People Who Are Always Late Might Be More Successful and Creative

Updated 06/16/19
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People who never seem to get anywhere on time are often chided as being rude and self-centered. But a closer inspection of the qualities that belie this bad habit sheds a positive—even flattering—light on repeatedly leaving your friends, colleagues, and family members waiting for your arrival. In fact, continually showing up late to professional meetings, social outings, and random obligations may be correlated with traits of successful people.

As pointed out by Business Insider’s Sabrina Hoffman and John Stanley Hunter, having an inexact sense of time can be linked to optimism, a type B personality, and a tendency to multitask at home and at the office—all arguably positive traits that lead to successful personal lives and careers.

Multitasking has a tendency to make you lose all sense of time—a phenomenon that researcher Jeff Conte from the psychology department at San Diego State University sought to explore in his research on polychronicity and personality types. Conte found that those who preferred multitasking were late to their jobs more often than those who did not.

Whether or not multitasking leads to increased efficiency is still up for debate. But having a ton of projects and responsibilities also indicates ambition and passion. So while this could be considered a downside, remember that those who resort to multitasking likely aren’t being rude. They just have a lot on their plate—just ask any small-business owner or working mother.

Not driven by extrinsic competition nor concerned with staying organized, B personality types are considered more creative, laid-back, and innovative than type-A personalities. They also have a more lax perception of time. Conte explored this correlation in his research on lateness, finding that those who fell under the type-B category perceived time to be passing more slowly.

Across three separate trials, type-A individuals estimated that a minute had passed in 58 seconds, while type Bs stopped the clock after 77 seconds. Those 18 seconds can add up, and they can ultimately impact the way we experience life. Time is a construct, after all, so why wouldn’t it be subjective?

Hoffman and Hunter write that optimists tend to believe they have more time on their hands than they do, causing them to move somewhat leisurely through life. This idea is closely related to the popular “planning fallacy” often used by psychologists to explain chronic lateness. Simply put, this theory holds that people consistently underestimate how long a task will take, leading them to a life of lateness. While the link between optimism and lateness may be a bit of a stretch, it’s a refreshingly positive take on a habit that’s so demonized within our culture.

While Hoffman and Hunter’s assertions fall slightly short of scientific, they do make some good points. A tendency to look at the bigger picture rather than getting caught up in the minutiae of everyday life is what entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and artistic visionaries are made of. So what if you miss an appointment here and there?

What time management tips help you stay punctual? Share them with us below.

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