The psychology behind tardiness and five tips to ensure you or your Millennial employees are never late again.
"Most people really hate being late and have tried many times to fix it," says Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged. "Punctual people misunderstand. They think you're doing it as a control thing, or that you're selfish or inconsiderate. But it really is a much more complex problem than it seems."
Combine Millennials' inexperience and their different approaches to work with various psychological states and you have a much more complex problem than just being 15 minutes late. There are actually deeper psychological/behavioral problems at the core of tardiness.
According to DeLonzor, the late-arrivers tend to perceive time differently than their punctual peers. DeLonzor writes in her book...
Part of my research included a test to measure the differences in how timely and late people perceive the passage of time. The test I devised is a simple one you can try yourself. Choose three or four pages in a book, mark the time, and start reading. Stop reading when you think ninety seconds have elapsed, then check your watch to see how accurate you were. I found that early birds, almost without fail, stopped reading before ninety seconds had passed, while lateniksput their books down well after the ninety-second mark.
The researchers at Cleveland State University also included a time perception test in their study, this time using stop-watches. Interestingly, their results were similar to mine, with late people consistently underestimating the passage of time.
DeLonzor and Pauline Wallin, Ph.D., a psychologist in Camp Hill, PA, have identified links between chronic lateness and certain personality characteristics, including anxiety, low self-control, distraction, ambivalence, and a tendency toward thrill-seeking.
Ross McCammon, Editor at GQ Magazine, has this to say about being late, "If you're late for a meeting, it's probably not because some unavoidable obstacle put itself in your way. It's because you didn't allow for the obstacle. You didn't spend time thinking about the obstacle. And if you didn't spend time thinking about the obstacle, you're not showing respect for the people you're doing business with. In other words, you are the obstacle. Because being on time is easy. Respecting time is the tricky part."
It's clear that tardiness is a messy mash-up of deep psychological problems, disrespect, misaligned priorities, and innocent one-time traffic jams.
For managers of Millennials, getting them to be punctual is often more complicated. Not only are you battling psychological barriers but also Millennials' mobile-centric life, their work wherever/whenever approach to work, and their inexperience with a structured work environment. Millennials made it to their university classes on time, but they also got to choose the time of their classes.
Read this for six steps to help you manage the Millennial who is punctually challenged. The below are a few tips to help your Millennial employees become more punctual.
1. Time your routine
Write down your typical daily routine (eating breakfast, commuting to work, working out, etc.) and estimate how long you think it takes you to complete. Then spend a week documenting the actual time it takes to complete your various routines.
Tools like ATracker Pro can help Millennials track how long certain tasks actually take throughout the day. Late people will likely be surprised how much longer their routine takes then they think. This exercise is important to detach the unrealistic timelines from the brain.
2. Reverse engineer and add time
Reverse engineer the time needed to arrive on time. Start with the time you need to be somewhere and reverse engineering how long it will take to get there or transition into that meeting. Be sure to factor in foreseeable delays (slow elevator, red lights, etc.).
Once you've identified the approximate time needed to get there, add 15 minutes. Timely people budget conservatively the time they need while the chronically late budget exact times.
3. Embrace the wait
Often people are tardy because they try to maximize their productivity by packing in as many activities as possible. So arriving early to an appointment or meeting can feel uncomfortable or unproductive.
To ensure the wait time is not unproductive, be prepared with a compelling activity like reading, listening to a podcast, catching up on email or social media, calling a friend, or nothing--take in your surroundings and sit with your thoughts. Being early isn't a waste of time if you're prepared.
4. Prioritize sleep
Oversleeping is the second most common reason for arriving late to work. Sleep is critical for a productive and timely day.
According to Shawn Stevenson, bestselling author of Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success, "High quality sleep fortifies your immune system, balances your hormones, boosts your metabolism, increases physical energy, and improves the function of your brain."
To sleep better, Stevenson recommends getting more sunlight during the day, avoid electronic screens before bed (or use a blue light blocker), have a 4:00pm caffeine curfew, get cool with a 68 degrees Fahrenheit room temperature, and to use black-out curtains.
5. Establish an evening routine
Tomorrow starts with tonight. Establishing a consistent evening routine (heading to bed at the same time, dimming lights, meditation or prayer, etc.) will alert the brain that it's time to wind down. Items to include in your evening routine include...
- Review your schedule and to-dos for the following day. Try to foresee any obstacles that might hinder you from being on-time (weather, traffic, appointments are too far away, etc.).
- Lay out your clothes for the next day.
- Pack your work bag.
- Prepare your lunch or breakfast in advance.
The goal of the evening routine is to prepare your mind and body for sleep and to shrink the amount of decision to be made in the morning. Both will make the next day prep more seamless resulting in more margin to get to work on time.
(This is 1 of the 47 strategies Ryan shares in his new book, The Millennial Manual: The Complete How-To Guide to Manage, Develop, and Engage Millennials at Work.)