Can we please stop pretending that if we’re late to work, the world is going to end?
Now, I’m not talking about being chronically late to stand-ups or calls with clients. Always putting colleagues in a lurch is obviously bad news bears.
What I am talking about, though, is this general consensus that showing up even a few minutes past 8, or 9, or whenever you’re supposed to be parked at your desk means you’re a terrible employee.
And it isn’t just the villainous supervisors of the world who believe this. It’s a way of thinking that has infiltrated virtually every corner of our lives. If you can’t be trusted to keep track of time, why should you be trusted with anything else?
Well, I call BS on that. And not just because I’m late. (A lot.)
It’s because those of us who frankly suck at sticking to a schedule are actually pretty darn good at lots of other work-related things. So good, in fact, that we’re more likely than most to have what it takes to one day call the shots.
Says who? Says science.
Multitasking makes you lose track of time.
According to psychologist Jeff Conte, many of us who struggle to get to work on time are card-carrying multitaskers, a characteristic that (for better or worse) makes us lose all sense of time.
And while it’s a fairly settled point that trying to tackle too many projects at once wreaks havoc on our efficiency, it’s also an unavoidable fact of life for many of us these days.
Case in point: Even though I woke up early to finish this article before heading into the office, my six-year-old son apparently also had plans for an early morning. So, in between reading up on a couple of psychological studies and attempting to say something witty about them, I had a little person demanding his chocolate milk. Right. Now.
This certainly delayed my finishing the masterpiece you're (hopefully) enjoying now, but it also gave me the opportunity to think of this pearl of wisdom:
While we may not always be the quickest at getting things done, there’s absolutely nothing half-assed about the quality of our work. Why? Because having to chronically juggle so many important things at once has forced us to adapt.
And this isn’t just true for parents. Anyone who has ever found themselves with a ton on their plate knows what I’m talking about. And sure, a lot of people can’t handle this. The stress has surely taken a decade off my life alone. But the ones who can deal with it are as flexible and resilient as the day is long, which means we’re going places, as this piece from Inc. points out.
Just look at the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake, who prove that the ultra-successful among us are the ones who have not one but four to six different careers. (And a lot of personal assistants, but you get the point.)
Optimists also tend to be late.
We’ve all heard the spiel about positive thinking being the key to unlocking our potential. And it turns out, this isn’t just some new age mumbo jumbo.
When the insurance behemoth MetLife started testing their sales force for not only sales aptitude but also optimism, “the results were astonishing,” this article from Forbes explains.
“Those sales reps who scored high on the optimism test but failed the aptitude test … outperformed those who passed MetLife’s aptitude test by 21 percent in the first year. They then outperformed pessimists by a massive 57 percent in year two. The data was indisputable: Optimism heavily correlated to predicting a sales person's success, even if they lacked the prerequisite selling aptitude.”
But what does this have to do with being late? Quite a lot actually.
“Many late people tend to be both optimistic and unrealistic, and this affects their perception of time," says author and time management consultant Diana 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. They remember that single shining day 10 years ago when they really did all those things in 60 minutes flat and forget all the other times that everything took much, much longer.”
Or, as Kelsey Clark points out, maybe what’s really going on here is that these go-getters are just better at prioritizing. “A tendency to look at the bigger picture rather than getting caught up in the minutiae of everyday life,” she writes, “is what entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and artistic visionaries are made of. So what if you miss an appointment here and there?”
Indeed, if going for a run every morning before dropping off the kids and heading into the office is what you need to do to be your best self at work, would it really be wise to skip it for the sake of arbitrary punctuality? (No.)
Type B personalities excel at lots, just not judging the time.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of different personality types. Type A folks, the understanding goes, are competitive and impatient, while those of us who are Type B are much happier just going with the flow.
Well, there’s another important difference: Research has shown that those with Type B personalities are actually pretty terrible at keeping track of time. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, while Type A subjects were basically right on the money when it came to guessing when a minute had elapsed, Type B subjects, well, not so much.
But hey, what we lack in magical time-telling skills we more than make up in creativity, collaboration, team building, strategic thinking, and healthily navigating risk (not to mention inevitable failures).
You know, nothing major, unless you’re the CEO of a company.