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  • Sorry.

  • Okay, confession time.

  • I'm someone with a slightly annoying tendency to be late.

  • Well, slightly annoying for me, very annoying for everybody else.

  • In fact, this video was supposed to come out in January. Yeah.

  • But I'm not alone in being punctually challenged.

  • A 2014 YouGov survey found that one in five Americans are late to work at least once a week.

  • Well, actually, us Millennials are worst at it.

  • So, what's going on?

  • Are some of us just more hardwired to be late than others?

  • This is something author Grace Pacie decided to look into to try and understand her own struggle with punctuality.

  • In terms of personalities, it's a bell curve.

  • At one end of the scale, that are people I call "timekeepers" who are anxious to be early, and at the other end of the scale, I call us "timebenders".

  • A timebender doesn't like routine.

  • We don't like tasks that are familiar, we get bored pretty easily.

  • We can focus really well when we're interested in something, and if time is tight, we can work really effectively.

  • If you wanted to walk into an office and pick the timebenders, they are the ones with the messy desks because they don't finish one thing before starting another.

  • Okay, [I'm] not gonna lie, that does sound a lot like me.

  • And quite a lot of this seems to be baked into our personality.

  • So, are there particular personality traits that might be leading us to be more regularly late?

  • When it comes to lateness, one of their major personality traits is conscientiousness.

  • Now, conscientiousness is one of the big five personality traits, along with things like agreeableness and extroversion, so it's really important.

  • You can measure it by asking people questions about, kind of, how... how tidy they are, how organized they are.

  • One of the questions does concern whether they're punctual, you know, all of these things about whether you are a, kind of, very ordered person.

  • All right, so, perhaps I'm just not a very conscientious person, but I can't help but feel maybe there's more going on in my head with the way that I'm able to keep track of time.

  • Grace Pacie thinks that those of us who are timebenders experience time in a different way to others.

  • We have a different perception of time to most people.

  • Every minute isn't the same length for us; time can speed up and slow down.

  • We can get deeply engrossed in something and not be aware of time at all.

  • On the other hand, if we have a deadline, we can work really effectively.

  • Interestingly, a 2016 study by Washington University psychologists found something similar.

  • They looked into our ability to mentally measure time, which they described as our "time-based prospective memory".

  • In an experiment, the subjects had a set time to complete a task and even had a clock they were allowed to check.

  • However, the tasks were designed to be engrossing, to distract people from clock watching.

  • Their results were clear:

  • Some people were naturally better at estimating the passing of time and using those memories to effectively plan in the future.

  • What frustrates me, though, is that I'm not late for everything.

  • I never miss planes, I'm pretty good with trains.

  • But getting my daughter to nursery on time each day or turning up on time for social gatherings is always a struggle.

  • One of the most revealing things that came out of my research was that we're not late for everything.

  • We can be on time when it matters.

  • And what that means to us is that there are consequences for our being late.

  • The times when we slip into our worst timebending are when there are no firm deadlines and no consequences, and that tends to be for social events.

  • So, when we say, "I can be on time when it matters", we can be very hurtful to the people in our lives who matter because they are the ones that see us as always being late.

  • I think it's really helpful to recognize the power of deadlines and how important it is that they are real, external, and have consequences.

  • Just asking for a deadline or even suggesting a deadline puts it out there in the real world, and, therefore, we take it seriously.

  • We cannot pluck a deadline from the air and work to it; it has to have consequences.

  • As it's our friends who often feel the full force of our lateness, most friendship groups usually have that person who is known as being "the late one".

  • If yours doesn't, then it's probably you.

  • However, these social expectations can make the problem worse.

  • If you know people are expecting you to be late, it's more likely that you will be.

  • One problem with people who might be known for being late is that they just assume that's something that's so much a part of their genes and their makeup that they don't even try to, kind of, correct the behavior.

  • So, it's really, in this way, that our, kind of, beliefs about ourselves can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • And that can actually be quite self-sabotaging when, with a bit of effort, we might be able to change.

  • And it's that idea that we can choose to change our personality, that our personality traits aren't set in stone, destined from birth, but, rather, can be malleable.

  • That's one of the most exciting recent developments in psychology.

  • For example, some studies have shown that I could train myself to be more conscientious.

  • These studies have tended to last, you know, a few weeks to a few months.

  • They try to get the participants to just do things like form a detailed schedule for each day to, kind of, you know, set aside a time to, kind of, organize their desk if that's messy, their room, if that's messy.

  • You know, all of these things that we know that people with natural, high-trait conscientiousness do, and they might lack.

  • And what happens is that just by practicing those things and, kind of, being a bit more conscious about when you do them, it just forms these kinds of mental habits, it just helps to, kind of, retrain the brain a little bit.

  • So, being a "timebender" is, to some degree, part of our personality, and some of us might be better at mentally keeping track of time than others.

  • However, that doesn't mean that we have to accept that we will forever be "the late one".

  • By setting ourselves meaningful deadlines with consequences and by retraining certain behaviors, we can alter our personality and, hopefully, improve our punctuality.

  • Oh, damn! Sorry, I've got to....


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A1 UK personality deadline conscientiousness people messy effectively

Why some people are always late - BBC REEL

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    Elise Chuang posted on 2022/06/22
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