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Running Late

Posted 7/19/2017 by UHBlog

Better late than never. But never late is better. Learn how to be on time.

Running Late?

When it comes to tardiness, who can forget the White Rabbit’s lyrics in the Disney movie Alice’s Adventures in the Wonderland: “I’m late! I’m late! / For a very important date! / No time to say hello, goodbye! / I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!”

Being constantly late, like Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit, can be “hare-raising” (pardon the pun) and can cause lots of stress and anxiety – particularly in America, where punctuality is prized and time is considered a precious commodity that must be used carefully and productively.

“Stress itself isn't the enemy," says psychiatrist Francoise Adan, MD, who is Medical Director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. "What can be the enemy is what we do and the way we react to our stressors.”

A stressor, like being constantly late and always playing a frantic game of catch-up, can be mentally and physically exhausting and, over time, harmful to your health and well-being. The World Health Organization calls stress the “health epidemic of the 21st century.”

So what is the best way to reduce the stress associated with being chronically late? First, you have to understand the causes of chronic tardiness, including:

  • Underestimating the time needed to get from point A to point B
  • Lack of planning
  • Thinking no one will notice you are late because of your sense of low self-esteem
  • Lack of consideration for others' feelings or time
  • Desire for revenge - acting out angry feelings instead of communicating

If any of these reasons explains why you find yourself always at least 15 to 30 minutes late for an event, meeting or work, you can do something to break the pattern. According to Dr. Adan, some of the ways to help improve punctuality include:

  • Overestimate the time it takes you to do something.
  • Don't put off your departure time to the last minute.
  • Create a chart that shows how long you think it will take you to go somewhere and how long it actually took you. You will see a pattern emerging, and that will help you with time management.
  • Learn to say no to additional commitments that always leave you short of time.
  • Don't overcrowd your day.
  • If you are going somewhere new, plan your route the day before - and know where your car keys are.
  • Set reminders for meetings and commitments on your calendar, sticky notes and/or phone.

But what if the reverse happens and you are on time but circumstances beyond your control make you late? Dr. Adan offers a quote about the "gift of time" from her blog, "Harness the Power of Stress":

“I am stuck at the airport," she writes. "What am I going to do with this unplanned extra time? I have two options. First, get annoyed, upset, frustrated. Second option: Enjoy the Gift of Time. This is rare unplanned time in my packed schedule. No meetings to attend. No patients to see. I choose option 2. I take a deep breath and decide to savor this gift because I never know when I am going to receive it again. Now that I have it, I unwrap it slowly. I’m smiling and feeling like I’m on vacation. I am late to somewhere, but I am right on time here.”

For further information about stress reduction and assistance with chronic tardiness, contact University Hospitals Connor Integrated Health Network, which offers programs such as Stress Management and Resilience Training (S.M.A.R.T.) – recognized as a 2016 Crain's Health Care Hero for improving the lives and health of those in Northeast Ohio. Mindfulness, yoga and meditation classes are also offered at UH Connor Integrative Health Network.

Francoise Adan, MD, is the Medical Director of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with any doctor online.

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