As an ADD Coach, one of the most common complaints I hear from clients is about difficulty being on time: for work, for appointments, for meetings, and even for fun events. It is stressful for us, frustrating for others, and can cause problems in personal as well as professional relationships. For parents, our out-the-door struggles often result is us being impatient with our kids, and often starting the day off on a frantic and stressful note that we don’t intend.
What causes a particular individual to struggle with punctuality is often a complex hodgepodge of problems that can include: brain fog, bad habits, disorganization, poor sense of time, poor sleep habits, etc.
Because tardiness is often a complex set of problems, and each one of us is so unique, I’m not a fan of throwing one-size-fits-all solutions at you. However, there are a few common solutions that have worked for many clients over the years.
First, take a look at your sleep habits and examine them–honestly! Are you getting sufficient sleep regularly? Are you staying up too late? Do you struggle to get out of bed every morning? Are you burning the midnight oil trying to get done what you have failed to do during the day? Do you struggle to fall asleep at night as your to-do list whirls in your mind? Making sure you have healthy sleep habits (or good “sleep hygiene” as the experts call it), and addressing the task-management challenges which often cause those of us with ADD to stay up too late can be a good first step to improving your timeliness and morning sanity.
Next, if you know you’re spacey in the morning or tend to run late, do absolutely everything you can the night before (even for church) from laying out clothes, makeup & hair stuff to having lunches packed, and your wallet or purse, keys, and everything else together and ready to grab and go. What you do the night before can and will make all the difference in your morning! Everything that’s left, everything that absolutely cannot be done the night before, should be part of a morning routine so that you do is eventually on autopilot and don’t have to rely on your foggy brain to guide (or misguide!) you. (This is where checklists for kids can really come in handy!)
If you’re like me and you struggle in the morning, do something to get your blood pumping a bit first thing. If you can’t squeeze in a 20-30 minute workout, walk, or jog, try just 10 minutes of yoga, or a few jumping jacks or push-ups. Get creative, and do anything you can to get the blood pumping to the brain!
Next, pay attention to your personal “time sucks” (email, TV, Internet, etc.) and make them off limits in the morning or when you’re getting ready to go somewhere. For myself, my laptop has been off-limits in the morning for a very long time. The internet and email are like a black hole in the universe for me! But, eventually, I realized that I was zoning out to the TV morning news shows, and losing track of time as well. Now, a few minutes with a cup of coffee and my favorite morning news show is my reward for being ready with time to spare!
Of course, many of us are not the best judges of how long things take, or how much time has passed, so make sure you have plenty of clocks and timers around. I have always used count-down timers with my kids and me for the morning. The count-down timer counts down to about 5 minutes before they have to leave for the bus, to allow for last-minute scrambling. Trying to use different kinds of clock faces can also be helpful. I noticed years ago that glancing at a digital clock doesn’t really register the time for me sometimes, especially when my focus is elsewhere. I started keeping an analog clock (you know, an old-fashioned clock with hands) on my desk and I realized that it is somehow easier for me to register the passage of time with an analog clock than it is for me to look at a digital clock and do the math! Along the same lines, graphic clocks can help here as well, such as timetimer (www.timetimer.com). It’s amazing the big difference that such small changes can make!
Finally, start timing yourself doing the things you usually do as you’re trying to get out the door, and keep a log for a few days. It sounds crazy, I know, but trust me on this one! Many of us have “One-More-Thing-itis!” What often makes us late is trying to squeeze that one more, “quick” thing in as we run out the door—it can be anything from doing the dishes, emptying the dishwasher, folding a load of laundry, or answering an email. If you start timing yourself doing the things you do when you’re trying to get out the door, I guarantee that something will surprise you! I tried this years ago, and now I know that folding a load of colored laundry takes an average of about 10 minutes, where folding a load of whites takes closer to 25. I guess it’s all those missing socks . . .
Again, what causes one person to struggle to be on-time out the door is going to be a little bit different and unique to that person. Tardiness is often really a complex set of behaviors that can be address with simple changes to the contributing components.
If you or someone you know needs help developing solutions that work for them, please feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation to learn how Coaching Can Help!