How My Life Changed When I Stopped Being Late To Everything

Who knew I had so much time?
PHOTO: istockphoto

I used to be a notorious latecomer. I was that person who would come to class late even when she lived in a dorm just a few blocks away, that person who would sprint through the airport because her name was already being paged. I was that person who would greet friends or colleagues with a breezy “Sorry, may tinapos pa kasi ako,” all the while feeling shitty inside for having wasted their time.

I even wrote this article to poke fun at myself and my fellow latecomers, but at the time I wrote it three years ago, while I fully acknowledged my flaw, I didn’t intend to change it—I just accepted it as part of who I was.

Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged, lists seven types of latecomer: the “rationalizer,” who always blames her lateness on something else; the “producer,” who believes she can complete X number of tasks within a timeframe—even when experience tells her otherwise; the “deadliner,” who procrastinates on everything; the “indulger,” who lacks self-control and is slave to the snooze mentality; the “absent-minded,” who has trouble paying attention; the “rebel,” who arrives late to resist authority or assert power; and the “anxious,” who avoids tasks or takes forever to make decisions to control feelings of anxiety. At different points in my life as a latecomer, I feel like I’ve been all seven of them.

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Call it a New Year’s resolution or a turning point in my life, but at the start of 2019, I decided I was done with all that. Being late made me feel irresponsible, insensitive, and immature, and I knew I could do better. I vowed to stop showing up to things late, stop handing in work late, even stop going to bed late and waking up in the morning late because those two always set off a domino effect that make me late for everything else. (I could’ve resolved to “be early,” but I wasn’t a total madman; I knew baby steps were better for a perpetual latecomer like me.)

Psychologist Guy Winch tells The Atlantic that the process of overcoming lateness takes time because “you literally have to train your mind to approach things differently than its current default way of thinking.” But a month since I made that promise to myself, here I am, hitting my deadlines, sauntering into meetings with time to spare, and absolutely loving it. Not being late hasn’t just prevented me from being, well, late, it has also made me manage my workday better, appreciate my free time more, cut down on social media use, and even quit drinking. By striving to be on time, I definitely got more than I bargained for—and to think all I initially wanted was just to get rid of the guilt I felt each time I snuck into a meeting or submitted work late.

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Being late made me feel irresponsible, insensitive, and immature, and I knew I could do better. I vowed stop showing up to things late, stop handing in work late, even stop going to bed late and waking up in the morning late because those two always set off a domino effect that make me late for everything else.

I know there are lots of perpetual latecomers out there—hello, “Filipino time?”—so if you want stop being late yourself, here, I list some ways my own life has changed since I did to encourage you to get on the path to punctuality and more positive transformations down the line. Good luck, and go for it! (Er, hopefully now, not later.)

I learned that I have more willpower than I think I do.

“Not being late” sounded simple enough, but I quickly realized that if I were to make it happen, I had to make lots of difficult little changes in my everyday life.

The first was to resist the urge to hit snooze. I used to be a snooze abuser, but I’m proud to report that I haven’t hit that button once since the start of the year.

Another change I had to make was switch to a gym closer to home so I could save on commute time, and then schedule my workouts in the a.m. to force myself to get an early start to my day. I’m not a morning person, but after the requisite tug-of-war over whether I should work out or just go back to bed, I can now somehow manage to haul ass to the gym at least three times a week.

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These are just two of the things I never really attempted to change before because I just accepted them as me being a snooze-hitting not-a-morning person, but I realize now that what I lacked in the past was simply the will to change.

Confirmed: The world is not going to end if I don’t watch that next episode.

Bedtime for me used to be anytime from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. because I would be too weak to resist that “NEXT EPISODE” button during my nighttime Netflix viewing. Now, bedtime for me is from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.—even on weekends, even when I’m watching a cliffhanger of a show. It’s more important for me now to wake up alert and productive the next day than to find out what the hell happens to that Beck girl in YOU.

I cut down on social media time—and I’m (mostly) glad I did.

I’ve been posting less on social media because notifications are a distraction I could really do without in my workday. I browse through feeds less, too, to avoid getting sucked into time-wasters such as online drama and long-ass videos and comment threads that go on and on until kingdom come.

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Sure, a tiny part of me misses the barrage of hearts that come with every post I put out there, but the quiet, the extra time, and the feeling less like a slave to the likes have been worth it.

I CAN beat procrastination.

I’ve learned to restructure my workday to become more efficient. Now, I’m more realistic about the timeframes I set for tasks and meetings so I don’t always cut it too close; for major projects, I’ve started setting personal deadlines a day before the actual deadline to give myself a buffer. I’ve even begun to get harder tasks out of the way first so I’m not tearing my hair out in anxiety by the end of the day. (I mean that literally—I have a habit of pulling my hair out whenever I’m stressed.)

I always thought procrastination was some disease I was born with, but turns out it’s not. Bonus: I get to keep my hair, too!

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Peer pressure doesn’t work on me anymore.

I’ve become keenly aware of how a late night out could mess up my schedule and my disposition the next day, so I’ve been passing on weeknight invitations. Even on weekends while out with friends, I try to hightail it out of there before they can wheedle me into staying longer.

I even quit drinking to avoid hangovers, because imagine how much you can accomplish in a day if you’re not spending it dragging your feet around like the undead!

My health and overall well-being got a boost.

I’ve become more conscious of my physical, mental, and emotional health because I need to be in peak condition to hit the targets I set for myself—hence, the regular exercise, ample rest, and not pushing myself too hard.

And what do you know? Even my PMS symptoms have improved! Sure, I still have the cramps and the back pain, but the irritability and the existential dread no longer grip me as hard as they used to.

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Who knew I had so much TIME?

With all these adjustments I’ve made in my life, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much time I actually had. I had time to do things I had put off for months, even years. I had time to read a book and chat with my family at night. My weekends feel like they belong to me again.

I kind of miss the pockets of sentimentality and spacing out that used to mark my days, but I just tell myself now that if I hit all my deadlines within the week, I’ll have all the time I want to zone out over the weekend. Hell, I can even treat myself to a nap.

It feels pretty damn good to be on time.

Don’t get me wrong; I still have my moments of scrambling out the door to get to an appointment, but I’m no longer the rattled wreck I used to be. As a naturally anxious person, I find that being on time works for me because it gives me space to compose myself and settle into a new environment or unfamiliar company instead of just rushing in frazzled and frenzied with my hair all over the place. There’s a dignity to it that I’m still getting used to.

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Case in point: Last Friday, I was supposed to meet a friend for dinner at 8:00 p.m. As I was getting ready, she texted me to say she wouldn’t be there until 8:30 p.m. Instead of taking my sweet time like I would’ve done before, I got ready anyway, got to the bar on time, and spent the waiting time chatting with the bar’s manager, an acquaintance I now know better, thanks to our unexpected chat.

See? I even gained a new friend, and all I did was not be late. I’ve come a long way, baby.

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