even desk. In pandemic times, that means extra masks in the car. Pre pandemic, while taking public transport in a city where the busses are reliably unreliable meant makeup, keys, meds in my backpack/bag. One thing that motivated me was my favorite coffee shop. If I got in early enough, I could treat myself to a bagel or coffee. But if I was running late, no fancy coffee for me!

        In the case of LW, they should think about the things that may be literally holding them up (as opposed to any mental things). WFH but making coffee makes you late to 9 a.m.? If automatic, set it to brew the night before at 8:45 and grab a cup before you do your bathroom things. Miss it? Coffee has to wait or you can excuse yourself briefly after you sign on.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Duplicates! Yes! This has been a total game changer for me. In my desk drawer I have a phone charger, a bag of emergency toiletries, a pill container with some extras of my morning medications in case I forget to take them at home, all the things that could make me run back in the house at the last minute instead of driving to work. That way, if I get in the car and realize I forgot to put on deodorant, it’s not the end of the world because I’ve got some at my desk and I can put it on when I get to work.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          OMG this. In normal times I usually have to look quite polished for work, which as a lazy and (reformed) late person is kind of a struggle, and having an emergency drawer at work is an absolute lifesaver. (If I buy makeup that I don’t quite like, it gets demoted to the emergency drawer.) Usually I keep spare tights, a makeup bag, dry shampoo, a hairbrush, deoderant, perfume, body spray and breath mints in there, and a cardigan and flat shoes under my desk. That way, if I sleep in or forget something it doesn’t completely destroy my morning routine. Plus it’s nice to be able to help out my colleagues if they’re in need of any of the above!

      4. I'm on time now but it was a lot of work!!*

        This was me when I was pretty freshly out of college!! OP, I so relate to you!

        I can tell you what worked for me was therapy, with a very goals-oriented, CBT practitioner. Having someone with an outside perspective reflect back what I was doing and what the result was, was so so helpful. (In a very non-judgemental space, which was hugely important for me).

        We worked on quick fixes which were:
        –write down every tiny thing you do to get ready to leave. (I had been calling this “get ready!” – 20 minutes! but in reality it was “brush teeth, wash coffee cup, choose clothes, get dressed, pack lunch, grab wallet & keys & phone, decide if you’re going to the gym later & gather all that stuff, also are you going to the store on the way home and do you have that list? etc.” so actually 8 or 9 different 5 minute tasks, so closer to an hour!
        –figure out how long it takes to get to work on the best day, the worst day, and the average day, then use that info. ( I was telling myself it took 20 minutes to get to work, which did happen occasionally, but really the average was like 30, and my all-time-worst weird traffic day, 45 minutes.) Then you use that info to decide when you should leave, based on your goals. So, if you’re in big trouble and are never allowed to be late again, take 45 minutes! If you’re just trying to maintain a mostly-on time record 30 minutes should do.
        –pack & decide stuff the night before. For me, any decisions I don’t have to make in the morning save a ton of time. If I decide the night before I am going to the gym during lunch, then remember next morning I have a meeting during that time or whatever, just leave the bag!

        We did eventually dig into the rationale behind it which (along with genuine confusion about how long it takes to do things) was a combo of:
        -resentment caused by not wanting to go to the thing/place in the first place
        -a teeny bit of entitlement like, if I’m early and you’re late, then I’m waiting for you! how dare you!
        -anxiety around what to do with myself if I got there early. (This was before smart phones were really that smart… I figured out I should bring a book.)

        Anyway, by the time we got to that stuff, the behavior was pretty much resolved. All this to say, it might be helpful to figure out what’s driving this, but for me, it wasn’t necessary to fix it in the short term.

        Finally: beware of the car!!
        A car *might* be a time saver, but for me, my car was a false sense of security. I’d say, “It’s a 20 minute drive, so I’ll leave 20 minutes before my event.” But it’s not just drive time and traffic. It’s finding your keys + walking to your car + warmup/snow removal time + driving / traffic + finding parking + walking from parking to destination.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          “figure out how long it takes to get to work on the best day, the worst day, and the average day, then use that info”

          This is giving me flashbacks to when I lived in NYC and commuted from Queens to Harlem every day for work. I usually took the city bus because it was the more direct route (I used the subway for snowy days only, I don’t trust drivers when the bridge gets icy), but traffic was so unpredictable that a trip that takes 20-25 minutes at 4am, 2pm, or 9pm would take anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes at 8am. The average was 45, so I left home an hour before I needed to be in the office, and brought a book or something else to do on the days where it took less than 45.

          And moving back to the snowy midwest last year and buying a car has reminded me that a car is often not the time-saver you think it is.

        2. LilyP*

          One data point re: public transit. I sometimes struggle with being on time as an adult, although I’m not really chronically late, but I was never ever late to school as a teenager because I had to take the city bus and that gave me a reliable “panic monster” every morning (missing the bus meant I had to sit in the cold for half an hour AND walk into first period late and embarrass myself). I think the very hard deadline of “you must be out the door by 6:40 or you’ll miss the bus and be half an hour late” vs “well if do this for one more minute I’ll just be one minute late and that’s fine” just settled differently in my brain. I also had my morning routine + walk timed down to the minute to optimize the amount of sleep I could get and be able to get ready on half-asleep autopilot haha.

          Of course, that assumes that the bus itself is punctual and doesn’t take a hugely variable amount of time to get where it’s going, which I know might not be true.

          1. Chamomile*

            YES! I tend to run 5-15 min late, which is not awful, but like for LilyP, is totally solvable for me by riding the bus to work. You worried that public transit running late would be a problem, but like LilyP said, when you transfer the problem over to the transit (not your own lateness), it somehow feels easier to plan for. The bus in my (rural) county runs 5-20 min late (my commute is 1h door-to-door), so I always take an earlier bus than I theoretically need to get to work on time, and I read a book on the bus. (The other bonus I like is that I can do productive things that I can’t while driving — I can read several books per week this way, meditate, and arrive to work relaxed rather than road-ragey!) The result is that I usually arrive to work 20-30 min early…which might sound awful (and I’m not a morning person, I get it), but it’s actually great. I make a cup of tea and read a book related to my field, brainstorm ideas with another early coworker, delight in using the copy machine without having to wait in line, or just buckle down in my office so that I can finish up a bit earlier!

    9. turquoisecow*

      Yes, this. The OP seems to think they’re late as a personality flaw of some sort, but unless they literally just move slower than everyone else, there’s something there that can be changed.

      Are you late in the morning because it takes so long to wash your hair? Because it takes a while to pick out clothes? Because you sleep through the alarm? The cat is lying on your chest? There’s always traffic? These are all things that you can work around.

      It seems like OP is saying that there’s nothing that can be done generally regarding lateness, but you do have to look at each individual instance, say “why was I late this time?” and then adjust from there, whether that means showering at night, setting a different alarm, taking a different route to where you’re going, leaving earlier.

    10. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is a good thing to start thinking about. My tendency to run late dropped steeply when I decided to stop sitting down to look at the news in the morning. I’ve also got an element of time blindness, particularly when I think something is interesting, so my old routine of “get up, get dressed, sit down to read the news on my phone while I eat breakfast” would get me into trouble from time to time. When I cut out that part of the routine and decided to start choosing breakfast foods I could eat in the car or at my desk when I arrived at work, I suddenly turned into an early person.

      LW, can you try an experiment? On your next day off, wake up as if you’re going to get ready to go to work and do your usual morning routine, and use the stopwatch on your phone to time how long each step of your morning routine actually takes. This might give you a better idea of whether there are any parts of your morning routine that take longer than you thought they did, and from there you can start trying to figure out what to do about that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I ended up getting up at the same time every day, 7 days a week. It’s just easier to get up at the same time. What’s hard is knowing that two days out of the week I can sleep extra. Once I removed that option from my life I ended up happier and I learned to go to bed on time.

        1. Not Australian*

          Yes, me too, and even now in retirement I still get up at the same time. Having cats who expect their breakfast early in the morning helps there, of course.

      2. I'm on time now but it was a lot of work!!*

        +1 for this suggestion!
        get the real times for all these getting ready activities

    11. Batgirl*

      “what occurs in the time between when you should be sitting down in front of the computer for work and when you actually do sit down for it?”
      Most of us (late people) don’t know. When I set a timer for anything between twenty minutes to an hour, it seems to beep like a few minutes later and I have no idea how I could have filled all that time. Usually I haven’t been doing anything other than standing/sitting while thinking about something (daydreaming). You’re dead right that becoming more aware of what you’re doing (certain contexts prevent the haze descending, others cause it) will help, though.

      1. Littorally*

        Of course the OP doesn’t know (yet). It takes some specific attention-paying to gather up this stuff. I was asking it as a question for the OP to work on, not something I think they can answer right now here today.

        1. sb51*

          Some of us literally cannot know. Our brains don’t commit it to memory. The time just doesn’t exist. Perhaps someone watching us in a disturbingly detailed way could figure it out, but knowing I had an audience would change my actions enough it probably wouldn’t help.

          1. Littorally*

            Then that’s something the LW can observe for themself and use that information going forward.

            “Even when I try to pay very particular attention to each step of my morning, there are blocks of time I simply can’t remember” is really useful information to take to a doctor, and spending the energy to separate that out from “Well I wasn’t really paying attention and a moment ago it was 7:00 and now it’s 8:30, but maybe if I pay close attention I can track what I was up to” is a worthwhile troubleshooting step.

          2. Batgirl*

            My mother would watch me and she would just say that I’d zoned out and was really unresponsive. I wouldn’t remember what she was talking about. If someone who knows me is there, and really hectors me (like she did as a child) then I can get in gear but it took until my late thirties to figure out how to stay present without that.

          3. Batgirl*

            Yes! Like time travel zapped you into the future. How can you figure out what was happening between x o’clock and half past when, to the best of your recollection, you weren’t even there?

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yea… I’ll be late because I think ” peeing should take 5 minutes” but then I pee and my shoes are somewhere so I gotta find them and my keys are on my desk so I’ve locked myself out of the house and I sit in my car for a little…

    12. Person from the Resume*

      THIS! Figure out why you are late and focus on fixing it!

      – Do you think you can get ready faster than you can? Calculate it out and start when you need to or just start getting ready twice as early than you think you need to.
      – Do you have 5 minutes before you have to leave so you decide to do something else before you go and it lasts longer than 5 minutes? Recognize the problem and just leave 5 minutes early instead of starting something.
      – Did your commute take 20 minutes on the best commute day ever and now you plan your commute to take 20 minutes all the time? Stop and plan for your commute to take as long as a bad commute takes.
      – Do you get distracted while getting ready? Start/leave for things earlier and work on recognizing and prevent distractions.
      – Are you afraid to get there early? Do you think being early is a waste of time so you plan to arrive exactly on time? Get over it and plan your schedule to arrive 10-15 minutes early depending on what it is so your schedule an absorb unexpected difficulties.

      If you can’t tell I’m a planner and I am usually on time. When I have to be somewhere by car at a certain time, I plan to leave 5-10 minutes earlier than my GPS says the drive takes, more of there’s likely to be big city parking problems. Often I don’t actually leave on time because I snoozed once or twice, I’m just sleepy slow or getting out the door took a bit longer than I thought, but I know that about myself so that’s why I try to leave early.

      You are not just magically late. There is a problem or several problems that cause it, you can fix them if you want to. Smart phones and the fact that they are always right next to us now are great tools to remind you when it is time to do something. But you’ve got to know yourself. If you need to be driving out the driveway at 6:30. Your alarm to go to the car and leave needs to go off at 6:25 so you can be in the car driving off at 6:30. Discounting the time the little things takes can add up to your lateness.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes I think the “worried that getting there early is a waste of time” thing is true of some people I know. Even though spending ten minutes looking at your phone is probably the same whether you’re killing time after arriving early or pushing your departure time down to the wire, people’s brains crave the latter more. But the latter option risks inconveniencing/looking rude or flaky to people, whereas arriving comfortably early and then killing a couple minutes on your phone has no downside.

        1. Nicotene*

          Hehe I used to date a girl who said this outright (annoying, because I was reliably five minutes early). She hated the thought of not arriving right on the dot of start, it drove her crazy to think of “just hanging around” (what did she think I was doing??). I also know people who catch planes this way: it’s very important to them to walk up right as the plane is boarding.

          … I am the opposite of this in every single way.

          1. green beans*

            Yeah, if someone said that to me and I had waited for them even once, it would probably end the relationship right then and there.

            1. allathian*

              Oh yeah. Chronic lateness is just something I can’t deal with. It gets me ragey beyond all reason, and there’s no way I could date someone who’s always late. I don’t really care why they’re late, either. To me, whatever the reason for the lateness actually is, it’s the sort of moral failing that I simply can’t tolerate at all. I admit that I tend to be a few minutes early for most things, and I’ve never found that to be a problem. I’m not overly anxious otherwise, but being late, even when it’s outside of my control like problems with public transit, gets me in a tizzy where I feel like my world is coming to an end, if I’m on a firm schedule. I have to admit, though, that when I was younger I was more flexible than now, and I really enjoyed my time in Spain, where everyone was always at least 10 minutes late to everything. I guess I learned to live with it there, because I was the outlier by being punctual. But when the vast majority of people around me are as punctual as I am, the late ones stick out.

      2. LKW*

        I too am a planner. If I’m going someplace new I plan at least 15 minutes to get lost and then get found because that’s what I do, I take the wrong exit, I miss the turn, whatever. I. Get. Lost. So I plan for it .

        I wonder if there is a correlation between lateness and optimism?

      3. Momma Bear*

        I always +10 mins for Google Maps. Never fails that I take a wrong turn or it just doesn’t calculate for reality (like how long it will take to turn left across 4 lanes of traffic…).

    13. CJ*

      I agree with this. I also have ADHD but I’m almost never late because I’ve learned that I have to plan around it. So figure out why you are always late and then plan around it. Time how long each task before leaving the house actually takes while going your slowest speed (I suggest doing this on a day you don’t actually have to be anywhere), time how long it takes you to walk out the door and get in your car, how long it takes to drive to work, and then how long it takes to get out of your car and walk to your desk. Don’t try to estimate because clearly estimating isn’t working for you. Whatever amount of time that comes to and add 15 minutes. Subtract it from the time you start work and now you know what time you need to start getting ready. Set timers on your phone for each activity so you have a marker for how long you have left to finish the task. If you run out of time one day, then increase the amount of time for that task subsequent days. I understand there are people in the world that do not have to obsessively map and time every step of leaving the house and who don’t require a 15 min buffet but I am not one of them and it sounds like you aren’t either, OP.
      Most importantly, do not accept that you will always be late and there is nothing you can do about it. Despite what popular memes would have you believe, lateness is not a cute personality quirk. You CAN be on time but it’s going to take a lot of planning.

      1. PeanutButter*

        This is the same with me. I was just diagnosed last year, but before then I was known as the chronically early person in my friend group. I had to be very early to anything because if I wasn’t I would be late. The time blindness is real…so you plan for it. I literally build buffer time into my time estimates for my own time-blindness and distractability. That’s why chronically late people get me so wound up (I now have very few chronically late friends, as I will make plans that don’t rely on them and will leave people behind if we’re on a schedule and they can’t show up on time) – if they are late they are throwing off the very finely balanced methods I have to keep *myself* on track. I spend all my energy and mental effort on wrangling my own lateness and other executive dysfunction symptoms, I literally do not have any left to take care of any one else’s.

        To OP: I get the feeling like you think once you discover the “secret” to being on time, or not having time blindness, it will become effortless. It will not. It is a struggle you will probably have every day for the rest of your life. Personally, once I accepted that being on time, being organized, being a functioning, responsible adult human would never be easy or feel natural to me? It actually got a lot easier to keep myself on track in many areas.

    14. Sandman*

      This right here is so important – to understand what’s happening in you that’s causing the chronic lateness. For me, the “just one more quick thing” is one of the biggest things. Another thing that gets me is that I’m actually afraid of being too early – it feels very awkward – so then I “just one more quick thing” myself into being late instead of early. It might be other things for you, but figuring out what those things are will help you work toward whatever set of solutions you need.

    15. Anonym*

      OP, please consider that in any job you have limited social capital to spend, and always being late will use up some or all of it. And even in areas where transit makes people late regularly, it’s still going to damage your reputation if you’re late *more frequently than your colleagues*. I strongly suggest you keep looking at origins of and solutions to the lateness problem, because while there are jobs and managers and teams out there that will be ok with or tolerate it, it’s putting you behind. I struggle with it too (ADHD, time blindness) and have found alarm setting and getting really aware of the fact that I am *always* wrong about how long it’ll take me to do something (like leave the house, or just go to the computer from two rooms away) have been very helpful. Littorally’s suggestions are great, too. I’m not perfect at it, and I’ve developed the social capital over time to compensate for it, but I still wish I didn’t have to compensate.

      It’s not an un-improvable problem. Don’t just accept it and thus limit yourself to roles where lateness is tolerated. There’s a whole world of great jobs waiting for you! Oh wait…

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Totally agreed. I also think that OP should really avoid the whole “I don’t know why I’m late, nothing works, I’m just a Late Person” thing – I don’t think it’s helping them in terms of solving the problem, but it is also a very irritating thing to hear. Coworkers aren’t going to know OP’s whole history of trying to deal with this issue, so it’s just going to come across as passive.

        1. Littorally*

          Agreed. “This is just who I am as a person” is a really enticing mental trap, especially since they have tried so many things to solve this issue and nothing has worked so far. It feels like a good answer because it closes the loop, but it isn’t a solution.

        2. Batgirl*

          Oh there are ways. It would truly be impossible for me to be on time without certain techniques and it took me time to figure out what they were… but a method for the OP does exist! I think that “Oh I just can’t” is as bad as “Oh you just should”. Neither one helps.

      2. green beans*

        Also it has very real implications – my boss has a half-hour for me every week and if I’m late, I don’t get that time back. (She’s good about giving me the time back when she’s late, which happens a lot, but she can’t guarantee when she’ll give it back – sometimes I get an extra 15 minutes that’s the 5 minutes she’s been late over the past three weeks, for instance.)

        And I’m getting to the point where I have to do the same. If you’re five minutes late, I might be able to stay over by 3-5 minutes. But if you’re 10-15 minutes late*, I usually can’t give you that extra time back. Not because I’m trying to punish you, but because I have other things and other meetings, and that was my allocated time for you.

        *more than that and you’re either high enough that I planned around this or you’re getting a let’s reschedule email.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this. It also helps that although I’m an experienced individual contributor, and as such one step above the interns, there’s only my direct manager and her manager and then there’s the chief exec. A very flat organization means that I’m mainly sitting in meetings with either my manager, or employees who are essentially my peers but work in another department. So the power-play where people higher up in the pecking order can be late because they have the seniority to do so is pretty much non-existent. That said, meetings get rescheduled pretty often because employees on every level are just so busy. It happens and we work around it.

    16. jbn*

      Just commented on a different thread but I agree with much of what you’ve said! I was diagnosed with ADHD a few years ago in my early 30s and learning about time blindness has been so helpful.

      I don’t have much luck with alarms on my phone or Alexa when I can just snooze them or tell them to stop *while still doing whatever it is I’m doing*. So now I use the timer on the microwave — I hate that little beeping sound SO MUCH and I’m forced to get up and walk over to turn it off, which is enough of a stimulus to pull me out of whatever I’m hyperfocused on.

      Time limits on my phone help too, and turning off the automatic “Play next episode” feature on Netflix/Hulu keeps me from mindlessly starting a new episode without thinking about it first.

      1. Littorally*

        Oh, that’s a great solution.

        I’ve had good luck with the phone alarms, but I’ve also set them in specific ways – I have the ‘okay wrap up what you’re doing’ alarm, the set of snoozable ‘okay stop it now’ alarms, and finally the ‘STOP IT RIGHT NOW’ alarm, which is my last chance to follow my normal get-ready-for-work routine without being late. At this point, I rarely need the last one because I’ve gotten into the rhythm of wrapping up what I’m doing with the ‘wrap it up’ alarm and getting up with the first or second iteration of the ‘okay stop it now’ alarm.

        I’m also someone who works very well by routine, so that helps. But I had to build the routines by trial and error because until I do them, I have no idea how long they take.

        1. On a pale mouse*

          I use a phone alarm that has “missions” you can make yourself have to do before it will shut up. I usually use math problem missions to make sure I’m awake, but it also has an option to scan a barcode. So you can stick a barcode on your bathroom mirror or wherever so you’re forced to stop doing what you were doing and get up and go there. It’s not a perfect program because, in order to keep you from shutting it up, it gets pretty low level in the phone, and there are bugs, but it works well enough to be worth it for me.

            1. Emma*

              I use AMdroid for this.

              Only one have I been so unwilling to get out of bed that I actually turned my phone off to make the alarm stop.

      2. Momma Bear*

        YES. I put my alarm clock away from my bed so I have to get up and deal with it – and by that time, I might as well really get up for the day.

    17. Ace in the Hole*

      I second this. Setting aside the idea of blaming or excusing, what is the mechanism causing you to be late? The answer to the car question (and solution for your chronic lateness) depends entirely on why you’re late.

      For example, both my sister and I have serious struggles with being on time. For me, it’s because I get caught up in what I’m doing and either I’m not aware of the time or I tell myself “just a few more minutes” until it’s already past time to leave. My time estimates for travel and getting ready are usually pretty accurate…. I just don’t start getting ready at the estimated time. My sister has the opposite problem: she’s pretty good about following plans for what time to do something, but she has a lot of trouble accurately estimating how long things will take and tends to have unexpected delays crop up in the middle of getting ready. I’m late because I decided to mow the lawn two minutes before it was time to leave, she’s late because she left on time but had to turn around mid-trip because she forgot her phone. Two very different problems with two very different solutions.

      Personally I find that I’m paradoxically more likely to be late the shorter my commute is, because the shorter commute doesn’t feel like it takes up any time. Whereas (for me) a long commute on public transit is great for being punctual because there is a super rigid schedule I have no control over and the consequences for being late to that first domino are very serious. That’s enough external pressure to kick my brain in gear and make me leave on time. But if you’re late for a different reason it might have the opposite effect – i.e. if you forget your keys, public transit might turn a 10 minute delay into a 2 hour delay.

      1. Elliott*

        I was thinking the same thing regarding public transportation. For me, knowing that there’s a rigid schedule and that I’ll miss my bus if I don’t leave by X time is a good motivator, whereas when I drive, I feel like I have more flexibility. But yeah, I can see how that may not work out for everyone.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          Same. “I have to be out the door no later than 7:55 to catch my bus on time” really does help keep me on schedule. I am willing to use Lyft/Uber on horrible weather days or if I have a migraine and cannot cope with the bus, but not on a regular day when I just don’t wanna. Knowing that’s not an option for me on a slow morning means I have to get going.

      2. saxicide*

        I was going to say the same thing about public transit. Now that I walk to work? I really, really, struggle to not be ~5 minutes late all the time.

    18. Momma Bear*

      Time blindness aside, something that might help is making the “must be out the door by” time in one’s head earlier. Also, minimize time wasters in the morning. Streamline so you do minimal things in the morning and don’t check your messages, log into social media, turn on the TV, etc. Do just what you need to do and nothing else. Dishes will wait. Pack your backpack or bag the night before. Maybe even take your shower and lay out clothes the night before. Make mornings about getting up and out.

      Pro tip re: chasing transit – being even a few minutes late will ruin your whole commute. You want to be early. If the schedule says the bus or train arrives at 7AM, you want to be there no later than 6:45. Otherwise you may miss it and be stuck waiting for the next one. Same may apply to driving. I could drive my old commute in 45 minutes IF I left by exactly 5:05. Any later and I’d get caught in traffic.

      1. Manon*

        > something that might help is making the “must be out the door by” time in one’s head earlier.

        This is so helpful! If I know I need to be on the road at 7:30, I’ll set a 7:20 “start putting your shoes and coat on” alarm so that I’m actually on my way when I need to be.

      2. pnw dweller*

        yes, the time of day counts. At an old job, I calculated how long it took me to get to the interview. My interview was at like 10 am. So basically no traffic. Going the same route to get to work at 8am took a lot longer yet I kept thinking it took me x time, because it did that one time. Once I got that straight in my head, I was a bit better. but I am reading these comments to see if there are any other tips. I use multiple alarms to get myself out the door, before WFH that is. Someday I’ll be back in a physical office, and my goal is to to be better at time.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        I agree that public transit timetables helped a lot. That, and the fact that walking certain places after getting off of public transit was way more predictable time-wise, because there is not a lot of change due to traffic or time of day.

        For example, when I lived in Chicago suburbs, I knew the Metra came to my town at 7:53 every day. It took 11 minutes to walk to the station, but sometimes there would be a freight I would have to wait for to cross to the station, so I gave myself 15-16 minutes to walk there from my front door. Which meant leaving by 7:37, no ifs ands or buts.

        The Metra would then pull into Union Station at 8:35 every day. My walk to my office building was 20 minutes. It would take another 10 to get up the stairs and into my office/take off my coat/realign my thinking from transit to work, meaning the very earliest I could be into and ready for work was 9:05. Therefore I knew not to have a 9am meeting. If I did, I’d have to take an earlier train. I know it seemed like I could find some wiggle room to make it in 5 minutes earlier for that 9am meeting, but that’s not how time works. And trains will never get in early, but they might run late.

        If you think about arrival times for public transit was being set in stone as the EARLIEST you can get there, it helps keep you in line as long as you are realistic with how long other things might take you.

      4. Ally McBeal*

        I don’t struggle with lateness, but timing and streamlining my morning routine was so crucial back before we all started working from home. I time-stamped every part of my morning – up right at 6:45 (never hit the snooze button, the snooze button is your mortal enemy), out of the shower with hair in a towel by 7:08 (or 7:15 if I wanted to shave my legs), check emails/social media while hair towel-dries until 7:25, blow dry my hair until 7:35, finish getting dressed and out the door by 7:45. Having those micro-managey little milestones kept me on track, and getting into that habit meant that all the other stuff – meal prep, etc. – had to happen at night. I tweaked this schedule every time I moved or took a new job, but the timing intervals were always the same and it helped so much.

        I think some of LW’s problem might also be due to age; I had a lot of trouble remembering the “do at night” stuff when I was still adjusting to the rhythms of adulthood.

    19. Quill*

      Just coming in to say this: The technique isn’t going to work unless it’s fixing the cause.

      If the issue is underestimating travel time, the solution may be adding a number of mintues to the estimation of a travel time, if it’s generalized to knowing when you have to just stop waiting for “it’s time to go to work” and start traveling, even if it means getting there early, the issue is unlikely to be solved by setting your clocks five minutes ahead, because YOU know that you built an extra five minutes in.

      (Not ADHD but I DO have a family brainweird of some semi-related description and my biggest hurdle is that I cannot build workarounds into my time sense or motivation, because my brain knows that I made them, therefore they are meaningless. My time sense is acceptable as is, usually. But my motivation to actually leave the house has been at 0% since covid started.)

    20. Not So NewReader*

      Why are you late is a great question.

      When I bought my house I moved further away from my workplace.

      Here’s some of the reasons I was late or almost late:
      It snowed and I could not get out of the driveway.
      The car would not start and there is no repair shop nearby.
      There was a tractor or other very slow moving vehicle in front of me.
      The roads suddenly iced over while I was in transit.
      The furnace/plumbing/other major thing broke.
      I hurt my back/got sick/ another person with me had a health emergency.
      The dog got loose.
      There was a fire/flood/bad accident and I had to detour way out of my normal route.

      I had to go through each thing that came up and develop some kind of plan for what I would do the next time that thing happened to prevent myself from being late. Yes, I had to go one incident at a time and build a customized plan for that occurrence. I worked for an employer that would not tolerate even ONE minute of tardiness.

    21. k*

      Something that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere, but that is a major contributing factor to my being late, is the seemingly infinite accumulation of unexpected subtasks that crop up while doing any task, where it is hard to predict how many will happen and how long they will take, but they either must get done immediately, or will cause problems down the line if they don’t.

      For instance, let’s say I’m trying to get out the door and go to work. A short selection of things that may happen (not all of them will happen on a given day, but on any given day several probably will). This is a small sampling of the possibilities, but all of them have happened to me. A few have happened over the course of writing the comment:

      There’s no shampoo in the shower. Now I have to find the shampoo I bought the other day. How long will that take? Until I find it.
      I knocked the makeup off the counter. Now I have to pick up all the makeup. How long will that take? Depends on how coordinated I am.
      I spill the pill bottle by mistake. Now I have to root around the floor to put them back. How long will that take? Depends on how much I spilled.
      The cat ran into the room. Now I have to get the cat out of the room. How long will that take? Depends on the cat.
      There’s a moth flying around the room. Now I have to kill it. How long will that take? Depends on the moth and my coordination.
      I get an email notification. Now I have to check my email (it may be my boss). How long will that take? You’d think not so long, but…
      My computer froze while trying to open my email. Now I have to wait for it to unfreeze and then remember what I was doing. How long will that take? Depends on the computer and my memory.
      I went to the kitchen and forgot what I went into the kitchen for. Now I have to remember what I went back into the kitchen for and go back into the kitchen to do it and hope I remember then. How long will that take? A couple minutes per time.
      I can’t find my second boot. How long will that take? Until I find it.
      I just checked the weather and it’s raining. Now I need to find an umbrella. How long will that take? Until I find it.
      I can’t find my headphones. How long will that take? Until I find them.
      (COVID edition) I walked out the door and forgot to put on my mask. Now I have to go back and put on my mask. How long will that take? Depends on how far I got before realizing.

      1. k*

        And I just saw the person above me posted several more possibilities a few minutes ago! The thing is, though, there are just so many things that could go wrong that it is impossible to make a plan for each one of them, and there is only so much extra buffer time you can give yourself.

        1. Allonge*

          Ok, look, I hated it when my mother said to put everything in its place immediately, because I don’t have OCD, mom!

          But it seems to me that a lot of your issues are ‘where is my thing’ and some of that can be resolved by having some rules on what goes where.

          Especially things that you need to get out of the door. Mask, shoes, umbrella, keys, headphones go to next to the door, in a bag. Shampoo, toiletries etc. can go in a basket in the bathroom. You don’t need a separate plan for every object. You need the same plan for everything that needs to go with you. You need the same plan for everything you need in the morning before leaving.

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “The thing is, though, there are just so many things that could go wrong that it is impossible to make a plan for each one of them”

          No, it is the opposite. Because each could mess you up, you do make a plan for each of them. That involves putting things in the same place every time, buying a backup as soon as something is close to running out, turning off notifications etc when it’s not time to focus on them, and keeping good computer hygiene.

          This makes life easier and makes us less reliant on memory. Patterns and routines for everything you can control. You can’t control everything, but you can control a lot. Which frees up time for other stuff – fun, creativity AND unexpected problems.

          1. k*

            When exactly am I supposed to do all of these things? You are suggesting making each of these an urgent occurrence that I have to find time for, and there is only so much time in the day.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              I think you may be misunderstanding. The point is not for you to think “tomorrow morning a moth might fly into my room and therefore I must urgently come up with a plan to deal with that right now”. Nobody does that. The point is that if you develop patterns like “boots belong in the rack next to the front door”, “headphones belong in my bag” etc, then that will cut down on all the hunting around for things that you know you’re going to need routinely, and that frees up your time to deal with unexpected issues like moths or cats or makeup spills. I have struggled with developing these habits but they really do help.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                And it definitely does not happen over night. It took me well over a year, just to get half the problems under some sort of control. And new stuff always comes up so it’s an on-going commitment to streamlining the morning routines. Hey, when it’s not hard, it feels almost impossible.
                I did it by saying, “Okay what were one or two of the most annoying problems this week.” Each weekend, I would come up with an idea to ease the situation. I still ask myself this question but since I am more used to it and since the real hard questions have been answered, I fix things up a night before bed. Sneaker lace broke? Get out the new laces and fix it. Dog dumped his water dish? Put it in a different spot see if that works better.

              2. pleaset cheap rolls*

                Exactly.

                @K sorry if I was not clear. These habits/routines will SAVE time in the long run. You sound like you waste a lot of time looking for stuff you misplace.

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              I’ve struggled with similar things, and grew up in a family full of similar things. There are several different things contributing to what you’ve described, and they each need different solutions.

              1. Differentiating (in the moment) between things you need to do right then vs things that can wait until later. For example, you don’t need to kill the moth or check your email notification before you can leave the house. They could wait. It might be nicer to deal with it now, but nothing terrible will happen if you don’t.

              2. Flexibility in how tasks are accomplished and what counts as “done.” For example, if I can’t find my left sneaker, I could either spend a bunch of time looking for it or I could put on a different pair of shoes (this is just an example, if you don’t have multiple pairs of shoes it would not apply). You might need to pick up the makeup because it’s a safety hazard on the floor, but perhaps you could get done faster if you swept them up with a broom and left them in a jumble on the counter instead of picking them up by hand and putting them back neatly. Etc.

              3. Systemic flaws that allow setbacks to occur in the first place. These take time, creativity, and practice to solve. They will not be solved all at once, but if you tackle them one at a time as they occur you can streamline things a lot. For example, I used to misplace my keys/wallet/phone regularly and waste time looking for them. So I put a basket next to the front door. Now the first thing I do when I come in is put my pocket stuff into the basket. It took a while to cement the habit, but now I never waste time looking for my keys. If you always put your shampoo in the same place, you won’t have an indeterminate delay while looking for it… you’ll be able to fetch the new bottle in a predictably short amount of time. If knocking things over or spilling them happens a lot, how could you adjust your habits to prevent spills in the first place? And so on. At first this is very difficult because it requires additional time/effort. But with each improvement you reduce the time and stress burden of these unplanned events, so it becomes increasingly easy to make the next change.

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                This is good stuff. I have add another details on the shoes thing: the elements of a set of things should be kept together. A pair of gloves, a pair of shoes etc. Never put one somewhere without the other. This is a fundamental practice that will save time.

                ” I used to misplace my keys/wallet/phone regularly and waste time looking for them. So I put a basket next to the front door.”

                YES.

                ” If you always put your shampoo in the same place, you won’t have an indeterminate delay while looking for it… you’ll be able to fetch the new bottle in a predictably short amount of time. If knocking things over or spilling them happens a lot, how could you adjust your habits to prevent spills in the first place? ”

                YES.

                Yes. Live like this. I don’t get how people have the time to disorganized.

        3. Lisa*

          That’s not entirely true, though. Every single one of these is you telling yourself you “have to” do these things for “until they are done”/infinite time. Many of these, you could decide not to do them now or limit the time you are taking. Essentially, you are giving yourself permission to take “as long as it takes”. You are also telling yourself “it’s impossible” and there’s no solution. But there are options.

          You could instead tell yourself that you have limited time – “I will do this for five minutes then give up” or no time – “I was going to wear boots, but since I can’t find the other one, I’ll wear loafers”. Knocked the makeup off the counter? Oh, well, don’t have time now, I’ll pick it up later. I don’t want the cat in this room, so I never leave the door open – now I never have to chase the cat out of the room. Plan for things to go wrong or imperfectly and plan how to deal with them when they do.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Oh yeah, and things will go wrong, right? The dog throws up. The neighbor has a flat. The list goes on.
            The neighbor can ask another neighbor but since I am the only one responsible for my dog, I must prioritize him and then leave on time for work. It’s hard to say no to people, sometimes no can be said by offering a suggestion, “I really can’t help ya, Bob but I know Joan is home today and I am pretty sure she will help.” If Bob does not know Joan very well, I can call her and ask her then return to getting the dog settled and heading out the door.

          2. Rebeck*

            You don’t have cats, do you? If you can go through the door, so can they, and they will.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              At one point I had 4 critters here. I put a baby gate by the door and a spitzer of water. They all knew a spritzer meant business. It took time but after a bit they quit fighting me for the door. While they did get out on me once in a great while, it wasn’t a regular thing.

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              I train my cat to sit on his cat tree when I go to the door. Every time I go for the door, I put a treat up there for him. Now he expects it, so when he sees me going for the door he climbs straight into his spot instead of dashing past my feet.

              Same for getting home. There’s a baggie of treats next to the door. Every time I come home, Kitty gets one on his perch. Now he’s too excited about the treat to try dashing out.

      2. Quill*

        I wonder if this is a thing that works on knowing what is and is not optional.

        For example: killing the moth may be optional. Answering the email now, as opposed to when you arrive at your destination, may be optional (depending on the boss and the situation.)

        Getting cat out of where they could be in danger / a major annoyance later? Not optional. Picking up your pills so the cat does not eat them? Not optional. Makeup containers on the floor need to be not on the floor? May be optional.

        For a lot of other things, best of luck, because those seem to be location troubles, in that you have to find items (and I imagine having a cat does not help.)

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed!

          We woke up late today. I had x time to get the kid out the door. I dropped kid off in their pjs because as soon as we were late, we had to hack that list. What was the minimum required to get on the road? Do only that. Did not check messages or log into anything. Did not turn on the TV. Did not cook (waffles can be eaten in the car.) Etc. If I have a “disaster” like the pills fall or the cat is dumb, I evaluate what I need to do (pick up pills, absolutely) and what needs to be cut to make that happen. That kind of mental gymnastics comes with practice.

          1. EmmaPoet*

            I have a couple of really quick breakfast things I can do (no eating on the bus even pre-Covid and can’t eat at my desk) for those mornings when my get-up-and-go rolls over and goes back to sleep and I find myself running late. That helps a lot- toaster waffles and microwave sausage, or PBJ and don’t bother toasting it. Apple sauce squeezies so I don’t need to concentrate on spooning it into my mouth and not spilling.

        2. k*

          I don’t even mean answering the email: just the series of subtasks that is opening the email client, waiting for the page to load, finding the email, and reading the email will take up several minutes.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            So I know that a common piece of advice for lateness is to break things down into smaller tasks, but I wonder if that is kind of making this problem worse for you? You sound really overwhelmed by the idea of these infinite tiny tasks, and I wonder if that is making it even harder to get started at tacking the overall problem because you’re thinking of each of these things as its own entire routine of subtasks that must be completed perfectly and entirely (does it matter if the moth escapes or the makeup stays on the floor?). I think if I approached everything I did during my morning routine as a ten-step process (“open eyes, stretch arms, remove blanket from body, move to sitting position, place feet on floor, stand up…” vs “get out of bed”) then I wouldn’t get *anything* done. It almost sounds like a form of perfectionism.

            Maybe a different approach could be that you set an end goal – leave the house at 8.30am, for example – and if certain tasks go incomplete in order to get you to that goal, so be it. You wear a different pair of shoes, the makeup stays on the floor, the moth escapes, the email waits, whatever, but priority one is to be leaving your house at 8.30. The perfect is the enemy of the good and all that.

            (And sorry, I know you’re getting a ton of responses to your post and I really hope I don’t sound critical or anything – you just sound super overwhelmed and I’ve totally been there and I really hope something in these answers will be of some help!)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Interesting about mentioning the clock. A good friend mentioned that a mutual friend runs on an exact schedule every day. Well, with several kids, plus a couple jobs, you have to run pretty much on time or nothing gets done. Worse yet, being late can cause it to be 2 or 3 times more work. So you run on time because you cannot possibly take on more work.

              Mutual friend follows the clock closely. My good friend never looks at the clock. I am more like the mutual friend I know that X needs to be done by 1 pm and Y needs to be done by 2 pm and Z has to be done by 2:45 so I can leave promptly at 3 and get to my next Thing. I wasn’t born this way, it something that I adopted in order to tackle all that I saw needed to be done.

      3. Unfettered scientist*

        With some of these issues, they can be mitigated by proactively dealing with things before they become problems by building in routines. Like no shampoo in the shower. When the bottle only has a few uses left, move a new bottle into the shower before you need it (do it whenever you notice it’s low). Same thing with finding objects (much easier if they have permanent homes). This is what works for me with a lot of these issues. or extras. Like I’ll misplace my regular headphone pair, but I don’t need to root around for them because I always keep a spare in the drawer at work. Or we have 3 umbrellas and one at work so if I leave one somewhere I always have a backup.

        1. k*

          Again, when exactly am I supposed to do these things? Every single one of them is itself a subtask that cuts into another deadline, and there are only so many hours in the day. I barely have enough time to get things done as it is.

          1. Cassidy*

            Then you will have to live with the consequences of not getting things done. It’s just that straightforward.

          2. Unfettered scientist*

            Just trying to give you a window in my thought process and how I’ve overcome these things. It may not work for everyone. Another general rule of thumb I follow is that if a task truly takes 2 min or less (this is for tasks you *know* take this long, like replacing the shampoo or putting away an object or responding affirmatively to a single email) I just do it immediately when I think of it. For tasks where you have no idea how long they’ll take (like checking all your email) obviously this doesn’t apply, though if you work systems into your life (I always put shampoo into this cabinet after shopping, etc.) you can make more tasks work for this.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              THis is good.

              I’ll add another important rule – always put things back in the right place. ALWAYS. Or almost always – the sink is overflowing or there is a serious emergency, deal with that first. But otherwise, the routine takes precedence.

          3. Allonge*

            Is there any reason why you cannot store the shampoo in a fixed place? Same with shoes? Most people don’t spend random hours searching for their stuff because they put them in specific places, which takes more or less effort. My keys are in the front door lock, if I am home, always.

            I am not saying it’s easy, ok? But long term, setting up a system will mean that you will spend a limited time putting thing away and finding them instead of a maybe somewhat shorter time putting them away and unlimited time finding them or not.

            1. Unfettered scientist*

              Yeah, maybe some of the issue here is a thought process like ‘oh wow that sounds outrageously difficult to implement such systems and I don’t think I could ever get used to doing it that way.’ Which I totally understand! It happens to me every time we change a system at work to one that seems very time-consuming and annoying. But sometimes there are good reasons to change a system and you can change patterns of behavior over time. Most people can’t do it 100% instantly but do find value from adhering to some systems.

          4. Not So NewReader*

            When my shampoo or body wash get down to a certain point (half way or a bit less) I buy a new one.
            When I put groceries away, I put the shampoo or body wash directly in the shower so it is ready when I need it.

            I am a big fan of eliminating extra steps. I don’t use a dryer much. So I take my pants from the washer and hang them by their hems to dry. The weight of the garment tend to lessen the wrinkles. I end up having to touch up with the iron 1 or 2 pairs of pants the rest come out fine.

            This isn’t something that happens over night. It took YEARS. After a bit I realized that probably I will spend the rest of my life streamlining things. Needs change. New equipment/devices are invented that make things easier. Something that did not bug me 10 years ago is now very annoying and I decide to switch up what I am doing.

          5. MapleHill*

            @k, but here’s the thing. You are asking when you are supposed to do those things. Well, you are doing them anyway, no? If you can’t find the shampoo, you are spending time searching for it, only now it’s urgent. You must find the shampoo at some time to wash your hair, so when you go shopping and buy the shampoo, you don’t just leave it in the bag by the door when you get home right? So what do you do when you take it out of the bag? Have a place where your toiletries go. Same with the shoes, the umbrella, the headphones- have a place where these things go. Then you know exactly where to go and you’ve actually SAVED yourself time (and eliminated those subtasks) because you don’t have to hunt for them later. Then the time you’re saving will add up and maybe you’ll have more time to get things done.

            And some things you need to identify don’t have to be done right away. So if you are perpetually late, then the makeup or pills spill, pick them up after work. You are going to spend time picking up the makeup and pills whether you do it before or after work, so do it at the time that it won’t make you late.

            Something like checking your work notifications. Well, has your boss actually indicated you need to be available 24/7 or do you just think you need to see your boss’ email right away because you’ve put yourself in that mindset? My boss starts work at 6 am and I start work at 9 am, but I don’t keep my computer on in case he messages me at 6 am (which he often does). He knows that when I log on for work (or in normal circumstances arrive in the office), I will respond. If that was a problem, he’d let me know. Also, I have my work email on my phone because if there is an urgent email, I don’t have to waste time logging into my computer. Although I don’t check email even on my phone in the morning because I spend my time getting ready to avoid being late. Now would your boss rather you be late because you were trying to log in to check a message which may not even be from him or be remotely important or would your boss rather you be on time?

            I think Ace in the Hole had some really good advice you should go back to. You seem stuck in your mind on it’s not possible to find time for these things, but you are already finding time for them because they are things that MUST be done at some point, but you’re adding stress and tardiness in the bargain by not having a routine. You need to reevaluate how you are looking at these situations.

          6. Ace in the Hole*

            No, they’re not actually extra tasks. They replace a task you’re already doing without thinking about it. You are already spending time finding the replacement shampoo. You can spend MORE time doing it by your current method at the last minute, or LESS time by doing it in a controlled fashion ahead of when you need it. But time will be spent on the task one way or another.

          7. Jerusha*

            I’m sorry to see that you’re feeling so overwhelmed. As they say, been there, done that, bought the t-shirt (which was poorly made and didn’t fit well).

            You also don’t have to make all of these changes at once. Pick one (and only one). Once you’ve got that running smoothly, pick another one. I really like Not So New Reader’s suggestion of taking a few minutes over the weekend to ask yourself, “What was the biggest pain point this week? How can I fix it?” You’re not trying to revamp everything at once. Fix only one problem first.

            For example, if you decide that trying to find your shoes/footwear is the one thing you’re going to fix first.
            Pick one place where you will always take off your shoes when you come home. Pick a place (may be same or different) Where All the Shoes Live. Do NOT embark on a massive shoe hunt. As you go through your days, grab any footwear you happen across and put them Where All the Shoes Live. If your taking-off-my-shoes spot is not in the same place as Where All the Shoes Live, decide that the first step to picking another pair of shoes to wear the next day is to return today’s pair to Where All the Shoes Live and pulling out the pair you’re going to wear tomorrow.
            Do not try to make any other changes (in the shoe routine or anything else!)
            Once you’ve gotten a solid track record (basically until you’re doing it unthinkingly, because this is now How Things are Done) of never taking your shoes off except in the one spot, and you are no longer finding shoes in other places (or failing to find shoes in the spot Where All the Shoes Live when you want them), is there any way you can make it even easier? If where the shoes are currently living is a pile, is there a way to sort them? Sort them once. Add to your commitment to putting shoes back Where All the Shoes Live that you will put them back in pairs.
            Do not make any further changes until that is happening automatically as well.
            Once your shoe situation is under control, pick one other thing to work on. Maybe it’s not being able to find your shampoo? My shampoo is in one of two* places: It’s on a specific shelf in the bathroom cupboard, or it’s in the shower. (*Or in a shopping bag in front of the bathroom cupboard, because I got it that far but not onto the shelf. But it’s close enough to count for me.) Whenever you buy shampoo, it goes in one place. That is the Place to Find Shampoo. When you notice you’re running out in the shower, you don’t have to search for the next bottle, because the next bottle will be in the Place to Find Shampoo. [Remembering to buy another bottle so that there is shampoo to be found, in that Place or any other, is a separate thing. It’s not part of this task. This task starts when a bottle of shampoo enters your home.] Again, do not try to add additional complexity to this task, or take on another task, until you can reliably find shampoo in the Place when you need it.

            You do not have to fix all of the pain points at once. You _can’t_ fix them all at once. The old joke is, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!”. It sounds to me like you’re looking at the entire elephant, and (correctly!) deciding that you can’t eat it all in one sitting. But you don’t have to. You can take one small serving. You don’t have to take another helping until you’ve eaten what’s on your plate. (If your plate is already crowded with other things, as it sounds like it is, take only a teeny-tiny serving of elephant.) Just watch out for your subconscious doing the equivalent of the little kid moving stuff around on the plate to disguise the food they’re not eating. [I know nothing about subconscious minds trying to hide an unwanted task under the mental mashed potatoes. Nothing whatsoever. /whistles innocently]

      4. green beans*

        Oh, but there are so many of those that can be avoided and/or planned for.

        For me, daily wear or weather specific things can live in a specific spot. For me, my phone/keys/wallet/mask – 3 of them are either in my stuff bowl or in my jacket pocket (in winter) & I always have buffer time to find that fourth. Shoes are always by the front door; seasonal shoes should only have to be found once and then they live by the front door until the season is over.

        I’m crap at remembering umbrellas, but I always know where my rain jacket is, so I just use that instead of an umbrella.

        Shampoo and headphones are not necessities. It sucks when I don’t have them, or if I didn’t get to wash my hair, but if I ran out of time, I ran out of time.

        Moths can be killed when you come home. It’s not going to do any damage in the room.

        Email – well, this depends on your workplace, but honestly, if I’m on my way out, any emails can wait until I get to work. If it’s that urgent, my boss will call/text. And email notifications can be set up to show the first line, so I can quickly go urgent/not urgent without opening my email inbox.

        Sure, computer freezing – that’s the kind of thing that happens, but I have a backup plan for meetings (work phone/can use personal laptop for Zoom meetings.) If my computer is acting up, I preemptively forward Zoom meetings to my personal email so my work laptop is ready to go.

    22. Skeeder Jones*

      I agree that they need to start by identifying actual causes. Honestly, if someone can be consistently 20 minutes late, then they can be consistently on time. If they identify those behaviors that are contributing, then they can work on changing them. That may include getting out of bed earlier. I know mornings can be hard but what I usually tell myself is that an extra 10 minutes of sleep/laying in bed is not going to give me more energy and that once I’m out of bed and moving, I am fine.

    23. Rainer Maria von Trapp*

      +1 for trying to figure out the “why” and root cause. I have the same issue, which has a lot to do with how my anxiety manifests itself. Maybe before your next appointment/meeting time, you could ask yourself, “Okay, what’s going to happen at this meeting/appointment?” Walk yourself through it and visualize what is going to happen. When/if you feel anxious (stomach twists, eye twitches, for example) about something when you think about it, that might help you pinpoint it. Then you can start to figure out, with or without your therapist’s help, if your lateness is due to something like self-sabotaging, or is anxiety-based, etc. Sometimes just knowing *why* can help you address the problem because you now have some sense of control with the understanding. Good luck to you — and good for you for recognizing the issue and trying to work it out!

    24. MM*

      Yes. My version of this is that the getting-ready process is boring, so a) I don’t want to stop [reading/watching this video/working on whatever I’m working on/etc] to do it, and b) I will get distracted in the middle of it and start doing something else. So what I have to do is put on a podcast or something that will take up enough of my spare brainspace that I can then just go about what needs to happen for me to leave without stopping, because the part of my mind that wants stimulation is satisfied enough not to interrupt. That helped me a lot.

  3. Escaped a Work Cult*

    I’m struggling to give advice about time when you’ve mentioned that you’ve tried all the medical routes. I’m not sure if I should encourage you to move, even just halfway, either because of the time. I’m so sorry OP but unless the time situation is handled, I can’t encourage you to move and leave your current job where this is handled/tolerated.

    I truly empathize with your struggle. I really don’t know what would be a good solution so you can have a safety net while making this change.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am struggling here also, OP. Maybe scare the daylights out of yourself? Tell yourself that if you do not find things that work, you quality of life WILL suffer. And that suffering will start much sooner than you might think.

      1. MM*

        Nonono! If the lateness is a form of avoidance, which is common, this will make it much, much worse.

      2. mairona*

        Agreeing with the other person who commented on this suggestion – this can be a very, very bad idea! I’m not going to armchair diagnose OP with ADHD, but what they describe sounds a lot like my ADHD struggles. I also have tons of trouble trying to be on time; I’m either running late or I’m so paranoid about running late that I show up ridiculously early. However that same anxiety that can cause my hilariously early arrivals can also make me shut down and not go at all.

        Executive dysfunction is a bitch and a half and it screws with time management, organization, memory, and… I don’t want to say motivation exactly… more like that internal push to start and/or focus on a task. It’s hard to explain how you can be internally screaming at yourself to get up, move faster, stop getting distracted, etc. but be completely unable to actually do it. A looming threat just makes it so much worse because now my brain is screaming about consequences and punishments and how everyone’s going to hate me because of how bad I screwed up and how I should just blow off that obligation or quit my job or ghost that person because wouldn’t that just be easier?

        tl;dr: Brains are weird. Neurodivergent brains (like mine) are even weirder. Threatening weird brains doesn’t always yield the results you’d expect.

    2. Esmeralda*

      I don’t have a lateness problem of this kind, but I have colleagues who do. They have tried moving closer: doesn’t make a difference. They have been given a later start time: doesn’t help. (At one point we moved our entire weekly staff meeting of 25 people 30 minutes later to accommodate one person who was always late, a true PITA for many of us, and…it didn’t help. That person was still late to the staff meeting.)

      And given that the OP says they start late even when WFH, I don’t think moving closer to work is going to help…

      1. Momma Bear*

        Delays in logging in WFH – could it also be career/job burnout leading to procrastination?

  4. kittybutton*

    Can you automatically adjust your start time for work/meetings/events? What I mean by this is if work starts at 9am, you tell yourself you must be there at 8:30. Meeting friends for dinner at 7pm, you will be there by 6:30. No exceptions.

    1. Secretary*

      Great tip! Something that helps with that OP is having some kind of treat you get if you’re early. Like you get to watch a youtube video in your car while you wait.

    2. CCSF*

      I do this in my calendar for medical and other appointments. I’ll enter the event on my calendar for between 15-30 minutes before the scheduled appointment time. I never, ever put the actual time in the entry. Because I found myself compensating for *knowing* they were all 15 minutes early, I started making the amount of time vary. I’m never sure if it’s 15 minutes before the appointment or 30, so I’m ALWAYS at least 15 minutes early.

      I know it sounds like a ton or work/thought, but it works for me.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I do this with appointments and stuff like that and it does help. I’m HORRIBLE at gauging transit times, always have been. Doesn’t matter if I’m driving, taking the bus, walking, I will always be wrong about how long it will take to get from point A to point B. If I have an appointment at 11:30 I put 11 in my calendar, in the notes that you have to fully open the appointment to see I’ll put that the start time is 11:30. If I’m more than 30 minutes late, well, there was no hope for me there.

        It doesn’t work for me with regular, structured things like work, since I do know by heart what time that really starts and I’ll just make the mental adjustment in my head to the later time. But, also, since that is routine, I’m better at knowing travel/preparing times so while I occasionally make mistakes it’s not nearly as bad.

        1. LilyP*

          One thing that helps me is I never try to estimate or gauge transit times in my head — I always just open Google maps and plug in the directions. You can even choose a time or day or specific arrival time to account for traffic patterns/specific transit schedules. Then add buffer etc

    3. I Herd the Cats*

      This. Things I have done for/with/to people who are late (in business and casual settings) — I’ve told them the event starts 30 minutes earlier than it does. I’ve figured out that some of those people think “a 3pm start time” means they need to leave the house at 3pm, even though that means they’ll be 30 minutes late. In order to avoid being driven crazy by their lateness, I also try to arrange when possible to meet them there (I bring a book or have something to do while I’m waiting for them.) For work: I had a boss who had a firm 9am start time. Due to my commute/childcare issues, 930 is easier for me, and we had that honest conversation (won’t work for everyone, I get it, but it did for me. He adjusted our morning meeting to 930), knowing that I would work later. I’ll be honest, I struggle with this — as a person who feels “late” if I’m not 10 minutes early. There are definitely jobs out there where start time is flexible, but this doesn’t work if you need to be somewhere on time for a meeting with others waiting for you to start a meeting, for instance.

    4. Gan Ainm*

      I think this is a good idea, because one thing that stuck out to me from the letter is the OP asked if there were places where being chronically 20 minutes late would be okay, but I think if OP knew 20 minutes late would be acceptable, that that might become the de facto new “start time” and then would arrive a few minutes late on top of the 20… and so on, so while I don’t recommend working somewhere extremely strict about punctuality, I don’t think finding a free pass type of place will help you either. (And it’s going to affect many aspects of life so it’s worth fixing now.)

      That said, as someone who has had similar issues, when I looked it into “lateness research” to sort myself out, a few things resonated with me: 1.) a lot of chronically late people are overly optimistic about time 2.) a lot of them (somewhat counterintuitively) hate wasting time.

      When these two factors combine it means they try to use up every last minute, to make the most of their time, and not waste time waiting at the location. To reprogram my thinking on this I made sure to 1.) set a million alarms with realistic set back times for when I needed to start getting ready, leave, etc with plenty of buffer and 2.) always have something with me so I wouldn’t feel time was ‘wasted’ waiting
      (Let’s not get into how I was wasting the time of the people I was meeting, I know. I am
      Reformed.)

      Good luck OP, you can do it. for me it was a combination of just focusing on it, significant others who got annoyed with me, consciously working to reset my thinking, hating the embarrassed feeling of being late, and I think somewhat just maturing a bit.

    5. Emmy*

      I struggled so hard with chronic lateness for so long. Not many things helped but this did. The other thing I do is I have to do a task (shower, style hair, select outfit, make lunch, empty dishwasher, etc) before work, I double the amount of time I think it will take me. Usually I end up with extra time this way, which took some getting used to. I realized I had some anxiety around being the first one to arrive anywhere, which was feeding into my lateness. I am not sure if this applies to you too since you’ve already mentioned therapy didn’t help. Good luck, I really empathize with this!

      1. Loosey Goosey*

        This. I am terrible with lateness, and I build in extra time to get places now. Giving yourself a 10-15 minute (or more) buffer is so helpful! I often find that I *need* it, and when I don’t, it’s nice to not have the stress of rushing and worrying about how late I’m going to be.

      2. SnappinTerrapin*

        I have one alarm set to signal time to get ready for work, and a second set to ensure I leave on time.

        I have a third alarm set to tell me when to get out of the car. I learned that the workers I relieve are glad to leave early if I walk in the door too soon.

        If only my relief would learn how to use their alarms to ensure they would arrive on time, this could be a pretty good job.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        I agree with trying to really dig into what’s going on with why you are late. Do you really think 5 minutes has past but it’s been 15? What goes through your head when that ‘time to open the laptop’ alarm goes off? Is it, ‘oof, OK, well… one more cup of coffee/trip to the potty/let me brush my hair…’ and you realize you’re procrastinating because you don’t really want to start your day? (I feel that one) Or do you have that alarm set too early so you think you have more time for those kinds of things and it really should be set for, “no log on RIGHT NOW. You can pee in ten minutes if you need to.”

        Really spending some time paying attention to your reactions to things and reflecting on why you do some of the things you do non-judgmentally will help you a lot here. Don’t just beat yourself up over delays and being late, getting down to where the delays are coming from will help a lot with figuring out how to help yourself work around them. I know for me, I’m awful at guessing travel time. Just suck at it. So unless I’m going somewhere I’ve been 1,000 times, using the exact route I plan to use, I write down the start time as 30-45 minutes earlier than it is, depending on how far away it is. That helps me work around the fact my travel time is going to be wrong without freaking out about it (which makes it worse).

    6. Vin Packer*

      I do a version of this: Instead of entering events in my calendar as times to get there *by*, I set them as times to *leave.*

      So, if I have a meeting at 4pm, I don’t create an event in my calendar that says “Meeting” at 4pm. Instead, I create one at 3:30pm that says “Leave for 4pm meeting.” I set the alert to go off 10 minutes beforehand, so I have a 10 minute warning before I should *leave* rather than a 10-minute warning before I should be there (which I will always, always indulge in magical thinking about before panicking and trying to rush at the last second).

      I think this system would really confuse some people, but it works infinitely better for me than any other method I’ve tried. People at my current workplace don’t even know me at all as a chronically late person (which is a first).

      This also works great for my ADHD kid. If I say “be home by 4,” he’ll blow it big time, every time, which is nerve-wracking and infuriating. If I say “leave at 4,” he’s much more reliably home by 4 + travel time and we have way fewer fights.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Makes total sense. I do that, too. I set my alerts by when I need to “leave by” to arrive on time + buffer. Great kid tip. I’m going to write that one down.

    7. TechWorker*

      +1

      If you have a job with somewhat flexible start time this can work well too. I tell myself I have to be at work by 9.30 so I can finish at 6, but the actual ‘start time’ that we *have* to be in by is 10. I’m not a consistently late person but when I have a slow morning or miss a train that gives a whole half hour of leeway. (There are also folks in my office who aim for 10 and consistently miss, and get a talking to every once in a while… it’s not a good look).

    8. Hil*

      This letter writer could be young me and this is the only thing that has worked for me. Don’t fear being early, and always bring a book (or your knitting or whatever).

      I have a huge issue with dead time, where I just need to leave in 12 minutes but I don’t want to just sit around for 12 minutes staring at my phone so I start **task that cannot possibly take more than 10 minutes** and then completely inevitably I look up and it’s been 20 minutes and I’m late and I cannot for the life of my figure out how.

      Always always plan to be early.

  5. KHB*

    I wouldn’t call it a “perk” or expect it to be listed in the job description, but some workplaces are definitely less persnickety about strict punctuality than others, and you could ask about that in an interview.

    But you say you’re late to “everything” – how far does that extend beyond what time you show up in the morning? At my job, nobody cares if you show up at 9:00 or 9:20, but if there’s a staff meeting scheduled for 10:30, showing up to that at 10:50 wouldn’t fly. (Something like 10:32, though, would be OK. I’m the one who shows up for 10:30 meetings at 10:29 and gets teased for always being “early.”)

    1. Littorally*

      This.

      My current job is coverage-based and therefore much more exacting about timeliness. Job before this was “get it done today and you’re fine” which was a lot easier to deal with.

    2. HoHumDrum*

      Yeah, I am like LW, I am constantly late to everything. I *can* be on time but it involves a LOT of emotional/mental labor and stress. I just don’t have it in me to be able to do that every day all day. What has helped me immensely is having a job with flexibility in the schedule so I can save my energy for the times being on time actually does matter. Because no one cares when I get to my desk in the morning, I’m able to focus on making sure I *am* on time to the public program I have that day.

      I could list out more practical every day tips I use to help be on time, but I think my biggest piece of advice to LW is to look for a field/employer/job where precision timing is more occasional than constant. I had tried so many things before that I thought “didn’t work,” to make me be punctual, and it turns out those strategies were a lot more successful when I wasn’t constantly exhausted and feeling like a failure.

      1. Quill*

        I’d second that OP will probably need to figure out what they can control in terms of timing (getting to the 8 am bus stop at 7:50) and work in flexibility for what they can’t (the bus is stuck in traffic) in terms of getting to and from work on time.

        It’s been a world of difference going from a place where you MUST only clock in on the quarter hours to “I don’t give a duck if you show up at 7:30 or 7:37, but the meeting opens at 8.”

    3. Lady Meyneth*

      Flex time! Flex time is a life-saving thing of beauty. OP, if you can, try to prioritize offers with companies with flex time.

      It won’t help with being on time for meetings and such, so you still need to work on that. But it’s great not having to worry daily about starting times, especially if you take public transportation.

      1. KHB*

        I tend to think of flex time as more like “You get to choose whether you work 7-3, 11-7, or anything in between. But an employer that can’t accommodate that level of flexibility might still be OK with 9:20-5:20, say.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          It depends on the workplace. Mine, yeah, my time is flexed a bit later, so basically I start between 9:45 and 10, and end a little after 6. Fortunately, my office is also more of the ‘we don’t care about time tracking to the minute, just get your work done’ school so having that 15 minute grey area isn’t a big deal. I think, if flex time is available for OP, talking about it with your boss and being really clear is the important thing.

          Find out what is acceptable, and also examine your real situation. Is it easier to be on time if you can start at 10 after rush hour is over? Or are you really kind of an early bird and end up wasting time until you are late, so actually getting in a bit early counteracts that?

    4. JC*

      I wouldn’t ask about it in an interview unless you really want to cross places off your list that care at all about timeliness. Even if you’re in an office that only cares a little, coming out and asking about it might be a red flag to them.

      1. KHB*

        If OP’s as good as she says she is, she’s going to have options (unless she’s in a really small field). So there’s no reason not to rule out places where she knows she’ll be a bad fit.

      2. Mimi*

        Actually, I think moving to a city gives a good excuse to ask. “I’ve never commuted to work on public transit before, and I’ve heard that it can be unreliable. Does a lot of your staff use public transit? How do they handle delays and breakdowns?” That might be a way to get a sense of the org’s approach to timeliness that doesn’t sound like “I AM A LATENESS DISASTER” to the interviewer.

        While it definitely varies from field to field (and office to office, even manager to manager) aside from the kinds of work you should look for, I’d say your best bet is probably at a job where a lot of people take public transit, ideally frequent subway/bus/trolley rather than irregular buses or trains. My last job had a coworker who was regularly 20-30 minutes later than his nominally scheduled start time, and after a couple of years we may still have called it “late,” but no one expected him before 9:30. He would work a commensurate amount after, too, so there were no hard feelings.

        1. another Hero*

          this approach to the question is a good call. it’ll also give op a better sense of how well the office is served by public transit, which can be variable!

      3. LizM*

        I wouldn’t ask it as “Do you care about punctuality?”

        I would ask, “Can you tell me about the schedule expected for this position?” In my office, where people are able to set their own schedules as long as they make it to required meetings, I would say that.

  6. sswj*

    Since you are a top performer in your actual work, I think you need to reframe your pre-work time, commute, etc not as “getting to work” but as an ESSENTIAL part of your job.

    It’s one thing to be a bit late to dinner with friends, but it’s a really bad idea to be consistently late to client meetings and boss conferences. So, your commute IS your job, and needs to be as timely and tidy as the rest of your work.

    1. CTT*

      Yes! And LW, you may think that you aren’t being disrespectful of people’s time when you do this, but the people waiting on you don’t know your intentions. Even if you’re a great performer, that can drag on you over time.

      1. Colette*

        That’s a good point. The OP is not intending to be disrespectful of other people’s time – but she still is being disrespectful.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Also, if LW starts interacting with higher level people, their time is precious. You waste it and you will not last long.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, and even with peers, someone who’s always late is going to irritate more punctual employees and they’re less likely to give the always late person any slack or go above and beyond to help them.

        2. Threeve*

          And many people can hear what they want to hear. If you roll in late to a meeting and one person says “it’s okay” while everyone else stays silent you shouldn’t draw the conclusion that it was okay.

        3. Anne*

          Indeed. One of my closest friends is late often and it is incredibly irritating although she isnt trying to not think about me.

          Interestingly she CAN make it to work ontime and catch planes, so it clearly is different when its social which is even more irritating. I usually just tell her we are meeting earlier.

          1. allathian*

            I had a friend like this. In the end I just concluded that she didn’t value our friendship enough to be on time for me. Interestingly she was rarely more than 5 minutes late in the days before cell phones, but when both of us had one, she’d text me when she was 10 minutes late that she’d be there in 5, and even that was optimistic. Our friendship pretty much petered out when one day I’d had enough, and when she was about 30 minutes late I texted back “don’t bother, I’m going home.” Now I guess that looking back I could have handled things a bit differently. We usually met outside our favorite cafe, and I guess I should have just gone inside and ordered something and waited for her there, maybe reading a book or magazine. But I’ve always disliked going into a cafe, bar, or restaurant alone, so I just stood outside and got more and more annoyed.

  7. sb51*

    I can be the same way, but having a fixed public transit schedule actually gets me rolling on time—if I can procrastinate I will but if there’s only one bus I will catch it.

    And then with a history of being reasonably on-time, when transit does break down everyone understands. (The hard part for me is missing meetings because I miss the notifications even when at my desk.)

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      The “history of being reasonably on time” is key. I have a good friend who was fired from a job in Manhattan for being late on a day when there was a legitimate bus delay. She was upset about that because the bus was usually on time and it wasn’t her fault that there had been a traffic accident that delayed the bus. The problem was that she had been repeatedly late and had been warned to not be late again, so there was zero room for error.

      1. Antilles*

        Absolutely, the history plays into how other people interpret it.
        The first time you’re late, they might accept your excuse of traffic or a bus being delayed or whatever…but the fifth time, it’s eye-rolls of “seriously dude, how have you not yet realized that a 30-minute drive is never 30.00 minutes?”

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          It can also be regional. In DC, it’s simply accepted that Metro may very well be a disaster and even someone who started their commute early is going to be late. The system’s been a mess for years, and it’s just the way it is – when 1/3 of the office is late because Stadium-Armory caught fire again, everyone generally just rolls with it. I told my boss that WMATA decided a decade ago that my natural arrival time is 15 minutes after official start time no matter what time I leave my house, and she’s fine with it. Trust me, they get that 15 minutes back in missed lunches, late nights, and after-hours calls. (And just driving is not an option for everyone because traffic is worse and DC parking is $20/day or $200-300/month. I’d arrive at work in a murderous mood if I had to do I-66 or the Beltway on the regular.)

          1. FridayFriyay*

            I came here to say roughly about the same thing about Boston. While the MBTA isn’t as epically absurd as WMATA, it’s gotten worse over the years. Driving is just not a realistic prospect, especially due to the lack of parking in many parts of downtown and the insane prices if you do try to make it work. There are very few places in the city where driving from point A to point B is not a massive headache that takes a very long time (and varying amounts of time daily, especially during rush hour) so it likely won’t help much with punctuality. All the google mapping in the world will not be able to explain how a .5 mile commute can take so long but it will, and you cannot rely on any reasonable measure of typical driving time to estimate what it would take you. For my experience with non-coverage related jobs people mostly roll with it and since everyone takes transit including higher ups there’s a lot of grace given when it’s obvious that there is a particular issue that day. If people are perpetually and grievously late beyond what is “typical” for a transit commute (barring unusual circumstances every once in a while) you’d eventually get spoken to about it. But yeah, this is not the kind of issue that will be solved by trying to commute by car in many urban areas.

            1. sb51*

              Yeah, my thread-starting comment was MBTA-inspired. Also enough of my colleagues take the T such that its reliability (or lack thereof) is well-understood. This is important—in an office/city where everyone drives and people look down on transit, unfortunately it’s much less acceptable as a reason for being late, even when 100% accurate. (Sigh.)

              Also, if my commute has really gone awful, I email my boss from my phone —which is well earlier than I need to be in the office but also at the point where I know I’ll be late, because I have a tight connection that can fall apart even if I do everything right.

            2. pleaset cheap rolls*

              If you’re an hour late two or three times a year because of MAJOR unexpected problems, that’s no big deal (assuming you’re not missing an important client meeting).

              Being frequently 10 or 15 minutes late is far far worse. Just leave 15 minutes earlier. Duh.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                Ha, if only! No, this is not how WMATA works. The don’t have a few major, unexpected problems a year, they have hey, everything is normal and fine you’re on the train and then sick passenger/stuck doors/disabled train/FIRE!.

                I can leave my house at 7:30 or I can leave my house at 8:00, and I arrive at 9:15 regardless. I just gave up trying to fight it years ago as the lack of control was stressing me out. Now, I just don’t schedule meetings before 9:30. My boss could not care less.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  I think that’s true – people who move to DC from NYC complain about WMATA v. MTA all the time – WMATA closes around midnight, charges weighted fares based on distance rather than one flat fee, and doesn’t cover the city as densely (train or bus).

                  WMATA is also burdened by crossing three jurisdictions, plus relying on federal funding. Trying to get DC/MD/VA and the fed to agree on anything, much less pay for it, is a circus and probably why the system is crumbling from deferred maintenance issues.

          2. Momma Bear*

            Not only is Metro Always On Fire, but they started making the time between trains, even at rush hour, longer. If patterns change, you need to take note and adjust accordingly. I am sure my easy commute will change as more schools and businesses reopen.

          3. Pauli*

            Another thing to keep in mind is that big cities with strong public transport usually have TERRIBLE parking availability in the center of the city. So, if you’re thinking about keeping your car because you’re afraid public transit will make you late, make sure you’re also factoring in an obscene amount of time searching for street parking, or the extra cost of paying for parking near work. When I used to commute into Manhattan, there’s basically nowhere near work that you could leave a car except expensive parking garages. Maybe parking is something you can negotiate into your contract? But otherwise it doesn’t seem worth it to me.

          4. LizM*

            It’s regional, but it’s also not. I worked in DC, and we definitely had “there was another fire and they’re single tracking the blue line again” days, but also, if you had a 9:00 meeting with our agency’s senior leadership, you planned for that buffer. So on 9:00 meeting days, it wasn’t unusual to see people in the office close to 7, because they’d built that much of a buffer in. But on days with no meetings, if there was a Metro issue, you could tell because of the people who didn’t make it in until closer to 10. It’s about knowing where the give is, and where it isn’t.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yes, this is definitely true! I don’t sleep well before an early meeting because I’m terrified I’ll oversleep or end up in a WMATA boondoggle. If the judge says be there at 8:30, I’ll pay a babysitter to get the kids to school and leave way too early. On days it doesn’t matter as much, I’m not going to those lengths, though.

          5. clogerati*

            I hated working and commuting in DC because of this, I remember that regardless of whether I left 2 hours early or 45 minutes early I was 15 minutes late on a good day. I felt horrible because a lot of my work was coverage-based, but everyone who lived further than walking distance was also frequently late.

        2. Cat Tree*

          I had a classmate in college who was always extremely late. Age would literally show up 40 minutes late to a 50-minute lecture. Then since she had missed most of it, she would ask tons of questions to get the professors to cram that 40 minutes into the 10 minute break between classes. This was just a weird quirk until we got assigned to the same group for a huge project. She was late for every group meeting and it was the same excuse every time – traffic and parking. I directly asked why she didn’t just leave consistently earlier. Clearly what she thinks is a 20 minute commute is regularly a 50 minute commute. She just rolled her eyes.

          And here’s the thing – her work was also terrible. As a group, we had to wait to even get her work and then someone else had to re-do it every time. We started preemptively just doing it all anyway. If she was late but brilliant it probably wouldn’t be so grating. A good reputation in other areas can often make up for lateness to a certain extent.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Even late, brilliant people are exhausting. Think of it this way, we do not need someone to come up with a brilliant plan to end World War II. It’s ended. We’ve moved on. A late plan is just that, too little and too late.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This. I could get away with this with no problem, but I’m never late unless there is some kind of horrendous traffic situation.

        I used to ride the bus sometimes pre-covid and I know that the second bus on my route is supposed to leave te transit center every 15 minutes, but the 7:15 is always late, so I can either wait until almost 7:30 and be late-ish (not in-trouble late but later than I like to be) to work, or get a move on in the morning and get the 7:00, and be a bit early.

      3. Liz*

        This is why, 35 years ago, when I took the bus into NYC, I set my alarm clock 20 minutes fast. Because I caught a certain bus, and while I still COULD make it on time if I took a later one, it as more crowded, and there was no guarantee I’d be on time. I’d get in before my start time, so I could go get breakfast, or get settled for the day. A later bus meant i was in, and had to hit the ground running, which doesn’t work well for me.

        To this day, i still keep mine set 20 minutes fast. I’m so used to it, i can’t let it go.

        1. LKW*

          I used to do this with my bedroom alarm clock. I called it “Setting the clock to Stupid Time” as in when I wake up my brain is not get running smart so I can easily fool it.

          For any clock not tied to the internet – the time gets closer to “real time” the closer you get to the front door.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            I set my alarm clock (old school one) 5 min early, my car’s clock 5 min early, and used to do the same with my watch until I got one that syncs to my phone. I didn’t really “trick” myself into thinking that’s the time it was, but would only subtract the difference if I was running late and REALLY did need to know the exact time. Oddly enough, my car’s clock is fast and will gain about 2 minutes every 6 months. I have to set it back again every time the time changes for DST. I’m still late sometimes…

            1. DD*

              My car clock is 7min fast to account for the “find a parking place” time. But I have to set it again every few months.

    2. Batgirl*

      My horrendous commute job was actually the first one I was ever consistently on time for. The traffic was so bananas that it made sense to leave stupidly early, beat it, and have breakfast or do my hair at my destination.
      Because I was still in the “just can’t be on time no matter what” stage of my life, otherwise known as ages 5-35, I never did get in stupidly early; but I did just about make it in with enough time to either do my hair or eat. Some days I was only just time, but with electrified hair and hungry eyes. But I was on time! So, win.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I eat breakfast at work. I’m not hungry earlier than that, anyway, and it’s something I can do in a few minutes once I’m there. And then I’m not hungry again by 9:00.

      2. Anne*

        Makes sense! Much easier for me to be late for something that is really close by than far away, because Im building in SO much time for unexpecteds and the further it is, the more likely something could go wrong.

    3. Storm in a teacup*

      I totally agree that needing to rely on specific public transport tables helped me be on time to my old job. I also realised I was selective about what I was late to eg always early if I knew I was opening up clinic (patients priority) but if I was just going to be checking emails at my desk for the first half hour I was often tardy. Learning to treat all work time as essential (patient priority) really helped me.
      Also I found I constantly underestimated how long things would take.
      The thing that eventually worked for me was becoming a line manager! When you have to speak to employees about punctuality you have to live it yourself!

    4. MissCoco*

      I’m also chronically late and public transport is a good motivator. It really puts a lid on any budding “time optimism” to watch a bus merrily roll past your stop as you’re sprinting down the block because you thought you could do one last thing before leaving.

      If the car would offer a good back up and you can afford it, it may be a good safety.
      At my old job I could get into work in my car if I missed the bus and not be late, but I would have to pay $10-15 to park. So my car kept me from developing a reputation for chronic lateness, but I still had a strong motivation to use the bus, and that hard deadline on leaving my house was helpful.

      I agree that people are understanding of very occasional, but more major lateness due to public transit (in my old city it was guaranteed that our whole team would be at least 30 minutes late the morning of the first big snow), but I don’t think it builds in much extra forgiveness for general lateness, because most people are using public transit and have managed to usually be on time.

    5. k*

      I live in NYC, and we… uh, don’t have a fixed public transit schedule.
      Which makes things ironically even more stressful, because if you spend even, say, 15 extra seconds doing something, that 15 seconds could turn into 10 minutes lost.

    6. EchoGirl*

      Interestingly, for me it’s the exact opposite. I’ve found that I have a way better track record for being on time when I’m driving somewhere than when I take public transit. I think it has to do with the fact that public transit can turn a minor delay into a major one — if I’m two minutes late getting out of the house and I’m driving somewhere, well, there’s probably enough cushion built into the schedule for that, but with public transit, a two-minute delay can easily turn into a twenty-minute delay because I miss the bus and have to wait for the next one.

  8. Dust Bunny*

    We’ve had a few posts on this already and I wish the LW had provided a little information about what her therapists have said so we’d have some insight on which to build, because right now it sounds like she’s tried everything and none of it works so . . . what else does she expect us to say?

    I have to confess I understand being late the first couple of times going somewhere, but not after that, because after I’ve been wrong once or twice I make sure to leave earlier from then on. But I’m *highly* motivated to avoid the embarrassment of walking in/joining Zoom/whatever after everyone else has already arrived and is there to see me mess up.

    1. Area Scientist*

      Really, it should be about motivation. This person seems to be a bit defeatist, of course if you can’t stop being late, then trying things will not help. They appear to have the attitude that they’re writing off their ability to change before they try any technique.

      1. another Hero*

        Eh, they say they’ve tried a lot of stuff. No need for us to believe they tried them all convinced they wouldn’t work.

    2. mcfizzle*

      I added a similar comment somewhere else, but for me, another huge motivator is I hate feeling rushed/behind. “Come ON light, turn GREEN!” basically makes me really anxious, which lingers for quite a long time, even if I actually then do make it on time. Even if I’m earlier than I anticipated, I’d much rather do that and take away the stress.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I have a ridiculous level of anxiety about parking. It’s fine for my job because there’s always enough parking, but anywhere else . . . my heart is racing until I’ve found a legal parking spot (I’m in a big city). I always leave a lot of extra time just to find parking.

    3. Momma Bear*

      I wonder if the therapy was about the lateness or if it addressed anything specific like work anxiety or ADHD directly. If they had therapists that just noodled around the edges vs working on root cause (which may admittedly not have been their area of expertise), then that’s one way they could have failed LW. It can also be hard to find the right med that works. Even generic to name brand may change the effects.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s super important to allow others to help us. Borrowing others’ ideas and making those ideas work as a temporary stop gap can carry us long enough until we find our own ideas that do work.

      So, OP, what would go wrong in your life if you arrived on time most of the time for most things? What do you fear will happen next?

    5. Elwing*

      Exactly. I don’t think OP is doing themselves a favor by framing their lateness as “this is what it is, I’m always late, nothing to be done about it”. On one hand, I truly empathize that being on time can be a genuine struggle if you’re challenged in that area. On the other hand… other people have the same number of hours in a day and presumably similar tasks to perform before they arrive at work. They manage to be on time. There should be ways to manage to do that for OP as well. I have the feeling that they want a kind of magical solution where being on time suddenly is very easy or doesn’t matter anymore. And the reality is, that’s not going to happen. If you’re habitually late, it’s always going to count against you a bit (or a lot).

  9. Haley*

    So I know that a lot of people are suggesting ADHD, but I would go to a professional and actually talk through these issues because there’s definitely more than one thing it could be. For me, a big part of being constantly late was anxiety and the amount of emotional energy it takes for me to get ready to go and do something – and now that I am on SSRIs it has improved (not entirely, I still have work to do! but it’s easier for me to leave the house when I actually need to and I’ve been so much better at being on time for the most part). So there could be actually a host of undiagnosed issues potentially at play instead of beating yourself up for what seems like a personal failing.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I love what Alison said above. A medical diagnosis might not be the magic bullet. I was talking about a dear person in my life- waaay up stream here. This person was diagnosed with a thyroid problem. Even once treated there were no major changes in how this person operated. They simply became a chronically late person who was now on thyroid meds.

    2. AnonRonRon*

      Seconded. I have generalized anxiety disorder, and lateness definitely plays into that. For the LW, this could just be a quirk of who they are and there’s no diagnosis attached, but it’s good to expand the possibilities beyond ADHD.

  10. BlueBelle*

    Usually, people who are perpetually late are people who think “Oh I can do this one thing before I have to leave, it will only take a minute” and then that turns in 15 minutes then they get distracted by something else. You have to set yourself up for success and being on time. You have to follow a very strict schedule, get up at X time, shower for X minutes, it takes X amount of time to get ready, you leave at exactly X time. You have to retrain how you see and use time.
    A lot of companies have flexible start and end times, it just depends on the culture. You can ask if they have hard and fast rules, my company has asked that people start their days between 7-9 am and end no sooner than 4 pm. Even with that people get used to when you are supposed to be there. So if you say your start time is 9 are you still going to show up at 9:20?
    Good luck.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      It can be a lot of things. One issue I’ve seen in multiple late people is only counting the actual behind-the-wheel driving time as the “transit time”. But you have to count the time of all the steps door-to-door until you are actually sitting at your desk. So they have 20 minutes of driving, 5 minutes of driving around the parking garage looking for a spot, 5 minutes to walk to the elevator, and 5 minutes to get on the elevator and ride it up. And they’re consistently at least 15 minutes late even though they “left on time” (20 minutes before they had to be there).

      Another one is assuming that the shortest time it has ever taken to get there, or the shortest time it physically could take, is what it will take. So if the drive takes 20 minutes at 3 AM with absolutely zero traffic, “it takes 20 minutes to get there” forever, in their minds. Then when it actually takes 45 minutes in rush hour, it’s a total surprise every time.

      Some people get distracted if they notice something they’ve been meaning to get around to. Maybe they realize it’s time to pick out clothes to donate to charity or something. If you’re the kind of person who can start that and then drop it when it’s go time, fine. But if you are the kind of person who historically gets immersed in the task and forgets about work, you can’t do that. You have your morning routine and that is all you do in the morning. (This can be tricky if you have a bunch of dependents who throw curve balls at you.)

      1. Anonym*

        Great point. I actually timed myself for a while, which finally proved to my stubborn brain that I was entirely wrong about how long I took to do things. It helped! Now I build in 20+ minutes of margin on top of travel time to cover my meandering.

        1. Weekend Please*

          This may be a good strategy for the OP. Instead of focusing on what you are late for, look at what is taking longer than you thought. Time how long it actually takes you for a week so you can better budget your time.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        I’ve started pushing my bedtime and waking time forward to try and accommodate this, because I realised I was only counting the time I spent on the bus under normal traffic conditions as the time it took to get to work. I wasn’t considering that it takes me a good 30-45 minutes to get ready, plus potential extra time spent stuck in traffic. Now I give myself a 2-hour buffer between getting up and getting in to work, and I am (almost) always on time + my mornings are way less stressful.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Some people also have no internal sense of time. Both of my children have ADHD, and their sense of the passage of time is almost nonexistant. We use a lot of visual timers and alarms/reminders because they cannot accurately gauge how much time has elapsed without outside prompts.

    3. Lynn*

      Yes. I think it’s actually a cognitive bias to underestimate how long that little stuff can take. I have had to consciously remind myself: just because something it may be easy to do something does not mean it will also be fast

    4. Batgirl*

      I agree with the strict schedule; it’s an absolute imperative. However I find it very hard to gauge how long x minutes is, particularly when I’m busy or distracted so if my schedule says “shower for x minutes” I come out to find it’s been twice that. I’ve had many mornings of failed schedule followings. Even with a clock in front of me, I struggle to track it. My own method is music and habit. I always shower to the same song, make breakfast to the same tune and generally have to leave by the end of my playlist.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        And this is exactly why I became a nighttime showerer. Shower daydreaming is A Thing, and sometimes I lose track of which parts of me I’ve already cleaned and figure it’s probably better to condition my hair twice than not at all, so I really couldn’t tell you how long an “average” shower takes for me.

      2. Kaitydidd*

        I have a clock in my shower, and a time that I know I have to be getting out of the shower to be on time. It’s helped a lot!

        1. Batgirl*

          Im a bit jealous that works for you. Ironically, watching a clock is one of the very things most likely to make me float away from reality.

          1. Kaitydidd*

            That’s interesting! Seeing the clock helps me a lot. Without a visual or a familiar activity time doesn’t really seem real to me. I was a distance runner through college, so walking, running, exercising gives me a basis for the passage of time because of the speed/distance/time relationships for choosing a pace.
            I saw the shower clock advice on an ADHD subreddit. I’ll just stand under the hot water and daydream if I stop moving in there. If I’m within 10 minutes of Get Out Time I know I can just follow my routine and be fine, but there have been a few occasions where I hustled because I had less time.

      3. MapleHill*

        I have an Echo dot in my bedroom and if I need to be out of the shower by a certain time, I just set a timer. I like a nice long hot shower, so this is really helpful when I need to be somewhere (or threw food in the oven and want to get out before it’s done). But you could do that with a phone too.

    5. In my shell*

      THIS @BlueBelle! We have a co-worker who allows herself to fall into this trap! I’ll just do this one quick thing! Her start time could be 7 am or 7 pm and she would be late.

    6. JokeyJules*

      something i’ve suggested to a habitually late friend is to truly time how long it takes them to get ready. They truly do not know how long it actually takes them to get out of bed, or shower, or get dressed, or other self care things for the day, or pack their lunch, etc. They truly could not guess how much time that takes and figured everything took 5-10 minutes tops. So on a saturday, they woke up, wrote down the times after each standard “Getting ready” task was done and realized thats why they were late. They had misjudged how long it takes them to get up and dressed by ~20 minutes. I’d recommend OP give it a try. Concretely knowing “no matter what i need X minutes to get ready” could be a huge help.

      1. Allonge*

        Another part of this is that there is no ‘should’ for how long things take. Don’t go be it should take a normal adult X minutes to get dressed. There is no target here, not for your baseline. It may take me up to 10 minutes to figure out what jewellry I want to wear on a particular day. Others can be out of the bed and out the door in 15 minutes total. There is no value in being one or the other.

        1. Kaitydidd*

          Yes! I take about twice as long to get ready as my girlfriend, despite the fact that she actually wears eye shadow and styles her hair and I just go for mascara and hope my curls cooperate. I start getting ready before she does, and she’s mystified at how long I take to do just about everything.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        Also, it’s worth seeing what you can shunt to the night before. I used to spend so much time finding clothes to wear, sorting out breakfast, cleaning my glasses etc. Now I spend ~20 minutes an evening setting out an outfit, packing my bag and prepping breakfast while I’m actually reasonably awake so that in the morning I can just stumble into some clothes, grab my pre-prepared food and bag and go. It’s been a game changer.

  11. moonshine cybin*

    I think there’s two main approaches here:

    1) look for jobs with flexible scheduling where tardiness won’t be as much of an issue. Certainly there will always be aspects of ~any~ job that require being on time, but if you know that this is such a large problem for you, minimize how much that will happen so that you can focus on improving for a smaller number of cases where punctuality matters.

    2) identify patterns in why this is a consistent pattern. Do you get distracted when you need to go? Do you feel a sense of dread? Are you just very bad at calculating how long things take? All would require different solutions, and it may help

    1. Kaiko*

      I think also there needs to be a stop to this story that OP is telling themselves—”This is just how I am!”—and an acknowledgment that, even if it turns out that there are underlying neurological conditions that inform this lateness, ultimately OP is where the buck stops (or, rather, starts).

      OP, does this affect every area of your life? Do you routinely show up late to medical appointments, job interviews, time with friends? Is there something about a physical transition that’s challenging, but a deadline to submit work is fine? I really like the idea of looking for patterns, because patterns can be manipulated or changed.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “This is just how I am!”

        Unfortunately, the world replies with, “This is just how, we, the world ARE!”
        The whole world cannot bend to accommodate everyone at all times. Overall people are great and they will do some awesome things to help other people. But not everyone and not all the time. Each of us has to have plan B, if the world does not rush to rescue us from our own folly.

    2. A Genuine Scientician*

      I think point 1 here is critical.

      If the OP finds that this is just inherent to them — and it does sound like they’ve tried quite a number of things to address it — then they need to look at roles where this won’t be a problem. Not employers; positions — there are plenty of organizations where it would be a Huge Deal if the receptionist or IT support wasn’t there on time, but where the Marketing Director could be half an hour late (as long as there wasn’t an important meeting) and it would be fine. Those roles do exist. But it does mean a) selecting completely out of certain professions (almost all health care, teaching, most customer service, etc), and b) difficulty in quite a number of entry-level roles where coverage is a critical part of the job in a way that it isn’t for more senior level roles.

    3. LilyP*

      This kind of reminds me of the letter recently about the person who struggled with organization driving herself into the ground trying to be a PM. Yeah, every job does require you to be somewhat organized (or punctual) but for some jobs it’s The essential requirement and for others it’s not, so why torture yourself when you could find a different job that plays to your real strengths? I think if OP can find a job with flex time for regular hours and figure out a way to be on time to the occasional Important Meeting that would be a great solution and not any less “worthy” than succeeding at the (incredibly difficult) project of Fixing Your Whole Sense Of Time.

  12. Loredena Frisealach*

    oh, for those things where you have pop up reminders. I’ve found the daily ‘eat breakfast’ reminder useless as it became background noise. However, for meetings I just have a mental rule – as soon as the 5 minutes reminder pops up I get on the call no. matter. what Because history has taught me that if I miss that 5 minutes till the meeting reminder I will be 5 minutes late!

    For needing to travel somewhere – I block travel time on my calendar, and I make it generous (worst case scenario) and I start packing to leave when I get the 15 minute reminder for the same reason. And Google Maps will text you reminders to leave if you use a leave by or arrive by map.

    1. James*

      “However, for meetings I just have a mental rule – as soon as the 5 minutes reminder pops up I get on the call no. matter. what”

      This is what I do. Then, if I think “Oh, I can get this done in a minute” I’ll mute my microphone and start on it until the meeting starts (okay, full honesty, sometimes while the meeting is going on, if I’m only there for one part). I’m there, and as soon as people start talking I can respond.

      1. sacados*

        I’m like that with getting up in the morning. I don’t have any trouble *waking up* when my alarm goes off, I don’t oversleep. But then I always tell myself, “oh I will just sit here and play around on my phone for a few minutes” which invariably turns into like an hour and suddenly I don’t have time to wash my hair anymore.
        No matter how many times I tell myself that it’s so much less stressful to get up, get ready !without rushing! and then have my checking twitter/facebook/whatever time when I’m already up and dressed and drinking my coffee … it just never works.
        The only solution is to train myself that I MUST get out of bed IMMEDIATELY when my alarm goes off, do not pass go, no “just 5 minutes, what could it hurt.” IMMEDIATELY, NO EXCUSES.
        (Admittedly, I still very rarely succeed in this.)

        1. Quill*

          Alarm must be physically accessed by actually leaving the bed and crossing the room or bust. Phone plugged in overnight and on silent to charge further from you than your work clothes, so you can’t sit back down in bed to check your phone.

          Those are basically my only hacks for Hibernation Season, otherwise known as everything between mid october and mid february.

          1. lailaaaaah*

            Also, getting an app blocker to screen out anything you might be tempted to check before work starts could be useful. Used to spend so much time scrolling through stuff in the evening/morning – now I have all social media and a few other apps blocked from 9pm to 7am so that I can’t check them until I’m already on the bus to work.

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          I’m generally a pretty prompt and part of it is having a schedule I know, say, that by 6:30 I have to be out of bed, by 7am I must be eating, but 740 I must be in the shower, b7 755 i must be out of the shower, by 8:10 I must be walking out the door.

          1. londonedit*

            This is what I do. I’m a chronically early person, but I don’t allow myself to get distracted in the mornings. I don’t do things like watching TV or checking my phone – it’s get up, get in the shower, get dressed, dry my hair, put my make-up on, grab my bag, leave the house. I know what time I have to leave to get to work comfortably on time (back in the days when I was actually going to the office…!) and therefore I know that I get up at say 6:45, I’m out of the shower by 7, I’m drying my hair by 7:15, I leave the house at 7:30. Any other household tasks are for when I get home in the evening, and checking my phone/messages/email is for when I’m on the train.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              I’m also usually early, but have no problem doing other stuff – I have a bunch of check points where I must be doing something, but often get up early and chill doing other stuff, checking the time (I wear a watch) from time to time. I’m often 90 minutes ahead of the first check point (up by 630), an hour ahead of the must be eating. The shower and out the door are usually spot on the schedule.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        I have started doing this as well. I found myself slipping into a bad habit of the 5 minute bell being the “time for the bathroom/water/snack break” bell and I was a little bit late every time. I had to retrain myself into thinking the 5 minute bell is the “call in bell” and if I can finish that email while I wait, great!

    2. char*

      I set my calendar to give me two reminders for each meeting. One is 10 minutes beforehand and is the “start wrapping up” reminder. The other is three minutes beforehand and is the “drop whatever you’re doing and get to the meeting NOW” reminder.

      I used to only have the 10 minute reminder, but I found that that 10 minute gap was exactly enough time for me to get distracted by something else and forget about the meeting entirely. I need the extra reminder right beforehand.

    3. Batgirl*

      I love pop up reminders for Big Things. But if I tried to use them for everyday things and to keep me on time for Life, everyday, I’d have alarms beeping at me every second. I feel your description of “background noise” so hard.

  13. Canadian Valkyrie*

    I wonder what is going on for you. For example, do you believe you’re just then late person, and that reinforces your behaviour? Or maybe even though you respect your colleagues/ friends/ etc you know that nothing is going to happen (eg when you show up to a meeting on time everyone gabs for 10 minutes and maybe you feel like you’re wasting your time)?

    I’m also wondering how you spend your time. I have also been /that/ chronically late person (usually 3-7 minutes late, cause yes I’ve been late enough to know the exact # of minutes I tend to be late by). And for me, it was because of many things like what I mentioned but also I’d know that it would take me exactly 17 minutes to drive somewhere… and I didn’t want to spend 5-10 minutes just sitting around if I could have spent those spare moments doing something useful/for myself… but the second traffic doesn’t allow me to drive a decent speed, then bam I’m late.

    A few things I did to help were
    – always packing a book in my purse, that way if I arrive early I’m not irritated that now I just have to sit around
    – I put 30 minutes of “travel time” even if I don’t have to leave my home in my calendar so I don’t book things too close together without ample time to commute.
    – even if I have a virtual meeting or something, I log in 5-10 minutes early BUT keep doing whatever else I want to do so that at least I’m /there/.

    You could also start small. Changing this habit will take time and a lot of it will involve figuring out why you’re not showing up on time, even when you have no barriers not to (eg no commute), such as if you feel like you have other things you could be doing with those extra few minutes

    1. Dust Bunny*

      As a habitually early person–social anxiety is a great motivator to not arrive late and have to walk in in front of everyone who got there on time–I confess I am mystified by the aversion to sitting for a few minutes. I’d just use the time to clean out my email (on my phone) or get a drink or whatever, so I could be ahead of time and still not “waste time”. Even though it’s only a few minutes and if it turns out there’s traffic or whatever then I’m definitely glad I built extra time in. (I’m also amazed that there are commutes that are consistent enough that they can be timed to the minute. Mine is usually about 40 minutes but can be much longer. I always leave early.)

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        The flipside of this is that social anxiety can be motivator for lateness — some people feel a lot of anxiety around the prospect of being early (I definitely felt this keenly in adolesence). Doesn’t sound like that’s what’s going on with the OP, but worth considering.

      2. alienor*

        I’m mystified by the aversion to waiting too. I’m usually pleased to have a few spare minutes to look at Instagram, read a few pages of a Kindle book on my phone, or just zone out and be alone with my thoughts before I have to switch into dealing-with-people mode.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I can’t speak for everyone, but I hated being early when I was a teen. I remember keenly wanting to arrive after a ‘critical mass’ of other people had arrived, because then I could take cues and blend into the larger group. I also felt very anxious that I not be seen as ‘over-eager’ and aware that everyone would see me as they arrived, which was painful for me at a point when I felt that much social anxiety.

          This lead me to aim for a perfect arrival time — which did lead to lateness sometimes, but that felt more acceptable in my high-school setting than earliness.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I think there was a lot of peer pressure as a teen to “be cool” and “cool” people were never, ever early.

            Even on into adulthood, being early meant making small talk with strangers. I found that process exhausting. Unfortunately, the way it became less exhausting was by doing it over and over and over.

            When it came to work, I’d rather be a little early than listen to the BS of, “You are one point five minutes LATE! What is your Big Excuse This Time!”

          2. Quill*

            oooh, yeah. Being the teacher’s pet probably killed my ability to be strictly early. Because if you’re there early it’s apparently not cool.

          3. Glitsy Gus*

            I still get this. Being early leads to feeling awkward and out of place. I have no idea where to wait, what to do, how to be, am I even in the right place? Or did I screw up again?.

            It isn’t logical at all, it makes ZERO sense, but it happens. I’m better able to talk myself out of it now that I have more anxiety coping skills, but especially if I’m stressed out about something else, it creeps back in.

          1. James*

            Depends on how you do it. If you’re just sitting there, yeah, it’s wasted time. If you’re using the time to answer a few emails, or review some part of a project you’re working on, or to plan, even if you just bring a book and read it while waiting, it’s not.

          2. Myrin*

            I find that attitude fascinating – are you honestly able to be efficient every waking minute of your life?
            (I realise that sounds snarky but I’m being totally serious – I wait around for things all the time, irrespective of needing to be somewhere, simply because of how Things work. I also don’t generally have stuff to do that I could use to fill one or two minutes. Like sure, if my computer tells me it’ll need 15 minutes to update and re-boot, I’ll find something else to do instead of blankly staring at the screen, but if a particular website is just a bit slow to load and I know from experience that it’ll take about 90 seconds, I don’t think I’d generally have something meaningful to do in that short amount of time, so I’ll just sit there and look out the window for a minute or two.)

            1. Web Crawler*

              I’m not OP, but my partner is this way. And yes, she tries to be efficient with every moment in her life. My mom is the same way.

              Basically, you can optimize your life pretty effectively if you care. My mom gets a lot done. The side effect is that you’re spending every moment optimizing your life with no downtime. And the other side effect is often anxiety, depression, and/or burnout.

                1. Web Crawler*

                  I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mom rest. I think resting stresses her out more than doing things. Even her downtime is spent cultivating friendships and helping people. Basically, if an action can’t help her or somebody else, she just doesn’t do it.

                  It’s not as strict as it sounds, though. It just means that you have to frame things as “I would like it if you watched a movie with me”- then she’ll sit down for 5 minutes because she can frame it as “Web Crawler wants this” (and then she’ll probably fall asleep, because she wakes up at 4am to exercise every day).

                  My partner’s unhealthy goal is to function like my mom does. But her body needs more rest than that, plus her brain has mild bipolar tendencies.

                  So it ends up being this awful cycle where she’s productive for a while with few breaks, then she burns out and is depressed for another while. Then she beats herself up for having depression, because the prevailing view is that being unproductive (aka depressed) is a moral failing and she should be able to get better by the sheer force of will. (Read half the comments on this page to understand why.)

                  I should mention that both my mom and partner have ADHD. They’ve both grown up hearing comments about how lazy, stupid, and weak they are for their ADHD symptoms. (Again- read the comments on this page if you don’t understand.) Tracking and using every minute is a coping mechanism, even if it doesn’t make sense to non-ADHD people.

              1. Antilles*

                The other-other side effect is that pure-efficiency people often end up discounting things that can’t be measured.
                The people who show up a few minutes early to the meeting will chit-chat casually around the table. To a pure efficiency person, this seems dumb and inefficient – taking time out of your day to talk about college basketball or your spouse that I’ve never met or whatever. But the reality is that at the end of the day, people do business with people they trust and like; these sorts of minor chit-chat helps form those connections.

            2. Emilia Bedelia*

              I’m pretty punctual, especially when it comes to organized events or things that I’m doing with others, but I certainly feel a need for efficiency as much as I can and I wouldn’t usually plan for more than 5 min of downtime or so. No one is perfectly efficient all the time, but it definitely makes me anxious to be thinking of all the things I should/could be doing if I am waiting somewhere. Most of my life is spent with a running list of “things I need to do” in the back of my mind. Sitting and not being able to do something productive = “I’m not getting something done, and I should be, and I can’t, but if I were better at optimizing my time I wouldn’t be worried about the things I need to do” -quite literally, “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean!”.
              This is my mother’s problem with being punctual – she wants to finish up the dishes before she leaves, because leaving dishes in the sink = untidy and messy and things should be clean before you leave the house, and leaving with things undone just makes those things “stick” in your mind of reasons you’re not a clean/tidy/together person.

              Obviously this isn’t a healthy or good way to view the world, but this is why those little 5 minute waiting times are frustrating if you feel overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done in your life. Being alone? With THESE thoughts? Why would I want that? People being late is deeply frustrating to me, but I sympathize hard with the anxiety of leaving things undone.

              Related – no, I am not great at unstructured downtime or relaxation! :)

              1. Eliza*

                This thread is helping me realize that I also hate being early because of anxiety-related intrusive thoughts that bubble up if I’m just sitting and waiting. Having something that I can use to distract myself for as long as necessary does help in my case, though; if I’ve got a book or something with me, being 10 minutes early is a lot less painful.

          3. Grant*

            If you’re late, you make others waste their time instead. Sooner or later, people won’t be willing to waste their time on you.

            I dislike rude people who cannot apparently figure out how to productively use a few minutes of waiting time.

            1. H2*

              Yes!!!! The attitude that waiting is wasting time only works if you are completely punctual. If you’re late, you’re making other people wait, and your time is not more valuable than theirs.

            2. Slipping The Leash*

              Agreed. Reading the OP and so many of the here comments made me feel incredibly stressed. The idea of being late, making people wait, being an inconvenience, being unreliable….absolutely makes my skin crawl. LW, please find a way to change your patterns – it is incredibly inconsiderate and unprofessional and just, as Grant says, rude to be consistently late. Those of us who are on time get frustrated, feel disrespected, etc etc etc by this behavior. It creates the sense that the perpetually late person can’t be trusted to keep their word over even a small thing, so how can they be trusted with a big thing? I hope some of the suggestions here will work for you — for your future professional (and personal/social) credibility’s sake.

          4. Cruciatus*

            Interesting, because I feel exactly the opposite. I get to the place, I park the car, and then if I have a few minutes to spare I don’t feel it’s wasted time, I feel it’s a chance to decompress from the commute/parking issues/something else that came up while getting there. It’s a chance to see which door or building I need to get to or run in and use the restroom if necessary, and if all that works out I can tool around on my phone for a few minutes to chill out. I’d rather be waiting and calm than late and rushed.

          5. Malarkey01*

            I think this is one of the fundamental divides. I don’t consider being early inefficient because the 5 minutes of me reviewing my talking points before a meeting, or 10 minutes sipping some water and decompressing before my friends show up, or the few minutes I spend thinking through my plan for tomorrow leave me way more organized, calm, and prepared and make me insanely efficient. Friends that rush from task to task to task and time everything seem way less efficient and come off frantic to me.

          6. Yorick*

            Are you ACTUALLY efficiently using your time while you wait until the perfect last minute to leave your house? My guess is no.

            1. James*

              I’ve seen people try. They succeed as long as absolutely everything goes their way. The instant something goes wrong–there’s an accident that delays them, their kid has the flu, someone doesn’t get them the stuff they need as soon as they’d like–it all flies apart. They usually become extremely angry, even abusive, when this happens. Since everything relies on everything else and there is no wiggle-room, there’s no possibility of reacting to change in a smooth way and it becomes a giant train wreck in their minds. Annoying in an individual; catastrophic in a project. You ALWAYS build in fluff.

              I’ve found a better way to look at it is to build in that fluff, and use it for those millions of little things that just don’t seem to fit anywhere. I have five minutes before a meeting–I can organize my desktop, or review a figure or two, or maybe finish that expense report I ran out of time on. Or I use it as windfall time, to relax in some way–read a book, or do some origami, or just breath for a moment. And when things go sideways, I’ve got flexibility built into my plan so I have the capacity to react.

              1. Allonge*

                Yes, thanks for this – honestly the part that bothers me about the tendency to optimise everything to perfection is the expectation that people have about the world revolving around them, consciously or not. And it really does not, and then the consequences very rarely fall just to the optimizer.

                I like being efficient! I put a lot of work into making sure we don’t waste time. But that includes the buffering, as you say, not ignoring everything that is not the best case scenario.

          7. Allonge*

            And maybe, just maybe, it’s ok to waste 5 minutes here and there, sometimes? Or, are you, like, the President or something?

            Also, it’s not actually possible to be on time consistently without being early a lot.

            …and whenever you are late, you wasted the time of everyone else. So there is that, too.

          8. Firecat*

            Wow! Lots of replies to this! A lot of extreme extrapolations too. Viewing waiting as a waste of time and liking effeciency = every second of every day is productive with no down time and my time is more important then everyone else’s … whut?

            1. I agree making others wait is rude. I was specifially responding to the question about why anyone would dislike being early. I hate having 5-10 minutes between things and it’s why I dislike arriving early.

            2. For me being early and waiting is a waste of time. This is mainly because I am a chunker/concentrator and not good at task switching. Emails for me are a 20+ minute task.

            3. Effeciency. Yeah I care about optimization in all things. It’s something I’ve worked to not get so caught up on. In my teens it was a huge problem. But I naturally optimize tasks and goals by logistics. I relax in the time window when I’m least productive, I work outside when I naturally have higher energy, etc. It’s just how I operate.

            1. Allonge*

              Hi, so thanks for responding and this is super interesting – just out of curosity, have you ever gone the other way and arrived 20+ minutes early, so you can get something done?

            2. Elsajeni*

              I think this is actually a good point about how issues with task switching/transitions can get you coming and going — people who have that type of problem are probably already more inclined to be late, because they have a hard time with the transitions between various getting-ready activities or struggle to stop what they’re doing when it’s time to leave, AND it can make you instinctively not want to be “on time”/early, because you know you won’t have enough time to transition into and then out of a new task before the person you’re meeting shows up, so earliness just dooms you to 10 minutes of unpleasant Doing Nothing or clock-watching.

        2. biobotb*

          Yeah, I would find it extremely stressful if I were sliding into my seat at exactly start time. Getting in a few minutes early so I can settle in, get coffee, hang up my coat, maybe scan the headlines, etc., is so much more relaxing.

        3. Batgirl*

          When I was much younger, I didn’t understand why my friends minded being kept waiting. I thought everyone was like me. I don’t mind waiting because I can make time disappear so easily – poof! – that I never feel like I’m hanging around or wasting time. The irony of course, is that time blindness more often made me late than early and annoyingly complaisant about it.

          1. Kaitydidd*

            Relatable. I truly don’t mind waiting for people as long as I know they’re not hurt or something. I can scroll on my phone or just zone out and let my brain relax until I have to do the next thing. I also have friends who really truly value punctuality, and I do my best to be on time for them. I don’t personally get it, but I’ll do it because it matters to them. That’s where all the coping skills to compensate for my ADHD come in handy! I can’t just will myself into being on time, but I can idiot proof my morning routine and only ever put my keys on the hook by the door.

      3. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m the same. I assume a big part of this for me is that I’ve been regularly using public transit since I was ten so not being able to go places instantaneously and needing to wait around for a few minutes is completely normal to me. So I will read sentences like “I didn’t want to spend 5-10 minutes just sitting around if I could have spent those spare moments doing something useful/for myself” and just… can’t compute them at all because, well, what’s 5 to 10 minutes, but also, do you (general you) really fill every single minute of every single day with something meaningful or practical?
        (And I don’t mean that as a dig at CV and others who have the same train of thought, it’s just that this is genuinely completely foreign to me as a concept.)

      4. Web Crawler*

        For the opposite perspective, I’m a habitually late person because of my social anxiety. I find this funny too.

        Basically, the scariest social thing I can imagine is spending unstructured time around other people, because I never know how to react. Do people want to talk? Are people gonna tell me off for talking? Are people gonna blow up at me if I say “hello” like my family has? Is somebody gonna yell at me for reading, like teachers often did? Are peers gonna call me names for being antisocial?

        Basically, there’s lots and lots of trauma there. I can force myself to be on time for special occasions, but it takes a ton of emotional energy. So I normally get places a few minutes late because I’d rather people think I’m disrespectful then face the emotional landmine that’s waiting around for a few minutes.

        And yes, I’m working on it in therapy.

        1. iliketoknit*

          I am so with you on this. I’m almost always on time for work stuff, but always late for social stuff (unless it has a really hard start time, like a movie or play, and even then, I tend to show up at the last possible minute). Going to, say, a party early means I might not know anyone, might have to talk to someone I don’t know, might have to “get the party going” so to speak, and will feel *extremely* conspicuous and stared at; going to a party late means I can kind of sneak in and get the lay of the land before having to deal with people. And even just meeting someone somewhere – I have this weird terror of showing up early, they’re not there, and then having to worry if I’ve been stood up until they actually to do show up. (I haven’t been working on it in therapy but it’s probably something I should!)

          1. TechWriter*

            “If I’m early, I might have to talk to one of my friends 1:1! That would be SO AWKWARD what if they don’t actually like me and we have to chat about our lives but they don’t CARE and they only invited me to be nice not because they enjoy my company and I’m going to talk too much and it’ll be the worst and then they’ll think poorly of me and oh god better loiter outside for a bit!”

            Says my brain, when attending a low-key party with friends I have known for years and have no reason to think wouldn’t like me.

            Social anxiety brain is dumb.

            1. Web Crawler*

              Mood. I call them “brain goblins”. And my brain goblins have a lot of weird ideas about how people see me. (And are very good at getting my attention by pulling all the mental fire alarms.)

        2. MapleHill*

          @WebCrawler- I totally get the social anxiety element, I hate small talk so much and I’m bad at it. Even in social settings, unless it’s my immediate family, I feel so uncomfortable.

          However, that doesn’t mean you have to be late. Plan to always be early, but you don’t have to actually go in the place until you’re right on time. There are different options depending on what the location is like. Wait in your car or hit the bathroom or find a private area, wait in a lobby “on the phone” or whatever makes sense. Be on time where you need to be, and then wait somewhere that only 30 seconds away from the room you need to be in.

      5. mcfizzle*

        I too am habitually early. For me, I hate feeling rushed/behind. “Come ON light, turn GREEN!” basically puts me in a bad headspace, which I have realized I really don’t like. I’d much rather be early and have a much less stressful “am I going to make it on time?” journey (whatever that might be).

        1. Filosofickle*

          That’s my story, too, as I posted above. In the end, I didn’t solve my lateness by focusing on how it affects others or my reputation. I solved it by recognizing how it affected my body and mind. That 20 minutes of running around like a headless chicken to get out the door, then 45+ minutes swearing and thumping the steering wheel and berating myself for every late minute was SO SO BAD for me. I was starting every day hating myself and tying my nervous system into knots. Focusing on that finally flipped a switch for me (in my mid 30s), and I was suddenly on time. Most of the time, that is.

          It’s also noticeable how less late I am when I can choose shifts that start late, as I’m not a morning person. My sweet spot is 11a. So some of it was time management and some was just not-morning-person behavior. I no longer do regular FTE desk jobs so I can (mostly) control my schedule.

      6. Shan*

        Nothing mystifies me more than when it comes to people who are averse to the idea of being slightly early when getting to airport for a flight. Literally every step of the process has the potential for delays! The main route to the airport in my city has a posted speed of 100-110km, but also frequently comes to a complete standstill depending on time of day. Dropping off your bag using the self serve scanners? Surprise, the one you’re at absolutely refuses to register the bleeping tag no matter how many times you reposition the bag. Going through security? You got in line right after half the city also did. Oh, and you got pulled away for additional screening. Finally got to your gate? No you didn’t, because instead of C62, your flight is now leaving from A13. I would much rather be the person sitting with a coffee and scrolling through my phone while being there early. But I have numerous friends who seem to think, I don’t know, the plane will just wait for them? Needless to say, I arrange my own transportation and meet them there (or not, depending on if they make it).

        1. TechWorker*

          Memories of a family holiday where my dad insisted on strolling through the airport even though we were pretty late, and then when he got to the gate assumed the huge queue was for our flight (it wasn’t) so went off to buy a paper. He nearly missed the flight and my sister was in tears… I am always early for flights and totally fine with that :p

          1. londonedit*

            My dad travelled a lot for work, and whenever we went on family holidays he would have us at the airport in plenty of time, we’d go straight through check-in and security, then we’d sit right next to the departure board and head to the gate as soon as it was posted. You could do a bit of shopping if you had time once airside, but as soon as the gate went up, that was it. Imagine my horror the first time I went on holiday with some school friends – one of them wanted to hang around and get a coffee before check-in, then they all headed off in different directions once we got through to departures, and none of them wanted to go to the gate until the last possible minute (despite the signs saying it was a 10-15 minute walk). I was nearly in tears because I’d never experienced anything like it before and I was terrified we’d miss the flight!

      7. KittyCardigans*

        For me, it really depends on what I’m leaving and what being early looks like. Leaving work on time to be early to an appointment? No problem—I’m happy to leave work and I’m happy to sit in my car or in the waiting room and read while I wait. Leaving home in the mornings to be early to work is way, way harder. There’s stuff I want to do at home. For example, I like to unload the dishwasher in the morning, and usually I can manage that, but if I had trouble getting up that morning, or the cat threw up, or [insert other minor inconvenience here], I’m suddenly one five-minute task behind. I’d be early if I skipped it and went to work, but it would make my evening worse. If I got to work 5 minutes early, I wouldn’t be doing a fun waiting activity for 5 minutes—I’d be starting work 5 minutes earlier. If I were leaving work to go somewhere where I didn’t feel very comfortable and would look weird sitting in my car, I would also not want to be early.

        I don’t think I’m chronically late (I’m generally exactly on time or <5 minutes in either direction), but I get why the choice between doing whatever you were trying to do that might make you late and being a few minutes early and unoccupied doesn't always work out in favor of the few minutes early and unoccupied.

    2. cncx*

      in the time of corona i have made it a habit to log in to zoom, teams, webex five minutes early anyway because i never know if its going to be the day my microphone punks out or my camera looks weird and not hustling to log on helps me calmly remedy that

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, I came here to say exactly this. I hate being late, so I have many ways to make sure I am not late, and just as many ways to be productive during the time I’m waiting for everyone else. That’s also why I can adjust to the chronically late people I know, because I always have something to do.

    4. Allonge*

      I think this is an excellent point. One mistake people make in this discussion is to think that there are on-time people and late people.

      No. There are people who aim to be early, and there are people who don’t, and these latter are usually quite often late. There is no way to consistently get to meetings exactly at the time that things start, not even online meetings. The ones who make it on time usually have a buffer and they are reasonably comfortable spending that buffer time at the meeting room etc. if they did not need it.

      Cars and public transport have an impact only in the sense of how much of a buffer you need. And of course having a better or worse sense of time has a huge impact on how well you can estimate the buffer you need. But being comfortable with being early is essential.

      1. Web Crawler*

        Huh. That’s a good way of thinking about it. And for some people, the buffer needs to be large enough that it disrupts other aspects of their life (ie getting places hours early). Those people often need additional strategies to manage getting places on time

  14. Alexis Rose*

    If/when you fly, do you always miss your plane? I other words, are you truly always late, or are you on time when it really matters?

    If there is any situation where you do arrive on time, then you do have that ability, and you can figure out what you are doing then and how you can transfer these skills to other situations.

    1. Fabulous*

      I don’t know if catching a plane is a good example here, because I am that late person too, but I’ll be literal HOURS early for a flight because I just don’t know about check-in.

      1. Web Crawler*

        Same. I’m also hours early for a plane because that’s the only way I can be there on time. This skill does not translate into me being on time for meetings, since I can’t camp out in the conference room until I need to be there

        1. Fushi*

          Yeah, and I usually spend many hours or sometimes a full day before *that* having intense anxiety about getting up early/ready early/there early, which if I did on a daily basis would prevent me from ever sleeping…

        2. JRR*

          Can’t you? I’m typically 5 minutes early for meetings and it’s never been a problem. If the room is empty, I sit down and answer emails or something until start time. If the room is occupied, I find a nearby chair and do the same

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I felt the same. I’ve never been late for a check-in, but it’s usually a big time window! And I know I can chill in the airport usually.

        I think it’s a little similar to the phenomenon where people are timely when traveling to destinations hours away, but end up running late when headed somewhere that’s a five-minute walk. The amount of time-cushion is relevant.

      3. Hello Sweetie!*

        What about thinking of doctors visits as a different kind of example? Those usually have a 10-15 min window where if you are later than that they cancel your appointment but still charge you for the visit. So in this instance there is a financial component to being late. Versus a restaurant reservation where being late loses you your table, but they don’t charge you.

        You might consider that a corollary to the social capital you have – some meetings you can be late and there’s no cost, but some there will be a cost.

    2. Web Crawler*

      Sometimes, the solutions that work for special occasions like the airport are too resource-intensive for everyday use.

      At the extreme end, my partner’s solution to getting to the airport on time for a morning flight was to stay up all night. Another one was to use me as an alarm clock, which only worked if we were both travelling.

      I’m pointing this out to push back on the “if you can do it for special occasions, you can do it all the time”, which usually comes with an undertone of “you’re not trying hard enough”.

      1. boo bot*

        I appreciate this. I’m on time for flights, but being on time for a flight is the only thing I can functionally do that day (besides, ideally, flying). The effort it takes to get there, be on time, have everything I need, etc. fries my brain for other things. The same can be true for meetings and appointments if I have to travel.

        I feel like that sounds a little ridiculous, but the issue isn’t the task, but the amount of conscious attention it requires – it’s kind of like there’s a monitor with one of those screensavers where the ball bounces around, and I have to go about my normal day while also knowing exactly where the ball is at all times. You get used to doing it, but it’s just not possible to give full attention to something else while you’re watching the ball out of the corner of your eye.

        So, since I can’t devote my entire brain to being on time, I have different strategies for different things: I do freelance work, so I set my own schedule and don’t have to be a place at a time most days. I don’t worry about being late to parties, because my presence isn’t a make or break factor. For calls, I set an alarm for “pick up the phone and call right this second.” If I’m meeting a friend, I text them when I’m getting ready to leave, when I’m on my way, and if anything happens along the way to slow me down.

        There are lots of ways to work around lateness problems, but “make the maximum effort at all times” is not likely to be an effective strategy for most people.

        1. Caroline*

          I just want to say “god, yes, this!” (And then apparently I wanted to say a lot more)

          As a professional with ADHD, the amount of energy that goes into something as seemingly simple as “get there early” (or any form of “just …” like “just don’t do the one more thing” or “just leave early” – seriously, if one is considering a suggestion that starts “just…”, well, uh, just don’t – there is no “just” in my world) is epic. I’m also time blind, as are many ADHDers. I have noticed that if one is not those things, they are extremely difficult to understand (or even just recognize as not moral failings).

          My “solution,” such as it is, is two fold – redefining and communication.
          1. I try to be clear about what is a good use of my time/energy at my pay grade. I’m very, very good at what I do (lucky to have a quantitative role in a technical field that aligns with my hyperfocus and non-linear/creative tendencies), and I try not to waste spoons on things that don’t match that. That often means “on time” isn’t actually the right thing.
          2. Label and reinforce a sense of urgency for things that I really can’t be late for (make it a Thing On Fire and then that *might* kick in the OMGdeadline klaxon on my ADHD).
          3. Try to be clear with my colleagues about what my sense of time is (is not) and what it might mean for them/what to do or not do.
          And MOST IMPORTANTLY:
          4. I ASK FOR HELP. If something is very early or hugely crucial, I ask a friend or colleague to call me ahead of time.

          Basically, that means “on time” for work/my desk in the morning: enh, not important. “On time” for client presentation/talk/flight: All The Spoons.

          1. boo bot*

            Yeah, I feel like a hugely necessary step in the learning to live life (probably for anyone, but particularly with ADHD) is to understand that not everything can be important, then start figuring out what really has to be important, while letting go of the idea that we’ll be able to do all the less important stuff, too.

            Also, I meant to post this yesterday for anyone who wants more info on time problems for people with ADHD. René Brooks is the awesome writer who introduced me to the concept of time blindness (and other ways my brain works):
            https://blackgirllostkeys.com/adhd/time-blindness-timely-advice/

      2. Lisa*

        The undertone is not “you’re not trying hard enough”. There isn’t any such thing as trying harder. There’s doing the thing and then there’s not doing the thing but telling yourself reasons that not doing the thing is okay/unavoidable/just how you are.

        This LW said, “I just can’t be on time”, which is unlikely to be true and is reinforcing the story she is telling herself about herself. Alexis Rose was asking about any time that statement was not true. If LW can find a counter to her self-story, then that’s a crack in the dam that might be widened with effort. Then LW can tell themselves that they are a person who “can be on time”.

      3. HoHumDrum*

        Thank you for pointing this out. I see a lot of people in this comment section saying similar things (“If you can be on time for one area of your life it shouldn’t be too hard to jus try transfer that to the rest of your life”) and I think that probably works for many folks but not all.

        To be on time to things like a flight involves extreme amounts of anxiety. I agonize over it for days leading up to it, and the night before I literally can’t enjoy anything or relax at all. I don’t sleep, I just Wait until I can leave so I don’t miss it. That is fine for occasional things like a flight, but I truly cannot do that every day. A) the stress and anxiety and inability to think about anything else or to sleep at all is bad for me but also B) it’s not sustainable- the adrenaline of it is a big part of what helps me get enough focus to get there on time and the more routine it gets the less adrenaline comes of it.

        I hear what Lisa is saying about changing your inner narrative about yourself, and that may be very helpful to the LW! But I will say that for me accepting that I’m not a super punctual person was much more helpful in improving my punctuality- instead of berating myself and engaging in self-loathing because I wasn’t who I thought I ought to be, accepting myself freed up a lot of emotional energy that I could put towards the spoons I need to be more on time. It also helped me be more realistic about my life- I said above that the biggest thing that has helped me with punctuality is working at a job where it mostly didn’t matter. None of that means I am absolved of continuing to work on it, but taking out the heavy emotional load made improving the skills much easier. And because it is something I struggle with, not having punctuality be the main thing that I need to achieve each day made my life easier in general.

        I’m not sure what approaches will work for LW, so I am glad this comment section has so many approaches!

        1. Barb*

          That degree of anxiety over having to be on time is not typical and doesn’t even sound sustainable for once a year (or whatever). I’m sorry because it’s clear you’re really suffering, but the answer to “you need to be on time” isn’t “you don’t need to be on time because of anxiety disorder”. Your own flights and everything else you depend on in life wouldn’t happen if everyone subscribed to that! There have to be more practical ways to survive.

          1. HoHumDrum*

            I have ADHD and anxiety, so I wouldn’t claim my issues with time are typical at all.

            And I did not say that the answer was to just not be on time, what I said was when I accepted that this is just a flaw I have it took away a lot of the emotional baggage I had around it and made it easier to improve. Improve. As in, be less late. Less emotional anxiety about being late = more spoons to put towards being on time, at least for me. YMMV.

            Also though I fly maybe like once every few years I have actually never been on a flight that actually left on time I don’t think (though not because of me!)

        2. Der Uberflieger*

          Some of us “change their inner narrative,” others become elite (Lufthansa Senator/Star Alliance Gold) or ultra-elite (HON Circle) frequent fliers, and when we’re late, the airline often rebooks us, no problem.

    3. Sigrid*

      This is a good point. Whenever lateness is discussed, I always here at least one person say, “well, when you fly, you don’t miss your plane, do you? So obviously you are capable of being on time!” And I will say that my mother is a chronically late person who always misses her flight. Every single time. So there is a level of “chronically late” that includes being late to things you know are high consequence. The solution to someone who has that level of chronic lateness is going to be different than someone who is just late to things where they don’t think lateness really matters.

      1. Wat*

        Is your mom insanely rich or something? I’m relatively well off, but it just seems so odd to spend all that money booking flights and not even bother to do what’s needed to get on the plane.

      2. Barb*

        She’s never been on a plane because of her lateness? I don’t know if you’re exaggerating, but if that’s literally true, it seems to rise to the level of needing professional help.

        1. HoHumDrum*

          I assume she probably just gets the next plane, not that she’s never flown. I know someone who is shockingly relaxed about traveling (she’s very punctual in life, she just doesn’t care about flying) and that’s basically her philosophy- there’s always another plane. I couldn’t be that relaxed about it, but seems to work for her.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I think I see your point, but I feel like catching a plane is a bad example.

      Most people leave a huge window when flying – they’ll plan whole days to accomodate it. Meetings, on the other hand, can be short 30-minute windows smushed between lots of other activities. It’s a very different sort of time-management.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        But-but-but. If they can foresee and plan delays for one activity such as getting on a plane then they can do that for other activities as well. My late (tardy) friend that I have been talking about through this thread was never ever late for church. So she had the skill set to be on time. She just wasn’t using it across the board.

        1. Elsajeni*

          This is just not really true, though! Look at the several people who have commented in this thread that they manage to be on time for flights, but it requires dedicating 100% of their focus for the whole day to Making The Flight — people who can’t sleep the night before the flight, or can’t pick up any activity other than clock-watching the morning of, because if they get at all absorbed in anything they’ll lose track of time. If I tried to apply that approach every time I have a meeting at work, I might be on time for meetings, but I’d never get anything else done — arguably worse for my job prospects than always running late for meetings.

    5. EventPlannerGal*

      I think flights are a different kettle of fish, but I do agree with your general point. I think another way of looking at it is, are they habitually late for small things which they happen to enjoy? Are they always late for dates, trips to the cinema, salon appointments? If they are genuinely late for everything across the board then to me that points to some kind of larger issue, but if they are capable of turning up on time for a haircut then they are capable of turning up on time to work.

    6. Koala dreams*

      Where do you find a job where you only need to show up every couple of years and can fall asleep as soon as you get to your seat? These kind of suggestions always show up in lateness discussions, and I’m just perplexed. Either your work life is very unusual, or your airplane travel, or both.

  15. Voodoo Priestess*

    I’ll admit, I am not a late person so I can’t offer much advice. But I can tell you how my company operates w.r.t. punctuality. This will absolutely be affected by your industry and line of work.

    For our urban office (New York, Boston, Chicago, various California locations) they are much more lax when it comes to being on time due to the public transportation issue you mention. But my industry is geared toward completing the work, not just occupying a desk for a set period. Most people check and respond to email on the train or work on small tasks as they can so they accomplish something before getting to the office. Compared to other offices where driving is the norm, the city offices aren’t nearly as strict about showing up “on time.” Or leaving, for that matter.

    There is one major exception and that is meetings, interviews, etc. You don’t get to slide on those and are expected to modify your schedule as needed to make sure you’re not late. Especially for client meetings or interviews of any type.

    It sounds like you’re already aware, but for punctual people, there’s no excuse for chronic lateness and it will affect your reputation. If someone is late to a coffee date, my first reaction is “Clearly this wasn’t a priority for them.” Obviously life happens, but chronic tardiness will eventually impact your reputation and relationships. I’m not sure if you’re talking about 2-3 minutes late for everything or 30-45 minutes late. There’s a big difference there, too. I hope you find something that works for you.

    1. Smithy*

      Agree with all of this. Big cities where public transportation is the primary mode of travel operate on more of a ‘starting time window’ than ‘work starts at 9am’. Therefore when discussing the more pragmatic basics of a job, it can be more insightful to ask “what are the typical/standard hours of the team” as opposed to “when do we start”.

      Again, depending on the nature of your work – like if you take a number of calls/meetings with those in time zones ahead of you, it’s often very common to see someone approved to start their workday at home for a 7/8am call and then come into the office later. Again, provided you’re on time for those 7/8am calls and then are in the office by the time you have another scheduled meeting/event – that can be another way to build in a lot of arrival time flexibility.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And as one further aside, ” big city ” isn’t necessarily consistent. One company in that big city isn’t necessarily consistent. The thing that’s going to affect your annual review is whether or not your particular manager cares if you always run late. I have had results-focused managers who don’t care if I skew my start time early/late as long as I put in a full day and meet deadlines. And at those same companies I’ve had mangers who expect military promptness.
        So yes, I think you’re right to think you should work on your time management now so you can move with it already under control. (Truth in advertising : I’m ADD and ‘every day is Blursday” was my life even pre-pandemic. Smartphone calendar a lifeline.)

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      This is a very accurate description of my work culture in DC. General punctuality – we get it, Metro’s got a disabled train in the core of the system. Again. Client meetings, interviews, etc.? Make backup plans and be there. Meetings in the middle of the workday? Depends on who’s involved and why you’re late. My organization has “[Organization Name] Time” where being five minutes late to an internal, non-client meeting is almost routine. And, if you’re late because you were on the phone with a client, the judge, some higher-up, etc., it’s completely understood, just shoot an email or IM letting us know.

      1. Smithy*

        I do think this is an important piece around meetings – sort of the ‘lateness hygiene’. Between IM/text/email, any note to indicate lateness upwards to 15 minutes, helps a lot. Especially if the reasons are either external meetings/calls or work involving senior leadership.

        Putting aside general arrival times, one of the worst approaches with punctuality is to not acknowledge it.

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Yup – this is spot on.

      The OP wrote “where no one has a car and everyone uses public transit. ”

      I live in Manhattan and with my spouse we have a car, but would not use it to get to work within Manhattan or more crowded parts of the city – it’s rarely faster, particularly when parking is taken into account. But most people use mass transit for a reason. Though – if you can afford it and for certain trips, some people take taxis. That can be faster than the subways sometimes. I will say that I saw a couple worth at least $200 million in the subway near where I live one time (they lived about a half mile away from me at the time, with a station a few hundred yards from their home). And also I have jumped in cabs when there is a subway meltdown at times.

    4. New Yorker*

      New Yorker here. At my job (non profit, before we were remote), you were expected to be at work on time, every day. If you were occasionally a few minutes late (5-10) you could blame it on public transportation, but if you are late every day you cannot blame the MTA…you need to realize “the MTA sucks and I need to leave earlier,” or “I am late everyday, even when the MTA is running properly” and start your commute earlier.

      It would absolutely not fly if you were late for a meeting, interview, etc. Our office is three floors and one of the other floors is/was more lax – because the managers of those departments didn’t care as much. I will add that this was noticed by the other floors/departments and added to the perception that that floor thought they were special and the policies everyone adhered to didn’t apply to them. There are other (valid) reasons for this perception, but this certainly did not work in their favor. The Director is/was on my floor and they, and everyone on our floor, was usually 10-15 minutes early every day.

      I hate being late to anything. If I am not at least 5 minutes early I feel late. I like to be there early so that I don’t feel rushed, have a few minutes to clear my thoughts, get settled, go over notes, etc. It’s also very disrespectful of people’s time to be late. Everyone in NYC is busy – my time is important, too.

      I can also add that there was one instance where we didn’t hire someone who was our top pick because they were late to every single interview. If I recall correctly, we checked their references and the lateness came up (or was asked about). The Director sent the candidate an email explaining that was the reason they were not hired. To their credit, the candidate was very gracious about the feedback and acknowledged they knew it was an issue and something they were working to improve.

      1. londonedit*

        It’s the same in London (well, pre-Covid anyway). Of course, a few times a year there will be snarl-ups on the Tube and you’ll be late. But it can’t be every day, or every week. We all have to build in enough time in case there’s an issue.

  16. Oh. No.*

    What makes you late? It might be worth assessing what’s getting you out the door 20min after you intended. For me, I often end up browsing some videos and think I have more time than I have – imagining I can do a 20min journey in 15 even though I know I can’t! I’ve changed all the clocks in my house to be 5-10min ahead. It helps get me going sooner even though I technically know I have time. Just seeing the numbers help.

    As for the job, looking for flexibility is a good idea, especially if you can negotiate relaxed start and end time. Defining it as lateness runs the risk of making you look careless as opposed to speaking of tasks that may take longer than anticipated (eg traffic, school runs, etc).

    However, do you have the feeling that without a steady time, you might just end up being even more late? If so, it’s time to address the root of the issue!

  17. Smithy*

    I would say that big cities are a red herring here in terms of how bosses view punctuality – and the better thing you can do is being more honest with yourself and employers on how to rely on you.

    I worked for two very similar organizations, one in DC and the other in NYC. In DC the flow of the office and senior leadership was to come in crazy early (in some cases arriving as early as 7am regularly), but then also leave much earlier. The NYC office was a complete flip, where we did have colleagues showing up at 10/10:30 regularly – but then the average leaving time was also later.

    Where this was an issue, was I did have a senior colleague who regularly arrived at 10:30am but would also regularly stay until 7-8pm. While she was clearly working like crazy, the optics of her schedule meant it took her a lot longer to build other capital in the office. That being said, she did achieve it over time.

    The most critical piece of advice though is in making sure your job doesn’t have firm coverage and that you’re not scheduling meetings that you’re regularly late to. This can certainly be framed with trying to block out earlier hours on your calendar, push meetings to later in the day, etc – but that’s where you start to really jeopardize your standing.

    1. AVP*

      Seconding this for the city issue – as a broad generalization, most of my bosses in NYC have been pretty flexible on later start times because we often work pretty late. That said, it seems like it would be better for the OP to solve this problem if possible than to find bosses who will enable it, because there will always be that one crucial meeting that gets scheduled for early in the morning…

      One other thing – if you’re thinking of NYC, don’t bring that car! Needing to move it every day will make you later than anything else, and you won’t be driving it to work unless you want to pay for parking.

      1. Smithy*

        Putting parking aside – having a car in NYC (or DC for that matter) likely wouldn’t help the LW arrive on time anyways. Public transport is unpredictable but rush hour traffic in both cities is notorious in its own way.

        I will add to this, my mom is a chronically late person. Has been all of her life, both personally and professionally – and she has found ways of making it work for her. The primary way she’s addressed this though has been by also working crazy hours. She’s a night owl, so her work at 2am is certainly better than mine, but it’s part of how she has built capital over time for “always getting the work done”.

        1. Der Uberflieger*

          If OP is the highest ranked person on her team and is completing her work more efficiently than everyone else, she is building up plenty o’ capital on her own.

          1. Smithy*

            I’ve seen it through my mom as well as my previous coworker that you can be late and contrary to internal time keeping and still build capital. Absolutely. But it takes out one of opportunities to do so.

            There are certainly sectors/fields or specific workplaces where the work on its own is all that matters. But if the OP is moving to a new a city with the ambitions to start a new job – she’s going to start from a neutral place of needing to build that capital. And until there’s that track record that shows work at a high quality, being on time, being pleasant to be around, etc. those more immediate to assess qualities can help kickstart someone’s capital at work. Or not.

      2. Esmeralda*

        I lived in Chicago for ten years. When I worked downtown, I did not take my car. Ever. Even putting aside the expense of parking, I could never be sure how long it would take to find parking, how close to work I could park, and so on. Driving meant never being sure I could be on time. Put on running shoes, pack the work shoes, take the train. (And take the earlier train – along with every other working woman in Chicago, I had to allow time to change my shoes…)

    2. LKW*

      I live in NYC and used to commute to the office every day. I would get up early and get to work early because it took less time and is far less crowded at 7:30 am than 8:30 am.

      If I got on the bus at 8:30 it would take me over an hour. If I took the subway, I’d have to wait for three trains to make it to the front of the platform. If I left earlier for either – I got a seat, the time was halved and I would breakfast from the bodega across the street and eat it at my desk.

      A friend who worked and commuted into North Virginia did something similar – she managed to switch her schedule to start at 6:30 am so that it would take an hour to drive instead of 2+ hours.

  18. Box of Kittens*

    I don’t think I’ve had this problem as bad as the OP has, but I’m also in a job where no one really cares if I’m 15-20 minutes late as long I get my hours in for the week. However, over the last few years I had made a habit of being late and was constantly having to eat breakfast at work, shorten my lunch breaks, and stay at work a little longer in the afternoons because of the constant lateness. I finally got sick of it in January, and the biggest thing that helped me was keeping my phone out of my bedroom. I plug it up at night in my kitchen now, because I noticed I would just pick up my phone when my alarm went off and lay in bed and scroll well past when I need to get up to be on time and eat breakfast at home, etc. Now I use an old-fashioned radio alarm clock. I still struggle with actually getting out of bed on time all the time (and that’s a consequence of not going to bed on time), but that one change has improved my lateness significantly. And it’s improved my quality of life, because I started meal prepping a bit in order to establish a better morning routine. I don’t know if your phone is also what makes you late, but identifying and fixing that, plus sticking to a routine in the mornings, has helped me a ton. Best of luck to you in kicking this; it’s a horrible habit to have.

    1. Orange You Glad*

      I used to put my alarm clock on the other side of the room so I had to get out of bed to turn it off. At that point, I was already up so I might as well start my day. I’m terrible about snoozing for “just 5 more minutes” but if I’m forced to get up then I lose some of that desire to climb back into bed.

    2. LilyP*

      I second this. I finally broke a years long habit of morning snooze-scrolling by buying TWO alarm clocks — one by my bed which plays gentle nature sounds and I can snooze and a second in the bathroom which is screechy and unpleasant and goes off 25 minutes after the bedroom one. So I still get to snooze and wake up a bit but also have a hard deadline to actually leave bed.

      The meta lesson I learned from this is it is very very very hard to change habits by ~~just trying harder~~ to have the willpower to do something, and much easier and more effective to rearrange your environment to support the actions/habits you want as the path of least resistance.

  19. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I don’t have anything to add re: therapists, medications, etc. but here’s the most useful practice that I have used when I have issues with timing or procrastination.

    Lay out everything you need for work the night before. Clothes, cellphone, wallet & keys, laptop bag or briefcase, lunch. Get up in the morning and everything is preprogrammed with no decisions to be made. DO NOT DEVIATE from those choices!

  20. The 404 Page*

    I don’t have a solution, but at the risk of being an armchair Freud, what was timekeeping like in the culture you grew up in? Was lateness frowned on, or accepted? I ask because it can be helpful to reflect on whether there’s roots to this behaviour in your life – sometimes reflecting on how, for example, some members of your family were late and that was shown as being something aspirational, or if it was negatively rewarded but gained you attention, can be part of the solution. And I’m someone who has lateness issues in my life – a big part of it was that I was raised in a “ten minutes doesn’t matter” family.

    1. CR*

      Yes, I think this matters a lot! I was raised in a family where being late meant I was yelled at, so now I have anxiety and I’m early to everything. Good times.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I was wondering if the LW goes by event time (when things take as long as they take, & people show up when it makes sense) rather than clock time (when things happen on a schedule based on the clock).

      I’ve also noticed that people from large families often tend to be late, because their parents didn’t focus as much on time as on getting all the kids ready & out of the house. (And by the time kid #7 is ready, kids #1-3 aren’t anymore.)

      I was raised in a “15 minutes early is right on time” household. My SO was raised in a large family that runs late all the time. My (not very easy to follow) advice is consider punctuality when choosing a romantic partner. It helps both course-correct to not showing up either late or ridiculously early

    3. Spicy Tuna*

      On the flip side, I grew up in a family that always arrived to everything 5 minutes early. If you were on time, you were late, etc. But that led to a pattern of us always being the first to show up, which I found awkward and unnecessary. As a result, in adulthood I became the type to usually show up 2-3 minutes late.

      1. Grace Poole*

        I always end up showing up early, but sitting in my care or walking around the block, or logging into the meeting so I’m there 1-3 minutes after the start time. That way I’m only awkward to myself.

    4. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      This is a really great comment.

      Growing up, as a young child, there was an extended family member who was always late. Like 2 to three hours late for things, as a rule of thumb. And everything was held up until that person arrived, regardless of how late they were. Holiday dinners? We’ll eat them cold so we can all be together. Funeral services? We can’t begin without Late Person. Doctor’s Appointment? Just tell the doc to come back when they show up, so everyone can hear the news simultaneously. It made it so no one in the family ever showed up on time for things – after all, you knew this person was going to be late, so “dinner is at 3” really meant “we’ll eat at 6”. Why bother showing up early?

      Until the entire family decided to stop holding things up for that person, no one had an incentive to be on time for anything, and that became a learned habit by everyone in the family. It cost many different people in the family jobs and other opportunities – and it was finally an entire group of outsiders who broke that family member of the habit (there was a marriage ceremony that got put on hold, and the in-laws gave the family member in question some very pointed lectures about hospitality, and how keeping others waiting was hubris/sin/etc), and let our entire family realize how damaging it had been for all of us to enable and internalize that behavior.

      So, it can be very useful to look closely at whether this has some family/cultural roots for you, as a way of helping yourself learn to overcome those roots.

      1. Irish girl*

        Oh my… this is my husband’s family. I am not sure who was the originator of being late but now it is just ingrained in the extend family that the start time is a suggestion and arrival time can be anywhere from 1-3 hours after that. Some how they did end up on time for weddings and funerals. We now plan parties for start times and food times so that I can plan when my children (who eat on a normal schedule) can be fed. Also for myself so i don’t get hangry since i was told Easter dinner at 2 but we don’t sit down until 5. They always told me that they were late because of kids which is BS since i have 2 kids and manage to be on time 90% of the time baring major meltdowns or potty issues.

        I have told my husband that all the lack of punctuality is just a lack of respect for peoples time when we know they can show up on time. My MIL is never late when I have to be somewhere and she is watching my kids and if she is, I get a text or call about what is going on. Probably because she knows if she is late then i wont ask her to watch the kids, so consequences work. We now manage some family events by not allowing his mom to bring or make anything as that is one of her lateness issues. Deciding 15 mins before she has to leave that she needs to go shopping to make a salad. Ugh!

    5. Batgirl*

      I find this an interesting point. Surely no matter what home culture you have, people grow up needing to be on time for school? I’m individually inclined to be late without it being a family trait, so I’m interested in how ‘late culture’ families avoid the school issue thing? My parents would drag me to school. I would have been on constant detention without that.

      1. KittyCardigans*

        You don’t; you’re just late for school! Or you rush rush rush to get there and arrive somewhat frantic but slide in just under the wire. Different schools (and even teachers) have really different consequences for lateness, so that probably makes a difference.

        I was ~5 minutes late a lot in middle school and early high school, and I don’t think I ever got detention for it.

      2. armchairexpert*

        I have school aged children. Some of their friends are always late. Like, every day. The school reports on it, has a ‘Days late’ metric in their reports, and sends out snippy reminders to all parents. It puts out well reasoned arguments about how it hurts kids’ education if they’re rushing, don’t have time to settle in and start learning, etc.

        I’m friendly with several of these parents, and absolutely none of this makes any difference at all. They range from ‘I know, I know, but my particular children/situation makes it just so hard to get there on time’ to ‘Eh, that’s just how our family are! Look, this year we got the highest number of late days in the whole class! Such mavericks!’ kind of reactions. If the school brought in detention they’d be absolutely outraged, because to then, the idea that you have to be on time EVERY DAY is just basically asking the impossible.

  21. CheerfulPM*

    One thing that has worked well for a coworker of mine who is not a morning person is that she found her natural wake time based off when she reasonable got tired and fell asleep. She pretty naturally sleeps midnight to 8am. From there, what sorts of things make a nice morning routine for her? Walk the dog, breakfast reading. It took her 15 min to drive to work when we were still in the office, so her start time was around 10am. Occasionally it’s problematic if she’s wanted on an earlier call, but mostly I just schedule meetings with her at 1 and 2pm.

    1. AVP*

      This is completely me – and if my natural sleep cycle doesn’t line up with when I’m supposed to wake up, I am completely useless. One other “hack” I’ve found is to get one of those alarm apps that can tell when you’re near waking up and wake you up then – because I was falling back into a heavy sleep 30 minutes before I was supposed to be in the shower, and getting up a little earlier when it was more opportune turned out to be way easier.

        1. AVP*

          I like an app called Sleep Cycle! It’s a little weird at first to sleep with your phone under your pillow but I got used to that really quickly.

      1. Elenna*

        I’m also curious what app you’re using for this! Although a few years ago when I had no responsibilities for a couple weeks, I found myself settling into a “sleep 8am, wake up 5 pm” schedule, which is obviously not doable for a typical office job lol.

        1. Jerusha*

          Are you me? I also have an essentially nocturnal intrinsic sleep rhythm. I’m fortunate enough to be in a job where, unless I have a scheduled commitment (meeting or such), no one really cares what time I show up or leave as long as I’m getting my work done.

          One of my colleagues once gave me a button, which I’ve hung on the bulletin board behind my desk: “I am a morning person. Just not in the time zone I live in.” I joke that I would be an excellent morning person in Honolulu; unfortunately, I live in the Central time zone. (And, of course, I wouldn’t be an excellent morning person in Honolulu either; my sleep schedule would simply adjust so that my natural bedtime would be around dawn in the local time zone, and I’d be right back where I started.)

    2. Wendyroo*

      Ugh this is me. I think I have delayed sleep phase disorder… Even if I am awake in the mornings, I’m not a functional human until noon. I would kill to be a morning person, but I just CAN’T do it.

    3. Nunya*

      I can commiserate heartily. I am not an early riser, and it was a problem for me when my job required coverage starting at 8h00. Despite my best efforts to change my sleep schedule to going to bed earlier to wake up earlier, I was consistently about 15min late every day. I stayed later by however much time, but I don’t think my co-workers approved. (It never caused serious disruptions because we had a coworker who started at 7h30, so there was always *someone* there to take calls).

      When I was promoted to a job that allowed me to set my own schedule, I never came in before 9h00 because I just needed that hour in the morning for my neurons to fire and my body to move.

      (And if it matters, this is in a rural area with no traffic, so my commute was reliably 20min every day.)

    4. The Rural Juror*

      Once I’m awake, I’m awake. But I’m so so slow to wake up. I’ve been like this since I was a kid. I’ll set 3 alarms and need to snooze each one. My first alarm usually goes off about 30 min before I need to be out of bed, but I consistently wake up and actually get up about 5 minutes AFTER I need to be up. Then I have to play catch up, which usually means my hair goes in a pony tail.

      I wish I could have a job where I could roll in within 8:30-9:00. That way I wouldn’t stress so much. No one notices if I’m 5 min late…but 10 is pushing it!

    5. EchoGirl*

      Yeah, I think this a real problem that often gets missed. It’s great if you have start time flexibility, but for a lot of people, work is on a set schedule (often 8-5 or 9-5) and if that’s not what’s naturally right for your body, well, too bad, do it anyway. I wish more places were like your workplace and allowed people to work with their body clocks instead of being expected to constantly fight against it.

  22. Heffalump*

    There’s a good book on this subject, “Never Be Late Again” by Diana DeLonzor. I’m pretty punctual but read it to get some insight on the tardy people I’ve known.

    1. drpuma*

      Yes!! I came to recommend this book. I am a formerly habitually-late person who self-rehabilitated to be sometimes-late and “Never Be Late Again” was invaluable! I recommend it to everyone!!

    2. hayling*

      I came to recommend the same. She helps you figure out *why* you’re late. I always underestimate the amount of time it takes for me to get out the door, for example.

  23. Former call centre worker*

    There are definitely jobs that are flexible about start and finish times and have few meetings to be late to. I would suggest looking out for employers that emphasise flexibility and jobs where there’s no coverage element (eg not reception or tech support).

  24. Nobby Nobbs*

    If your new location has a place to keep your car that isn’t cost prohibitive, I’d say take the car. With a problem this consistent, don’t cut yourself off from anything you know helps to mitigate it.

    You mention therapy, so you’ve probably already talked this to death, but in case you haven’t: have you identified exactly where in the process the train gets derailed? “I never know what time it is” is different from “I get caught up in what I’m doing and miss the deadline” is different from “I know it’s time to move but I just can’t do it,” and they all have different solutions even if they stem from the same underlying disorder. (The entire comment section is about to diagnose you with ADHD, btdubs, but resources for people with ADHD really can be helpful to look into even when that’s not the problem.)

    1. It is a big deal.*

      There’s no evidence a car will mitigate anything, when they’re late *while working from home*. Especially in a city where traffic is terrible it’s hard to believe a car will do anything to help.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        You’re right about evidence, but OP did seem to be worried that having to rely solely on public transportation would add a new complication into an already frustrating situation. If keeping the car is an option, it might take a load off their mind. Or they might end up gridlocked after prioritizing parking in their apartment search! Either way, I just meant that it’s a reasonable thing to factor into their decision making. (I have a history of trying to “power through” and do things the “right way” when fighting with my own brain, and it rarely works.)

    2. Colette*

      I actually think the car might hurt more than it helps. If you miss a bus that comes every 15 minutes, you know you’re going to be 15 minutes late – but with a car, you can get into magical thinking that you can make up the time on the way or get there faster than usual.

      1. EchoGirl*

        This is really going to vary from person to person. For me, driving has been a major improvement over public transit because of that very question of missing the bus and having to wait a set amount of time. If I’m driving and I leave the house two minutes late, then I’ve only lost two minutes (and I’ve probably left a little time cushion in the schedule for traffic delays and such, so unless it’s a Murphy’s Law kind of day, I’m likely able to absorb that). With public transit, a two-minute delay can turn into a twenty-minute delay, and I’ve been bitten by that a lot more often than by driving-related magical thinking.

        I’m not saying OP shouldn’t give public transit a try, I’m just saying OP should be prepared for the possibility that it backfires and shouldn’t blame herself or feel like a failure if that happens.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I suspect that in a very big city where no one has a car and everyone uses public transit the parking situation will be awful and very likely make the LW’s commute longer and more uncertain. A guaranteed parking spot nearby the office will probably be cost prohibitive, if it exists at all.

  25. PT*

    I recommend timing the amount of time it takes to actually do things. Use the stopwatch function on your phone, if you have to.

    This was an adjustment I had to make in the first year or so I was out of college. In college and in my job at home, I spent a lot of time in short-commute situations- a ten minute drive from my house, a five minute walk from my dorm- but after college I had a long commute that involved walking to the subway stop, waiting, riding for 30 minutes or so and dealing with delays (T, Green Line), and then walking again. Once I started timing it, I realized that I didn’t have a 40 minute commute to work like I thought…I had an hour-long commute, that sometimes took 45 minutes, and on those days I’d just have to wait around before punching in (I was hourly).

    I have a visceral hatred of waiting around before things because when I was in school, if you got anywhere early and had to wait around, you were a target for bullying and violence, so skimming in right on time was a survival strategy. But unless there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with your workplace, no one is going to walk up and start attacking you for reading on your phone for 5 minutes while you wait for someone to unlock the office or conference room. Worst case scenario they ask you to move so they can set up. No biggie.

    1. Another JD*

      Yup, this. I don’t actually know how long things take, so I consistently underestimate. Timing them out so I have a baseline really helps. For example, there are meals I make on a regular basis. I timed them start to finish a few times so I had a good estimate for how long each one takes. I really can get cabbage and schnitzel on the table in 25 minutes, but curry takes 50. It helps to know the actual amounts of time so when it’s 6 PM and my kid is cranky and needs dinner by 6:30, I know not to start the curry.

    2. TiffIf*

      have a visceral hatred of waiting around before things because when I was in school, if you got anywhere early and had to wait around, you were a target for bullying and violence, so skimming in right on time was a survival strategy.

      This is so fascinating to me. (Not the bullying, obviously.) Growing up my family was always late. TO EVERYTHING. It drove me bonkers. I would be waiting in the car with my dad for 5 or 10 minutes waiting for everyone else to be ready and getting annoyed that they were going to make us late. Once I became an adult, I had a lot more control over it and so I resolved to NOT be the late one.

      Its is really interesting how both our behaviors developed as a reaction to environment, but in such different ways.

      1. Eliza*

        Sometimes the bullies are just skipping class, so they’re not early because they’re not where they’re meant to be at all.

    3. Gotta love the "G" train*

      I would add as a long time NYC commuter (living both in buroughs and suburbs) you also need to tend to be pessimistic with your time. My E-train ride might have taken on average 30 minutes – but more often it would take 40 min with days it magically was only 20. If I treated every ride as 30 minutes – I would be 10 minutes late most days. If I treated it like 40 I would be on time or early (and early means I could take the time to chat at coffee, socialize and start my day not in a “I’m Late” panic). Being early can be a real blessing in an office job where you commute via public transit – public transit is stressful and you will want the 5-10 minutes to change mind sets from “commuter” to “worker”. To add to that – most jobs in NYC that do not require coverage have a window that is “on-time” due to the MTA/LIRR/PATH/etc. If your job does too – aim to arrive at the start of the window and not the end. I had a chronically late co-worker who struggled with being on time, then also always aimed to arrive at the end of the window. Resulting in being noticeably late most days. Lastly – if your office is big enough and most people commute via public transit – odds are in the days that the subways/buses/etc are a MESS everyone will know. I have always worked jobs with multiple people taking roughly similar commutes. As a result it is well know if the 4/5 train is so full that you need to let 6 pass you before you can get on board or if the L decided to not run for 30 minutes, or some tunnel into Manhattan is closed diverting specific lines. You should not worry about these major delays – they are part of the price of urban working/commuting. Just get your daily route timed and be conservative with how long it takes (and remember to include the time walking to and from home/office!).

  26. Tasha*

    Flex scheduling with a new boss is probably not the answer. If your official start time becomes 9:30, you’re going to mentally adjust and be 20 minutes late to that. Sorry, I’m sympathetic but d alarmson’t have any suggestions. You’ve tried the reminder/alarms/notes. Theonly thing that helped me change was forcing myself to get up very early (5:30 am) to exercise, and I’m not a morning person OR a workout person. Then I had a lot of time to eat, read the news, and leave the house with sufficient time to get to work early. Maybe that is key as well: don’t try to get to work on time; make it your goal to arrive early.

  27. Web Crawler*

    I have sympathy- I’m also late to everything. For me, it’s an anxiety thing that I’ve been working on for years and haven’t fixed yet. I use any extra time to prepare for leaving the house in the form of grabbing random items, changing my shirt one last time, using the bathroom, until I’m late.

    Luckily, my job has flexible working hours, working from home benefits, and a culture where it’s okay to be late for most things as long as I get the work in on time.

    I’m saying this just to give you hope, because I’m still working on a solution

  28. Bertha*

    You are literally not on time .. to anything? Honestly I feel like if I said that to my therapist, she would ask why I have that belief, and she’d probably trick me into finding something I’m not late for! You think that is impossible for you to be on time to anything, it becomes part of your identity, and of course it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    Do you think you would be MORE late if you relied on public transit? I would argue that you would not be. I am admittedly not a timely person (I have ADHD) but the forced structure of public transit, depending on the mode I choose, forces me to be on time. You can’t just leave five minutes later like you would if you were driving to work, if it results in you missing a train. And if you’re in a city that’s big enough to have public transit, surely traffic while driving could be an issue as well.

    The only food for thought I’ll mention is that it seems like you’re constantly late because you are permitted to be and for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter much for your job. I know this is the case for MY job, and truly, the more I realize no one is paying attention to what I’m doing, the later I come in. I can get away with it because it doesn’t really matter. Do you think that if being late had true consequences— like getting fired — you would continue to do it? I would say, maybe not. That said, I can’t imagine that you’d find bosses are more strict about punctuality in a big city than they are at your current job.

  29. K8*

    Where I work, there is no “late”, people can come in as late or as early as they want. One guy I know is at work by 5:30 am, another one often doesn’t come in until after 4pm. As long as you get your work done, no one really cares. Of course, you still have to be on time for any meetings that you are invited to. And this has been true for most of the places I’ve worked (engineering, right outside both Boston and NYC).

  30. Cat Tree*

    Plenty of jobs have flexible schedules, but I don’t think that will help you long term. You plan to start at 8 and routinely get there at 8:30. So then you start to think of 8:30 as your start time and start arriving at 9. And the pattern continues.

    I don’t have much practical advice because I’m the opposite, always early. But how good are you at lying to yourself? I have on friend who is always late, so I build in a buffer when I schedule something with her. I call it the “Jill factor”. If I she’s giving me a ride and I need to leave my house at 8, I tell her 7:45. Do you think you can convincingly lie to yourself and pretend that work starts 15 minutes earlier? I’m sure that’s a lot harder if it comes from yourself rather than a different person, but it might be worth a try.

    (Interesting story – I also have a friend who is always early. One time he gave me a ride to a medical procedure and I forgot to remove the “Jill factor”. So he came even earlier than the stated time and I was half an hour early for my appointment (on top of the buffer that doctor’s offices already build into the schedule). But better to be too early, I guess.)

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I like “Jill factor,” though that tends to work with people who are consistently a set amount of time late. Not so much with people who wildly vary how late they are, unfortunately.

    2. Daisy Avalin*

      I do this with my dad! If he needs to pick me up to go somewhere, I tell him to be at mine roughly an hour before he actually needs to be, because I know that on the way he’ll “just drop X off at So-and-So’s house” which is fine if So-and-So isn’t there, but if they are that’s an extra 10 minutes of talking!

      He has turned up ridiculously early a couple of times, because whatever he did before he left his/on the way didn’t take as long as he thought, but mostly he arrives around when I tell him to, so I just plan for him to be there then, I’ve just got to put on shoes/pick up bag and we’re ready to go!

    3. Batgirl*

      This is definitely a potential pitfall. I couldn’t do a really flexible job because I need habit and structure; I would just get later and later every day. The before work time would just be an increasing void of procrastination.
      On the lie to yourself thing: I love it when other people do it (purely because I’m less late and they’re less mad, particularly if they can accurately gauge how much I’m usually off by; witchcraft!), but it doesn’t help me personally, It does nothing to help me get a grip on time and when I’m struggling, I just reassure myself that I have a buffer, and the buffer disappears. If I build in a real reason tied to a trigger (like no breakfast food in the house, I have to leave to get food near work, hunger is pretty good at keeping me focused) then it can work. Sometimes, though I was so late I’d go hungry.

  31. Annie Barrett*

    This is the thing that people who are always late need to understand about the rest of us. We pretty much hate you. You don’t respect our time. Whatever you are doing is more important.

    Saying you “can’t” be on time is a cop out. If you truly wanted to be on time, you would make the changes needed to be on time. And ….. since your work isn’t punishing you for being late, you have very little incentive to change. So you don’t.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Please don’t claim to speak for the rest of us.

      Do I find lateness annoying? Yes.
      Do I hate them. No.

      I know a number of late people, and for some of them, it’s not case of lack of respect for others’ time. Many of them have learned workarounds that have improved the situation, but it can take a lot of trial and error and time to find those workarounds, because the same thing doesn’t work for every person.

      1. Antilles*

        It might not *be* a lack of respect for others, but there’s a sizable amount of people who would interpret it as such – especially if it’s someone whose schedule is already packed because you being late to this meeting means this meeting runs over which now makes me late/hurried to get to my next meeting.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          The OP’s lateness may not be directly caused by a lack of respect for others, but they know that their lateness can cause harm to other people! Even if that wasn’t the original intent, that’s the outcome.

          I say this not to be mean, but because it can serve as a strong motivator to break the lateness habit.

          1. H2*

            Yes—this is why I am on time for things. I care about my relationships with others, and about showing people politeness. I would be late to everything, but I don’t want the doctor to dislike me because I threw off her whole schedule, or my friends to be annoyed with me because I wasted their time, or to look unprofessional because I’m late to work. Because I guarantee OP gets those responses at least some of the time. That, combined with not wanting to feel anxious if I’m running late (at the airport, say) are what keep me on time. I do think that a cold look at how people view you can help with behaviors like this.

            I also agree with the idea that this is a behavior and behaviors can change. There’s no such thing as “can’t be on time”. There are a lot of good tips here about how to modify your behavior. (For me, fwiw, it’s remembering that travel time includes walking to and from the car, getting settled, finding my shoes…)

      2. Snark no more!*

        So, I don’t care for the “I hate them” comment, but what I think could be helpful for the OP is to examine herself, reflect on the reasons why she thinks she’s ALWAYS late (are you really ALWAYS late to everything) and be honest about what the reflection reveals. In short, take some personal responsibility. It’s been identified as a problem (by her) and she fears that it may turn into a problem in her job (possibly at some point), but “I’ve literally tried everything,” is not really helpful either.

        I agree that regardless of the intention of the late person, it hits a majority of people as disrespectful. And I’m not saying that you’re not trying. But I think some honest self-reflection is in order.

    2. anon for this*

      Yep. Came here to say this…”It’s not that I don’t care about or respect people I’m meeting/bosses/coworkers, I just can’t be on time” doesn’t fly with me. The thing is, your lateness is showing the lack of respect you have for all of these people and their time. It doesn’t really matter if it’s unintentional–it’s loud and clear. Especially if you’re not sending a heads up to people to let them know you’re running late.

      I am a freelancer. When I have to wait 15-20 minutes for someone to get to a meeting, a meeting where we have mutually agreed on the time, I’m actually losing money. I could be doing something billable in the time I’m waiting.

      When I wait 30 mins at a cafe for a friend to show up, I’m wasting half my lunch break.

      Being constantly late is just giving people an easy reason to hate you before they even get to know you, which is a shame. Punctuality is part of the social contract for me. I wish you luck getting to the root of this issue!

      1. The Other Liz*

        I guess maybe that’s been working fine for you, but it’s a pretty noninclusive way to view the world, given that things that seem simple and easy to you just plain are NOT simple and easy for everyone else. Grateful for all the compassionate responses to this post outnumbering comments like yours. Clearly this person cares and wants to do better, or they would not have written in for advice. It might help you to reframe “lack of respect” when people don’t measure up to your standards. For instance, if a friend never texts me back and cancels plans on me – I might call them a flake. But they might not be disrespecting me. They might be depressed, and unable to force themself to go someplace. The world would be a better place if we let go of the rigidity of the “one right way of doing things” to allow for people with different needs and abilities.

        1. anon for this*

          I am talking about a mutually agreed upon time–two people agreeing to be somewhere, together, at a specific time. I certainly don’t think anyone who doesn’t measure up to my standards is disrespecting me, and to assume that is extrapolating.

          Being late occasionally is a totally normal part of life, and of course, yes, there are lots of different right ways to do things. But when we are working together to set an expectation (i.e., see you at 11) and then one person fails to meet that mutually set expectation without acknowledgement or followup, and that happens over and over again, it’s an issue.

          1. judyjudyjudy*

            I don’t think it is the crux of the matter here, but there are different cultural aspects of punctuality (and lateness) as well. I think framing lateness as disrespect in every context is wrong.

        2. Curious*

          Being on time or slightly early is not simple and easy. It is a lot of work, that over time gets *easier* as you build a habit. If you’re not willing to put in the work to meet a deadline, then you are not respecting everyone else’s time and effort. Full stop.

          1. Person from the Resume*

            Come on! Being on time or slightly early is easy for lots of people. It’s not like naturally punctual people have spent lots of their lives building this habit. If most human beings couldn’t manage to be on time then we’d be much more forgiving of lateness.

            I will agree it’s not easy and actually hard for some category of people, but you’re doing something similar to the LW’s fatalistic thinking that “I am always late to everything” is just a fact.

            1. Spicy Tuna*

              Not everybody is wired the same. That’s like telling someone with a history of being bad at math that anybody can be an engineer. Sure, with the right amount of work, but we can’t deny that it might come more easily to some than others.

              1. Person from the Resume*

                Yes, I actually said that in my comment. Curious didn’t qualify their statement. They made a blanket statement about something as if it were a fact for all people whereas I made a point in saying “I will agree it’s not easy and actually hard for some category of people,” but Curious’s statement is certainly not true for everyone or even most people.

              2. No Name #1*

                Right, but as someone with ADHD who has struggled with lateness, if someone is chronically late to work and appointments where they are taking up other people’s time, they need to find a role where this is not as much of an issue. In terms of accessibility and making accommodations, the ADA only requires “reasonable accommodations” that do not cause an undue burden for the employer/workplace. If someone is consistently late due to a medical issue, maybe that can be accommodated to some extent but being late to meetings with clients and freelance collaborators places an undue burden on others. At some point, if someone struggles with lateness and it’s impacting others as well as themself, then they need to figure out ways to accommodate themselves.

        3. Cassidy*

          Then what’s the point of anyone being on time anywhere?

          I mean, come on. All throughout the comments are suggestions that are so obvious. The OP claims to be a top performer. Wouldn’t a top performer know “Oh, hey, I better get up earlier/leave earlier/prepare more thoroughly the night before/etc.”? Just seems to go with the territory.

          I really just don’t understand excuse-making. Yeah, sure, stuff happens, and we’re all late to something at times. But chronically? Unacceptable. Meanwhile, the rest of us at the meeting table are supposed to be letting go of “rigidity” and reminding ourselves that “The world would be a better place if we let go of the rigidity of the ‘one right way of doing things’ to allow for people with different needs and abilities?”

          Really?

          What if that makes me late picking up my kid? Disrupts my going to a planned lunch with a long-lost friend who leaves town the next day? Am I seriously supposed to look the other way as my chronically late co-worker repeatedly shows up 20 minutes late with a Dunkin Donuts bag? Am I to get a late start on my work that day and have to put some of it on the next day’s calendar without complaint because…why, again?

          How is it that chronic lateness is forgivable, but the reactions to it aren’t?

      2. Spearmint*

        I strongly disagree that lateness is always disrespectful, it really depends on the context. Being 20 minutes late to a scheduled meeting or a situation where time is constrained, like a lunch break? Sure, I get feeling disrespected. But many people who strongly value punctuality also seem to see it as disrespectful when it shouldn’t really matter. I’ve heard people judge coworkers who’s re late in the morning at jobs where arrival times don’t matter to the work, or who are just 2-3 minutes late to meetings occasionally.

        I’m a person who is disposed to being late, and have worked hard to improve in it in areas where it truly matters, but also think many people need to chill out a bit with the hyper focus on strict punctuality.

        1. Not Me*

          If your boss and employer have set a time they expect you to be at work and ready to work then that time does matter. Saying it doesn’t because it doesn’t matter to you is the disrespect people are referring to.

          1. Spearmint*

            To be clear, I’m saying if it doesn’t affect the work and it’s not required by your boss, then your coworkers shouldn’t judge you for it (and while you should try to be on time if your boss wants you to be, a good boss won’t require it unless it affects the work).

            1. Not Me*

              And I’m saying that a lot of the time that argument is used by the chronically late it’s generally wrong. Usually, upon further conversation, it turns out the time does matter, the chronically late person just doesn’t know why or doesn’t consider the reason important.

      1. Chauncy Gardener*

        I think my level of hatred depends on the reason someone is late. My BIL is ALWAYS late and it is because he is a passive aggressive jerk and it is his way of controlling his little world. If someone is scattered and usually late, I am annoyed and wish they would try harder to be on time, but I don’t hate them.

        1. New Yorker*

          Yes! My Director — who is always at work a bit early, is always the last one to staff meetings. It’s absolutely a power/control thing.

      2. Elenia*

        I agree too. I have ended friendships over chronic lateness. Forget an actual dating relationship! It totally does feel like a lack of respect and I hate that I am expected to accomodate the lateness and excuse them because they “just can’t”. I too have a right to make my decisions.
        I run my staff like this: I don’t care when you show up. There is no “late”. EXCEPT when someone else is waiting for you. Don’t be chronically late to meetings, especially with volunteers.
        Occasional lateness happens to everyone. But it is not something that is ok or should be excused.

    3. Quail*

      Yeah, I actively curate my social groups so that no one is late. Otherwise you’re just wasting my time and everyone else’s, and actively ruining the group atmosphere.

      I guess….get evaluated for ADHD if you haven’t, set up a bunch of alarms to remind you of when you’re supposed to be doing things, and just accept the fact that most people will consider you rude until you decide to change your behavior.

      1. canary*

        This is so fascinating to me. All these folks who are saying that “lateness ruins friendships” – I mean, I can see if it’s like being an hour late on multiple occasions, but who really cares if I’m sitting for 10 minutes at the bar waiting for my friend to arrive? To me, someone obsessively monitoring my arrival time would be more of a friendship-killer than someone being a little late.

        1. Lora*

          10 minutes, OK. But I had to tell a casual lover who wanted a more serious relationship that it wasn’t going to happen for a lot of reasons…one of which was lateness. Not 10 minutes late, but 2+ hours late to everything, always. Holiday dinners, birthday celebrations, sit-down dinner parties, concerts, movies that were only playing limited shows, company holiday parties, you name it. 2-3 hours late for everything. I don’t think that woman has eaten a hot meal in her life that wasn’t fast food. When we first dated she did make the effort to be closer to on time for things, but after a while she decided it was OK to show up whenever, and that whenever extended to “well, the dinner party was actually over 90 minutes ago, the food is cold but I guess you can help yourself, everyone’s mostly heading out now though”.

          After a while I sort of thought, she MUST be doing this as a sort of passive-aggressive, “I don’t want to say no to the event, I’m just going to make you so miserable you never ask me out again” type of thing, but then she made a big deal of me not wanting to be around her or have a serious relationship. No, lady, if I spent $400 on concert tickets, I’m not going to miss a band that I might die before they go on tour again just because you can’t decide what shirt to wear. You can stay home and watch TV in your pajamas while I go out and enjoy myself.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Well let’s say I am habitually on time. In order to make that true, I’m actually almost always a little early because planning to arrive exactly on time with no margin for error will mean being late a good bit.

          So I’m 10 minutes early and then the late person is 10 minutes late, then I’m waiting for 20 minutes. If that keeps happening and the late person never apologizes or always blames the same problem like they never noticed that traffic always takes longer than they plan for I am going to be grow annoyed with them and their lateness. I don’t want to sit some place alone waiting. I view some minutes wait as necessary to be sure that I’m on time so you’re not waiting, but consistently being late and adding up more and more time of my life I spend waiting for you will cause me to resent you.

      2. biobotb*

        That seems like an overly aggressive stance toward friendships. There are plenty of things friends can do together where some amount of lateness doesn’t matter. Some activities do require punctuality, but then you can just do those with punctual friends, and invite chronically late people to the more relaxed/less time-sensitive activities.

    4. NYC Taxi*

      Agree with all of this except that I don’t “hate” them. I hate the excuses they make and how they act mystified as to why it keeps happening. I hate how they waste my time. You can be on time if you made it a priority.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I generally loathe lateness with the fury of a thousand suns, but how is this helpful in any way for the OP? This doesn’t address anything or offer any solution so the comment doesn’t belong here. It’s also quite rude when directed at a specific person, which is at least skirting the rules for comments on this site.

      Bring this discussion to an open thread and I will gladly join in and agree with you. But this isn’t the place for it.

      1. Web Crawler*

        This this this. Like, thanks for the guilt trip. It might’ve felt good to type, but it doesn’t help the LW in any way. They already know it’s a problem

      2. Annie Barrett*

        I think telling her that she is making excuses IS a help. Letting her off the hook about how she “just can’t” be on time only gives her an out. I would guess that she doesn’t miss airplane flights to places she wants to go – because she HAS to be on time for them. She just doesn’t really believe that work hours and plans with friends are things she “has” to be on time for.

        My sister is late for everything EXCEPT work – because at her company you have to be on time. For everything else, she is anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes late.

        If the poster really wants to be on time, she will make it a priority to find out if she has ADHD or whatever. She won’t continue to say, “I’ve tried everything but I just can’t.”

        1. Web Crawler*

          Quit blaming people for their problems. It’s unproductive, ableist, and they’ve heard it all before. Trust me

        2. I should really pick a name*

          So this person writes into an advice column to get ideas for solutions, and they get someone in the comments telling them “You can be on time if you really want to”.

          I suspect that part of the reason that they haven’t found a solution is that this is the kind of advice that they’re getting.

      3. Manon*

        I agree that it’s pretty rude and unfair to say that OP’s coworkers must “hate” them, but I think the intent of the comment is to point out the difference between the intentions behind and actual effect of OP’s lateness.

        OP says that they don’t mean to be disrespectful of anyone’s time. However, their coworkers might perceive consistent lateness as doing exactly that because they can’t divine OP’s intent and don’t know about their unsuccessful efforts to fix the problem.

    6. ThatGirl*

      I know it can feel that way — I have an aunt who was always, always late for family gatherings and we felt like she just didn’t care that we were planning to eat at a certain time or whatever. And maybe she didn’t!

      But I’ve learned over the years that time blindness is a very real thing, that some people truly don’t have a sense of how much time passes or can’t quite help themselves. Now, of course in a perfect world all of those people would get help in managing this and be on time. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and it never hurts to be kind.

    7. BuckeyeIT*

      That’s a really unfair statement to make. As someone who does have ADHD, there are times where no matter what I do/try that I literally CAN’T get there on time.

      That doesn’t mean I respect you any less or that what I was doing was more important to me than you/our meeting/work /etc… There is executive dysfunction in my brain that makes me time blind.

      And I won’t speak for everyone who has ADHD, but for me personally, there are many feelings of guilt & shame when I know that I am running 5-10 minutes late with someone waiting on me even though I tried my darndest to get there on time.

    8. NotAnotherManager!*

      I always find this attitude so frustrating, as the parent of two ADHD kids who are smart and capable but struggle mightily with executive function skills. My kids don’t think what they’re doing is “more important”, they literally cannot judge the passage of time and require extensive external prompting to keep a schedule. Framing it as a moral failing and like they are jerks who don’t value the time of others is not accurate and is shaming. They work twice as hard at a lot of things fighting their biology.

      I am working on both of them (they are tweenagers) to come up with systems that help them be on time and work around what is essentially a disability. They have an executive function coach, and we have timers, to-do lists, and prep whatever is needed for meetings, practice, school, etc. in advance so we’re not doing it as we’re walking out the door. We take the approach that when you know you’re not naturally good at something, you have to find a system to compensate for the innate weakness. I hope very much to have them trained and in a system to work around their ADHD by the time they hit college/the workforce, but it’s an uphill struggle and I really hope they can find a job that is more flexible and plays to their strengths on a regular basis.

      It is fine to tell someone that lateness is not acceptable, if that’s a work requirement. It’s fine to fire people who cannot meet job requirements. But when it gets into projecting your very negative and inaccurate assumption about why they’re late and asserting that everyone hates them? That’s no more considerate than chronic lateness.

      1. Batgirl*

        “When you know you’re not naturally good at something, you have to find a system to compensate for the innate weakness”
        *Applause*

    9. Fish*

      This is unkind and not helpful, frankly. We late people are very aware of how the rest of the world sees us. We know that you think we’re rude jerks who don’t care about anyone except ourselves, and that if we just put in a tiny bit of effort we could suddenly be on time for everything. If it were that easy, do think there would still be so many chronically late people? I’m almost 30 and I’ve been struggling with timeliness since I was in high school. Being told that I’m disrespectful and self centered because I’m late has never done anything other than make me feel like crap.

    10. Kaitydidd*

      Wow. That’s a strong reaction to someone asking for advice on how to do the thing you want them to.

    11. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This is the thing that people who are always late need to understand about the rest of us. We pretty much hate you.

      Oh, we understand that. Believe me. And the attitude that you and a lot of other “on-time” people take on this is a major reason I had such a difficult time dealing with my punctuality issues. I was so focused on how much people must hate me despite how hard I was trying and how good my intentions were.

      If you think of punctuality as a moral issue? You’re being really hurtful to people who really are trying and really do want to do the right thing. People who struggle with punctuality aren’t morally bad. The LW is trying. They even went so far as to write to an advice columnist and solicit suggestions from complete strangers. Casting them as a bad person who you hate is not helping anything.

      1. NYC Taxi*

        So you’re blaming people who expect you to be on time for your inability to do so? No. Stop making excuses.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’m not blaming anyone for anything. I’m saying that shaming people for not doing a thing you’d like them to do frequently goes badly and makes things even harder. Using words like “hate,” as people in this subthread have, casting all lateness as a moral wrong, this makes late people feel shame and self loathing, but it doesn’t actually give them the tools or routines they need to stop being late to things.

    12. Myrin*

      That’s a very mean-spirited comment and also a harsh generalisation.

      I’m an absolute stickler for punctuality, both culture- and personality-wise, I generally stay away from posts on this site that deal with lateness because they aggravate me so much, and I cannot for the life of me get into the mind of late people at all, no matter how often or how in-depth I read or hear about it.

      But that does not mean that I hate people who are regularly late, or that I feel incredibly disrespected by them or something (in fact, the whole “respect” angle had never even occurred to me until I read about it on here). My problem with others’ being late is that it annoys me, plain and simple; respect doesn’t factor into it in any way. I might change or even end a relationship over this because it’ stressful and annoying to me, but I would never actively hate a well-meaning person for it.

      So please, don’t generalise in this way and by using words which are bound to be discouraging for someone who is asking for help and advice.

    13. retired*

      This. I have a friend who is always late. She is also very good at doing several things. She gets asked to do the things she’s good at and gets recognition. BUT she has superficial relationships. I’m sure she has had many things recommended to her over her long life to be organized. So it is her choice to be late. I see it as being untruthful (I can’t relay on things she tells me she’ll do). I see it as being disrespectful (to get something on time she has agreed to do, I have to put in a lot of effort to corral her). I see it as her effort to control the situation (she’ll get there when she wants to, not when it is the agreed upon time). So I like her and appreciate what she does well, but have no real intimacy as you have with people you can rely on.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is a great comment, at lease I think so because this is what happens, chronic tardiness tears down relationships.

        While I don’t per se hate late people, I do hate the tardiness itself. But I think that for many years my predominate thought was, “Oh this person hates ME, that’s why they are late.” I could not get that read out of my head, “If they liked me then maybe they’d be on time.” Of course, I grew and changed over the years, but it might be good for OP to know that others can be thinking OP hates them. I don’t mean doesn’t respect them, I truly mean “hates” them which is a step beyond lack of respect in some ways.

    14. canary*

      This is the thing that obsessively-punctual people need to understand about the rest of us. We pretty much hate you. You are incapable of giving even minimal grace to others. The time on your watch is more important.

      Saying you “can’t” deal when someone is late is a cop-out. If you truly cared about the other person, you would make the effort to understand that some people have different brain chemistry and function differently in the world than you do. And… since you’re so self-righteously secure in your moral superiority, you have very little incentive to change. So you don’t.

      1. Case*

        I was in the process of crafting a very similar response to this when I saw yours. Instead of feeding a fed horse, I’ll just say thank you for saying what you said. Yes, being late can cause problems, I won’t deny that. However, implying moral inferiority of people who do not function in ways that society is set up to accommodate (like people who have difficulty keeping track of time and are therefore often late) is also a huge problem.

        While I understand that for jobs that need coverage, lateness just isn’t an option, in general I would much rather have a coworker who was habitually a few minutes late than one who treated lateness as a moral failing.

      2. biobotb*

        I mean, you can argue this the other way, too–that chronically late people won’t give others the grace of being someone who can be relied on. That late people care more about not being rushed than they do about other people. Chronically late people can also understand that others have different brain chemistry and like to have people in their life they can rely on. Being late doesn’t make you morally superior either.

        I don’t think either side gains much by hating the other and insisting that they’re superior. But if chronically late people want understanding, they should also understand that how and why their actions can be frustrating for others.

        1. canary*

          I actually agree with you, biobotb. I was just being over-the-top to make a point. I’m married to someone to whom being on time is very important even when “on time” is just an arbitrary time he’s set in his head. Whereas I don’t like to stress myself out to get somewhere if being a little late isn’t going to cause any problems. We try to accommodate one another because we understand that neither way of being is inherently superior.

          1. biobotb*

            I guess different people may disagree on what “arbitrary” or “isn’t going to cause problems” may mean in different situations, though. One of my struggles with my chronically late spouse is that we’re always late to visit my mother at her house. Sure, you could call it arbitrary, since she’s not going anywhere. But I’d really like to see her, and I set a time with her so we can both plan our days. Him deciding it’s an arbitrary time and being late shouldn’t be a problem is how we’ve ended up showing up 2 hours late instead of 30 minutes late. Not sure why I should give him grace under those circumstances, when he didn’t extend any to me.

            1. canary*

              I’m seeing that there’s a big discrepancy between what folks think of as “late.” To me “late” means 15-30 minutes. Two hours is like a whole other ballgame and I would be just as pissed as everyone else. But I can’t think of a word that differentiates between these two types of lateness!

    15. Double A*

      I struggle with being on time, and I feel like this comment is harsh but also… fair. Really, the only reason to care about punctuality is because of its impact on other people. I am on time (almost always) when I know my tardiness will inconvenience someone else. When punctuality doesn’t matter so much, or putting something off only hurts me… I REALLY struggle to be on time. Not disrespecting someone else’s time is a HUGE motivator for me, and I don’t think you get to brush off your impact on others just because something is legitimately hard for you. Just like because you struggle with a mental health issue, you don’t get to treat others poorly.

      Is it fair to ask for help? To ask for accommodations? To ask for understanding? Yes. But the compensation can’t be all on the other person’s side. You need to be working on your side too and communicating.

      I mean, if you feel guilty about doing something that makes other people feel dismissed and disrespected that’s… good? You should feel guilty about that? Guilt can be a motivator to change. Now, by reaching out for help, the LW is showing they do want to change. But I do think framing it as, “I can’t be on time” is not serving them well and places the responsibility for the impact of their actions elsewhere. Reframing it as “I haven’t yet found any strategies that have enabled me to consistently be on time” might be a more helpful way of thinking about it.

      1. Batgirl*

        Hm. I actually think other people is usually the most important reason, but it’s certainly not the only one. When you’re bad at time management you can lose so much valuable time that you should be spending on yourself! Other people are succeeding, learning… using their time with purpose. Meantime, your minutes, hours and days are being swallowed up by the ether, never to be recaptured. Sure, you can make up for some of it with speedy hyperfocus, but that doesn’t always work.

    16. Batgirl*

      It sounds like you have a particular person in mind who doesn’t care about your feelings! I can only speak for myself. It took me years of hard work to figure out punctuality. I have now, because it was important to me not to upset others. One of the biggest and longest stumbling blocks was focusing too much on people who thought it was mere thoughtlessness because that really was a red herring which disrupted my search for true solutions and time guides with pointless self hatred. It really wasn’t about doing something more important. I could usually not even remember WHAT I had been doing, if anything, at all. It was definitely never anything important. I usually honestly had no idea where the time went.

  32. Marzipan*

    The one person I know who’s chronically late for everything is like that because she’s trying to do too many things, and always underestimates how long it’ll take to do them. Is there any possibility this is what’s happening here?

    1. juliebulie*

      Oh yes, that’s me. “I have five minutes – just enough time to do one more little thing” that ends up taking much longer than five minutes.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Psychologically, most people underestimate the time it will take to do things, to varying degrees. I’m the opposite and it’s one reason for my struggle with procrastination. I think that thing will take an hour so I never want to get started, but it actually takes 15 minutes.

      This isn’t helpful to OP at all, but an interesting perspective on how our brains work.

      1. juliebulie*

        Oddly enough I have this too. And these are mostly all things that I’ve done before and should know how long they take.

      2. Marzipan*

        That does resonate with me – I’m often amazed, when I finally force myself to do That Thing I Have Been Putting Off, to discover it only actually takes me ten, fifteen minutes to do.

    3. une autre Cassandra*

      Putting this out here as a general (not work-specific but potentially helpful in work contexts) resource: Captain Awkward’s “Pandemic! Productivity! Life! Hacks! (from a deeply unproductive & freaked out person)”

      It’s at CaptainAwkward dot com and was posted on May 20, 2020 (wary of links because I’m not sure I’ll get caught in a spam filter.) And obviously it’s written with COVID-19 in mind but I thought it might be helpful even beyond the unique crappiness of the current pandemic situation.

  33. blink14*

    Having lived in a big city, I would say that you absolutely have to expect transportation delays (and how frequently depends on the city/system). Some employers will be flexible with you being 15 minutes late. Others won’t, it really depends on the work culture and the job itself – are strict hours are essential to the position? Then that job may not be for you.

    I’m the person that is always right on time, and it drives me nuts when I’m late. For about a year, my office relocated to a different building about a mile from our current one. That one mile added 30 minutes extra to my commute, each way. I drive to work and instead of parking in a close lot, I now had to drive an extra 15 minutes, park my car in the closest employer owned lot (that I paid for access to), and then walk another 10-15 minutes depending on traffic lights. I was late EVERY day for the entire time we were in that building. Didn’t matter what time I left home, the added logistics meant I was consistently late. Public transit would’ve been just as bad. Sometimes those circumstances just happen.

    Public transportation to my office from my apartment would be at least 45 minutes and require 2-3 transfers. Door to door drive and park time is about 30-35 minutes, and that’s what I choose to do. It also gives me more flexibility if I need to run to an appointment during the day, have something scheduled right after work, etc. Some cities are highly dependent on mass transit, and some have mass transit but driving is still a better option for many people. I would do some serious research on the city you are looking to move to and mapping out what your commute would be like, not to just get to and from work, but to a grocery store, to run errands, etc.

  34. notMichelle*

    I live in a big city with transportation that is frequently late, it really depends on the job and where it’s located. When I first moved here, I had a job that required me showing up on time, like they actually cared about punctuality and I would have to allot myself extra time to get there. So if Google maps said it’d take 45 mins to get there, I’d give myself over an hour to get there, especially since that was all on bus not a train. There were lots of people who drove to that job as well and even they were late because the traffic was just really intense. My last 2 jobs have been along train routes and even then I give myself extra time and the employers were a lot more lenient as this was a regular office job vs sales in a store like my first job here. There have been times when I was over 2 hours late even though I left at my normal time because of random delays on the train (fire in a tunnel, sick passenger, a failed terrorist attack attempt etc). If there’s a delay on leg of the trip, you’re more likely to get delayed even further down the line. I would usually text/email a picture of the delay notification on the app to my manager (or even a picture of the platform) to signify that there was an issue and they’ve all been understanding.

    Biggest advice – add 30 minutes to whatever the app is telling you is how long it’ll take. If the app is telling me to leave at 7am to get to a place by 8, I’ll leave at 630am and hope for the best. Once you get a feel, you can start pushing the time back. But if you’re usually late, keep that timeframe as your main “leave by time” which will give you that buffer you probably need.

    1. Missed Connection*

      +1
      When I first moved to Big City and started using public transit, it took me far too long to understand why leaving my house at 8:20 meant I got to work at 9, but leaving at 8:24 meant 9:30. It’s one late train, one missed connection, and your commute time is completely off. Assume that’s going to happen more often than not, and bring a book or something to work on while you wait.

      1. Antilles*

        Even if you’re driving and not using specific public transit schedules, this is a thing. In the pre-Covid world where rush hour existed, I would regularly find that if I left at 7:15 or before, I’d beat the rush and get there in 30 minutes, but leaving even a few minutes later made the trip take much longer because everybody else would be on the roads as well.

      2. notMichelle*

        Fully charged phone for me and apps that aren’t super draining! But yeah, there’d be times when I’d leave less than 5 minutes later and be late by 20 mins (my commute if I were still going to my proper office is 3 trains so one little thing can completely mess it up).

  35. Wendy City*

    Try setting alarms for yourself as you get ready in the morning – giving yourself more time than you think you need for each task.

    When I first made the move from Suburban Car Commuter Town to Big City With Public Transit Commute, I worked backwards from when I needed to be at work (8:45 am, 15 minutes early), setting alarms for Waking Up, Walk the Dog, Get in the Shower, 5 Minutes Before Leaving, and Walk Out the Door. I added at *least* 5 minutes to each task, giving myself plenty of buffer time.

    A difference I’ve noticed between myself (prone to being late but also exceptionally anxious about being late) and my partner (chronically late most of the time) is that my partner views being early as just as negative an outcome as being late – where as for me, being early is a bonus positive consequence of all these timers. If you’re really sick of running late, you may end up being early some of the time, and that’s a good thing!

    To answer your question about how people in a big, public-transit-reliant city react to lateness: In my experience, people understand if every once in a while you get delayed by a late/stuck train, weird construction patterns, or other uncontrollable problem that only happens when you’re using public transit. But the rest of the time, barring an exceptionally flexible workplace, you’re expected to be on time.

  36. Taco Cat*

    It’s one thing to be a little late to work like showing up at 806 instead of 8, but I would not be able to put up with it if you were constantly late to meetings. Everyone has issues once in a while , but being habitually late, I’d start keeping you from joining meetings late and it would be a huge mark against you.

    Like others have said, why are you always late? You always think you have more time?

    I was always taught being early is on time, being on time is late. Maybe thinking of meeting start as being a few minutes early would help?

  37. anonymouse*

    You are writing because you are worried that being late will hurt you work wise.
    I’m curious. Has being late affected other parts of your life?
    When you were late to class, did the teacher still let you in?
    When you were late to meet friends, did they wait for you?
    When you are late to work now, does your boss tell you it’s unacceptable?
    So, if you’ve never had negative consequences for being late, it would be hard to motive yourself not to be late.
    And if accepting this personal shortcoming actually a tacit reward by your boss, then it will be very hard to change.
    You say you work harder to make up for it.
    Maybe your boss is fine with that.
    Keep working hard, but also think about what the real issue of being on time is about.

    1. Tracy*

      Yes, I’m very much agreement with this. I also feel like completing your work for the day in 2-3 hours is not a trade off. I would consider slowing down on that and perhaps paying attention to the details. It may be counter-productive and garner a sense of “what are they missing and why are they done so fast?”.

      1. I edit everything*

        I would be so paranoid if I finished my work that fast. What am I missing? Is this a trick question? Have I forgotten a step? What am I not doing that everyone else is?

        1. OyHiOh*

          Welcome to my brain. I was “that” student. The one who handed in tests 15 minutes into an hour testing period, the one who read the whole textbook in the first week of class, yeah, that one. I’m still that person. What would generally be considered an hour’s worth of work usually takes me no more than 15 or 20 minutes. My end results are pristine and error free, as verified by co workers and governing board; I just work fast. I’m also constantly paranoid that I’ve missed something obvious. I’ve got pretty good internal systems for double checking my work before I send anything out, but I still worry, all the time.

          I do not, however, have an on-time problem. My brain starts screaming that I’m gonna be late if I hit the parking lot 10 minutes before start time. It does not take ten minutes to get from the parking lot to my office.

        2. Batgirl*

          You wouldn’t if you were in hyperfocus. Everything is so clear, and so easy, that there’s plenty of time to double check things over twice and you’re still miles faster than people on normal time. It’s the only upside of ADHD. Time moving in your direction for once.

          1. Loredena Frisealach*

            This! I always finished my tests ages before everyone else, even when I forced myself to go through it a second time. Hyperfocus is a super power when it’s engaged for the right thing. The flip side is if I’m hyperfocused on a task I will miss all the time to switch cues, which is why I still sometimes am very late to a meeting because I missed the popup reminders entirely. (getting on the call at the 5 minute reminder only works if I see it!)

    2. PersistentCat*

      ….What kind of world do you live in?
      When you were late to class, did the teacher still let you in?
      High school or college? HS, wasn’t late unless class was physically too far from the previous class or had a late note from the bus. College: WHAT INSTRUCTOR DOES THIS. I pay for that class, you will let me in. I have far more power in that this is a service I am *paying* for.
      When you were late to meet friends, did they wait for you? If they had to go somewhere? No, and it was understandable. If not, yes? Who just takes off & leaves?
      When you are late to work now, does your boss tell you it’s unacceptable? OP letter sounds like no.

      Other “consequences”:
      Did you get a missed appt fee from your dr or hair dresser bc you exceeded their window? Were you mad about it, or did it seem reasonable? If it seemed reasonable, then you at least are balanced on your approach to lateness is set in reality. You’re late, you accept it, you move on?

      1. NotMyRealName*

        College: The sort of instructor that realizes that the students who were there on time also paid for the class and don’t deserve the disruption.

      2. biobotb*

        “Who just takes off and leaves?”

        Well, someone who’s sick of waiting for you when you promised you’d be somewhere at a specific time? One could ask, “Who just breaks a promise to a friend?” Why do you think they should be considerate of you if you’re not being considerate of them?

      3. anonymouse*

        I’m in the US.
        High school teachers definitely did not let people in without a note.
        And college professors locked the door.
        And my sibling was always late for scout things, so yeah, they had to drive the kids, because if they weren’t there when the carpool left, they weren’t going that way.

      4. Jennifer Thneed*

        Late people coming into class are SO disruptive and distracting. And if you paid for that class, so did I.

    3. TiffIf*

      I have a friend who has a chronic lateness problem–and it predates her having a 3 year old and a 5 year old–so once when we had standing plans (every week she would come over for the newest dr who episode) I said “I am starting at 8, whether you are here or not.” Miraculously she was almost always on time–for that event. Still late for almost any other plans. Sometimes you just have to make the consequence clear.

  38. InfoSec SemiPro*

    I join the chorus of reccomending a neuropsych eval for ADHD or other executive functioning adventures, if only for self awareness and a confirmation that “yes, my brain works like this.” This can help cushion you in some jobs with accomodations like “flexible start times” (as long as you don’t miss scheduled meetings.)

    Whatever it turns up or if you even do it, looking at tools and systems for supporting executive function might be helpful in general – this isn’t a case of “just try harder” whatever is going on here.

    For dealing with the reality that you’re probably not suddenly going to become the world’s most punctual employee, please make some arrangements. Don’t take a job where timed coverage is a need if you can help it – nothing pisses off colleagues like not being able to go to the bathroom because you’re late… again. Yes, in places where public transit is the norm, company cultures can be more flexible (depending on the business, some just expect you to catch the hour early train to make sure you’re there).

    If there’s only one train/bus an hour though, you might want to show up stupidly early for it and bring a book or craft project or other waiting survival technique.

    There are workplaces that work on a “core hours” concept – where you’re expected to be there for a full time schedule, but as long as you start before 10 and leave after 3:30, they don’t actually care what your normal day looks like. Some places will let you flex by day, others want to know what your self assigned “shift” is. If your self assigned shift is 8-4, and in practice 8:20-4:20, you should be fine. In non coverage jobs, many workplaces can handle a 20 minute after the hour arrival, as long as you’re not missing a meeting or generall unproductive otherwise.

    1. BuckeyeIT*

      Ah- I should have paid closer attention to the comments. I said the same thing further below re: core hours. Getting a position with this type of scheduling has been such a lifesaver

  39. valprehension*

    For dealing with transit, specifically: I have my routine set up assuming delays, which means when everything runs smoothly I arrive at work a half hour early. I bring a book and get to chill in the staff room and its great. And on the occasional day where there’s a delay, I’m generally still pretty close to on time. My entire life runs on routines, and my mornings always look the same from when I get up to when I leave the house, so I always leave on time.

  40. NomadiCat*

    LW, you are not alone!

    Not to do any kind of armchair diagnosis across the internet, but what you’re describing sounds a lot like what is commonly called “time blindness”. There are many things that can cause it, and you might benefit from researching time blindness mitigation strategies. Strategies for people who don’t experience this will probably be more frustrating than helpful, so look for resources from people who actually live with it.

    I can also speak to punctuality in big cities where most people depend on public transit for their daily work commute. In short, it depends on your office culture. Mine was completely intolerant of lateness, and even if you were dealing with a train derailment our management did not care and you would be criticized for not leaving earlier so that you could have taken a different train in. This was such a common problem at my particular stop (in a busy downtown area) that on the days the trains were badly behind our train stop would give out official pink “late passes” to commuters that they could turn into their HR departments/ bosses to prove it was beyond their control.

    Depending on your public transit setup, yes, cars can take less time. As long as there is dedicated parking near your work! I would sometimes race my friends who drove, and between my public transit delays and them getting stuck in traffic and then spending half an hour trying to find parking, we would often arrive at our destination at the same time. Having a car in a major metro area can also be super expensive, because it can drive up your insurance rates, gas can be more expensive, and parking is often not included in your rent or at your job– if either has a place for you to park at all. If you want a truly short commute that you can control, you can try to live within walking distance of your workplace, but given that residential real estate near bustling commercial centers gets pricey, that can be an expensive option as well.

    There are other, less formal work cultures that would be fine with it. You can try looking for “flex time” in job descriptions, but be aware that “flex time” can be pretty inflexible as well. This is also something you can and should be asking about when you interview. I’d advise you not to say that you have a problem with punctuality, but rather ask about as part of the overall culture: “What is your policy on headphones? What is your policy on running late? How does your team celebrate milestones and achievements?”

    tl;dr: Don’t give up! You have tons of options and resources. You just need to find the ones that work for you! Good luck!

    1. katlet*

      Time blindness! This is a great phrase. I suffer from this too but I’ve been calling it “chron-optimism”–the (misguided) belief that things will take less time than they really do. I’ll have to look into some of these resources.

    2. Secretary*

      This is a great comment!!
      People with ADHD often suffer from time blindness. They can’t help it.
      Even if you don’t get evaluated, check out some ADHD workarounds to time blindness and being on time and see if any help. I personally use a kids app called “Brili” which helps me get through my morning routine.

  41. Cubicle_queen*

    I think this is a really helpful comment. I have someone close to me who has ADHD. They’re medicated and in therapy (for a variety of reasons), and I’ve noticed a big change when they’re working through a problem and are able to identify what the actual issue is. It takes them out of the wild and emotional reaction to everything being a mess, which then leads to shutdown or spiraling… Now that it has a name, they can apply all their focused energy on the best way to fix that problem & seek out advice for it. They learned how to sift through the noise & pinpoint through working with a therapist. So if OP has tried therapy & been unsuccessful, they may have just had a bad fit.

  42. meyer lemon*

    My pragmatic response is that it’s probably going to make life easier to just try to find a job where start and end times are flexible. I’ve had a few jobs where they didn’t care what time you start as long as it’s within a certain window.

    I’m not a “late person” but I know a few people who are, and in my experience, it takes a largish investment of energy to be consistently on time. Basically you have to always plan to be earlier than you think. Over-estimate the amount of time every step will take. That means not just leaving in time to catch your bus, but leaving in time to catch the earlier bus in case the on-time bus doesn’t show; time for your walk to the bus stop; time between going out your front door and starting your walk to the bus stop; time to put on your coat and shoes; time to gather up all of your things; time to get ready; and so on.

    I do all of these things as a matter of habit, but I’m fuelled by anxiety about being late. For someone who’s not in the habit of thinking and planning this way, I imagine it would get draining pretty fast. Might be easier to practice doing it socially if you don’t have to worry about a firm start time at work.

  43. CatCat*

    On start times, you can look for jobs with flexible start times. It may have “core hours” (like you *have* to be in between 10:00-3:00). When I was with the federal government, no one cared when I came in as long as I came in by 10:00, was there for core hours, and put in a full work day.

    That could help with start time.

    1. Jj2*

      Core hours are a great option for me. If I need to be in at 9am precisely my brain short circuits for a whole variety of reasons and it will cost me loads of energy to struggle to achieve that. If I have core hours and can start any time between 8am and 10am then I will be there sometime between 8:55 and 9:10 every day with roughly a quarter of the effort.

    2. LilyP*

      Yes, be careful to understand what kind of “flex time” you’re getting somewhere! Some places mean “we can be flexible in setting your schedule but once it’s set you need to stick to it exactly”, some have core hours but outside that it’s whatever, some are literally whatever as long as you get your forty a week in and don’t miss meetings.

  44. Kupo*

    I have this problem and my mother had this problem. We are both high performers, she rose to be the superintendent’s admin. I’m holding an entire branch of my org together.

    Our solution was to not work for bosses who are clock watchers.

  45. StateWorker*

    I see a bunch of comments about getting screened for ADHD, but given your lack of inclusion of what you are doing while you arebecoming late, I wonder if it could be depression and anxiety related? As in, it takes you an extra 10 minutes to work up the effort to go.

    As for right now, have you tried treating it like a goal to be worked towards? For example, instead of trying to be never late, start out small with picking one thing this week that you are not going to be late for and let it go with everything else. If you treat it like a proverbial muscle and take tiny incremental steps you may have more success in the long term.

    1. Kaitydidd*

      Ooh yeah, I like this! Set a bunch of achievable goals for improvement along the way so that it’s a positive experience for the brain!

  46. Elliot*

    To echo some points above, what is making you late? That’s where you start. Is it that you’re trying to do something extra? Sleeping? Just absent-minded about checking the time? This is essential information for anyone to offer you useful guidance.

    Additionally, I think your framing of “I can’t be on time” isn’t helpful… You’re basically selling lateness as a character trait instead of a flaw that needs fixed immediately. It doesn’t matter that you say you respect others – If you are regularly taking advantage of their time and making them wait on you, you do not act respectfully towards them. Period.

    What would happen if you knew that if you were late to work tomorrow, you’d immediately be fired? Would you be on time? How would you accomplish that? What are you doing in the mornings that delays you opening your laptop?

    I think you need to assess what behaviors you are doing instead of working to be prompt, and adjust your mindset so you’re no longer telling yourself that you’re incapable of a VERY basic human decency.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      I’m very intrigued by the fact that they’re late while WFH, if only because I’m habitually 5-10 minutes behind in the morning even after I’ve learned to outright declare “Nope, I can do no more household management, X is your responsibility, Y is yours, Z is yours, don’t care, freaking deal with it, I can’t I have to GO” in the morning. (That’s better than 15-25 minutes though)

      My issue is that I have FAR too many balls to keep in the air around here, and for reasons (two are learning, the adult is in remedial fix it of partially my own unintentional doing when we were younger. A lot of things have flip-flopped as far as career priorities since we were in our early 20’s, but we managed to set a lot of habits then too.) I have to provide instructions to the people who should be able to pitch in. Its getting better since I’ve put words to it and declared it absolutely unacceptable that I’m working full time, and both managing the household and doing the household work with little assistance. “You’re asleep while I’m up early cleaning bathrooms/other assorted tasks, of course I’m bitter, get your arse UP and HELP!”. We’re almost to the point where “everyone except me” is no longer blind to X, Y, and Z, which is what I need. Don’t pack that garbage into the overflowing can, that just means the bag will rip later – take it the eff OUT. There has been a LOT of shouting to get to this point, and it hasn’t been pretty.

      BUT, WFH? I am ON-TIME. Early, even. Because I can ignore X, Y, and Z before I log on, as I’ll be able to deal with X, Y, and Z while I’m waiting on a file to download (or similar downtime when I can walk away from my desk and computer for a hot minute, literally). Whereas I know, probably subconsciously, if I don’t deal with X, Y, and Z before I leave in the morning, its going to be staring me in the face, still unhandled, and pissing me right off the second I get home.

  47. PolarVortex*

    RE: Buses!
    They can be late. They can be early by a few mins. They run on a schedule so either ensure your bus is one that runs very often (every 8 mins, every 15 mins for the main lines) or you’re really going to have to work hard to make that bus if it’s running every hour. Speaking for my own work, we understand (particularly during winter) that weird things happen with transportation and you may be late here and there. But if you were scheduled to be in at 8 and always showing up at 8:30, I’d be having a conversation with you about either a) shifting the bus you catch to an earlier one or b) shifting your shift to be 8:30-5:30. So keep that in the back of your head. And, it’d be about the same if you’re driving too. I’d give exceptions since life happens, but if you’re always late that’s a problem. I’d be expecting you (on days in winter for example) to ensure you’re trying to hit an earlier bus if things look like they’ll be slower or not leaving to drive at your normal time when you know people are driving slower because of snow

    RE: Lateness
    I’m worried about a few things here. Always being late means what? 3 mins? Half hour? Is this everything in life (every meeting at your work) or just major things like getting to work on time? If you’re late to everything, as a manager I’m going to consider you unreliable no matter how much work you can get done despite showing up late. It’s going to affect me considering you for projects and promotions. As a coworker, I’m going to be really irritated that you consistently show up late to everything and don’t think you respect my time or me. Plus it sounds like you’re moving from an area that has relatively low competition – small company, etc – to an area where there’s always someone looking for a job and to move up the ladder, which means your job could be more in jeopardy with your tardiness. Additionally it’s a new job, so you don’t have the capital to be late and have it forgiven. (Even flex time I know when my employees are going to be clocking in and out. They just have atypical shifts that they’ve sorted out with me because of childcare or whatever.)

    You need to continue to work on this. You haven’t found a solution that works, but you need to try some kind of habit forming or other form of way to make this less of a “this is who I am” thing vs a “this sometimes happens on occasion” thing. As some people point out ADHD is a thing. Also some time figuring out what is truly driving that lateness is another. I feel for you, because something that’s so engrained in your life is so hard to change and it can feel impossible. Good luck and I hope everything goes well for your move.

    (Also, just saying that unless you’re traveling about a lot, you can get by in most cities without a car or just get a car subscription thing like HourCar or something for when you truly need it. Cheaper than paying for a parking spot.)

  48. Kaitydidd*

    I am also chronically late. Captain Awkward described it as “time optimism,” which resonated with me. I do “just one more thing” over and over on my way out the door, and before long I’m 10 minutes late.

    My solution is a rigid morning routine. If something is different about the next day I lay out what I need and do as much as I can the night before. If I deviate from my routine I’m late, even now that my ADHD is medicated. Morning routines are still just as critical, because my meds don’t kick in for like half an hour after I take them. It works on my groggy morning brain.

    1. Green*

      Also mini-alarms may be helpful. If you schedule alarms every 5-10 minutes, then you have to keep checking where you are on the schedule and know when you’re off you have to make choices.

  49. MistOrMister*

    In general I don’t think you’re going to find bosses in big cities being more lenient than anywhere else. It just depends so much on the culture of the place and your particular boss. Even within one office, one manager might be a complete stickler for starting on time whereas another wouldn’t as long as you made up the hours elsewhere.

    I would suggest trying to find a workplace with a flexible schedule. I would think that is the safest bet because if it’s done company wide it seems like it would be less likely to be a perk that was taken away. Whereas if the company is generally pretty rigid about start times, even if you negotiate with your manager to be able to come in later, that manager could leave or be told by their boss that it can’t be allowed any more or what have you and then you’re in a pickle.

    As far as taking your car with you to the city, keepnin mind the fact that traffic and difficulty parking contribute to people in cities not owning cars. If you’re trying to get through downtown in the height of rush hour, your car is not all that likely to save you any time over the broken down public transit system, and could actually add to your commute time. And if you don’t have work provided parking or have not shelled out for monthly parking, finding a parking spot could also be a huge tim suck.

  50. ProdMgr*

    So, assuming you’re not able/willing to change your habits, you need a job where start time isn’t important. This is going to be a function of job responsibilities (no scheduled shifts) and personal preference of your boss and possibly also time zone. Like if you can find a job where everyone you work with is 2-3 hours behind you, your morning start time matters less (but your late afternoon/evening availability matters more).

    A long mass transit commute could work in your favor if it is the kind of commute where you are able to work in transit. Like if you’re sitting on a bus and you have room and network connectivity to open your laptop, you could do a lot of work on the bus. If you’re on a crowded subway with no cell reception, maybe not.

  51. BubbleTea*

    I am often late to things because I have this belief that it is inefficient to be early. I resist leaving until the last possible moment when I can plausibly be on time if everything goes well, because of a combination of inertia and feeling like somehow I’m wasting time by leaving myself a buffer. And then I am stressed when I have to rush to make sure I’m on time, or when I am actually late.

    Something that has helped me a lot is to remind myself that leaving extra time to get places is a GIFT to myself, not inefficient or wasteful. It isn’t intuitive for me to feel this way so I have to recite it like a mantra. “It’s good to be a bit early.”

    I’ve also found I’m less likely to be late now that I have fewer commitments. It isn’t that I was running behind because I was overscheduled so much as my ability to be on time seems to be finite, so too many commitments means eventually I’ll give up and be late. I have a high need for downtime at home. If that is met, it is much easier to get myself motivated to leave on time (which means EARLY) when I have to.

    1. alienor*

      Out of curiosity, what would you be doing with an extra 10 minutes that would be super productive? I ask because I’ve heard people say this before, but I don’t have so many vital tasks that I have to squeeze them into every available minute or else I’m wasting time (plus any time I waste waiting for an appointment or a meeting to start would pale in comparison to the amount of time I waste, say, watching YouTube videos or just faffing around at home).

    2. Kiitemso*

      This is a great notion, I’m prone to earliness and it’s always an award for myself. 10 mins early to work? Time to get coffee from the coffee machine, drink it while opening my computer (but not opening my email yet), listen to a podcast to unwind before starting the day. Sometimes I will use up the time for work-related things but other times I won’t. 15 mins early to meeting a friend? I can window shop a nearby shop or check out the menu of the restaurant we’re meeting at.

  52. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    I hope this doesn’t come across as too cold, but at some point you sit have to tell yourself that not being on time is completely unacceptable and a failure. Then change your behavior accordingly. Some of the best advice I ever got was from an author at a seminar when someone asked him how he deals with writer’s block. His answer was that writing is his job and writer’s block is another name for video games. He said you never hear a surgeon say she has surgery block and can’t operate on scheduled patients that day, you don’t hear lawyers say they have arguing block, and you don’t hear teachers have teaching block. Everyone wakes up some days and finds it harder to find motivation to do their jobs, but we do them anyways. As a writer, his job was to write even if he didn’t really want to that day. Your job is to be on time even if it’s difficult.

    1. The Other Liz*

      This is a prime example of why I think it is important to consider the possibility of neurodivergence – of getting tested for ADHD. I don’t like to armchair diagnose either, but for someone with ADHD this advice simply does not help. I’m not sure ANYONE is helped by telling themselves they’re a failure – but especially for those of us with ADHD, we and the world already give ourselves that message daily. Saying it again is not helpful. And one of the fundamental differences is something else said here – when it’s hard to find motivation to do your job, you do it anyway. But motivation isn’t something you can just manufacture, especially because you “just have to”. We have to work WITH our brains and motivations, not try to force them. Fear and shame are not going to be enough on a regular basis to overcome the circuitry of our brains.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Uh.. how does he do this? My brain often won’t word even when I’m describing things that happened…

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Exactly the reason I don’t write for a living. If it ain’t there today no amount of beating myself up is going to get me to write. I need a little more structure than, “Oh yeah, write something-anything up before you go home.”

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Honestly, I think it creates a tremendous amount of burnout. I agree with that writer — when it’s your job, you just have to do it, it’s not an option not to. But writing all day long when your brain doesn’t want to is exhausting, and you will feel like a wrung-out sponge at the end of a few days like that. It’s why you have to be deliberate about building in breaks, I think. (I don’t really know the answer though; I’ve been dealing with this all month.)

        1. Richard*

          Agreed. It’s always a good idea to be critical of the “just push through it” advice. Some tasks work for that, some really don’t, and there’s the same variation for individuals. If it’s not going to work, trying can burn you out and wreck your confidence and sense of self, and not everyone has the resilience to wreck themselves and come back for more.

    3. Case*

      I’m a teacher and, while I have never used the term “teacher’s block,” when I’m burnt out and exhausted, I have a much harder time teaching and I’m sure it’s noticeable. This doesn’t mean I just don’t teach when I don’t feel like it, but when I notice that I’m having trouble, it’s often because I need a break of some kind. This is one of the reasons why having regular time away from teaching and maintaining strong boundaries around when I do my work is so important.

      For some people, saying, “You just have to do it” might work. For others (like me), pushing themselves to just do a thing that keeps not working can actually make the problem worse.

  53. Generic Name*

    I agree with the suggestions of getting checked for ADHD. I also wonder if there’s an element of magical thinking going on. A former coworker of mine was always late to things, and I realized one day that she legit thought that it took only 15 minutes to get downtown from our office, for example. As in we were driving separately to the same meeting, and I was getting ready to leave 45 mins out from the meeting and she was confused as to why I was leaving “so early” when it only took 15 mins to get downtown. Well, maybe on a good day (and with speeding) you could arrive in your car downtown in 15 mins, but that didn’t account for finding parking or walking from your parking spot to your chair in a meeting room on the 32nd floor of a high rise.

    There are a lot of mental steps that many (most) people go through subconsciously/intuitively to arrive at places on time. For the meeting example, if I have a meeting downtown scheduled for 3 pm, I will look up the address and double check the drive time, say 20 mins. Then I will figure it will probably take me another 15 mins to find a parking spot, and if I assume the spot is a few blocks away, I’ll add in another 15 mins of walking time. Then I’ll add say 5 mins to get from the building entrance to the meeting room itself, so adding all that up is 55 mins. So I know to leave about an hour before the meeting starts (honestly, I’ve started just ordering a Lyft to get downtown for meetings because the cost of a Lyft ride is cheaper to my company than an hour of my time). I keep all of this in mind the day of the meeting, or maybe the day before, but it’s also helpful to put in the calendar an appointment for 2 pm that says “drive”, so my calendar will remind me 15 mins before I have to get in the car.

    The navigation app Waze is also helpful in that you can plan drives in it and it will tell you the day before or a few hours before when you’ll need to leave, and it accounts for traffic. It will give you a 10 minute reminder of when you need to be in your car and starting to drive.

    It might also help you to start writing down how long things take you. As in write down what time it is when you begin a task and write down what time it is when you finish a task. I wouldn’t be surprised if your sense of how long things take is off. So if you’re thinking, “I’ll just do this 5 minute task because I have 5 minutes before I have to leave for this meeting” you may discover that the “5 minute task” is actually a 7 or a 10 minute task. Yes, 3 minutes do matter. I remember sitting on a tarmac for an hour plus in an airplane so when we finally arrived at our gate literally as they were shutting the doors, they told us “too bad you’re late”. If we had gotten there 3 minutes, earlier, we would not have missed our connecting flight. (Thanks, American Airlines)

    I know this is a lot, and hopefully you find some of it helpful. Please don’t get discouraged at (likely neurotypical) people who tell you “well just try harder” or whatever. There’s a reason chronically late people are late, and it’s not a matter of willpower or gumption or whatever.

  54. employment lawyah*

    1) Work hard on filtering out EVERYTHING NOT A PRIORITY, because this is a lot easier to change in small amounts. Maybe at first nothing other than “personal meeting with boss” gets an alarm. It’s almost certain that your friends and family need to suck it up for a while.

    2) Subject to #1, get an apple watch, talk to Siri, set alarms as needed. The goal is NOT to instantly “change yourself,” it is to “train yourself to follow your alarms and respond when they go off.” That training is why, at first, you need to severely limit the use of alarms. NOBODY can go from “late” to “following 10 alarms/hour.” But you might be able to go from “late” to “following 1 alarm/day”, and then to “2 alarms/day,” and so on.

    3) Get tested for ADHD

    Eventually you will probably get fired if it doesn’t improve, hopefully in a way which doesn’t screw your future too badly, and that may be enough of a kick to fix it.

    best of luck.

  55. Prof Ma'am*

    I’m an always late person too. For those that aren’t late people, it might sound counterintuitive but we get super stressed about our lateness. I’m not late because I don’t care. I care a lot!

    A lot will depend on the train/bus/metro schedule. If there are a lot of options during the standard commute time windows then so long as your job culture allows it you can afford to miss one and catch the next. My commute is a 30min drive (plus another 10+ minutes to park and walk to my office… which I never seem to factor in but I digress!). For me it’s important that I don’t have anything mandatory to do right when I get to work (meetings, calls, etc). That helps lower my stress in general and then when I end up getting in later than I’d like I have buffer time to destress.

  56. SushiRoll*

    OP mentioned medication as one of the things that did not work, and I hate to armchair diagnose, but wonder if they have been tested for ADHD?

    1. Loredena Frisealach*

      This was my first thought too! It’s definitely worth checking on – and even if the OP has that diagnosis and the meds didn’t help, from what I’ve seen in my own family it’s worth trying different meds!

      1. Dust Bunny*

        SushiRoll didn’t.

        It’s not helpful to completely avoid mentioning something that might be a possibility out of fear of armchair diagnosing. Nobody said the LW “was probably ADHD”; it was simply asked if this has been explored, because it’s still something that’s worth ruling out, if nothing else.

        Also, even if the diagnosis doesn’t fit, sometimes the coping mechanisms that could be taught to someone with ADHD would still be useful to somebody who shares some of the traits.

        1. Littorally*

          There’s a reason Alison asks us not to armchair diagnose here, and it’s because associating problematic behaviors strictly with particular diagnoses increases stigma. If ADHD testing is the sum total of a person’s advice, I consider that equivalent to an armchair diagnosis.

          1. SushiRoll*

            It’s information that was not stated in the OP that I thought was relevant. I have seen basically this same question/scenario asked on other platforms many, many times, and a large percentage of the time, it ended up with an ADHD diagnosis. It doesn’t mean OP could take a drug and poof stop being late, but if they had not considered it because of other factors (like how well and fast they perform at work) I just wanted to throw it out there. It’s not like every person with ADHD is late all the time or ONLY people with ADHD are late. But when people can’t figure out WHY they can’t stop being late, there might be something else going out outside of their control.