5 Reasons Why You’re Always Late (and How to Fix Them)

LightFieldStudios/iStock via Getty Images
LightFieldStudios/iStock via Getty Images

If you're one of the 15 to 20 percent of Americans who is consistently late to appointments and meetings, you probably understand the struggle of trying and failing to be punctual. Perpetual latecomers aren't trying to make the lives of punctual people miserable: They're likely trying their hardest to be on time, waking up earlier and earlier and praying that Google Maps’ estimated arrival time is somehow wrong (spoiler: it never is). But for some, consistent punctuality just seems slightly out of reach. Here are five reasons you might be habitually late, and some ways you can fix them.

1. You underestimate how long things take.

Science Alert reports that many chronically late people fall victim to planning fallacy—the tendency to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete tasks. That’s usually because they’re too optimistic in their estimates and fail to take past experiences into account.

How to fix it: Research [PDF] published in 1994 suggests a few different solutions. In a series of five experiments, participants were most successful at predicting task completion time when they took into account a variety of factors, including their memories, their observations of others’ experiences, and their most optimistic estimates. Writer Jessica Greene poses a few other ideas: using a time-keeping app, for one, or asking someone else who knows you and your abilities to help you estimate your time.

2. You’re a habitual multitasker.

If you’re constantly filling your day with task after task because you can’t stand feeling inefficient, you may be what management consultant Diana DeLonzor calls a producer. Producers hate wasting time, so they overcompensate by scheduling multiple tasks for every minute of every day, often failing to accurately predict how long things will take. But multitaskers are often less efficient—they struggle to organize their thoughts when switching between tasks, which reduces the quality of their work and sometimes makes things take even longer.

How to fix it: First, turn off any distractions. Put your phone somewhere else, temporarily block tempting websites, and consider turning to an anti-procrastination app for help focusing. You may want to try clustertasking—a technique that involves doing related tasks at the same time every day (like only checking personal email accounts at lunch and before dinner, for example). A tried-and-true technique is giving yourself time limits. Set a span of about 15 minutes to completely devote yourself to one task, and extend that time once you’ve started to buckle down and focus.

3. You perceive time differently.

Businesspeople late for work
JackF/iStock via Getty Images

While the concept of distinct Type A and B personalities should be taken with a grain of salt, there’s some evidence that more laid-back individuals tend to believe time passes slower than it actually does. According to research by San Diego State University professor Jeff Conte, Type A people tend to estimate a minute has passed after 58 seconds. Type B people, on the other hand, perceive a minute to be closer to 77 seconds. Those extra seconds add up, making Type B people more likely to be habitually late.

How to fix it: If you’re one of those Type B people living in a slightly slower world, there’s probably not much you can do to change your inherent perception of time. But with practice (either through time-tracking or by surrounding yourself with clocks and hourglasses), you may be able to fine-tune your timekeeping skills and put yourself back on schedule.

4. You’re a thrill-seeker.

Your life revolves around deadlines and you consider yourself a person who thrives under intense pressure. You may even believe you can’t focus until everything comes down to the wire. But that mentality is far from relaxing, and it can be dangerous in a workplace environment.

How to fix it: DeLonzor, the management expert, considers herself a former chronically late thrill seeker. She says she finally started becoming more punctual when she realized she could compartmentalize her thrill-seeking self. “I said, I’m going to take that part of my personality and put it in a box,” DeLonzor told Elle. “I can be a thrill seeker on my own time. But when it comes to arriving somewhere important, I can be different.”

If that describes you, you may want to develop thrill-seeking habits in other areas of your life. Turn toward adventurous travel experiences, explore new areas in your city, or chase that adrenalin rush by exercising regularly.

5. You hate being early.

And here’s the most basic reason you may always be late: You just hate being early. Waiting feels inefficient and even impolite (who wants to show up to a party 15 minutes before the host is ready?). You don’t want to arrive late. It’s your goal to get places exactly on time. But when you plan to arrive exactly at the minute, you don’t give yourself enough time in case of emergencies.

How to fix it: Psychology Today contributor Adoree Durayappah-Harrison recommends finding ways to make being early more valuable, rather than finding ways to be exactly on time. Focus on activities to fill waiting time (like reading a magazine or calling a friend) that motivate you to be earlier.

[h/t Science Alert]

5 Trouble-Shooting Tips to Keep Your Houseplant Alive

iStock
iStock

Maybe you’ve heard that houseplants can help improve indoor air quality. Perhaps you’ve read that looking at plants can help you focus. Or maybe you just really like how that ficus looks in your living room. But buying a plant and keeping it alive are two different things, and the answer to your botanical woes isn’t always “don't forget to water it.” Here are five green-thumb tips to make sure your plant stays as leafy green as it was the day you bought it.

1. Don't overwater your houseplant.

You don’t want to neglect your plant, but it’s easy to go overboard with the watering can, and that can be just as harmful as forgetting to water your plant for weeks. A watering schedule can help you keep track of whether or not your plants need attention, but you shouldn’t water just because it’s Sunday and that’s when you usually do it. Before you go to water your plant baby, make sure it actually needs it.

Your plant’s water needs will vary based on the type of plant, its location, how old it is, and plenty of other factors, but there are a few rules of thumb that can put you on the right track. Lift the pot. If it’s heavy, that means that the soil is full of water. If it’s light, it’s dry. Dig a finger into the soil around its roots, making sure to feel beneath the surface. Still damp? Hold off. Dry? Grab the H2O.

If you really struggle to strike the right balance between too much and too little water, consider a smart plant system. And regardless of how often you water, make sure to use a pot with good drainage to prevent root rot.

2. Watch the temperature of the room your houseplant is in.

Be aware of where your plant is situated in the room, and whether there might be any temperature extremes there. Is your fern sitting right above the radiator? Is your peony subject to a cold draft? Is your rosemary plant stuck leaning against a window during a snowstorm?

As a rule, most houseplants can handle temperatures between 58°F and 86°F, according to a bulletin from the University of Georgia. The ideal range is between 70°F and 80°F during the day, and between 65°F and 70°F at night. Below 50°F, sensitive plants can suffer damage to their leaves. However, as with most plant advice, it depends on the species—tropical plants usually do well in higher temperatures, and some other plants are happier in colder rooms.

If your sad-looking plant is sitting in the middle of a cold draft or right next to the heater, consider moving it to a different spot, or at least a few inches away. If it’s near the window, you can also draft-proof the window.

3. Maintain humidity for your houseplant.

Be mindful of the kind of ecosystem that your plant comes from, and know that keeping it happy means more than just finding the right amount of sun. A tropical plant like an orchid won’t thrive in dry desert air. According to the Biology Department at Kenyon College in Ohio, a dried-out plant will look faded and wilting. You can immerse it in water to help it bounce back quickly. (Warning, though: A plant that’s getting too much moisture can look that way, too.)

If your home gets dry—say, when you have the heater on full blast in the winter or the AC on constantly during the summer—you’ll need to find a way to keep your plant refreshed. Your can buy a humidifier, or create a humidity tray by placing the pot on a tray of pebbles soaked in water. The plant will soak up the humidity as the water under the pebbles evaporates. You can also get a spray bottle and mist your tropical plants periodically with water. (But don't mist your fuzzy-leafed plants.)

Not sure how humid your house is? You can get a humidity gauge (known as a hydrometer) for less than $10 on Amazon.

4. Look out for bugs on your house plant.

Even if you do all of the above correctly, you can still struggle to keep a plant healthy due to infestations. Keep an eye out for common pests like spider mites, which will leave brown or yellow spots on leaves or make the plant’s color dull. If you discover these tiny mites (you may need to use a magnifying glass), wash your plant immediately with water to knock off as many mites as possible. Wash the plant with an insecticidal soap, too, but make sure the label says it’s effective for mites.

5. Repot your houseplant.

Healthy plants often outgrow their homes. if you notice that there are roots coming out the drainage holes at the bottom of your pot, or that water sits on the surface of the soil for a long time before draining down, or that your plant’s roots are coming up out of the soil, it’s time to upgrade to a bigger pot. Signs of a “root bound” plant whose root system is too big for its container can also include wilting, yellowed leaves, and stunted plant growth.

No matter what the size of your plant, it’s good to repot it once in a while, since the nutrients in the soil deplete over time. Repotting creates a fresh nutritional start and can help perk up unhappy plants.

If your plant looks unhealthy and you're still stumped, try consulting the website of a university horticulture department for other signs of plant distress and potential solutions.

Yale Is Offering Its 'Science of Well-Being' Course for Free Online

Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock via Getty Images
Chainarong Prasertthai/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you’ve heard that money or career success won’t necessarily make you happier, it’s still hard to resist the impulse to correlate your own well-being to external factors like those. Why are we so bad at predicting what will make us happy, and how can we figure out what actually does the trick?

These are just a couple questions you’ll be able to answer after completing “The Science of Well-Being,” a Yale University course currently being offered for free on Coursera. According to Lifehacker, the 10-week course consists of about two to three hours of reading and videos per week, and you can work at your own pace—so you can definitely take advantage of a free weekend to fly through a few weeks’ worth of material at a time, or postpone a lesson if you’re swamped with other work.

The class is taught by Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos, who will lead students through relevant research on how we’re wired to think about our own well-being and teach you how to implement that knowledge to increase happiness in your life. Since the coursework is task-oriented and the course itself is aimed at helping you build more productive habits, it’s an especially good opportunity for anyone who feels a little overwhelmed at how vague a goal to “be happier” can seem.

As for proof that this is definitely an undertaking worth 20 hours of your time, we’ll let the previous students speak for themselves: From 3731 ratings, the course averages 4.9 out of 5 stars.

Though the course is free, an official certificate to mark your completion—which you can then add to your LinkedIn profile—will cost you $50. Enroll on the Coursera website, and check out 23 other science-backed ways to feel happier here.

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[h/t Lifehacker]

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