I was always late. No matter how hard I tried, I was always running somewhere, apologizing on my way in, breathless and red-faced.
Running for the bus almost every day high school made sense. I DIDN'T WANT TO GO. But I was also late for things I liked. Parties. Movies. You name it, I was late for it. I was even late for things I desperately NEEDED to be on time for. I loved my job at the Michigan State University Library. Adored it. But after four years of the public stamping their feet to stay warm in the cold while I rushed to unlock the doors every time I had the early shift...
...they fired me.
What a hard meeting that was. They were sad. I was sad. They loved me working there. They know I loved it. They gave me SO MANY CHANCES but I just could not do it. I couldn't get there on time. My self-esteem was crushed.
What was wrong with me?
This year I found out.
It was Myers-Briggs that changed my life. This personalty typing system explained something to me about me that I had never realized before.
I learned: If you are late all of the time you might be a "P" in the Myers-Briggs Personalty Typing System. (I am. Total ENFP here.) "Perceivers" are people who like things to be open-ended. They like possibility. They may go on a vacation without an itinerary or pack at the last minute because they don't want to limit their options by deciding things ahead of time. But that's not why they are late.
Perceivers are late because they think they can fit in "one more thing" before they go, and that thing takes more time than they have to spare.
It's not that they don't care about you or the event.
It's not that they aren't trying.
It's an issue of calculating project-time.
It's also an issue of being deadline-inspired.
So it's 15 minutes until I have to go somewhere and, deadline looming, I'm suddenly inspired into taking an action: I know! I'll do the dishes. Or clean out that bookshelf. Or sort the recycling that's piled up. Or write back that friend. But that task ends up taking 25 minutes and now I'm 10 minutes late.
Maybe it's because we live in the land of future, abstract possibilities but Perceivers are notorious for miscalculating time estimates. I should have known this. I was a project manager an an internet company for years. I had a list of names and the percentage of time each person was usually off in their coding estimates. Did you know that people are usually off in the time estimates in a predictable manner? Elle takes 10% more time than she says. Nathan takes 30% more time. Every time.
That is what I was doing with my own teeny tiny life projects leading up to going out the door. Every time.
So what is the solution? DON'T DO ANYTHING.
It's 20 minutes until I have to get in the car? Stop. No more projects. No last-minute things. Not even that small one. Don't even think about moving that mail, sorting that sticky note, or opening that notebook. Either get in the car and be early or sit and wait by the clock without moving. Just don't entertain any of those ideas clamoring for attention.
It worked. Immediate success. I got to a meeting on time and the host and I had a nice chat before the others showed up. This gave me a chance to calm down and identify the foreign feelings of pride, awe, and self-esteem building in my gut. I DID IT. I had actually shown up on time with the easy grace I had envied in others MY WHOLE LIFE.
I had finally arrived.
Months later, I still am. And on time too.