Why I’m Always Late (and how it bothers me just as much as it bothers you)

I’ve been writing this blog post for about a week so it’s kind of lengthy. I’ve tried to make it as upbeat as possible but considering my dislike of the topic in question it may come across as a bit of a downer.

It was a few years ago, when I was at my old job.

I held my leather jacket up to the card swiper on the office door, it read the card in my inside pocket and made an affirmative beep and the door unlocked. I cautiously stepped inside to survey what my options were.

My desk at the time was in the office help desk, which unfortunately meant the only way to get there would be to walk straight past my boss, my boss’ boss, and pretty much every supervisor in our area as they were conveniently seated right outside the help desk.

Praying to God, Buddha, Spongebob or anyone else that was listening that by some freak miracle all of them would be away from their desks and not notice the help desk worker slinking in twenty minutes late for work.

My eyes fell on the completely unoccupied desk of my two supervisors and hope screamed to life in my head. This was it, I was safe!

Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth but simultaneously not wanting to draw attention to myself by running, I walked as quickly as I could to the help desk. I actually made it all the way to help desk when my boss, who for years I theorised was a ninja, appeared out of nowhere behind me.

“Liam, I need to talk with you for a minute in the boardroom.”

I sighed accepting my fate, and headed to the boardroom, sat down and a piece of paper was slid in front of me.

It was a formal warning. It was because I was often late in the mornings. It needed to change. Sadly that was neither the first nor the last time this would happen in my working life. It had been an issue for a while.

Just how long my ‘snooze button addiction’ had been an issue actually didn’t consciously register with me until I wrote my book. Part of my book detailed various parts of my past (all relating, in some way, to girls I’d had a crush on), it was when I was typing the chapter about learning the homeless I’d given $100 to had turned up alive, and not dead from a drug and/or food overdose like various pessimistic friends and co-workers had postulated, that I realised I’d typed the phrase ‘I was going to be late for work.’ before.

Now having written record of my past it dawned on me how many times that topic had come up. The teacher in the primary school who wanted me to show up for morning assembly and ten minutes after it started like I normally did. The high school teacher who was pissed off at me, despite being the only ‘A’ student in the class, because I showed up 15 minute for the classes that were first thing in the morning. The boss at the law firm who was annoyed because my first job was to pick up the daily newspapers and since I was often 15 minutes late.

In comparison being 20 minutes late because someone had spotted the homeless guy alive was pretty much par for the course.

The thing is, and honestly as weird as it sounds I genuinely think there will be people who’ll be surprised by my next statement:

I actually really hate being late. Believe me, the level of disdain I have for myself walking into work late in the mornings is greater than you could ever imagine. It’s the combined annoyance and frustrations of various co-workers, bosses, teachers, mechanics, family members and anyone else that’s annoyed by me not showing up on time in the mornings. Now take that annoyance and frustration and times by a thousand and you’d have how I feel towards myself when the clock says 9:20am and I’m meant to start at 9am.

And yes, I’ve heard it all before. “Well, why don’t you just get up on time then?” or
“Surely getting a formal warning, potentially getting fired would been enough motivation to fix the problem?” or
“Try going to bed earlier”
“Avoid caffeine”
“Exercise a lot”

The standard answers to these questions are “I’m trying.”
“You’d think, but at times all it does is heighten the stress when I am late. I’m trying. It may not seem like it but I’m trying”
“Literally made no difference”
“Literally made no difference”
“I would like to say ‘literally, made no difference’ again, but if anything it may have made it harder” (for four months last year I ran an average of 14km everyday – that’s I’m not alone in this problem. A simple google search of getting up on time gives you a plethora of people constructing more and more elaborate ways of ensuring they get up on time.

But the thing is – those people who don’t have problem getting up in the morning (of which they probably outnumber us 4 to 1 I’m pretty sure) have no concept of difficulty waking up. To them it’s simple: you wake up, either by your internal body clock or your alarm clock screaming, and then you get out of bed and start your day. They don’t understand the struggle to make your brain think clearly after it’s just woken up. Your brain that is quite happy to return to the state it once was. and coherently justify any action that agrees with that.

A friend of mine was once telling me about her new boyfriend
“Lying in bed with Marty this morning and he woke up and immediately just started talking as though it was a conversation he was having in the middle of the day. Morning people scare the crap out of me.”

I have been known to set up elaborate schemes to force myself accountable.
Enlisting housemates to enforce a $50 fine if I fail.
Setting up multiple alarm clocks around the room.
Having someone call me every morning.

The problem with at least two of these was that I forcing somebody else to deal with my problem and I didn’t like that. Of course that’s also loosely what I was asking to do when I was late everyday so I didn’t like that either.

So I became one of those guys that looks on the internet and reads up on everything about a problem possible. (I’ve pretty much done the same with winning over the heart of the opposite sex – since a lack of success in that department is apparent maybe I’m going wrong somewhere with this philosophy) And I found two methods that a lot of people say have helped.

The first was an alarm app on my phone that required me to go scan a specific barcode in my kitchen to shut it up.

The second, a highly regarded one, was to train your behaviours to get out of bed immediately. The book, “The Power of Habit”, backs this one up. The method sounds stupid but it states an truth for non-morning people that you can’t trust your morning self to follow through. Your Morning Self is not thinking clearly. I cannot tell you how many nights I went to bed bursting with postivity that I would get up as soon as the alarm went off and head to work, only to struggle to wake up hitting the snooze fifteen times

The method in question is this: the night/day, when you’re completely awake with a brain you can trust (not the still-mostly-asleep-morning-brain), you recreate your morning routine. The one you want. Get into whatever you sleep in, switch off the lights, set the alarm for about ten minutes from now, climb into bed. When the alarm goes off switch it off and immediately get up and go about your morning routine. Preferably some sort of exercise that induces endorphins. Then repeat as many times as possible.

I haven’t tried method two. I procrastinate too much. I’m thinking I will try it this week however, because method one WAS working to an extent.

See: fearing justifiable job loss I leapt into action a couple of weeks back.

Now I normally get around five hours sleep a night. I tried crashing really early earlier in the year and getting more,
and it seemingly only resulted in effected my mood, made my time management shot to crap, I was constantly in a
bad mood and oddly tired from oversleeping and more importantly: I was still late for work because I had so much goddamn trouble getting up in the morning.

My new plan however moved my 2am bedtime to 12:30am. And my alarm set for 5:30am. I used the app mentioned above.

I told only my boss and our HR rep vaguely about my plans. This was wise. Too many more people would have brought about immense mocking when it took almost a week to successfully to pull it off.

Don’t get me wrong – I *was* going to bed at 12:30am, but I was struggling. And I WOULD get up to scan the barcode in the kitchen… but I’d fall asleep in the armchair in the living room.

Finally on the morning of victory, where I was coherent, and not falling asleep on the armchair. I posted a facebook status commenting “So this is what 5:30 in the morning looks like” and managed to stay awake. In dire need of caffeine.

I’m fully aware if I could still run, this would’ve been a lot easier task to pull off. I know I could easily adapt if I threw on my running gear and went for a run first thing. But about six months ago I dislocated my ankle, the tendon popped it straight back in but it still hasn’t healed and I haven’t been able to do any exercise involving it since.

The day of success led to two, before I started falling asleep on the armchair again. In essence I still counted this as somewhat of a success as you didn’t sleep so well in the armchair so I was normally up and awake for work on time. Except for the last two days when I totally misjudged traffic.

The important thing is though: the getting up when the alarm clock goes off in working. Now I just add in extra habit to wake me up between the kitchen and the armchair. If I can do that, maybe, just maybe I can break a habit 30 years in the making.

If not, I’m trying method two and training my behaviours a lot.

The point is I’m trying. It may not seem like it but I’m trying. And I get that is hard for people to grasp the concept of, christ, if were in their shoes I wouldn’t believe me either. But I am.

To quote Earl Hickey “I’m just trying to be a better person.”

Also the Buddha “It’s better to conquer yourself than win a thousand battles.”


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