'Sorry I'm late!' Why the pandemic has turned us all tardy

·6-min read
Has the pandemic impacted our lateness? (Getty Images)
Has the pandemic impacted our lateness? (Getty Images)

Kate Garraway has admitted to almost missing her slot on 'Good Morning Britain' after oversleeping and setting off late for the ITV studio. 

The 54-year-old presenter explained that she'd spent the night worrying about husband Derek Draper, who is still severely ill with coronavirus, as she is about to go on holiday with their two children.

"You almost didn't see me this morning. I overslept dramatically by two hours," she told co-host Richard Bacon. 

Garraway went on to explain how she had been up late trying to organise her holiday with her children - the first time they have been away without their dad.

"I was up late worrying if I've remembered everything. That's my excuse," she added. 

Read more: Missing the 'cuddle hormone': How lockdown has impacted friendships

Has the pandemic impacted our time-keeping?

With everything the presenter has been through recently, her one-off tardiness is totally forgivable, but it appears that Garraway isn't the only one who has seen the pandemic have an impact on their time-keeping. 

"When it comes to being late, there are two key elements to consider: our organisational skills and our authentic desires," explains Dr Audrey Tang, chartered psychologist and author of 'The Leader’s Guide to Resilience' (Pearson, £14.99).

"The pandemic may have affected both of these."

While the pandemic hasn't necessarily "caused" problems with behaviours, such as lateness, Dr Tang says it can highlight or reveal them. 

"For the person who struggles with keeping to a timetable, working from home may have given us the opportunity to set our own times, as long as we get the work done," she explains. "This means, even if we have had a problem with lack of planning or organisation, it has been masked a little while longer."

Alternatively, if we are late because we don’t want to be there, the pandemic has also given us the chance to say “no thanks” without feeling guilty.

"In both cases, we need to reflect on what being late (no matter what the reason) says about us – and whether we like that statement," she adds. 

How to stop being chronically late. (Getty Images)
How to stop being chronically late. (Getty Images)

The rise of chronic lateness?

Of course we can't blame lockdown for all our lateness lapses, and in fact there are a group of people who were recently classified in an analysis for Wait But Why as Chronically Late Insane People (CLIP), thanks to their continuous tardiness when turning up to work, social engagements or major appointments. 

Turns out CLIPS are actually pretty widespread, with 15 to 20% of people recently identified as being "consistently late."

"Chronic lateness usually means that you’ve been able to get away with what is effectively letting people down and for some reason (and it’s not always that you’re charming) they’ve let you get away with it," explains Dr Tang. 

Effectively, she says, being late is actually quite rude: "It’s saying I don’t value my time with you enough to spend it all with you.

"Even if you are saying 'I have so many other things to do' – then you need to schedule a later time," she adds. "Organisation is not based on 'hope', it is based on knowing and being aware of how long a task will take."

Watch: There's a scientific reason why you don't like the sound of your own voice. 

With that in mind Dr Tang has some suggestions for the organisationally challenged on how to up their time-keeping game. 

"If you struggle with organisational skills, try to pare down your commitments using the following columns: DO, DELAY, DELEGATE, DELETE," she says. 

"Put everything that is urgent and important in the DO column; things that you need to do, but that are not yet urgent in the DELAY column; things that need to be done but you don’t need to do them (eg. walk the dog) in the DELEGATE column; and everything else in DELETE. This at least will help you recognise your priorities.

"Then if you find yourself procrastinating with the DO, perhaps because you don't really want to do the tasks, then you need to consider:

a) Do these fit into my overall goal for myself (ie. There are always things we need to do that we don’t like), in which case, I suggest you make a list of 'the worst that can happen if you DON’T get them done' – as this can often motivate you into getting going. 


b) If they do not fit within my goal how do I set boundaries?"

At this point Dr Tang says you can try saying no in clear but firm ways.

"Practice these statements: 

'Of course I can help but I can only do it at/by X time (Time boundary)'.

'I only have 5 minutes, and I must get on with X (Time limit)'.

 'Can I let you know at the end of the day/tomorrow? (Delay an answer and you can then find an excuse)'," she suggests. 

Read more: The psychological impact of not having anything to look forward to

What does constantly being late say about us? (Getty Images)
What does constantly being late say about us? (Getty Images)

How to stop being late

If you find yourself constantly apologising for your tardiness, there are some steps you can take to claw back your time-keeping. 

- Be aware of how long tasks take – "This may include doing a 'trial run' of a journey to make sure you can get there on time," suggests Dr Tang. 

- Be aware of what things you really want to be part of and contribute to (then use some of the earlier tips to say no to the things that you don’t want to do).

- Build in extra time – "Whilst we would all love for things to run on time – and of course there are some things we cannot predict such as travel disruption out of our control – having extra time to wait may give you a chance to catch up on reading, or if you have got lost, you have time to find your way without looking frazzled on arrival," Dr Tang explains. 

Read more: We missed colleagues more than we thought during coronavirus lockdown

What to do if you do arrive late for something important

Of course, there are some times when your tpractice doesn't come to fruition and you arrive sweaty and stressed and oh so late! 

But there are some steps you can take to help reduce the impact of your lateness. 

"The moment you are running late, or know that it will happen, take the step to call ahead and make plans," suggests Dr Tang. 

"If you don’t have a mobile, or it needs charging, it is possible to borrow a phone or use a pay phone and even call a partner to do so." 

If whatever you're attending is that important, Dr Tang says it is as much about managing other’s impression of our handling of the situation.

"If things are beyond your control, everyone will be aware it's not your fault that you are late," she explains. "However, it is your problem to resolve, and with some courtesy and forward thinking, you might even be able to make your arrival 'fashionably late'! Just don’t do it too often."

Watch: Dr Phil gives Drew Barrymore time management advice to help combat her chronic lateness. 

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting