I have been late nearly all of my professional life (and most of the last two years of high school, too). Except for a brief, shining moment when I regularly worked 11-7 or 1-9. But now that I work an 8-4:30, I have been late nearly every day for a while now.
I could tell you the myriad reasons this happens. I’m not a morning person, traffic is heaviest right when I leave – blah, blah, blah. I could also tell you the myriad reasons I use to justify it – I often stay late, who cares what time I’m here if I work hard and produce results, the phone barely rings the first hour I’m in the office, etc., etc.
However, ask most anyone who is chronically late to work and they will likely tell you: it doesn’t feel great. Your morning routine is harried and stressful – the slightest traffic hiccup makes my blood pressure skyrocket. I cringe when I open up the text I have going to my boss and coworker to let them know I’m running late and see the 10 other messages above it saying the same thing. My boss is kind enough to act like he doesn’t notice or care, but I know he’s keeping track and it could possibly affect any future raises or bonuses. My coworker feels put upon and frustrated, understandably. She’s a friend, too, and knowing I cause her consternation weekly makes me feel bad.
You’d think all this would be deterrent enough, and it is when I think about it later. But none of that goes through my barely-awake brain at 7 am when my first alarm goes off. Unfortunately it is this person who is doing the decision-making in that moment, not the rational, guilty-feeling person who exists by 9am.
The funny thing is I am almost never late to social events – I am, in fact, often ridiculously early and end up sitting at the bar by myself for a bit, or what have you. It makes sense on some level, right? Never late to fun things, always late to work? But it makes less sense when you break it down to never late to things that happen once a week or so, and always late to something consistent that happens 5 times a week.
Tardiness exists in a spectrum of people who don’t get the big whoop and people who think it is the worst thing ever. Predictably I have always fallen into the former camp. The only reason I have ever felt bad or felt pressure over it has been because I know I am disappointing people who I respect and value, and then again because it’s just the way the rest of world thinks and works so it’s hard to exist in the world without conforming to it at least a little. I work part-time as a stylist and, being appointment-based, I understand the importance of timeliness – I am almost never late. I confess to not thinking it matters very much if my coworker has to answer phones for 10-15 minutes longer because I am not there, or if my boss needs to wait that 10-15 minutes before I can type up a proposal – but it matters to them. And, since I respect these people and want to do my best work for them, that should be enough.
Again, tell me all this at 7am when my first alarm goes off. The message doesn’t get through. So this coming week, I’m going to try a few new strategies and see if any of them help:
- I’m aiming to leave the house by 7:20am. If I kept the same getting-ready routine I currently have, that would mean getting up at 6:50am. I know myself and I know how infrequently this would actually happen in practice, so….
- I’m going to try to change my getting-ready routine. I have never loved showering at night because I feel gross by, like, 2pm the next day – but I’m going to give it a try for a while and see if I can make it work. That way, I can just pop up in the morning around 7 or even 7:10 and do the minimal amount of prep left to be able to get out the door by 7:20 still. I may get some face-blotting wipes and dry shampoo, or some other “tools” to help me get through that next day intact.
- This will also mean some experimentation with sleeping on wet hair or blow-drying just before bed, as well as my morning styling. I’ll also need to figure out a good way to get my eyes “awake” – since a shower in the morning is so far the only thing I know that does that.
- If the showering the night before doesn’t pan out – I think I’ll just try setting my first alarm earlier so that I can get the same sensation of “sleeping in” and pressing snooze but actually be up and out of bed by that 6:50 mark still.
- I also need to try to get in bed sooner, and/or to take less time to fall asleep. I am not a fall-right-asleep type person, it takes me 30 minutes+ typically from the time I get into bed to the time I fall asleep.
- To help accomplish this, I’m going device-free after 9pm. I can read or do a crossword or play solitaire, but no screens.
- Much as I loathe it, I am also going to try to keep a more consistent schedule on my days off. I want to sleep no later than 2 hours past my usual workday wake up time (I currently frequently sleep 4 hours+ later on days off). That way it’s still a treat, but it doesn’t throw me completely off-whack. I might enlist Kendall to help wake me up since I also hate the idea of an actual alarm on my day off, but we’ll have to see if he’s brave enough (and I’ll have to be less annoying to wake up).
All of this, by the way, just makes me die a little inside. I think at least some of my resistance to this is a resistance to being forced into a box I don’t want to be in – not the job, just the world it is exists in, the one I have always felt not-a-part-of as an insomniac night-owl procrastinator. This is something I struggle with on the regular re: my “normal” job and my “cool” job. My identity has been so wrapped up in what I do for work – I never envisioned for myself a 9-to-5 existence and now that I’m part of the rat-race, there are aspects of it I resent and resist even now, while loving my actual workplace and the people who inhabit it. It’s all very confusing, and I think a big part of it has to with transitioning into the depressing side of adulthood – where you have to make better choices: go to bed early, eat well, don’t drink too much! And you sort of lose some of yourself in the process. Or at least that’s how it feels.
Anyway, keep your fingers crossed for me and if you have any tips, tricks, or suggestions, please leave them in the comments or on the link on my FB page!