“I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
Everyone has that friend who is constantly late. Or, maybe, you are that friend — who is so perpetually delayed that your other friends secretly plan things later, just so you’ll be on time.
If you are ‘that friend,’ you are not alone. For a significant percentage of Americans, their vocabulary consists of 3 words said far more than their peers:
“Sorry, I’m late.”
But fret not belated ones, according to science, the reason you can’t keep time is due to a number of factors — many of which make you look pretty good.
For starters, being early, when looked at from a late person’s point of view, can tend to appear inefficient — seriously. Arriving too far in advance of the actual meeting time requires sitting around do nothing. The uneasy feeling associated with being unable to start a new task or event during the “earliness period” can be overwhelming for the chronically late.
While many individuals perceive the act of being early as a virtue, many others don’t. Earliness isn’t valued to them; it’s a waste of time.
The awkward feeling of downtime is most likely why the punctually challenged are usually multitaskers.
Multitaskers are more likely to be later than everybody else, because multitasking makes it harder to have “metacognition,” or an awareness of what you’re doing. It takes a sizable level of creativity to successfully juggle multiple tasks with the only side-effect being tardiness.
Diana DeLonzor, author of “Never Be Late Again” (Post Madison Publishing) says she has found that many late people can be divided into two categories, according to a report in the NY Times. First, there is the deadliner, who, she said, is “subconsciously drawn to the adrenaline rush of the sprint to the finish line.” (That once described herself, she said.) Then there is the producer, “who gets an ego boost from getting as much done in as little time as possible.”
Many late people tend to be optimistic which affects their perception of time, says DeLonzor. They really believe they can go for a run, pick up their clothes at the dry cleaners, buy groceries and drop off the kids at school in an hour.
While tardiness, by at least one estimate, costs Americans around $90 billion annually, the ability to tune out the societal constraints of time to concentrate on creativity is an immeasurable benefit we are only beginning to understand.
Perhaps most Americans are too high-strung.
San Diego State University psychologist Jeff Conte has found that people with achievement-oriented, hard-charging “Type A” personalities tend to be on time more than laid-back, easy going, not too stubborn and adaptive to their surroundings “Type B” people.
“Across three [of Conte’s] previous studies, Type A individuals estimated that a minute passed in 58 seconds, compared with 77 seconds for Type B individuals,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
What Conte’s studies boil down to is that the perpetually late and the always early perceive ‘time’ differently. This should come as no surprise considering Einstein’s theories of time and relativity.
In fact, one of Einstein’s well-known quotes:
When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.
Is actually the abstract from a paper he wrote in 1938 titled, “On the Effects of External Sensory Input on Time Dilation.” A. Einstein, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, N.J.
What Einstein concluded from his study of the passage of time was, “the state of mind of the observer plays a crucial role in the perception of time.”
While bosses, friends or spouses may disagree with such constant delay, science tells us that it’s not that person’s fault. The unceasingly tardy person’s relativity clock merely ticks at a slower tempo than the rest of the world — and the world is likely a much better place because of it.