Cafe Witness

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Battling the Lateness Gene

There's an interesting article on Newsvine about "chronic lateness," and how it's caused by something as simple as hitting the snooze button in the morning. Those extra ten minutes can wind up costing you a whole half hour by the end of your day. And that's not just your own time -- that's other people's time you're wasting.

Like most tardiness articles, it's filled with tips / strongly-worded suggestions about how and why you could (and should) always be on time. And, when meeting other people, I would advocate the same: don't make people wait (even though I do it ALL THE TIME).

But one thing the article doesn't elaborate on are the cases it touches upon in which some people DO work best under pressure, due to the adrenaline rush of being "late" or otherwise "under the gun." I'm one of "those" types.

Party's Over -- Whoops, Out of Time

I never studied in gradeschool, and rarely in high school. I didn't need to. Then I went to art school, where my procrastination led me to finish nearly every project the night before it was due. Instead of changing my habits, I realized I could still maintain solid grades (As, Dean's List, etc.) with less and less prep time... so I used that extra time to do a lot more outside of class.

I'm sure I could have gotten the work done FIRST, and THEN had a life outside of school, but that isn't the way my brain works. Over time, I've come to realize that:

a) I do much better when I'm running late and NEED to take action, and
b) I almost always need to be doing something OTHER than what I'm SUPPOSED to be doing.

Each observation fuels the other: I'm chronically running late because I'm never doing what I'm supposed to be doing, and yet I usually do well at everything I do because I subconsciously ENJOY doing the "wrong" thing at the right time.

Time to work? I'll take a break. Time to go home? I'll stick around and work. My mind is uncanny.

The Politics of Punctuality

One trend I detect in the comments on that article, and among punctual people in general, is that people who endeavor to be punctual usually expect it of others, and are personally offended when they're on the receiving end of latecoming. (Hell, I'M offended when someone I'm supposed to meet is late, and I'm the king of being late... which means you must REALLY be bad if I'm waiting for you.)

But the people who decry the snooze alarm as the root of all human problems seem to fall into the same category as people who have unreasonably high expectations of everyone else in the world, and who fail to understand that everyone works differently.

One commenter on the article mentioned that he'd feel incredibly stressed out if he wasn't at school at least half an hour before classes start, and an hour would be better. He wonders how some of his professors can walk in with only 2 minutes to spare before the class begins. How can they prepare? Do they just ad lib?


Or perhaps they approach time from a completely different standpoint, and aren't stressed out because they're "only" on time instead of early.

The more strict we are with our own expectations, the harder it is to make allowances for others. That doesn't mean we shouldn't all strive to be the best we can be, and to be on time. It just means we shouldn't expect the entire world to adhere to our own, possibly narrow or limiting, estimation of what's "right" -- ESPECIALLY when it comes to time.

Now, if I could only cure my actual tardiness, which traditionally sees me show up more than 20 minutes late for meetings, I'd be much more content...

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  • Hmm...does this mean we shouldn't expect you to be on time for tomorrow's meeting at the AIP?

    By Blogger Jia, at 12:40 PM  

  • i always thought i'd "grow out" of cramming/taking care of things at the 11th hour. eventually i embaced it. it's more efficient.

    By Blogger old man neill, at 6:27 PM  

  • @ Jia: Yes, but only by 5 minutes.

    @ Neill: I agree. Efficiency is key, and if the adrenaline rush means I'm more productive in the 11th hour, who am I to question my physiology?

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 2:19 PM  

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