Money Matters

Why Chronically Late People Are Actually More Successful


One of the behavior traits we often associate with professionalism, at least in the United States, is punctuality. The idea is that it demonstrates respect for others while also keeping the proverbial hive efficiently humming along. But don’t fret if you always seem to be fighting the clock. Being late a lot might actually show you have other positive personality traits that up the chances you’ll thrive.

1. You’re an optimist.

In her book Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, Fortune 500 consultant Diana Delonzer observes that chronically late people typically have a more pronounced planning fallacy and aren’t very good at realistically estimating how long jobs will take to finish. This might be partly because, as studies by psychologist Jeff Conte of San Diego State University reveal, they actually perceive time differently, feeling like time is passing more slowly than it really is.

But according to Delonzer, late people also have no shortage of optimism, either. So if someone needs you to do 10 10-minute jobs in an hour, you’ll probably still be thinking to yourself, “Sure, I can do that! No problem.” While you need to be careful you don’t promise others more than you can deliver, that enthusiastic, can-do attitude can keep you calm even when things get hectic and help you step into the reasonable, in-the-moment risk taking business leaders need.

2. Everything intrigues you.

Experts know that “multitasking”–that is, switching rapidly from one job to another–is taxing on the brain in terms of energy. It also means that you’re not as aware of what you’re doing and might not finish much. But there’s a silver lining to multitasking, too. People who do multitask often do it because they are bright and creative. They have lots of different interests and want to try out everything. That said, Conte also has found that people who are chronically late tend to be multitaskers. You might need a hand focusing, but you’re probably smart and open-minded and, subsequently, willing to go out on a limb in your problem solving, too.

3. You can hop in and find a solution fast.

When you’re late a lot, you often need to think on your feet. Imagine, for example, if you lose track of time (see point 1 above) and miss your usual bus. You need to come up with a way to or from work right away. Similarly, if you’re late to a meeting, you have to find a quick way to get up to speed or accommodate what your team already has done. Your overall relaxed, positive attitude probably helps you to some degree here, as it means stress might not cloud your thinking as it might if you had a Type A personality.

All this explained, I’m not at all suggesting here that you should make even fewer attempts to be on time or that punctual people can’t be successful, too. I’m simply pointing out that, as a person who’s late a lot, you still have strengths that can get you to the top despite what the clock might say. As long as you take responsibility for how your tardiness–and, in fact, all your behaviors–affect others, you have a real shot. Take it.

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