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 attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) 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.

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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”]

Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., is a member of the ADDitude ADHD Medical Review Panel.