Time & Productivity

The 6 Reasons You’re Always Late for Everything

You give in to guilt. You try to achieve unhuman productivity. You hate being early. And more (very fixable) reasons for your chronic lateness and crushing stress.

Businessman with ADHD holding briefcase and running because he is late
Businessman with ADHD holding briefcase and running because he is late

Toni can feel the knot in her neck as she sits in traffic. She is running late for work (again), and she’s heading to a project meeting, for which she is unprepared. Lately, she’s been losing patience with the kids more easily, and she seems to have no time to just enjoy being with them. Feeling rushed, like Toni? Here are time-management strategies that adults with ADHD can use to slow down, get better organized, and end chronic lateness.

Cure Yourself of “One-More-Thing-Itis.”

One reason people with ADHD feel rushed is that they habitually try to cram in “one more thing,” the additional task that so often derails plans.

One-more-thing-itis is a form of distractibility — the phone rings, you answer it, you notice that the table needs to be cleared, or a plant needs to be watered, and, once again, you run late.

Strategy: Think through the steps you’ll take before you leave the house. Gather belongings and double-check directions, if needed, the night before. Avoid getting sidetracked as you head to the door by reminding yourself, out loud and repeatedly, “I’m leaving now, I’m going to the car.”

Plan Ahead to Arrive Early.

Aim to arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time. If the prospect of facing empty time if you do arrive early horrifies you, keep a magazine, book, or stack of bills that need to be paid in a bag near the door, and grab it on the way out.

[Free Download: Get There On Time, Every Time]

Calculate your departure time by adding 10 minutes to each half hour of travel time. With the extra time, you’ll feel much less rushed should you run into traffic or another unforeseen delay.

Strategy: Set two alarms (a clock, a cell phone, or a computer), one that will go off five minutes before departure time and a second that will sound when it’s time to leave. When the first alarm goes off, stop what you are doing. Try to be out the door before the second alarm goes off.

Build Routine Tasks into Your Weekly Schedule.

When do you feel most stressed — in the morning, before work and school, or before dinner, when the kids need picking up and dinner needs preparing?

Instead of filling the gas tank or stopping to grab the ingredients for dinner on the fly, map out-and stick to-a weekly schedule that accounts for each of these tasks. Lock in times for doing necessary weekly chores, such as grocery shopping and laundry, to prevent running out of milk or clean clothes.

[7 Secrets of the Most Obnoxiously Punctual People]

Strategy: Shift to-do items into less stressful times. For example, if mornings are more rushed, fill the gas tank on the way home.

Don’t Say “Yes” Out of Habit — or Guilt.

Many of us over-commit out of a desire to please our family, friends, or co-workers.

Strategy: Get in the habit of saying, “I’d like to, but let me check my schedule,” instead of giving an automatic “yes.” In the end, you’ll please others more by being able to get things done on time, rather than always being late and rushed.

Set Realistic Goals.

Can you really make a stew and pick up the kids in half an hour? Deliver yourself from trying to be supermom.

Strategy: It’s OK to plan a quick-fix meal (or to have take-out!) on busier nights. Don’t feel you have to cram in three errands when you have time for only two.

Enlist the Help of a Time Tutor.

Ask a friend or family member, someone who has witnessed how you spend your time, to help you identify the patterns that create time crunches in your life.

Strategy: Do only what you can, and delegate or delete what you can’t. You’ll be happier (and more productive) when you are not living in a constant rush.

[It Always Takes More Than “Just Two Minutes”]

9 Related Links

  1. What about me?
    “Toni can feel the knot in her neck as she sits in traffic. She is running late for work (again)”
    These days, I just don’t seem to get stressed anymore.
    Many work places use ‘flexitime’ and it works for me.
    Often, I am the last person in, and the last person out. Usually, I get more work done. This is shown by the need to replace me with two or more people. Yet people seem to think I don’t work as hard as they do!

    At one workplace, I was the only person who had NOT smashed up a company vehicle,
    but I was the only one who had missed an interstate flight. Twice.

    I don’t get stressed if I don’t meet silly social norms and expectations. I haven’t since I was ten years old.
    I don’t fit in to most social groups, and I prefer it that way.
    … why would I get drunk, pass out, and wake with no memory and think I must have had a good time? Why does anyone?

    I have never felt ashamed to have ADD. It is just annoying sometimes.
    One the other hand, I am creative and practical and much more so than most people.
    I have two uni degrees, and …

    What you have suggested is good. I just edited out the guilt nonsense.

    Thx for the ideas.

  2. I have been fired from several jobs for chronic lateness, and taking too long on projects. At my current job, we have talked about it, and even though they don’t particularly like it, they understand that it is who I am and that I work harder (and longer hours) than most anyone else in the company (even though I am salary). On critical projects, I set a ton of reminders on my phone, computer, and encourage people to check in with me regularly (because, even though I fully intend to give regular updates, it’s 90% not gonna happen).

    Unfortunately, I have not translated this from my work life to my personal life, which still usually alternates between flurries of extreme productivity and long periods of procrastination (usually, via video games).

  3. Hi,

    lol…okay, everything bugs me right now including this ridiculously small font to type my comment(s) in (I am aware I need to go up to 60 mg for my Adderall from 40 mg, kind of an apology in advance). 🙂

    Current counseling strategies suggest not ‘sandwiching’ feedback between two compliments but I am so old school that I cannot seem to help it at the moment so please know that without your resource I would surely have gone completely insane by now! I refer Soooo many people to you it is crazy, lol. Since I work in the Mental Health and addictions field it is a little crazy that I did not get diagnosed as ADHD until I was 56 (or it could have been 55?). At any rate, people wonder how I could not have known I am ADHD but the fact is I smoked like a fiend since I was eight years old and from the recent medical research nicotine can act like Ritalin on the brain.

    I digress (as usual, lol). My feedback is not related specifically to this one article but to the resource in its entirety in the hope that I can understand it a little better.

    I am somewhat curious why when you are writing a resource for people with ADHD you choose to put cute little attention-grabbing headings one can click on in the middle of an article about something else like I just saw in this article? I don’t even really remember what article first caught my eye and distracted me from what I was originally doing anymore because I seem to just go deeper and deeper into ‘ADDitude land’ because even though I am looking forward to finding out the solution to the issue I was first looking at I get distracted by the new heading and think “I will just go there for a minute and then come back”, never to actually return because I get frustrated with too much information?

    Another thing I was curious about is I know very few people, friends or ‘clients’ who have ADHD that actually have the attention span to watch an hour-long webinar? Why would you do that? I am really interested in so many webinar topics but I never get to watch them because I don’t have that much ‘time’ or attention. As an adult I choose to take online courses instead of classroom learning because since I am a quick study I find the classroom content to be the equivalent of about one page reading and if the class is very well thought out it is a chapter at most of actual information that is usable and the rest is ‘fluff’ to me, fillers. While working with people and trying to assist them to embrace their uniqueness and not beat themselves up for not being ‘neurotypical’ (I call them sheep) I cannot possibly get anyone to watch an hour-long webinar, jus sayin.

    It is my hope you take my feedback into consideration or perhaps respond if possible so I might understand your perspective or rationale behind it? I so enjoy (there is the sandwich, lol) everything you write about because of course, I relate to all of it very well. Finding out I am ADHD has been probably THE most enlightening experiences of my life! Or maybe the second most enlighting thing since I discovered that I actually ‘could’ quit abusing substances if my brain had the proper chemicals in it to function in this neurotypical world without making me feel crazy. I don’t beat myself up and try not to use words like guilt or shame or should… I can ‘choose’ to learn from things I have done and try different things to produce different outcomes that will be more favorable but this journey called life is what we make of it.

    Thank you so much to all of your contributors!


    Paige Latin
    PS – I cannot remember if I have read anything about ADHD and business startup (of course the business is incredibly complicated because it is not selling widgets but literally concept based on the people involved.)
    Also, are there any recommendations for easy budget programs that could link to calander programs and to do lists???

  4. This website has been a Godsend to me. I have displayed do many of these characteristics all my life and never really thought that it could be something that wasn’t totally my fault or the willful behaviour of a defiant child and later in the workplace, a troublemaker. I have always felt compelled to tell the truth and too call out others who I know are lying (which happens in a corporate environment all the time). I couldn’t focus in elementary school, couldn’t take naps in kindergarten, could NEVER figure out how to get started on any assignment that involved research, footnotes, references, etc. I suffered extreme anxiety every time I entered a new classroom and got new classmates and a new teacher…from elementary and all the way through college. I just assumed everybody suffered this way. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t just the way everyone lived. Since out was all I knew, I just assumed it was everyone’s reality. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed in my 30’s that I had an inkling that I was a little off. My OCD diagnosis came at the same time and I was promptly medicated. My diagnosed for bipolar wasn’t made until I was 56. Now THAT was an eye opener! As I researched that, I found I also had complex PTSD. Now I understand my extreme behaviors over the years. I am having quite Ann adventure now trying to find the right pdoc who can get my “cocktail of meds right so I can function without being horribly depressed and unable to leave my bed for days pm end or so manic that I find myself cleaning the oven or scrubbing the bathroom at 3am. It’s been 3 years now (our is it 4?) Since my bipolar diagnosis and each day is an adventure!

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