Why I’m Always Late

I woke up this morning to a text from Andrew. It was a link:



Intriguing. Nothing’s better than the headline, “The reason people are [bad quality that describes you] is actually because they’re [good quality].”

I got reading. And as it turns out, late people are actually the best people ever. They’re optimistic and hopeful:

“People who are continuously late are actually just more optimistic. They believe they can fit more tasks into a limited amount of time more than other people and thrive when they’re multitasking. Simply put, they’re fundamentally hopeful.”

They’re big-thinking:

“People who are habitually late don’t sweat over the small stuff, they concentrate on the big picture and see the future as full of infinite possibilities.”

Late people just get it:

“People with a tendency for tardiness like to stop and smell the roses…life was never meant to be planned down to the last detail. Remaining excessively attached to timetables signifies an inability to enjoy the moment.”

By the end of the article, I had never felt prouder to be a chronically late person.

But also, what the hell is going on? Late people are the worst. It’s the quality I like least in myself. And I’m not late because I like to smell the roses, or because I can see the big picture, or because the future is full of infinite possibilities.

I’m late because I’m insane.

So I thought about this for a minute, and I think I figured out what’s going on. The issue is that there are two kinds of lateness:

1) Okay lateness. This is when the late person being late does not negatively impact anyone else—like being late to a group hangout or a party. Things can start on time and proceed as normal with or without the late person being there yet.

2) Not okay lateness. This is when the late person being late does negatively impact others—like being late to a two-person dinner or meeting or anything else that simply can’t start until the late party arrives.

Haltiwanger’s article is (I hope) talking mostly about okay lateness. In which case sure, maybe those people are the best, who knows.

But if you read the comment section under Haltiwanger’s article, people are furious with him for portraying lateness in a positive light. And that’s because they’re thinking about the far less excusable not okay lateness.

All of this has kind of left me with no choice but to take a quick nine-hour break from working on the gargantuan SpaceX post to discuss not okay late people.

When it comes to people who are chronically not okay late, I think there are two subgroups:

Group 1) Those who don’t feel bad or wrong about it. These people are assholes.

Group 2) Those who feel terrible and self-loathing about it. These people have problems.

Group 1 is simple. They think they’re a little more special than everyone else, like the zero-remorse narcissist at the top of Haltiwanger’s article. They’re unappealing. Not much else to discuss here.

Punctual people think all not okay late people are in Group 1 (as the comments on this post will show)—because they’re assuming all late people are sane people.

When a sane person thinks a certain kind of behavior is fine, they do it. When they think it’s wrong, they don’t do it. So to a punctual person—one who shows up on time because they believe showing up late is the wrong thing to do—someone who’s chronically late must be an asshole who thinks being late is okay.

But that’s misunderstanding the entire second group, who, despite being consistently late, usually detest the concept of making other people wait. Let call them CLIPs (Chronically Late Insane Person).

While both groups of not okay late people end up regularly frustrating others, a reliable way to identify a Group 2 CLIP is a bizarre compulsion to defeat themselves—some deep inner drive to inexplicably miss the beginning of movies, endure psychotic stress running to catch the train, crush their own reputation at work, etc. etc. As much as they may hurt others, they usually hurt themselves even more.

I come from a long line of CLIPs. I spent around 15% of my youth standing on some sidewalk alone, angrily kicking rocks, because yet again, all the other kids had gotten picked up and I was still waiting for my mom. When she finally arrived, instead of being able to have a pleasant conversation with her, I’d get into the car seething. She always felt terrible. She has problems.

My sister once missed an early morning flight, so they rescheduled her for the following morning. She managed to miss that one too, so they put her on a flight five hours later. Killing time during the long layover, she got distracted on a long phone call and missed that flight too. She has problems.

I’ve been a CLIP my whole life. I’ve made a bunch of friends mad at me, I’ve embarrassed myself again and again in professional situations, and I’ve run a cumulative marathon through airport terminals. It’s often the same story, something like this:

I’ll be meeting someone, maybe a professional contact, at, say, a coffee place at 3:00. When I lay out my schedule for the day, I’ll have the perfect plan. I’ll leave early, arrive early, and get there around 2:45. That takes all the stress out of the situation, and that’s ideal because non-stressful commutes are one of my favorite things. It’ll be great—I’ll stroll out, put on a podcast, and head to the subway. Once I’m off the subway, with time to spare, I’ll take a few minutes to peruse storefronts, grab a lemonade from a street vendor, and enjoy New York. It’ll be such a joy to look up at the architecture, listen to the sounds, and feel the swell of people rushing by—oh magnificent city!

All I have to do is be off the subway by 2:45. To do that, I need to be on the subway by 2:25, so let’s be safe and get to the subway by 2:15. So I have to leave my apartment by 2:07 or earlier, and I’m set. What a plan. Here’s how it’ll play out (if you’re new to WBW, you’re advised to check this out before proceeding):




































CLIPs are strange people. I’m sure each CLIP is insane in their own special way, and to understand how they work, you’ll usually have to get to some dark inner psychology. For me, it’s some mix of these three odd traits:

I’m late because I’m in denial about how time works. The propensity of CLIPs to underestimate how long things take comes out of some habitual delusional optimism. Usually what happens is, of all the times the CLIP has done a certain activity or commute, what they remember is that one time things went the quickest. And that amount of time is what sticks in their head as how long that thing takes. I don’t think there’s anything that will get me to internalize that packing for a week-long trip takes 20 minutes. In my head, it’s eternally a five-minute task. You just take out the bag, throw some clothes in it, throw your toiletries in, zip it up and done. Five minutes. The empirical data that shows that there are actually a lot of little things to think about when you pack and that it takes 20 minutes every time is irrelevant. Packing is clearly a five-minute task. As I type this, that’s what I believe.

I’m late because I have a weird aversion to changing circumstances. Not sure what the deal is with this, but something in me is strangely appalled by the idea of transitioning from what I’m currently doing to doing something else. When I’m at home working, I hate when there’s something on my schedule that I have to stop everything for to go outside and do. It’s not that I hate the activity—once I’m there I’m often pleased to be there—it’s an irrational resistance to the transition. The positive side of this is it usually means I’m highly present when I finally do haul my ass somewhere, and I’m often among the last to leave.

Finally, I’m late because I’m mad at myself. There’s a pretty strong correlation here—the worse I feel about my productivity so far that day, the more likely I am to be late. When I’m pleased with how I’ve lived the day so far, the Rational Decision-Maker has a much easier time taking control of the wheel. I feel like an adult, so it’s easy to act like an adult. But times when the monkey had his way with me all day, when the time rolls around that I need to stop working and head out somewhere, I can’t believe that this is all I’ve gotten done. So my brain throws a little tantrum, refusing to accept the regrettable circumstances, and stages a self-flagellating protest, saying, “NO. This cannot be the situation. Nope. You didn’t do what you were supposed to do, and now you’ll sit here and get more done, even if it makes you late.”

So yeah, that’s why I’m late—because I’m insane. Don’t excuse the CLIPs in your life—it’s not okay and they need to fix it—but remember, it’s not about you. They have problems.


More Wait But Why discussions of human insanity:

Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think

Life is a Picture But You Live in a Pixel

  • Vinay Kapadia

    This. Exactly this. The whole “Not THIS minute, the next minute!” thing has pretty much been my mantra my whole life. I am definitely a CLIP.

  • LA

    Never have I identified more with a post. My husband has always said I try to cram 36 hours’ worth of stuff into 24, and this actually explains why I keep doing this.

  • Yep, that’s exactly me (specially because of “I’m in denial about how time works” trait).

  • bimbram

    Tim, thanks for describing my life 🙁

  • Anthony Churko

    “Work is boring. I hate accounting for petty cash. I wonder if WaitbutWhy has a new article up this hour. YES!” (10 minutes later) “I’m insane…I wonder if DownGoesBrown has a new article up this hour…”

  • Chris

    If you were going to receive $100 million dollars from Mark Cuban, simply by showing up somewhere close by on time, would you be there? If so, then your problem isn’t any of what you described. It’s simply that you don’t place a high enough value on other people’s time. If $100 million wouldn’t actually get you there on time, then I agree, you are insane.

    • Trini

      I agree whole-heartedly. It’s a priority issue. It’s a lack of respect for other people’s time. It may be rooted in a lack of self-respect, but writing it off as “insanity” fails to acknowledge personal responsibility. “It’s not my fault because I’m insane.”

    • Blrp

      All you’ve done is established that what he wrote isn’t universally true for every single circumstance. Then you decided that the human mind is simple enough that you can use a two sentence argument to declare with bold certainty that you have insight into his thought process that he lacks. Good fucking job.

      Man, armchair psychologists are the worst.

    • Ben

      That’s a really great way of phrasing things! I do think that it’s a bit more complicated then that, though. For example, say you gave two people this opportunity, but you gave Person A 10 minutes notice and Person B two days notice. If both people value the opportunity equally, then Person B will have a greater likelihood of arriving on time because of this additional factor. In defense of your opinion, if Person A valued the opportunity A LOT more than Person B, they may end up with a greater likelihood of arriving on time, so you could say that Person A didn’t value the opportunity enough because he or she didn’t value the opportunity much, much more than Person B.

      Bringing this back to an example more like what you originally meant, if Person A is a CLIP, and Person B is a person who is chronically on-time, even if they care equally about the opportunity, Person B is more likely to arrive on time. You’re right when you say that Person A may not value the opportunity enough to arrive on time. And if Person A valued the opportunity more than Person B, they may reach the same likelihood of arriving on time. I think the point that should be taken away from this is that, just because Person B is on time more often than Person A, it does not necessarily mean that Person B values the opportunity more because there is another factor at play.

      I don’t think this is an excuse for CLIPS at all, and I think that if CLIPs want to be good members of society, then they will need to value other people’s time more than non-CLIPs just to break even in their on-time percentage. But if you’re trying to determine someone’s value placed on a situation, their on-time percentage will not give you the answer unless you take into account other factors, such as their CLIPpiness.

      • Ben

        Also, if you look at it from the other side, there could be a person who is very good at arriving on time because they are just very good at managing their time. They may not value a certain appointment at all, but they arrive on time because they are very organized and need to get this interaction over with so they can move onto the next thing.

        With a simplistic perspective on the situation, one might assume that they must really care about other people since they always arrive on time, but in this situation, that isn’t the case. Since the assumption that on-time percentage = value placed on other’s time does not hold true in this situation, I think it make sense that there are opposite situations in which it also does not hold true, as Tim describes.

        And you could come up with an equally extreme example for this opposite case, too. If the non-CLIP in my example REALLY didn’t like the person they were meant to be meeting, they may be able to overcome their propensity towards arriving on time just to inconvenience their meeting partner.

    • marisheba

      If I had to show up on time to receive $100 million dollars from Mark Cuban, I would show up two hours early, because I’d be afraid of STILL managing to be late if I cut it any closer than that. I would let any other priorities or obligations in my life temporarily slide in favor of this one. Obviously that level of prioritization that is not practical for most daily activities. To say “If you don’t value punctuality as highly as you value $100 million, then you don’t value other peoples’ time at all” is absurd. Life is compex, and competing priorities and insanities are complex as well.

    • Well said, Chris. I used to be regularly late but some patient people pulled me up on it and it has much improved. I take full responsibility – I was choosing to prioritise whatever I was doing over the value of other’s time. That was disrespectful, inconsiderate and selfish of me. As much as I like WBW, I think this article does have undertones of “it’s ok because I’ve explained and I’m crazy”. Empathy is the key here.

  • mckillio

    I’m definitely a CLIP but I disagree with your characterization that Group 1 are assholes. For one it can very much be a cultural thing. Two, it may not be that they don’t take your time seriously, they may just not take time seriously.

    • Jake

      What culture encourages people being late to an engagement where their participation is necessary?

      As for your second point; If a person does not take time seriously and again is late to an engagement then they are deliberately making a choice that they don’t take you seriously and are not willing to put a small amount of effort to make that engagement which has negative impacts to the person waiting. (This is complete selfish behavior without question)

      Any sane person in society will consider someone an asshole if they are late to something they are expected to be at.

      • mckillio

        I wouldn’t say any particular culture encourages people to be late but there are certainly cultures that take it much less seriously, Spanish based ones for starters.

        Just because someone doesn’t take time seriously does not mean that they “deliberately” make the “choice that they don’t take you seriously”. It’s the complete opposite of being deliberate, it’s just part of who they are.

        Don’t get me wrong though, some people are just inconsiderate assholes about other’s time, I just think that the two groups is at least one too few.

        • jake

          Maybe that’s why Spain is in a similar situation to Greece (insert sarcastic tone)

          You are implying that being late is a trait which is part of someones personality. Unless we find a lateness gene I would argue that these people have just been getting away with being late their entire lives and never were forced to be in a position that made them change. People are dynamic, in my opinion, and can surely work on their tardiness and get better about being on time with a small amount of effort.

          I contribute my my punctuality to jobs I had as a kid/teen that instilled a fear of being late into myself. For these jobs being late wasn’t an option and that has stuck with me.

          • mckillio

            Possibly, I would argue it’s their lower productivity and large social benefits. As i’ve gotten older I’ve found being 5-10 minutes late, for the most part, really just isn’t that big of a deal.

            I wasn’t implying that necessarily, I was thinking more holistically, but since you brought it up, I’m sure that’s a big part of it.

            • TedKidd

              “As i’ve gotten older I’ve found being 5-10 minutes late, for the most part, really just isn’t that big of a deal.”

              Wow. Any sense how narcissistic that sounds?

              Have you attempted to look at it from a perspective other than your own? Just because you don’t think it’s a sign of disrespect that you waste small amounts of other people’s time doesn’t mean they perceive it as no big deal by those you disrespect. To many you make wait it says: “what I was doing was more important than being on time to meet you…”

              It took me a while to thought shift on this, now I can’t not see it. It’s not mostly about the time you’ve wasted, it’s about the not so subtle message their time doesn’t matter to you. People who are a few minutes late to “not ok lateness” situations are sending a pretty clear passive aggressive message of disrespect.

              When you are perpetually a little bit late it is true you may not be wasting significant amounts of time, but you are sending a big F-U to everybody else in the room.

            • mckillio

              That’s kind of my point though, it all depends on your perspective. You see me as narcissistic, I see you as being pretentious. I wouldn’t say I’m sending a big F-U, I’d say you’re just taking it as such. I’m not saying that I’m right or you’re wrong, just that we see things very differently and that’s okay.

            • TedKidd

              You think people who are angry that you’ve kept them waiting are pretentious?

              Are you willing to disclose your true name, or is this an opinion you aren’t willing to stand behind without anonymity?

              I’m not calling you chickenshit or anything, just wondering.

            • TedKidd

              I don’t know you, so I don’t know if you are a narcissist. I see this behavior you attempt to justify as narcissistic. Making people wait for you as if their time doesn’t matter to you.

              You see my perspective as pretentious? How? Do you really not care if you offend people by being late?

              Are you willing to put your name behind your position? Using an anonymous handle to hide behind is kind of chicken$#it. It lacks commitment and devalues any opinion you might share.

              If you aren’t a troll, come out from under the bridge.

          • marisheba

            Well for starters, being late is a documented part of ADHD. While you can work on it, it takes an enormous amount of effort and consistency, not a small amount. In terms of difficulty level, I think it’s probably pretty comparable with breaking an addiction: stopping the behavior for a day or two is relatively easy; for the long-term, it’s hurculean (which is not to say impossible, but it means that you can only change it if it is one of the very highest priorities in your life, for a very long time).

    • starmartyr

      Absolutely the cultural thing can be true – great example: Indian Time (Indian as in India). I swear I’m not being racist (I’m Caucasian and married to an Indian woman) – I’ve heard this many times all over the place. If there is a function that Indian people are meant to show up to – say a wedding or a dinner – there may as well not be a set time as everyone just kind of shows up whenever they want.

      It’s a bit funny, being that my Indian mother in law is very punctual and is always a bit upset when we are late – which we always are. I’ll have to tell her that I’m white but I guess I run on Indian time.

      • Pepperice

        The culture question is true. It’s about how different cultures see time. Linear or multi-active. In short, Americans like to do one thing at a time and time is seen as very precious, so it’s insulting to a person to (effectively) steal their time. Whereas multi-active cultures such as India and most Latin American cultures, it’s expected that everybody is doing multiple things at once and so it really doesn’t matter if you are late for something, because that person will be engaged in several other things. Plus, relationships are considered far more precious than time, so if you are late because you ran into somebody at the bus stop and decided to talk to them for three hours, that’s totally fine. It’s incomprehensible to Westerners. Oh and remember, the bus also might just not show up for the entire afternoon. When your culture is so haphazard about timetables, it’s difficult to find them very important yourself. Whereas in America, if you are late to board your plane, you miss the plane. So you learn from very early on that timetables and timekeeping is important.

        • starmartyr

          Completely right! I had forgotten about the insane schedules ‘kept’ in many places. From little things – like often TV shows don’t air at consistent times, day to day, week to week – all the way up to bus/plane/train/ferry schedules – it can be an absolute disaster in some of these places. As mentioned – looking at you, Greece and Spain…

  • drew mueller

    You must answer this question then. Were you late for your meeting with Mr. Musk?

    • Wakefiled

      Place your bets below, folks!!!!

    • Tim Urban

      Thank god no, I wasn’t. But it wasn’t really up to me. I was at the SpaceX headquarters all day that day and was shuffled around by other people the whole time and just went where I was told.

  • Honza M.

    Merissa Meyer, the Yahoo CEO, is also known to be chronically late 🙂 An optimistic thinker?

    • Jay Tierney

      Well, let’s see. She also doesn’t allow her employees to work at home any more even if it’s a huge hassle for their overall balance in life, while she can afford a full time nanny to watch her kid in the office next to her. How nice. So I’m going to go with egomaniac / narcissist.

  • ymer

    You know who is worse than I guy who is often late? A guy who is often late, and uses comic sans to describe it.

  • The reason why “CLIP”s are chronically late is because other people let them get away with it. Most friends will let lateness slide with nothing more than a passive aggressive joke or frown.

  • Truthfully, I think there’s a bit of story / self-fulfilling prophecy to it.

    Here’s the thing: your subconscious wants to be right. If the story you’re telling yourself is “I’m a CLIP!”, you’re giving up on the possibility that you can one day become a COTSP (“Consistently On Time Sane Person”). Why? Why must you cling to beliefs that are not serving you? Well, change is uncomfortable. It’s especially uncomfortable when you’re changing a subconscious belief system (“I am bound to be late to everything” to “I am rational enough to manage my time like a grown-ass adult”).

    To your point below, we resist change. Possibly why the transitions are so hard too.

    Other thoughts on why you do what you do:
    – You enjoy the rush.
    – You value efficiency.
    – Your monkey’s giving into perfectionistic tendencies (re: self-flagellation)

    CLIPs: Notice your self-talk around punctuality. If you’re assuming failure/lateness before you even begin, perhaps this is a good place to look.

    Aaaand that’s all for now folks. Life coach, over and out!

  • Ilana

    I would add to the end that I HATE waiting… I obviously don’t want to make the OTHER person wait, but I’m optimistic enough to think that I can make it right on time. While people who are chronically on time probably say “you can never leave too early,” I hate leaving “too early” because I might have to wait, even though “too early” probably is “on time” since I’m too time optimistic. I think that made more sense in my head…

    • S

      This is a key point–I am often late, but I also don’t mind when others are. I bring a book, or have an email to check, or sit in the sun. I’m a little tired of people making this argument when really I think we all need to chill the heck out. We are not always in control of how long it take to get somewhere… are you less mad at someone if the subway broke down than if they left late? Why? Didn’t you then have to wait just as long? If waiting is the issue, the reason is irrelevant. I work in an industry where people are constantly late, and/or are always changing plans, so I don’t really see my tendencies as an issue. Everyone has their flaws. I do see my lateness as a flaw, but it’s also a flaw I have accepted about myself. I disagree with the assumption above that accepting one’s flaws is insane, or destructive. It’s part of adult life. You can try to continue to improve yourself, but you also must accept yourself the way you are. It’s also giving WAY too little credit to the examples of upbringing. We are products of those who raised us… so if your parents always kept you waiting on the curb as the last of the kids to get picked up (Mine did. It was traumatic, and horrible, and some of my earliest memories), then you learned to be ok with waiting for others, because you had to. That kind of acceptance of others’ flaws is a value.

      • Ilana

        For me at least, I also hate waiting for others, but I definitely do not mind it as much. Basically it comes down to what things are in my (or others’) control? If my friend is late because she left late, then it is her fault – she should’ve left earlier. If the subway broke, then she did the best she could.

      • JealousHaters

        You are just trying to justify your behavior and it is coming off pretty pathetic. Yes I give the person a break if they are late because of something out of their control. This assumes they left at a reasonable time given the time of day and the method of transportation that they are planning on using. If they left late and hit traffic I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Plus with smartphones now there are very few times that traffic or other transportation delays should be tolerated. It takes 1 minute to pull up google Maps and look at the traffic and then you adjust your leaving time. If the traffic changes and it is not possible for you to get where you need to be then you call the person and give them a reasonable time estimate that you will be there. You accept being late as your flaw but you give no consideration to the time waste by the other person waiting on you. You seriously a fer selfish person and have just not realized it yet. Seriously?!??! I am suppose to treat my friend who is habitually late has having good values when I arranged my day to meet them somewhere and end up sitting for an hour. I am suppose to think, “geez, Drew really has great values. he can show up late to our meeting and it doesn’t even bother him. I mean who cares that I just wasted an hour of my time because Drew’s values are just so amazing. If it was him waiting on me because I am poor planner and didn’t really care to make it on time he would just be sitting here perfectly content and happy about it because he was trained from a young age that waiting and wasting time is acceptable”

        Grow up dude. It is called the real world. If you are late and it only effects you then by all means be as late as you want to be. But when you start effected other people’s days and plans it is time to grow up. This whole article is really just excuses for people being late. I am tall, that is a fact I can’t change. Being late because of something I know about myself and not changing it is selfish.

        My girlfriend’s family is always late. According to them they have never made movie on time. They are all the overly optimistic type people. The other day it was 5:45 my girlfriend had to babysit at 6:30 and we were just getting into town about 15 minutes from a restaurant my girl friends parent’s were at. She called them and had them order use a meal so we could join, she also threw in a salad to start. I am thinking “There is no way that we get there eat a salad, eat the dinner and still leave in enough time to get her to baby sitting on time.” She thought I was crazy and that if her mom put the order in right away then it would easily work. at 6:20 we got the salad and she had to leave me at dinner with her parents while she took the car to baby sit and I spent the next two hours having dinner with my fairly new girlfriend’s parents when I didn’t even want to go out to dinner. My girlfriend ended up being 20 minutes late to baby sitting. She was obviously assuming the absolute best base scenario. Mom hangs up phone gives order to waiter who is sitting their patiently waiting for our phone order. Waiter then turns and goes directly to kitchen and tells the cook. Cook immediately starts preparing our food and gets it done asap. The waiter is standing there waiting for the second the food is being plated so that he can rush it out directly to us. Absolute insanity if you ask me. What was her response? “Well sorry, you got a really nice expensive dinner for free” No, admission that she was bat s**t crazy thinking that the time would work out.

        • Pepperice

          Wow, you have really strong feelings about this. O_O

  • HeartBlossoms

    I’m as optimistic as they come, but I’m always on time (barring traffic accidents/construction that ties up the road for hours). It’s one thing to be five minutes late once in a while, but it’s quite another to be late all the time, sometimes by as much as an hour. That’s just rude, and it says “My time is more valuable than yours” to the people who inevitably end up eating cold meals or going to the movies alone because you couldn’t keep your word to show up on time.

    • mckillio

      That’s a great point and raises the question, how do you define “being late”? For some people five seconds is late, for others it’s five minutes etc.

    • marisheba

      I agree that it sends the MESSAGE that “my time is more valuable than yours”, which is why we chronically late group 2 people are so self-loathing about it. That doesn’t mean the people that do it actually feel that way though.

      • Pepperice

        Agreed. And it wasn’t until I *really* got this that I started to really look at what made me late and try to change it. But seriously, none of my friends are as anti-lateness as some commenters here, who I think might actually have murdered me by now. Most of my friends are also late people, so we are chilled out about it. Maybe slightly annoyed. But really, not apopletically angry and offended. :/

      • ScribblePouit

        Don’t you though? The solution to being on time is easy: get out of your place x minutes (x being the time required to get to the appointment) before the appointment. Every minute you spend at your place after this T-x time is a minute that is more important to you than the time of the person waiting for you.
        If you don’t respect this person enough to drop WHATEVER you’re doing at this T-x time to be on time, I don’t see why this person should have any respect for you.

        • marisheba

          You have a choice here: you can choose to listen, and try to understand what a whole bunch of people are telling you about an experience that is different from your own (and you’ll note that none of us chronically late people are denying that our lateness is horribly problematic); or you can doggedly assume you already know everything there is to know about people who have a problem that you don’t. Totally up to you ¯_(ツ)_/¯

          • ScribblePouit

            I understand why people are late, I just don’t understand why so many people accept it so easily, and don’t try to change it. In the comments below I read a lot of “I’m a clip”, or “yeah that’s totally me”, but not many “I’m doing my darnest to change”, and that’s just because many people just don’t care enough about the people waiting for them.

            • marisheba

              I can pretty much guarantee you that 90% of those “yeah I’m totally a CLIP” people have been trying to change, on and off, for years, and have more or less given up. I said this elsewhere, in another comment, but creating truly new habits that circumvent your native brain wiring is deeply challenging, I would guess on the order of overcoming an addiction: it’s possible, and short-term change is relatively easy if you focus on it, but long-term change means making it more or less the top priority in your life for a sustained period of time, I would guess at least 6 months to a year.

              Can you really, truly say that you don’t have ANY picadillos that inconvenience or are annoying to other people, that you COULD change if you made it the top priority in your life for a while, but you still haven’t managed to change it?

              None of this is to say you have to put up with late people – for some people it’s intolerably annoying to deal with on a regular basis, and that’s just fine, you can choose your friends accordingly.

            • marisheba

              That is to say, what I’m reacting to is your saying that “the solution to being on time is easy”. Easy on paper, sure. But that’s right up there with, “the solution to depression is easy, just think positively and exercise” or “the solution to quitting smoking is easy, just don’t smoke”. We all know (I hope), that it turns out to be quite a lot more complicated than that. This is no different.

            • ScribblePouit

              I’m again really sorry, but in my opinion being late cannot be considered as an addiction like smoking or a mental disorder like depression. I do understand though that you may disagree.

              What would you say to someone who says: “my place is filthy, it directly affects my family and I’m really sad about it”. Probably something in the vicinity of: “Well how about you move your lazy *ss and do something about it?”. Then this person tells you: “But you don’t get it, cleaning is hard and tiring, and there’s internet, and I have other stuff to do, and I have no time, and look cats on Youtube”. You would probably think that this person is lazy, and doesn’t care about his family. This is EXACTLY how I feel about CLIPs.

            • marisheba

              And you’re welcome to your opinion. As I said, you’re clearly choosing not to really hear what’s being said here. I’m sure you’ll disagree with me on that point, which, again, is your right. There’s not a lot of point in continuing this conversation though.

            • ScribblePouit

              You are right, we shouldn’t continue this discussion. Thanks for taking the time to explain to me, as you said I will probably disagree with everything you have to say.

  • Nate

    Me when I’m not expecting a WBW post about anything in particular and one is randomly emailed to me = “Hooray”

    Me when I’m expecting a WBW post specifically about SpaceX and one that isn’t about SpaceX is randomly emailed to me = “the opposite of hooray”

    please Tim. please fix this.

  • One thing you learn when growing up in Germany?

    When you say you’re there at 1500. You are.

    Nothing more to it.
    I’ve heard stories of people leaving because the person they were supposed to meet was 5 Minutes late.

    I’m always early. I can’t stand being late and generally don’t like people who are without a reason.
    It’s impolite, rude and all other sorts of uncomfortable things.

    • Marcel

      Ahhh, no….
      I grew up in Germany and am kind of the worst CLIP.

      I come 2 hrs late to parties, my friends have to wait about 30 min, university lectures went on for one hour before I arrived, coming 10 minutes late to job interviews certainly did not help and always being the guy to which they address the last call on the airport is not really feeling nice either.

      I don’t know in which region you grew up, but at least in Berlin this behavior is not exactly welcome but still tolerated.

      • I’m from a tiny little town on the dutch border.
        It is highly dependend on ones upbringing I guess.
        Are your parents always late, too?

        But my impression from all around in Germany has always been, that most people are rather punctual.
        Some hippies and teachers who can’t plan anything in life are exceptions.

  • Jiminy

    So that weird aversion to transitions – ever been evaluated for ADHD?

    • Pepperice

      My immediate thought too. Especially with the long line of CLIPs. And the procrastination monkey. And the panic monster. And the hyperfocus. And the awesome curiosity and the fantastic skill of being able to transfer that curiosity into understandable, accessible articles, which are too long for most people but super, super awesome. And, and, and….. 🙂

      • marisheba

        Yeah, I’ve been wondering that for a long time, because I recognize so much of myself in Tim’s descriptions of his own insanities. The way he’s doing things seem to be working pretty well for him though.

        • Jiminy

          Except for being chronically late 😉

        • Kevin

          I see myself in these articles, too (eg, https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/03/procrastination-matrix.html), but I didn’t realize that so many of these traits were related to ADHD. My son was diagnosed this year, and I’ve been considering whether I might have it.

          • Pepperice

            You could do a lot worse than look up some of Russell Barkley’s talks and articles. He explains ADHD in one of the deepest yet most comprehensible ways that I’ve ever seen. If you think that ADHD is just a child running in circles and unable to concentrate on anything ever, then you’ve got it wrong. Read, read, read. It’s fascinating stuff! 🙂 (It definitely runs in families, as well).

  • starmartyr

    This is totally, completely, 100% me. Nailed it again, Tim.

    I was late for work this morning, again of course, so it was quite funny to see this pop into my inbox. Think I should forward this on to my boss?

  • Bianca

    I’m reading this article right now because it’s what my instant gratification monkey wants, and my panic monster checked out a little over a year ago. Secretly hoping you might ask Elon Musk for some advice (and then obv share with us) while my life is still salvageable 🙁

  • marisheba

    Nailed. It. I feel that the in-denial-about-how-time-works-in-the-face-of-all-available-evidence thing is pretty well documented. But the aversion-to-transitions thing is under-appreciated. It’s a weird thing, but bizarrely powerful, and a life-long trait for me. It’s linked to my particular brand of insanity: ADHD. Could be yours too?

  • TedKidd

    The first step to solving a problem is thoroughly defining the problem.

    Nice job defining this one!

  • Dan

    Same here, Tim. Same here. Since I’m still in high school, for me it’s getting my homework done. “Oh, you’ll be able to get it done in two hours!” says the monkey. “You don’t go to bed until 10, so you’ll be fine even if you don’t start it until 8! Just go ahead watching youtube videos and such.”
    8:00 rolls around. Maybe by now, I’ve opened a word document with my name and the title of the assignment. At this point things shift from “Eh, I have plenty of time” to “WHY AM I STILL ON THE INTERNET IT’S GETTING LATE AND I’M GOING TO BE MISERABLE TOMORROW MORNING WHY HAVE I STILL NOT STARTED IT???”
    At around 9, the panic monster wakes up. I get less productive as I get more tired, so the “two hours” of homework ends up keeping me up until 1 AM.

    Thank god school’s out for the summer now–PSYCHE!!! AP summer assignments are a thing. But I still have almost 2 months to get them done…

    • Adam

      I have this when practising the instruments I play (flute and keyboard). “It’s okay; I don’t leave for swimming for 30 minutes – I can still practise everything once I’ve finished this”; “Yeah, sure, I’ve got a keyboard lesson tomorrow and I’ve not even looked at any of the scales, but it’s only 9:30”; “Okay, it’s getting a bit late, but I’ll just finish this episode and leave the sight-reading until tomorrow” [tomorrow: “No, sight-reading can wait until tomorrow” etc.]

  • Dan White

    I agree with everything in this article but I feel that it passes off the distinction between “OK lateness” and “not OK lateness” as a purely objective one. I’m almost always on time and I feel that very few things are really “OK lateness” – merely inconveniencing someone else at all is too much and not OK. My wife, on the other hand, is chronically late and manages to rationalize almost everything into “OK lateness”. Even though she’s in Group 2 and feels bad when she agrees it is “not OK lateness”, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it would for me. “It’s OK because they plan for these things to start late”, “it’s OK because nobody really cares if they have to wait at the restaurant for 20 minutes”, etc.

  • Kevin

    Tim, get out of my head. It’s getting a little eerie.

  • Christina

    I hate that this article makes so much sense. And now I hate myself a little more. My name is Christina and I’m a CLIP. The insane kind, not the a-hole kind.

  • João Pedro Gonçalves

    I’m the total opposite of this. Instead of annoying people because I’m late, I annoy myself because I’ve arrived 20 min earlier . I just can’t help but to arrive early. Unlike you my panic monster kicks in 1 hour before the time not when I’m already late. It’s obviously not as bad as being late but it also sucks to wait and having nothing to do except angry birds. Does this means I’m a bad person?

    • Actually I detest when people arrive early. There is no such thing as “fashionably early” – so if I invite you to dinner at 7PM and you arrive at 7.00PM, I will welcome you and get you busy making a salad – because of course I won’t actually be ready. But arrive at 6.45PM? Dammit, I will NOT be happy!

      • João Pedro Gonçalves

        In that case I would wait outside you house and ring the door bell at exactly 7.00 pm. I’m not a fashionable early guy, I’m a chronic early guy.

    • Pepperice

      Oh, you need to build yourself some “early strategies” for sure. This is how I taught myself to tolerate/like being early. Some which I do are to grab a coffee/snack from somewhere nearby, pick up a small token gift for the host, angry birds works too, or other apps – Duolingo is great (language learning in 5-10 minute blocks), sudoku, instagram or another kind of camera app if you like photography, I used to smoke (wouldn’t recommend that obv!) check facebook/twitter/news app/buzzfeed type things. Kindle app – you can read quite a lot in 20 minutes. Quick walk, mini workout, look for wildlife to befriend….?

      • João Pedro Gonçalves

        I usually just play on the phone, but those were great suggestions. Might do that.

    • Adam

      I’m a child, so my time-planning skills aren’t really put to the test much, but I still empathise a bit with arriving aeons early and just having to wait for ages. For me, it’s not so much boredom but lack of comfort: I would have rather spent those extra 20 minutes at home than standing and waiting around in an uncomfortable situation, and every minute drags on – especially when there’s a clock nearby or you’re wearing a watch, and you can’t stop yourself from counting every single second that passes.

      Better early than late, though. You’re definitely not a bad person.

      • João Pedro Gonçalves

        I’ve never seen anyone in the internet being self-aware that he’s a child. Are you really a child? And thank you.

        • I, too, am intrigued by this 😀

        • Adam

          I’m 15. I imagine most 15 year olds would call themselves “teenagers”; I dislike any connotations of maturity that has. I’m a child: I’m an immature, young human being who does not have to take care of himself.

          • João Pedro Gonçalves

            I’m 16 years old and honestly I consider myself a young adult, even though I don’t have nearly as much responsibilities an adult has. But my way of thinking and my maturity are above the average of teenager, of course I’m might be wrong but from what I see. I agree and respect your thought but if you’re 15 you’re no longer a child.

  • Dennis

    In order to be on time every time, you also have to be OK arriving 10 minutes early every time. If you’re not OK with that, you will probably will be late. Which is why I’m late. I feel terrible about being late, but I guess I’m actually more selfish than I feel terrible about it.

    Also, I get weird satisfaction being JUST on-time for something, like a bus. It makes me feel like I was the most efficient I could have possibly been. On the other hand, being JUST late for a train is the worst because if I had just been ONE SECOND FASTER I could have been 15 minutes faster.

    • Exactly! My husband is never ever late, which means he is almost always really early. (We spend a lot of time at the airport.) I hate being early. I want to be exactly on time, which means sometimes I am late. I hate buses because they basically force you to be early or late.

    • Joshua Warhurst

      I actually thank stupid time-wasting games on my phone for helping me get on time more. Because I think to myself, “Well, if I’m early, than I can just play this stupid game while waiting for people”. It doesn’t make me always on time, but I think it’s helped.

  • jonathan

    I’m on time all the time… In fact, people can’t understand why I’m
    20-10 minutes early to everything. I find I need my own time to center
    myself before a date, work, an interview, a movie etc. I often bring a book and read or I bring a pocket sketchbook and just draw or journal.

    I also have a different attitude towards life than most… Like, I volunteer… So I count everything – going to bed early the night before, to buying bananas for lunch, to showering after work – as “Volunteering time”. Being in the location is not the start and end of the activity.

    I think this is one reason I like working from home… Commuting is such a huge amount of time out of your day.

    Task-switching is the death of productivity. I try to limit the number of times I have to do it in a week.

  • tweinstre

    (Un)fortunately,I cannot relate at all…I’m always early. My great-grandmother used to say that it’s better to arrive 2 hours early than 2 minutes too late,that passed on to my grandmother and as a consequence,I was raised to be early at all times. Being late was never tolerated in my family.

  • gatorallin

    …..any chance this is linked back to ADHD… at least a little bit? (not understanding why/when time moves at different speeds, getting easily distracted and most of all the rush of trying to get there last second and sometimes making it). OK, who sets their watch, 6 minutes fast just to try and trick yourself?

    • Danni

      I don’t set my clocks fast anymore, though I used to. I deliberately put appointments into the calendar on my phone 15 minutes to a half hour earlier than they really are. Because of the time denial in my head, I generally forget I’ve done this (even though I do it almost all the time), and so even if I leave “late” for the appointment in my calendar, I’m still on time.

    • RaquelSimoneB

      In high school I would set the clock in my room 1 hour and 18 minutes ahead and that was the magical mind fuck that allowed me to get places on time. Now turning 25 today I have successfully managed to change my tardiness issue to be places consistently on time and mostly five minutes early. From the comments I see many people have pointed out the link to ADHD. I never knew that was something I had/have but I have been able to overcome the negative aspects and develop a sense of time when I was born without one.

  • Jennifer Gagnon

    My feelings on the chronically late are complicated and most likely biased towards my particular brand of lateness…

    One of my best friends throughout my childhood and into my mid-twenties was constantly hours late for everything. Sometimes I would be at her house and she would call a friend and say that we were ten minutes away then jump in the shower, at that point you know it’s really more like an hour or two. This form of lateness is inexcusable, especially when it is constant.

    I on the other hand am often 5 to 10 minutes late for non work related events and plans. Often because I underestimate the amount of traffic or the overestimate the frequency of the transit system in my city. I’ll usually feel awful and text the person or persons that I’m meeting to let them know and then try to find a faster way to get there, usually by taxi (not cheap).

    So in conclusion, if you are my type of late I give you pass, not biased at all!!! In all honesty though, I do feel that the second type of lateness is better, at least you try to make it up to the people for the time that you have wasted.

  • Pepperice

    I have two other theories about why I am late, though I definitely agree with everything in this article.

    1. The optimism about how long things take also leads to the zero-sum problem. You know all those activities that you have to do in order to leave the house resembling some kind of human being, like brush your hair, check your breath, put on shoes (locate shoes), pick up your phone, wallet, keys? And then the things that you figure you’ll do on the way out like grab that book you are supposed to return to this person, or the birthday card you are bringing, or take a bag so you can do some grocery shopping on the way home. And then if you’re REALLY optimistic, the little jobs that you figure you can fit in on the way, like posting a letter, or taking out the trash, or whatever. You know that these tasks individually take under a minute to do. So, somehow, my brain assumes that 0+0+0+0+0 = 0! It doesn’t factor in that 30 seconds x 11 is actually over five minutes. And that walking from one task to another adds extra seconds. And that some of the tasks might take longer than anticipated, such as finding the keys or the wallet which you have inexplicably balanced on a coat hook. (This really happened. I DON’T KNOW.) Or that my husband might ask me a question halfway through and because I’m just doing all of these magical zero-time activities, I think I’m in some kind of magical zero-time-zone and it doesn’t matter if I quickly answer his question or pass him the thing from the other room (40 seconds) or whatever.

    It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I explain this to myself, I still believe that since all of these items take <1 minute it means they take 0 minutes, and 0 x infinity is still 0. Therefore I can fit in infinite zero-time actions.

    2. The drive to be as efficient as possible. Let's face it. This is actually just extreme laziness. I know that I should take the laundry to the cellar when I think about doing it, but if I leave it until I'm about to leave, then I only have to walk downstairs once! In reality, it just adds another task to squeeze into the lack of time left by the (not) zero-sum activities, and by the resistance to transition.

    I believe that if I can make my schedule for leaving as tight as possible, then I win because I gain more time on the computer/asleep/not asleep but staring at my alarm, as though I can somehow beat it/generally being at home and not having to wear pants. In reality, I lose because I end up sweaty, dishevelled, stressed, without some essential item, but most often LATE. I actually managed to mostly cancel this out by getting over my dislike of being early when I realised that other people probably disliked me being late just as much. But. But. I still get a little secret proud thrill if I managed to leave at the last possible minute and arrive exactly on time. Because it’s like I beat time. I BEAT TIME.

    3. Last is one that I have mostly stopped, and I guess Tim never had, but I thought it was worth an honourable mention. A few years ago on an internet forum this question came up and one poster made the comment which pretty much changed my life. People who are chronically late often don’t consider themselves late until it gets to the actual time they are supposed to be somewhere, and they are not there. This makes no sense (which is probably why they are CLIPS) but it is absolutely true. Whereas somebody who is sane and capable of being on time tends to work out the steps required to reach the destination and know roughly where they need to be at several intervals before the meeting time (including time to do the zero-sum-activities, which they understand take longer than zero minutes) and they would then consider themselves late if they had not showered by, say, 1.50 for a meeting at 3.

    (I say mostly stopped, because although I do plan in time for journeys, I tend to be optimistic about how long the journey takes and assume it will take far less time than it really does. When I am properly organised and input everything into a journey planner and add in extra time for hold ups and emergencies, then I am on time. But when I assume “Oh, it’ll take about 20 minutes” I’m always wildly optimistic and wrong. I’m usually really surprised when I do the journey planner thing at how long things really take in reality.)

    As for the culture question which keeps coming up, this is a great explanation:


    • marisheba

      YES to #1!

    • CT

      this is great, especually number 1. so true. should be added to tim’s article! haha

      • CT


    • JealousHaters

      so you know all the reasons you are late but you still chose not to do anything about them = selfish.

      • Pepperice

        When did I say that? I said I’ve managed to overcome point 2 and point 3. And to some extent point 1 in that I usually try to leave 20 minutes for that one, but it’s like a mental block.

        When you read a post except you don’t read it properly but decide to insult the person who wrote it (in an attempt to share info which may help others) anyway = nice. Really nice.

        • JealousHaters

          I wasn’t trying to insult you I was describing your behavior. If that insults you than maybe you should think about what that means. When did you say what? You literally just described three reasons in addition to the author’s about why you are/were late. If you changed then that is great for you welcome to the land of adults. Furthermore, in line with your comment about reading a post wrong you could see that I meant “you” as in anybody who does that. let me rephrase it for you

          “so ONE who knows all the reasons they are late but still chooses not to do anything about it = selfish.

          • Pepperice

            I’m sorry, but it was totally and utterly clear from the wording of your first post that you meant me personally. Thanks for the rewording, though. It’s fine. We don’t have to get along with and/or agree with every other person in the world. 🙂 Personally I don’t really get why the on-time people get SO vehement that their way is superior.

            • JealousHaters

              Umm, well I was referring to you and any other person that doesn’t try and not be late. and the reason why on-time people get so vehement is because we are the ones negatively affected by the not on-time people. Of course, the people not on time don’t care or get it. They got to do what they wanted to do when they wanted. Does that really have to be explained to you?

            • RaquelSimoneB

              You still don’t have to be a dick, JealousHaters. Maybe that’s your personal flaw. We all have them. At least here all these people are pointing out their own flaws and talking about what they can do/have done to improve. What are you doing, JealousHaters, to be a better person?

            • Chiel Wieringa

              Perhaps because they are superior in making and keeping appointments? No offence meant bye this, just stating the obvious.

            • ScribblePouit

              Remember when people weren’t haters? Pepperice farm remembers.

          • Danni

            The point is that “one” spends “one’s” whole life choosing to do something about it and it doesn’t work. You are being nasty and judgemental instead of attempting to comprehend.

    • Valerie

      Oh man, you’ve nailed a bunch of my causes for chronic lateness. I’m happily sitting and enjoying my day as the time to leave draws near, when we get to critical “time to gather my things and go” time, all of the sudden there are a a bunch of “Oh shoot, I need to…” “Ah crap, I forgot to … I’ll just do it real quick.” that get in the way of me leaving on time. And then I feel guilty and stressed because I’m going to be late … again.

    • SJ

      THIS! All of them. I love you for articulating this so perfectly, after Tim’s already-perfect post. If it’s 2:59 and I’m supposed to be somewhere at 3:00, and I’m nowhere close, I can hear my mind say ~ every time ~ “I’m not late yet!”. And the 0+0=0 and being in the magical zero-time-zone. And the efficiency. You’ve described me exactly. I’m also oddly never late for flights, job interviews, weddings, etc, and everyone who knows me knows this about me and either shows up 10 minutes late too, or just tells me that the event starts before it actually does and games me into being there on time.

  • spencerrscott

    I had a roommate/best friend who was a CLIP. In “not okay lateness” situations, I just started leaving without him. In the beginning of our friendship, I would wait stupid amounts of time for him to get his shit together. Later on in our friendship I realized I was indirectly condoning his CLIP-behavior by waiting for him. So instead of getting frustrated, I would just carry on without him. What was surprising to me was that he acted like no one had ever just left without him before, like that was a brand new concept to him that people wouldn’t just sit around waiting for him.
    So my advice to people with CLIP friends is to understand two things that will help you not get frustrated.
    Thing 1: Stop waiting for them. Go into the movie without them, go get dinner without them, go to the gym without them, etc. This is a pretty un-friendly thing to do mind you. But it will help them realize that constantly being late is also an un-friendly thing to do because it indirectly implies their time is more important than yours.
    Thing 2: If you don’t choose Thing 1, you don’t really reserve the right to be frustrated (once their lateness becomes a clear pattern). That’s because if you keep waiting for them, then you clearly value them more than their chronic lateness detracts from their value. Meaning, their presence, albeit untimely, is still valued more than their absence. Focus on that value.

  • Jillian

    Honestly, I think the person who wrote that previous article was just trying to make themselves feel better for being “that friend” all the time…

  • MaryAnne

    I truly do not have any “sense” of time passing, I don’t know if it’s part of my (diagnosed) ADHD or just another trait of my quirky brain. The number of timers and reminders I have built into my life would probably shock the chronically on-time/early crowd, and yet I have probably no more than a 50% success rate after 40+ years of attempting to overcome my unpunctuality. I understand that it comes across as rude and selfish, but trust me, I beat myself up over it far more than anyone else can. I feel like the early birds look at it like Nike – “Just Do It” – when in reality it is far more complex than that for me.

    Anyway, I definitely relate to this whole article, especially the “fastest time I ever completed it” aspect. For me it’s often about how long something “should” take. My commute to work SHOULD only take 25-30 minutes. But the reality of traffic, stoplights, school zones, etc., means it can actually take 25-50 minutes. Which drives me crazy from an efficiency standpoint (ironic, I’m aware) and I can’t seem to internalize the idea of leaving any more than 1/2 an hour in advance.

    • Pepperice

      Time blindness is a recognised trait of ADHD. I hear you!

      • Danni

        …I have never heard of this, but it describes me exactly. I have even burned things I have baked before because I forgot to set a timer and had no concept of 10 minutes passing until I smelled burning biscuits. I have had meeting times and appointments come and pass unnoticed by me. My smart phone is a life saver in this regard. I set timers and calendar appointments for everything, and I still miss stuff.

  • d

    While still mostly one of the -too-early-to-everything types, as I got older, I got fed up always being early and started sometimes being late to things, you know, not on purpose, but just by not stressing about getting there on time. Mostly this was for parties or any situation where it didn’t much matter if I was a little late. Mostly this was fine, but recently I was accidentally late by failing to obsessive compulsively double check stuff and ended up missing a travel connection with resulted in a highly stressful and somewhat expensive detour. This is the first time something like this has happened to me and I hated it. I really cannot understand why would anyone put themselves through something like that on a regular basis. Insanity is definitely the only explanation.

  • Konrad

    I believe it’s simpler than that: most people will make it in time when they really care (eg. getting on a plane, or showing up on a date with a person that you really like). This means that – agreeing with your statements about denial of his time works – it’s possible to bring back your rational self to the process. The likelihood of doing that is a good indicator for good much you care.

    • Pepperice

      Except that some of us can’t differentiate, and it drives us crazy that people assume that if we are late it’s because we don’t care or don’t find it important. If you are a CLIP then you would miss three planes in a row (see? Even in the article!) at great personal expense and inconvenience, because it’s not an unwillingness to be on time, it’s an inability to (consistently) be on time.

      • istvan

        Nobody cares. If you make me wait more than 15-20 minutes regularly, then I’ll prefer to meet other people. If you don’t make an effort (seek outside help if necessary), then people are too busy to care if you feel good or bad about your own behaviour.

        If you can’t hold your promises, don’t make promises.

        • Pepperice

          Sure. That’s fine. You are under no obligation to be friends with somebody who is regularly late, or whichever other personality trait you find tiresome. That’s entirely your prerogative. But you didn’t make a statement about feeling good or bad, or pissing people off or not, you made a statement that you believe it’s a lack of prioritisation. I am saying that that is simply not the case for everyone, so you might want to adjust that assumption. That doesn’t mean that you have to make allowances or put up with it, it just means don’t assume that everybody’s mental processes are exactly the same as yours.

          • Pepperice

            And likewise, many people who are often late don’t really see an issue with lateness because they themselves don’t mind if others are late. So it works both ways, too. People who are often late also have to understand that their lateness might be really upsetting or annoying or even insulting to other people, even though it’s a thought process which wouldn’t occur to them personally.

          • istvan

            Some people feel an inner urge to commit crimes, too. They feel they aren’t in control of it. Free will doesn’t exist anyway. How you appear to the outside is what you are. The vast majority of people couldn’t care less about the intentions and inner struggles of others.

            • Pepperice

              Sorry, what? I’m totally lost. You started this conversation thread about the intentions of others. Now you’ve got to “free will doesn’t exist”?

            • istvan

              I’m saying that intentions only exist in your head. People see your behavior. If you are late, they mostly don’t care if you feel good or bad about it. Assholes can also apologize for being late, not just insane CLIPs. And just because you say it’s also bad for you won’t change the fact that people can choose who they are friends with. It’s not dependent much on how you (say you) feel. Hence my example, that people who compulsively commit crimes without “really wanting it on a conscious level” are also avoided or locked up.

            • Pepperice

              I am so fucking confused right now.

            • istvan

              I’m not the original commenter. I just randomly chimed in and answered your comment.

            • Pepperice

              Oh RIGHT! I’m sorry. I had based this entire conversation on the fact that you were. (mutters that people ought to have avatars if they have the temerity to have names with the same number of letters) Well, fair enough 🙂 I don’t disagree with you on any point, BTW. I actually wrote about this a while ago – it doesn’t matter if you almost kill yourself trying to achieve something or sail through easily, because all that matters to others (except, perhaps, very close family/friends) is pass/fail on pretty much everything. There are no shades of grey, unless you’re literally the best in the world at something. It’s just pass/fail, nobody really cares about the how or the why. Once I realised that it made me realise that it makes less sense to try and achieve virtual A+s in everything, and instead use my energy to avoid failing in the things I suck at.

    • Valerie

      No, sorry. I care a lot, which is why I hate myself when I’m (always) late. I feel so guilty, but feeling guilty while I’m on the way to already being late doesn’t help me get out the house faster.

    • istvan

      Some people get kind of addicted to that dopamine rush of being able to continue doing that thing (browsing the internet, reading a book etc) for just one more minute. It feels like a drug. Everything is suddenly so much more interesting and enjoyable in these extra minutes. And just one more extra minute, oh so nice. Ah, now I missed the bus. Okay, so I have 15 minutes more, I’ll leave in 10 minutes. Oh dopamine again, so nice.

      It’s similar to how some fat people just can’t lose weight. They can’t stop eating and can’t start exercising. It’s a psychological issue. It’s no excuse, though. If you consciously know you are a CLIP, you should seek help in your sane moments. Not by buying useless self-help books (this is just procrastination) but implementing actual measurable changes with the help of a friend or if necessary a therapist. If you’re a CLIP, it’s not a cool thing (maybe naming it like CLIP is a bad idea, it seems to make it an attractive thing), you’re making people suffer. It’s the same thing as the drug addict who steals from his family to buy a little more. He often hates himself while doing it, but can’t help it. But in his clear moments he may seek help.

      Being a CLIP is a psychological problem too, that needs treatment. If self-treatment doesn’t work, try outside help.

      • Solai

        I think you’re right that it’s a highly destructive habit that must change, and needs treatment. You’re right that reading a book is mostly procrastination, and that a real, measurable regimen for changing habits, with a friend, and accountability, etc, is utterly necessary, and the correct response. Or at least better than the alternatives.

        But the rest is off the mark.

        • istvan

          There are different kinds of late people. You are not the “extending by just ONE extra minute” type, but the “cannot calculate when to leave” type. Different problem, different solutions.

      • rage

        the dopamine rush is a thing, but only a little thing. I used these during my depressed teenage years, I let the train to school pass by to get the rush and get a tiny little bit more happy. But the dopaminerushlatething is always on purpose, fully aware, to use incidental. Chronically being late has nothing to do with that.

      • marisheba

        When it’s tied to ADHD (which it seems to be in many of the cases here), a big part of the problem is a brain that is chronically under-dopamined (and therefore out of gas) unless it’s being actively stimulated by an interesting or motivating stimulus. As I interpret it, part of the reason transitions are so unpleasant for ADHD folks is one of two reasons: either 1) transitions are actually pretty energetically demanding for the brain in all people, and ADHD folks don’t have enough gas to get over the transition hump, or 2) our subconscious knows that as soon as we transition we’re going to completely lose the current dopamine fix (where a “normal” person wouldn’t be facing the same level of drop-off, which is why leaving isn’t a big deal for most), and that trade-off isn’t worth it in the short-term.

        None of this really contradicts anything you’re saying, particularly about it being a treatable problem (but a MUCH harder nut to crack than most non-late people think it is), I just thought I’d add it in.

  • Robyn McIntyre

    You and I are a LOT alike. Commiseration.

  • Basar Kizildere

    I am a CLIP myself. One thing I have noticed is that those who live closest to the agreed meeting location are usually the tardiest. Is this common? If so, any ideas?

    • Pepperice

      More optimism, Less planning needed. When you need to go further you usually plan the journey. When it’s around the corner you think “Oh, I can leave later”.

  • Alexander

    I, on the other hand, am a chronically punctual insane person. In recovery. True, being punctual clearly doesn’t have a negative impact on my relationships etc, and I won’t try to claim it is anything like as challenging as being chronically late. But it’s still annoying. In all other areas of life, I procrastinate, so it’s rather odd. I leave really stupid amounts of time in case of difficulty, and end up arriving an hour and a half early following a journey involving an hour on the train, and perhaps forty minutes walking. And whatever I’m arriving for is nowhere to be seen. I’m trying to practice being (acceptably) late.

  • AsamiSato

    I really don’t understand people like this at all and they drive me completely crazy. Like I really wanted to find his sister and slap her when he told the story about her missing her flight 3 times. I actually think that this would keep me from being good friends with someone like Tim even if all other good friend qualities were there because I just find this kind of willful flakiness to be such an unattractive quality for a person to have.

    • I understand – I have drifted away from friendships with chronically late people before.

    • Solai

      It’s not willful. It’s completely irrational. You can’t understand it; Even we don’t understand it, and we likely hate it more than you hate it. Perhaps that’s even less attractive!

      Just bare in mind that not all chronically late people are Tim’s ‘CLIP.’ There’s a lot of people who really just don’t care or understand that they’re late/destructive(My own sister comes to mind). But in the end, whether or not you care or understand that you’re hurting people makes no difference, unless you’re actively trying to diagnose and solve the problem. Late is late.

  • Wade

    There is a wise and ancient saying above the Temple of Delphi … “know yourself.” Tim, it sounds like you “know yourself” well enough to write this marvelous piece, and therefore have the unique opportunity to “heal thyself” as well. As a good husband and a successful father of 5, and CEO of a small Corporation … (and recovering CLIP)… I know all too well your daily plight. Thank God I married an “on-timer” who loves me but doesn’t tolerate my latent lateness. She says, “you’re one of those people we are ALL waiting for in the plane so we can back away from the terminal. … and that’s not right.” She’s right. And my three oldest kids (now in their 30’s) are all CLIPS too…. Very successful (google software engineering types) who somehow have survived. (sigh*) Thank you, Tim. Love your illustrations… That’s MY mind.

  • Sarelseemonster

    The chronically early person is way worse than the chronically late people. Really. In the shower…. doorbell rings. Busy finishing that last thing before a dinner. Doorbell rings 30 min early.
    Think about it.

    • that’s pretty funny! …and so TRUE

    • Oops, that would be me. In my defense, I always carry a book so unless it’s raining or something, I won’t be ringing the bell until it’s time. I might creep around your street though. I also have problems, I guess :/

      • Sarelseemonster

        HAHA, creepy! Yeah at least you and Solai hang around till it’s time. Not the other chronically early people I know.

    • Solai

      On the bright side, the early person can just hold off on ringing the doorbell. Get a coffee or listen to the radio a little. The late person is worse because they have no recourse.

  • Marcus

    I used to be a chronic Clip but slowly inched my way to being a guy that’s normally on time – so obviously I have no problem with people who are late.

    My only issue is with people who don’t communicate to say they’re going to be late or tell me that they’re going to be 10 minutes late when they’re really going to be about 35 minutes late.

    As long as you communicate with me and give me updates about your situation, you can be more than 2 hours late for all I care. But at least let me know what’s going on so I can decide if I should wait, run another errand, or just reschedule all together.

    No one’s going to die if we don’t meet on time (most likely), just don’t keep me in the dark.

  • june2

    Jeez, for the amount of value – added content you create and contribute to enlighten the collective unconsciousness – FOR FREE – be as late as you like! All those panting for your next post should be automatically redirected to your Patreon button…

  • istvan

    The key thing is being able to make promises to yourself. It’s the same as with other people. If you don’t keep your word to yourself, it will lose its value and you’ll be unable to make more promises. So when you say “I’ll leave at 2:07” you already know subconsciously that these kinds of promises never work out, so you don’t actually believe you will leave on time. You just calm yourself down with this fake plan.

    Solution: same as with other people. Gain your own trust again. Do things that are against instant gratification: lift weights, run, never use the snooze button. Really, just jump out of bed when it’s time. If you feel terrible at the moment, maybe you can adjust the wakeup time next evening. But if you have set a time, you get up at that time. No thought processes needed. I think late people (CLIPs) are in a constant inner fight of wanting to go but “next minute”, and this fight is exhausting. If your word is worth something in your own eyes, you know you will get up, you know you will get going, there is no exhausting mental fight, you enjoy everything up to 2:07 and then just leave at 2:07 because you’ve promised it to yourself. Nothing to think about.

    It’s extremely hard to win someone else’s trust back, but I think winning your own trust back is even harder. Start with sports, they train your mind as much as your body.

    • Tim Urban

      Very, very well said. It’s that whole storyline thing. My conscious sets the 2:07 plan and is gullibly confident I’ll do it, and my subconscious just snickers.

    • Solai

      I don’t agree. In my experience, a fundamental misunderstanding of what 5 minutes means is part of it. Or misunderstanding that in the real world, exceptions are the rule, like no parking/out of gas/traffic/no bus. Gaining self-confidence doesn’t help thoes misunderstandings at all. If anything, it makes it worse.

      My approach, which withers a certain kind of self-confidence in order to plan pessimistically, might be a really bad solution. But it has at least allowed me to be late less often. I’m pretty certain that if I rolled back my more recent pessimism, and built confidence in the manner you speak of, I’d be late more often. And that’s unacceptable.

      • istvan

        We’re talking about different things.

        1) You calculate correctly that you need to leave at 2:07, but THEN at 2:07 you override the plan and say 2:08 is also enough. Then at 2:08 you extend it to 2:09 etc.
        2) You calculate the time-to-leave wrong. You think it’s enough to leave at 2:27, when actually you should leave at 2:07.

        Problem 1 can be solved with practising pre-deciding things and sticking with them. If there is no extraordinary new information, you don’t modify plans.

        Problem 2 is what you are talking about. I never had that, but I know people who do. It’s not even just about being late. This kind of people horribly underestimate the difficulties of building/repairing things around the house etc. These people don’t learn from the past. You should always expect one bus or two will be early or not come at all, that there will be traffic etc. I think you may be afraid of arriving early. That you will be bored there. Some people can not bear being alone with their thoughts with nothing to do for 10 minutes.

        • Solai

          I understand what you’re describing there. I’m not certain if that’s two different breeds we are describing, but it’s certainly possible. I suppose we’d have to hear from more people whose behaviors differentiate in this way.

          Yuck, as if we need more sub-categorization – in the end, lateness still warrants no good excuse. The only thing we really gain is a) CLIPs might be better armed to troubleshoot their problem by understanding it correctly, and b) others might be able to better help by avoiding misunderstanding it’s cause. Not that they have any shadow of obligation to get involved in this insanity.

          • istvan

            Yes. I’m not sure it’s a good thing to label this as a disorder. Imagine for example if some late people got a diagnosis and they were legally/socially allowed to be 1 hour late from anything. This would solve nothing, these people would do everything relative to this new 1 hour later deadline, so they’d still be unexpectedly late.

            • Solai

              Agreed. On the other hand, it’s difficult to make progress in addressing the problem without even a name. Repeatedly describing ‘symptoms’ for lack of a better word is rather un-conducive to conversation. In that regard, I think the term has merit.

        • marisheba

          I do think you’ve nailed an aspect of the problem – and you describe it incredibly well. But think one of the problems is that you’re looking at a trait that is key to success in some areas, but super mal-adaptive in others.

          The ability to reassess on the fly and plan dynamically as new information comes in is probably part of what makes Tim so excellent at so many things, and what makes him such a good researcher and writer on these big, crazy-tangled projects. For me, when I say “just another minute, just another minute” a gazillion times, I think that I’m hijacking a good trait for nefarious purposes (subconsciously)–primarily because of that deep resistance to transitions. You underestimate how unpleasant leaving is going to feel (because why would it be unpleasant?!), so when that comes at you like a ton of bricks at 2:07, you reassess and replan, and bullshit yourself until the panic monster shows up. In my mind, the line between figuring out when you’re bullshitting yourself in this kind of situation; vs letting your brain juices fly when in the midst of a complicated and annoying-yet-totally-satisfying research project is surprisingly fuzzy. You’re right that it’s completely exhausting, but I suspect that Tim has a brain that will always find a way to over-analyze and exhaust itself one way or another, and that that’s precisely the reason we get such killer posts from him.

    • Lee Gehrke
    • pennyfarthing

      It’s obvious that these repeating belief/behaviour patterns are very deep set and probably held in place with some heavy duty emotions, most likely acquired through some semi-trauma in childhood. If I may, I’d like to suggest Faster EFT as something to have a go with as a first step in regaining self trust.

      • istvan

        Stop pushing this $1800 quackery. Being late doesn’t necessarily mean any kind of trauma. But preying on people with real trauma would be even worse. This is really not the place for this kind of material.

        If you feel you need outside help, seek someone who is qualified.

  • kingsxcanada

    As much as a person is late, and really feels bad about it, I have zero respect for those that are perpetually late. As a sane person, I don’t know why my coworker is always 10 minutes late. He bumps his hours 15 minute forwards because of this…and is now 10 minutes late from that point. It’s like he is missing part of his brain. I see a clock, and I instantly KNOW, because I can tell time, that I need to leave right now.

    • istvan

      They enjoy that dopamine/adrenaline/whatever rush when you give yourself “just one more minute”.
      “I’ll skip brushing my teeth, so I need 1-2 minutes less”. “I’ll run fast to the bus, so I need 1 minute less”, “I’ll skip changing clothes, so I win another 2 minutes” etc. People like this can live under constant stress but still fail to do basic things that need to be done.

    • Solai

      Well, speaking as one of those kinds of people, you’re correct not to respect us. Unfortunately, respecting or disrespecting these individuals doesn’t interface with the problem or solution, whatever it is.

      But moreso for those who mis-identify the mindset/cause. Dopamine rush for ‘just one more minute?’ No. Narcissism? No. There are people where this applies, but Tim’s ‘CLIP’ is a different breed.

  • OH MY. This is me. I’ve never heard anyone mention the transition thing before but it’s a running joke to my husband. I don’t even like to get out of the car and walk into the house. I can’t tell you how many times we sit talking in the car outside OUR OWN HOUSE. It’s a weird aversion to transitions. Super weird.

    • Sigh. I do that, too.

    • Pepperice

      I also do this. Lol!

  • jude at anxietyunravelled

    Of course!! You guys are brilliant. It’s FEAR OF BEING EARLY that’s the big problem. Fear of being early outweighs fear of being late. Fear of spending even five minutes (just a mere five minutes folks) doing nothing, fear of being at work and not being paid for it (not paid for five minutes – jeez), of being the awkward early one at a meeting or a party. If we can rationalise that it’s OK to be (just a little) early then we stand a chance of actually being on time (almost never going to be early….)

    • Anu

      I’m a CLIP and I love being early. It makes me so happy when I get to wait for someone else instead of them always having to wait for me.

  • AnonymousCitizen

    This is me sometimes, but especially for social occasions. It is definitely the transition issue, but it is *especially* some underlying insecurity about being mentally and emotionally prepared for whatever I’m going to. Oh, I’m going to hang out with friends? It’ll only be ‘fun’ if I feel good about myself, what do I need to do to feel good about myself. It’s better if I’m late than dead weight. Or is it? Dammit, I’m wasting time, I’ll just do it. I have an hour, let’s see. (45 minutes later) Oh DAMNIT! I STILL FEEL TERRIBLE! FUUUCCCKKK (10 minutes of angry exercise later) WELL SHIT, NOW I’M LATE! FUCK!, (In the shower) FUCK, it’s still not enough, but I can take a quick shower. Then, DAMNIT, what am I going to wear?…It’s the anxiety that builds up that prevents me from being effective in anything that I do need to do. And that make me believe I can speed up other routine activities in order to be on time. (The above is an exaggeration, but it displays the feeling I have well)

  • KoopzLeTroopz

    So how do I become better at being on time? How should I start?

    • I set an alarm timer for 5 minutes before I have to leave and I DO leave when it rings. I actually do this every morning in order to get to my job on time. Otherwise, I would get caught up reading posts like this, or something, and forget to go to work. 🙂

      • Solai

        I did this all the way back in high school. Didn’t work. =(
        I just started thinking I had 5 extra minutes to arrive, knowing I ‘only’ had to be there on-time. The compensation was aimed at the wrong stage.

    • Solai

      I’ve managed to be a little better about chronic lateness. Haven’t fixed it.

      But what helped most was attempting to convince myself not to trust myself, convince myself that my estimates are untrustworthy and wrong, and try to erode the underlying, invisible, background optimism that’s so destructive. When starting with that assumption, it follows naturally that there will be traffic, there will be distractions, there will be an emergency phone call, there won’t be parking, you’ll need to gas up, the bus won’t show up, etc. EVERY DAY. If someone calls up, and asks your arrival time, you reply with a massive over-estimation, and blunt admission you’ll probably be late, despite it all.

      And it means accepting the fact that, very often, you WILL waste a lot of time being early. A massive over-correction is a necessary, unavoidable sacrifice. If you’re not wasting time by being early, then you’re not addressing your destructively, irrationally optimistic slant. You don’t plan to arrive at work on time; you plan to wait at the door for 20+ minutes, after arriving. It just doesn’t work unless you’re this draconian with yourself. Accurate compensation is for rational people, which you are not.

      Even after all this, it doesn’t fix your problem… But it helps.

    • pheral

      I’ve no real answer, but i have recently made some progress with some of my issues – not getting out of bed until the last second and then rushing like heck to get to work. Basically, i found an app that requires me to scan a barcode (which i place in my kitchen) before it turns off, so i am forced out of bed and into another room. This gets me up, when nothing else ever has in 20 odd years of being an adult. Additionally, to stop procrastinating on the computer at work, I’ve installed a program that blocks all recreational websites (tumblr, reddit, etc) during work hours, and releases that block for an hour at lunch. I simply can’t do the things that were ruining me. Effectively i’ve realised i can’t currently make these choices for myself, and put something in place to force me to do what i need to. Obviously not a massive help, but perhaps a small idea for some small problems. 🙂

      • Anu

        I have an alarm clock on the other side of the room, set to ring at YOU REALLY NEED TO GET UP NOW -time. However, what happens quite often is, after I’ve gotten out of bed and turned it off, instant gratification monkey just pulls me back to bed. And eventually, I’m in a real hurry, wondering why all the functional brains were given to other people.

        • pheral

          Ha, yes, me too, same room never worked for me. Far too easy to stay asleep and get back in to bed. But getting me to walk through the flat and to another room actually works for me. Try it and see? I am using an app called I Can’t Wake Up and I am using the barcode scanner option.

  • Emily Condit

    Check out this article on Hyperfocus. It’s a symptom of adult ADHD. It’s definitely NOT a passive/aggressive way of trying to control others unless you’re actually a narcissist. People who don’t experience this have no idea the shame CLIPs experience over the pain they inflict on others and most don’t know that what they are experiencing is actually adult ADHD. The author of the article doesn’t even seem to know about it.

    • oh wow.. super helpful, tx

      • Emily Condit


    • Madame Blue

      Bookmarked, and thank you so much for sharing that site 🙂 I’ve experienced exactly what the article describes, both positive and negative, and never realized that hyperfocus could be negative!

  • Abeona

    Oh God this is so me. I can’t believe there are people who are even think the same as me while they know they will be late for sure. How to fix this because I feel terrible when I am late.

  • Hiro

    I think there is a difference specifically for creatives though (I’m pretty on time btw, and had huge frustrations with my CLIP friends). I was in consulting, where there is always constant immense pressure to get everything done on time. We would certainly allocate enough time to do the most essential work, but one thing we always caution against is “boiling the ocean” (it’s a good principle, still is). The downside to this is that I’m always mindful to get things done on time, even if that means I don’t go deep in areas I’m curious about.

    For blogs like this (and other creative activities), it makes sense to go as deep as possible. The way you split the Tesla post into three parts, you probably would have forgone that if you were trying to meet the self imposed deadline. And that is not necessarily a win for the readers, since our lives are not impacted by “when” we get the articles, but the end product of “what” we get. Same thing with books, movies, music, etc.

    I think the best thing you can do is expectation management, to make sure people know that the post will take as long as it will take, but also to give the expectation of how long that is. But a word of advice, giving a specific date and changing that date will frustrate the punctuals. Once we see a date it REALLY sticks in our minds (that’s why we’re punctual 🙂 ). Probably more preferable is if you give us timelines and reasons for extension (“estimate two more weeks to completion, taking longer because scope has expanded”), since we can more easily visualize the task and why it takes so long. I have enough experience with WBW posts that I’m comfortable waiting for a best-that-could-be product, and I would prefer it to something that isn’t as good as it could be but is on time.

    Your sister missing the plane three times though, that shit’s cray 🙂

  • Jim Mooney

    Well, it’s good you were late since now you have to say something about the explosion. The press pundits are predicting DOOM and GLOOM.

  • oh, man. this is me.. coupled with night guy screwing over day guy (late for bed time)

  • Holly Ferguson

    Just reading this annoyed the hell out of me. Do all the necessary things first and if you have extra time then do the optional things. Why anyone thinks beating the clock is enjoyable at any level is incomprehensible to me.

    • Runcibletune

      Just reading your comment here annoyed the hell out of me. Sorry, but it really did. I know that people who are not chronically late don’t understand, but beating the clock is not “enjoyable at any level.” Like Tim said, CLIPs have problems. I have been actually near-sucicidal once or twice due to self-loathing from being late (among other things). And I was still late. Yes, “just fix it,” mm-hmm… It’s a mental problem where something doesn’t work right. Not that it’s okay, just try to understand that CLIPs don’t find lateness fun.

      • Solai

        Such an understatement. But absolutely correct.
        Disrespecting those we were meant to meet is, in our moment of planning and botched execution, the biggest, most painful thing on our minds. We fear it happening foremost, and then it happens, and then we hate ourselves, and don’t quite know how to make it stop. It’s a primary feed for my depression as well.

      • Holly Ferguson

        You are absolutely right. I don’t understand. I really don’t. You know you will be late if you don’t leave on time yet you don’t leave on time and hate yourself. The rational mind concludes that on some level you enjoy being late or get some benefit from it or you wouldn’t do it. Red Hot Stove Theory.

        • Runcibletune

          In reading these comments and thinking about the issue, I’m beginning to believe that the “benefit” to people who are irrationally chronically late lies in a sort of “delay of self-loathing” that comes with holding oneself to irrationally perfectionistic standards and being unable to relax about them.

          Example: I realized from one of the other comments that I dislike admitting to myself that I take longer than other people to accomplish tasks. The 20-minute packing example would probably take me closer to 1 hour, and that would be pretty close to maximum efficiency for me. I have always been like this. But loathe it about myself, and so try to pretend that I’m not “defective” (this is what my self-critic is telling me) by pretending that I will take a normal, or even smaller than normal, amount of time.

          Example 2: I strongly identify with Tim’s dislike of switching from one activity to another. Sometimes, as one might expect, this is because I really like what I’m doing. More often, though, the thing I’m doing is pretty neutral. It’s more likely that I don’t want to switch tasks because then I will be reminded of all the things I’ve procrastinated on today, or all the more valuable things I could have been doing with my time, or how long the task I was doing has taken me (longer than I think a normal person would take), or any of the other anxieties in my life that I don’t have to deal with when I’m hyper-focused on something.

          And, here’s the important part: Because I am unable to accept my flaws as natural and be compassionate towards myself, remembering of any of the above things sets off my overactive self-critic and I am on my way into a spiral of self-loathing and anxiety. Therefore it is to my (temporary, emotional) advantage to put off switching tasks for as long as possible, and often significantly longer than I have time for.

          I realize that this is a long, convoluted post, and also that it doesn’t make being late okay. But I wanted to give you what insight I could into the “benefit” that people might be gaining from lateness.

          • Holly Ferguson

            Thank you for your reasoned response. I avoided WBW for a week because I felt so bad about not conveying my thoughts compassionately. I guess i’m trying to say that I get severe feelings of anxiety if i’m at risk for being late, the other side of the coin. If i am late (which hardly ever happens… not a boast, I wait around A LOT in parking lots before i’m supposed to be there) i feel horrible and will do just about anything to avoid. This conversation leads me to believe we are all really the same, just responding to the opposite degrees on the scale.

          • Friedrich

            Hey, I very much identify with what you have written on the subject here and there. I’d love to elaborate on some of these things, but as English isn’t my first language it would take me a prohibitively long time to type out anything meaningful (critical stuff needs to get done). So I’ll just leave it at that and say that based on my experiences I strongly agree with you on your assessments.

  • ScribblePouit

    I’ll be the bad guy here and say that chronically late persons (insane or not) are selfish, and have no excuses whatsoever. You all have those first world problems to explain why you are late, saying how terrible you feel, but in the end you value your own time more than the time of the person waiting for you.
    P.S.: Tim is still love you

  • Rafael Monteiro

    This is exactly my mom. Asking her for ETA is absolutely the worst. And when I complain about her taking 3x the time she had told me, she always answer with something along the lines of “But, even though it’s the time when there’s always heavy traffic, I didn’t think there would be this time! How could I possibly account for that, I can’t tell the future! And I know it is raining a lot, slowing traffic even more, but I didn’t account fot that either. Also, did you know that the roads from there to here aren’t a perfect straight line? They actualy have curves in lots of places! How could I ever foresee that? Now stop complaining and get on the car, I don’t have all day!”

  • you can pack in 20 minutes? it takes me and hour, or two, for some reason.

  • Zenith

    “But remember, it’s not about you.”

    And with that, you’ve entirely summarized the problem. When I am meeting someone else to do something, it is almost ENTIRELY about them. My motivation to be on time is not because of me, it’s because I wouldn’t dream or keeping another person waiting for me because that is so intensely disrespectful.

    Your entirely piece just reinforces exactly what I think about late people – they are so self-absorbed with their own wants, needs and desires that anyone else becomes a total afterthought, even if we end up sitting alone in a restaurant or bar or meeting room waiting for them.

    • Jonathan

      Huh? You misread that statement. In the same line he said, “it’s not okay and they need to fix it.” The “it’s not about you” part means “it’s not a statement on how much they respect your time because they’re even worse to themselves.”

  • Daniel Patel

    As a college student, I’ve seen SO MUCH of the productivity aspect that you talked about in the last section play into sleep habits. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now and it’s so cool to see you write about it, especially in a different way!

  • TommyM

    Interesting article and some very interesting follow up posts. I’m someone who has been extremely frustrated with friends and colleagues in the past who are perpetually late, and have followed the path of some others of either starting/leaving without them, excluding them, or arriving late myself knowing that they will be late so as not to waste my own time.

    I feel I have slightly more empathy for those CLIPs among you after reading the article, however I would make the point that ultimately I still believe that lateness can be overcome. I think it has to do with the perceived stakes. If being late meant that you or you child/partner/(insert closest loved-one) would be executed by firing squad, I can guarantee that you would not be late. While Tim’s sister who missed 3 flights in a row might be the flakiest person in history, I would imagine that the financial and personal consequences of missing the flights may not have have been as serious as say a person catching the last flight out of a country descending into a nightmarish civil war, or a refugee clambering onto a leaky vessel to escape certain death at the hands of roaming militias…

    • Solai

      I don’t think you’re correct. You’re assuming that the person’s perception and reaction is mainly rational. While they will understand the stakes, and likely will reduce their lateness with those increased stakes, it will not stop the behavior entirely due to the irrational nature of it. The irrational component short circuits at a stage that lies between understanding the stakes, and enacting the correct plan.

      To take the example of Tim’s sister: In that time she spent going to to airport, rushing to the flight, regretting it afterwards, etc, there is no other item in her life that feels as present and awful to her as this failure. All the motivation is there, for a rational person. Worse things, like what you described, are not realistic considerations in her life at that moment. She’s very likely already allocating a near-maximum amount of emotional energy to her failure, since she likely doesn’t foresee actually finding herself a nightmarish civil war/etc. Thus, increasing the stakes would be diminishing returns, since this is a front-runner in the ‘worst day of my life’ category of that privileged individual.

      This was the case for me, before I managed to forcefully beat the optimism out of myself later in life, creating a pessimistic planning habit. Partly, it’s still there. I now put a lot of energy into creating pessimism beforehand, knowing that if I don’t, my natural state is precisely the irrational CLIP behavior Tim described. It lost me a lot of good will among everyone I knew, and a lot of jobs, including my last one. You can see it coming a mile away, you can know the stakes with utter certainty(getting fired from a job you like), and yet…

      It’s just not rational.

    • pheral

      Brains are an odd thing. I felt I had to comment in response to yours, because although I am not a CLIP at all (I am the opposite) I do experience what I like to call ‘brain sabotage’ occasionally. Basically, if I am sleeping and have to wake for an exam, appointment, to catch something etc, the more serious and important the thing is the more likely it is that I will miss it. I can wake up in time for work every day, but my friends had to burst into my room and wake me for my University final exam many years ago, I had slept over three alarms.
      I miss each and every dentist appointment I schedule for mornings, so now they have to be in the afternoon. I miss coach journeys back home if they are scheduled for mornings and I am travelling alone (I now avoid mornings or travelling alone to solve this)
      So I have a desperately worrying feeling that in you execution example, if it was in the morning, I’d sleep over all my alarms and my loved ones would die. Whatever nerves and fears I have that are connected to important things tend to trigger my brain to keep me asleep, in some kind of attempt to avoid dealing with them.
      So I’d say you may be wrong about his sister too, no way of knowing. This kind of thing just doesn’t follow ‘normal’ rules.

    • ML

      When it’s a matter of life or death, our brains switch from higher thinking to more primitive regions. Completely different thought process. This is why people can find themselves doing things they wouldn’t have thought possible (or didn’t think they were capable of) when they’re in a crisis. But ask them to do it again when fear is removed…

  • Andy

    The increasing frown of the Rational Decision-Maker is the highlight of my life.

  • Luis Succi

    That’s exactly what happens to me! We must be much alike, or at least, our thought processes… Maybe it’s a “symptom” from ADHD… Have you ever looked into it? Were you ever diagnosed? I guess the toughest part, and maybe a solution to the problem, is to simply “let go”. That part you said at the end was on point, and as I thought before, maybe there is a solution, which is: just like we got into the habit of prolonging an activity not to be frustrate with ourselves, we must get into the habit of “facing it”, “taking the loss” and learning to not try to compensate it, but take the hit so that we will watch out the next day. I’ll try that, starting today, now. Btw, it’s 03:42am here in São Paulo, Brasil, and I should have translated part of a documentary, read the Bible, studied, among other things, but I’m going to sleep and trying again tomorrow. Very nice article… God bless.

  • Costas

    I have 2 jobs, 1 of which I own and run a ltd company and about to make a 2nd global operating company and your blog fits me exactly, so I guess now I need to refer to myself as a CLIP.
    Although considering how big my responsibilities CAN get business wise I am less prone to being late, however for the smaller stuff it happens a lot.

  • Marjan

    Haltiwanger suffers from faulty logic reasoning.

    From A causing B, it does not necessarily follow that B is caused by A. B can be caused by C and D and E and …

    So yeah, maybe optimistic people are always late, but that does not mean that lateness is necessarily caused by someone being an optimist.

    Well known example of this type of faulty reasoning: X% (or most) people die in hospitals. When you go to hospital you (have a bigger chance to) die. Don’t go to hospital …

  • jose

    We have a CLIP friend. We used to tell him the meeting time for our plans with 30 minutes advance. He managed to arrive 40 minutes late which was only 10. Then we complaint a LOT so that he would keep the 40 minutes delay for the next time. It was just fun 🙂

    • Yeah we also have a friend to whom we do that ^_^

  • I’m usually 30-20 minutes early. I have learned today that this is because I am a pessimist 🙁

  • Chiel Wieringa

    I’m learning myself to do nothing. This is really hard since doing nothing kinda makes me go crazy. So when I force myself to do nothing I just start doing the next thing way to early. The side effect of this is that you are always on time.

    Next problem will probably be that I start enjoying doing nothing, but that are concerns for when that time arrives 🙂

  • Jaka J.

    Holy shit Tim! You just described me and the EXACT way my mind works! This is crazy/creepy/scary! Well, I do have one additional issue: I’m also a perfectionist, so packing for a one week trip takes me at least 2 hours (because I have to think about every possible combination of weather patterns and things I might want to wear, to make sure that I’ll have the maximum number of good options with the stuff I can carry in the given suitcase), but in my mind I believe it takes 30 minutes.

    One thing can not be overemphasized: this is a horrible defect. It’s horrible enough on its own, but what makes it even more horrible is the fact that other people don’t understand it and they think people like you and me are late because we’re assholes. My wife thinks that when I let her wait, it’s because I don’t care enough about her, take her for granted and/or think that my time is worth more than hers; because like you said, for a normal person it’d have to be one of those things. But that’s completely untrue! I care TREMENDOUSLY about ALL people (and plants, animals, inanimate objects and virtual stuff like data; but people are my favorite). I always want to help people and things. I hardly ever say “no” to anyone who asks, and I will go out of my way to make sure that I do everything well for others. My wife is BY FAR my most favorite person in the world and it KILLS me every time she thinks I don’t care about her 🙁 My being late has nothing to do with her and everything to do with my defective brain, which is consistently always late regardless who the affected people are or if I’m alone.

    Most days I take the train to work. It’s a 10 minute walk to the station. EVERY TIME I tell myself “today I’m not going to run, I’ll take a nice walk,” so I calculate when I need to leave the house. Except when it’s time to leave the house is when I’ll only get up from my desk, realize I’m still in my underwear, that I haven’t brushed my teeth etc. So EVERY TIME by the time I leave the house it’s only 4 minutes til the train leaves and I have to RUN like an idiot with a backpack, and after I barely catch the train I cough my lungs out and am completely paralyzed for the next 20 minutes. This happens EVERY TIME. I don’t have a fixed time when I need to be at the office, so sometimes when I’m obviously too late I’ll decide to just take the train an hour later. And you might think that since I’m already dressed and stuff, that I should be able to catch the next one easily. WRONG! Not once have I been able to walk to the train station at a normal pace. Not a single time! Because my level of “optimism” (the thinking “ah, there’s plenty of time left, might as well try to finish this”) just expands to fill whatever amount of time I happen to have…

    People think I’m late because I’m selfish. If only! Because that would imply that I somehow benefit from being late, which I don’t. In fact I only screw myself over every time, so it’s more like being “anti-selfish”, which doesn’t make much sense, but neither does any of this shit. It’s completely irrational self-destructive behavior.

    Tim, thank you so much for writing about this! I always thought that this was such a strange defect that no one else can possibly have it, but since your brain appears to be defective in almost exactly the same way as mine, this clearly can’t be a random anomaly. Psychology needs to study this and it needs to be recognized as a disorder, like ADD. Or we have to come up with a way to fix it.

    • Joan Keijzer

      As a matter of fact it is a feature coming with ADD and/or adultADHD (which translates to ADD as well as one loses the visible hyperactivity over the years 😉 ) Have you ever had yourself tested on that? – Not that it matters much because having a diagnose doesn’t fix the problem.

      • Jaka J.

        It never occurred to me that it might be ADD, since I can focus on things

        quite intensely. Though I’m not necessarily always focused on what I *should* be focused on at the given time, so I guess it makes sense in a way. I’ll try to have myself tested, thank you for the suggestion.

        • Pepperice

          Look up Russell Barkely. I just listened to an hour long talk that he did where he described that ADHD (No such thing as ADD any more, it’s all ADHD with sdifferent subtypes) is not about a *total* lack of attention, it’s a lack of sustained attention. Us folk can change a habit… for a week, maybe, max. Then it trails off and it’s extremely frustrating. There is also such a thing as hyperfocus, which sounds a little like what you describe.

          There is a lot of bull talked about ADHD in the media, and the reality is quite different.

    • jose

      So, did you loose another train because of writing this lengthy post?

      • Jaka J.

        Lol. No, because I wrote it at 2 AM (otherwise I would’ve missed at least two). Sorry about the length. That’s another one of my issues: I can never write something short, because I feel it would be incomplete.

        • Anu

          Same here! And it seems to be the same with Tim, too. I wonder if this need to be thorough is another part of the whole procrastinator-CLIP-package.

          By the way, I bet all of us who are freaked out by how accurately he describes the inner workings of our brains are night-owls, too.

          • CoaxedOverboard

            I am the same on so many of these things, but don’t have the night-owl issue. Mainly because I love to sleep; sleeping is the best.

        • jose

          Nothing to apologize for 🙂 I’m not that bad at getting late to places but I’m the perfect procrastinator. So I kind of understand you. And yup! I’m procrastinating at this very same moment.

    • Runcibletune

      So these traits: perfectionism, night-owl, procrastinator, lateness, very intense attention on things… they all seem to go together. I certainly have all of them. And it seems so do many people in the comments. Hmm.

      • Jimmy Cooper

        I’m calling this “Tim’s disorder”.

    • ML

      Actually, all of these things are very common traits of people with ADD — including, counterintuitively, the hyperfocus.

  • Dragonfly

    I’m a recovered-CLIP. I was a bonafide CLIP
    until I was 24. Then one day while I was in grad school, I had a ‘light bulb’
    moment of how disrespectful it was to other people. Literally from that point on I
    became punctual. I wish I could harness that ‘light bulb’ in other areas of my
    life – I happen to be a serial procrastinator and my panic monster seems to be
    on strike and I can’t find the exits to the dark playground…. until I have an
    appointment that is. That probably makes me doubly insane. Odd but true story.

    • Solai

      By definition, you weren’t a CLIP. You realized the problem, then stopped. A CLIP realizes the problem, sees how it hurts people and loathes it, and can’t stop, and loathes it some more.

      But I congratulate your adjustment! Well done, sir.

      • istvan

        If you define CLIP that way, then self-identification as a CLIP is the worst thing possible. It means you believe you will never be able to change. Especially if you grow to like this cute name CLIP and get attached to this special-snowflake identity, then you will shut off any possibility to not be late in the future.

        It’s as if a fat person said “Oh, I saw that guy’s transformation, but that just shows he wasn’t really a compulsive eater and a chronically lazy person like I am, since he managed to lose weight, which is proof that by definition he didn’t have serious, unsolvable problems like I do.”

        • Solai

          This isn’t correct. You can recognize a problem, and describe it, without endorsing or excusing it. I, for example, have improved my lateness habits a decent amount after many, many years of difficulty. It’s still a huge struggle, and I understand it more than I used to, but it’s still just as present and threatening. It’s like a terrain feature; you demarcate it, then adjust your path. Or at least, attempt to; Sometimes you fail. Voicing that fact doesn’t denote an unwillingness to keep struggling.

          As for the term, it’s a useful shorthand for a pattern of behavior. I agree about risk of normalizing or accepting it, but there’s a long ways to go. Slippery slope isn’t that slippery.

      • Runcibletune

        I disagree. I think that while that person was exhibiting chronic lateness, they could be labelled a CLIP. They recovered from the “insanity” part – something that is not easy to do, as they say: it just happened the one time and has not happened since.

        Just my opinion.

        • Dragonfly

          Hi. I was definitely a CLIP – I can identify with all the characteristics laid out in the article. And given I’m under 40, I’ve spend the larger portion of my life as one 🙂
          I am still a chronic procrastinator though so clearly I have those self-sabotaging tendencies and I would love to isolate the root that switched on the lightbulb. Maybe it’s because being late now feels disrespectful to others (and I’m a slight people pleaser) while procrastinating is disrespectful towards oneself? At least it gives me hope that those addictive behaviours can be changed.

      • TedKidd

        CLIP is like any addictive behavior, and as such I think you can be either in recovery (Dragonfly), in denial, or someplace in between.

  • rage

    Question. You talked about “I’m late because I’m in denial about how time works.”

    Does that have a reason? I’m in denial about how time works because for me time works different than for other people. For other people it would take 20 minutes to pack their bag, for me it would take two hours. Because I can’t accept myself as being a person that needs 2 hours to pack a bag, I begin only one hour in advance and therefore will be late. But it’s insane to need 2 hours for packing, how could I ever accept that?

    Why are you in denial about how time works?

    • Runcibletune

      That’s really insightful, actually. As someone who fits this post down to a tee, I always do the “minimum required time estimation” even when it makes no sense. Perhaps that is because, like you, I believe it shouldn’t take me so long to do everything. But it does. And I have trouble accepting the reality of that.

      I’ve taken “too long” to do things ever since I can remember. I am naturally very very careful and detail-oriented, and I tend to go into hyperfocus (a concept I learned about while reading these comments) quite easily. When I was four years old I was already the “slowpoke” at daycare, cause I just took too long to do everything.

      Perhaps the anxiety and negative stigma I’ve always associated with taking longer than others to do things is why I try to pretend to myself that I will take a normal or even a short amount of time. Fascinating.

  • Joan Keijzer

    You pretty much nailed it, Tim! Whether it be that you are a real CLIPper or that this feature comes with adultADHD; in both cases it is very hard to analyze the problem and describe what is going on. Not even mentioning the why yet. (Often enough there is no why, it just is/happens). The insanity you refer to is only applicable to this area, and is in fact a combination of time blindness and not being able to prioritize the tasks to be done given the time you have (left) along with having a problem to make (the right kind of) decisions.

    This “insanity” is not something you can overcome or heal yourself, and I dare to wonder if it ever can be healed. I for instance am diagnosed with ADD, and despite being on medication for it, it doesn’t make me on time all of a sudden. It also doesn’t make me more aware of time, and when asked for an ETA I usually throw out a number (as that is what time is to me) without having a real understanding of what it means. What it means becomes clear much later, and most likely while I am in the process of getting there or hitting a dead line, which is in all cases too late. Too late to reschedule, and too late to even call – which is something one should always do as it shows that you do care about someone elses time, but if it is the x-th time in a row feelings of shame and guilt get in the way and even so often you won’t call as you can feel their disappointment without sharing your lame excuse (which by the way is always a made up one because the real one – namely that you have no clue on how much time you need to get there/it done along with a possible case of getting caught up on something else that is totally irrelevant to the meeting or whatever – is something you can’t get across as a valid one) and you just know that you’ve ruined another potential friend-/relationship. Sigh.

    On purpose I say ‘potential’, because with true friends this problem would or should not occure. Although I can understand the feelings of people saying that I have no respect for their time or for them, I also wonder at times if they have any for me as there are usually two people involved in a friendship.
    Not all are gifted with the understanding to things that don’t work as expected, and not all are able to use their creativity to work around that. But it is not impossible and if you truly cherish the friendship and want to help your friend, then try one of the following:
    – If meeting up on a certain time always ends up in me being late for 30 minutes, it is a solution to set the time for yourself 30 minutes later. That way you don’t have to wait, and I will stress my ass of as usually and then we both are “on time”.
    – Or when you know I have a hard time going into the transition mode (aka leave the thing I am doing and get ready to meet you) then simply call me to tell me I have to leave the house NOW (by what you take into account that it will take me 5 to 10 minutes to actually leave the house). It might come across as ‘parenting’ but this external alarm is not controlled by me, hence it is more likely for me to respond to it. This works way better than having a reminder set in my phone which is controlled by me and I know exactly with what conditions I have set it.
    – Please DON’T do this: Showing me your disappointment time after time. Although it is very tempting to give into that feeling, if the friendship is a keeper then by all means try to restrain yourself from it! Giving in to that feeling will result in the opposite thing of what you try to accomplish: it will make me leave the friendship eventually as – in my mind – it turns out I am more a burden to you than an asset. If this unbearable exercise with me hurts you that much you are probably better off without me. Because that is how much I respect you and the time that you were willing to spend with me. And even though I’m more than worth it, I can’t fix my problem with time itself without your help and I don’t need you to make me feel like a failure over it.

    Now over to my efforts. Many if not all suggestions in the comments I have tried to embed in my day-to-day life. Some help, others don’t. The thing is that being wired as I am (and many people with me) none of the mentioned solutions will work for long. They don’t settle or become a natural habit that will not involve thinking over any longer. They do not improve or change my understanding of time and how fast or slow it goes or how long it will take to get myself from A to B and back again, they are just triggers and when they lose that function over time, I’ll need to find new ones. The only thing that helps me to be somewhat more on time is by having no clock in my house set at the right time. They all are in the same hour but none is showing the actual time. So for not knowing the actual time, I don’t know how much time I have left on my hands which makes me feel uncomfortable at a certain point. That of course only helps with appointments and such, but doesn’t eliminate the problem with the calculation on the time needed to get from A to B, unfortunately. But at least it’s a start! 😀

  • WilliamSSharp

    Some New Features with waitbutwhy….. Go To Next Page

  • Unclever title

    I am not a CLIP. From time to time I do end up late in “not okay” late situations but it’s not a habitual thing with me, most of my chronic late situations fall into the “okay” category, though I often don’t really feel all that okay about them, particularly if it was something I was excited for.

    I find it fascinating how deeply tied to the same procrastination cycle the whole CLIP behavior follows, seeing as I’ve always struggled with procrastination… but not on group projects, even the kinds of group projects where I ended up doing most of the work.

    Deep down I guess I’ve always internalized it as two basic rules regarding disappointment.

    1. Disappointing yourself is acceptable. (Expected even thought I don’t like admitting it.)
    2. Disappointing others is unacceptable, unthinkable even except in the event that dwelling on such thoughts spurs you on to not disappoint others.

    Now there are limits to rule #2, it depends directly on how much I care about that person and overall how forgiving that person is. Them being more forgiving doesn’t make it more okay… but it makes it more acceptable (in the way surrendering a losing battle is acceptable) because there will be less long term damage.

    I once talked to a school counselor about these rules (in a roundabout way) and she asked me why #1 was true, which at the time utterly baffled me. Since at that point I had considered it more or less a fact of life, it was a universal truth that everyone knew and there was no need to explain it, not that I had the words to explain it anyway. But it made me realize that these rules aren’t really as hard fast as I had considered them. Granted they’re still there as I haven’t really worked on changing them.

    NOTE: This post isn’t meant as advice, just doing some sharing to internet strangers.

  • Fantastic Mr Hank

    So you blame working for being late to get to places you need to be and yet, you still can’t publish on time, lol! Tim, this whole post is just a huge excuse, excuses are what shield you from becoming truly productive. You are a phenomenal writer, perhaps the best in our generation, which is why we are all here. But your chronic tardiness with your posts is truly infuriating, you are gonna lose readership if you don’t shape up.

    • Anu

      Spoken like a sane person. You clearly don’t know what it’s like, Fantastic Mr. Frank. And what do you mean chronic tardiness? The schedule is “new post every sometimes”.

    • Uncephalized

      Dude. The Tesla post was 25,000 words long. Have you ever written anything even a tenth that length in your life? It’s not something you just sit down and do.

      And it was a research piece. He interviewed multiple people, aggregated, synthesized and illustrated an ungodly amount of information, and did it all with characteristic style, flair and humor.

      Every one of his major posts is a serious undertaking. It’s not surprising they take him so long to do. I don’t mind waiting a month or more to get a novella-length post as well-researched and entertaining as they consistently are.

      Now, I’m not trying to defend his CLIP behavior–which he admits is insane, and I agree. But to say he is “blaming work” when he is clearly blaming his tendency to procrastinate and leave decisions to his Panic Monster tells me maybe you should read a bit more carefully.

      And if you are ‘truly infuriated’ by the ‘chronic tardiness’ of a blogger on the Internet you don’t personally know then maybe you need to ask yourself why you have so little patience, why you are so easily angered and why you feel you have some kind of right to have someone else’s hard work and wisdom delivered to you on a schedule when you’re not even paying him for it.


      • Fantastic Mr Hank

        Yeah, keep on enabling him, he’s gonna start churning out articles once a year.

        • Uncephalized

          I still think you’re missing the point. But I don’t have much desire to argue about it. I’d rather stop procrastinating and get some writing done. 😉

          • Fantastic Mr Hank

            Kudos on your impressive maturity! To be fair, you made some valid points, I just wanted to see Tim do better, my criticism came from a place of love…

            • Uncephalized

              Thank you, and right backatcha.

              I actually made good on my earlier comment and got down 1450 words of a short story I’ve had banging around in my head for weeks. Now I’m getting ready for a job interview in 2 hours.

              Hooray for getting shit done!

        • ML

          So what if he does? Are you paying him for these? Is your ability to live your life being disrupted?

  • Anu

    You are me. Can you also write a post on how it’s like to be an evening person in a world of early birds? You know: the hyper-mode your brain is in when you’re supposed to go to sleep and the physical pain of having to wake up in the morning. The whole unfairness of always having to go to bed when you don’t want to and always having to wake up when you don’t want to. I know you know what I’m talking about. You just know everything.

    • Jaka J.

      Yes, me too! Why is that?? Is that also some form/symptom of ADD?

      • Crystal

        I have delayed sleep phase disorder and it seems like both of you do too, but best to be checked by a doctor and have a sleep study. The ADA defines a disability as interrupting a major life necessity…i.e. sleep. My dspd has allowed my employer to make reasonable accommodations for me to come in 3 hours later and stay 3 hours later. If you continue with the whole 8-5 grind with dspd, it will slowly kill you. I know.

        • Anu

          Woah. Reading the Wikipedia article on DSPD brought me to tears.

          For the first time in my life, it seems like there’s an actual reason for this struggle. And it’s not just that I’m lazy and irresponsible and need to grow up. I have DSPD. I can’t “grow up” from that. This is so relieving and a little depressing at the same time. But mostly relieving. Thank you, Crystal.

    • Seconded! This is why I’m always exhausted at work…

  • JohnAdams_1796

    A good start to an analysis of your CLIP-ness, but I’d bet it goes a lot deeper. Imagine for a moment that you are marched at the point of a gun so that you always arrive punctually. Imagine this goes on for the rest of your life. How does that feel?

  • v43

    Honestly, as years go by, I value punctuality less and less. what’s the point of having a stressful commute, a stressful journey, a stressful date, just because you HAVE TO be on time? why?! I don’t really care anymore. I liked the university, or workplaces where punctuality doesn’t matter that much. If I got to work late, then I’ll stay some more during lunchtime. If I’m gonna be late for the train.. well hopefully there will be another one leaving sooner or later. If I’m late for a date, I’ll have something to make up to 😉 I’ll be right on time when there’s really a need for it (eg: my current employer will fire me if I’m late. Happened once in the last 3 months – in order to keep it chill I have to wake up pretty early… and I hate it).

    • v43

      and I might be an asshole, but no one ever told me so.
      I think it’s more about modesty. Does it really matter that I am on time? won’t things go along even if I am a little late? I think so. Of course when I am aware my presence is indispensable I’ll be on time, but usually it’s really not the case.

  • Biff Wonsley

    So, one long excuse as to why you can’t be bothered. Feel better now? ?

    Seriously, though. Late people are late. that’s as far as I think about it. And gradually these people are cut adrift because there’s only so much rudeness I can put up with from putative friends. We get enough of that from strangers. Dress it up all you want, that’s still a pig you’re putting lipstick on.

    Best thing my mom did was beat into me (sometimes literally,) the necessity of always being on time. Or call ahead on the odd occasion when you can’t.

    Congratulations on pushing our (people who *can* be bothered to show up on time) buttons.

  • istvan

    Clocks are a recent invention and we haven’t evolved to be good at managing time on the minute level. It’s a very abstract thing. We’ve been using clocks for only a few generations (basically since we have trains). Until that, we were more event-driven. When it rains, we move in. When it’s dark, we stop working. When the meat looks cooked, we eat it. People didn’t meet at exact times, they visited “sometime in the evening”.

    So it’s not surprising that some people just can’t cope with explicit time management.

    • Tom Miller

      After reading this I just moved from Group 2 to Group 1. Thanks!

  • Pablo Luzu

    I am optimistic, to the point of being unrealistic. i guess this is the incorrect perception of time by CLIPs. However my main reason for being late is an obsession with efficiency, where i think “everyone is a little late and if i get there 5 minutes early what will i do with all that idle time?”. so i guess i AM valuing my time more than other people’s. selfish. But after having pissed off many friends and family many times, especially the more structured ones, i have improved. I guess the way others see me is important to me (is that selfish?) so i hate to be seen as unreliable and asshole-like. so now i’m still never early but usually not very late. the point is that i think there is an equilibrium for each of us between indulging in our insane tendencies and being the impossible perfect person we want to be.

  • Fabio

    Thanks alot Tim for this post. Finally someone who understands me 😀
    I learned alot about why people coming late in the last few months. As I began to be able to control the CLIP in me (sometimes more, sometimes less succesfull) I found myself more and more standing between CLIPs and sane persones, undestanding both sides. That often brought me in weird situations when in the end everybody got offended.
    I often tried to explain to both sides, what the problem really consists of, but most people never got my point.
    Thanks for fighting for understanding between those two sides, this world needs this so much!

  • jessicahealy

    You understand me on a level that I don’t even understand myself. Also I think we are the same person. Which means you know yourself better than I know myself. Or do we know each other better than we know ourselves? I love you (me).

  • Madame Blue

    Thank you Tim for distinguishing between okay lateness, and not-okay lateness. I found Haltiwanger’s article frustrating with its “all lateness is OK” attitude. I’m a CLIP, and know full well that I tend to underestimate the time it takes to get places. I also hate transitions. For years, I was the mom who picked up her kids late after school, often calling the office with the message for them to walk to my sister’s house.

    I’ve recently learned how to manage my “early warning systems” so that I am punctual for the important stuff (work, appointments), but by no means am I more than a few minutes early, except by fluke. Even then, there are times that I get caught up in what I’m doing for whatever reason. I can’t seem to switch gears, and am late as a result. My self-loathing gets pretty intense then, and I end up dwelling on my fuckup for the rest of the day. Emily Condit’s comment below includes a link that provided some insight, at least for me, and I think it’ll help me break the negative pattern.

    The real secret, I suppose, is that none of this is a valid excuse for tardiness. It’s simply a vehicle to help people consider the problem.

  • Runcibletune

    In reading these comments and thinking about the issue, I’m beginning to believe that the “benefit” to people who are irrationally chronically late lies in a sort of “delay of self-loathing” that comes with holding oneself to irrationally perfectionistic standards and being unable to relax about them.

    Example: I realized from one of the other comments that I dislike admitting to myself that I take longer than other people to accomplish tasks. The 20-minute packing example would probably take me closer to 1 hour, and that would be pretty close to maximum efficiency for me. I have always been like this. But loathe it about myself, and so try to pretend that I’m not “defective” (this is what my self-critic is telling me) by pretending that I will take a normal, or even smaller than normal, amount of time.

    Example 2: I strongly identify with Tim’s dislike of switching from one activity to another. Sometimes, as one might expect, this is because I really like what I’m doing. More often, though, the thing I’m doing is pretty neutral. It’s more likely that I don’t want to switch tasks because then I will be reminded of all the things I’ve procrastinated on today, or all the more valuable things I could have been doing with my time, or how long the task I was doing has taken me (longer than I think a normal person would take), or any of the other anxieties in my life that I don’t have to deal with when I’m hyper-focused on something.

    And, here’s the important part: Because I am unable to accept my flaws as natural and be compassionate towards myself, remembering of any of the above things sets off my overactive self-critic and I am on my way into a spiral of self-loathing and anxiety. Therefore it is to my (temporary, emotional) advantage to put off switching tasks for as long as possible, and often significantly longer than I have time for.

    I realize that this doesn’t make being late okay. But I think that perhaps this set of behaviours that I suffer from (as does Tim and many other commenters here, it seems) – perfectionism, hyperfocus, chronic lateness, destructive staying up late, and procrastination – can all be traced back to being messed-up coping mechanisms for an overactive, unyielding self-critic.

    (PS – This is new information for me! I figured it out while reading the comments. Thanks, other commenters!)

    • ML

      >> perfectionism, hyperfocus, chronic lateness, destructive staying up late, and procrastination

      Is that you, me?

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  • R1ckr011

    Runcibletune • 4 hours ago
    “In reading these comments and thinking about the issue, I’m beginning to believe that the ‘benefit’ to people who are irrationally chronically late lies in a sort of ‘delay of self-loathing’ that comes with holding oneself to irrationally perfectionist standards and being unable to relax about them.”

    I believe this kind of about religious people, that it’s not belief: It’s a “delay of disbelief” that comes from loving fiction and getting absorbed into it.
    Similarly, and yet somewhat paradoxically, the “ideal” is always separated from “the real”: being absorbed in one’s life causes one to avoid time, especially human notions of time since they are all predicated on ideals that are “a pack of lies agreed upon”. Consider Christmas Island as an example. Happiness is ignoring the ideal, and yet religion is (to me) about ignoring the truth. I can agree quite strongly with his “Truthism” mantra, thought his Tiered Structure leaves much to be desired simply from a fundamental ontology standpoint as well as a matter of physical/pragmatic principles.

    He also goes on to talk about criticality. I don’t have the lateness issue… well for some things yes, other things no. I think I’ve gotten worse as time goes on. And I’m a very critical person…downright assholish in my unyielding blade of logic. I think that I try and be optimistic about the future and stuff, but that may have eroded as I have lost ever more of myself to worthless projects (a.k.a. “strange moods” as in Dwarf Fortress :P). Most of these are really abortions that I might try and resurrect later. But Life has so many Actual priorities. :/

    This is also metaphorically true: That science is fiction and fiction is science. The Ideal is the model, and the Real is the sample. Nativism is something we’re losing a lot of, but I hope that this is an Uncanny Valley situation, but how we pull out of it may be by erasing all that is natural in the world and replacing it with the hyper-real in terms of coding and planning. Fiction is setting the world aside and creating an “ideal” that may match closely or not at all to what we see and feel. It’s all experimentation: composed of laboratory science. Science has gotten away from observation and moved more towards engineering. This is not largely realizable because we use more data-collecting tools than every before, but we’ve already contaminated almost all the samples we care to investigate from a bio-chemical standpoint on up.

    What this has to do with criticality and self-loathing: Well, we are natural animals, in principle. In practice we’re all engineered, like chickens, cows, social structures, economics, language, religion, and mathematics to a large part (applied as well as pure–Conventionalism is the Axiom of Choice and in large chunks of Algebra & functional analysis). Constructivism is making an interesting comeback, which is based on at least Fewer axioms that are simply heaped upon the basic notions of number, shape, space, and so on, and I think that this criticality/lateness problem is a reaction to life being nasty.

    You can “rise above”, pride goeth before the fall, sometimes; or you can knuckle down and crawl under.
    Now what about people that aren’t late? Maybe they’re “average”. They might be the type of moulding that aberrants have to encounter. I think that perhaps falling off the sides of the bell curve creates creates n-modal distributions, and these are likely to become clusters of sociological ossification, in as many different “qualia” dimensions as you care to describe. There’s at least

    This is all pop-psychology nonsense, but it’s very interesting. Sometimes people hit upon something that works, even if this is more science fiction than science. Philosophy is interesting, in that. 🙂

  • Tipsy

    This is exactly me.

  • Laiki Huxorli

    I am a reformed late-aholic. Although I still occasionally run a few minutes late, it is no longer a behavior pattern…and since I am (almost) never late any more to events where other people could be impacted by my tardiness, it doesn’t affect the quality of my social interactions. The tipping point for me was reading Julie Morgenstern’s “Time Management from the Inside Out” — her classification of chronically late people into two groups, technical and psychological, really helped me get a handle on WHY this lateness thing was an issue for me. Latecomers with technical problems (illustrated well by Tim in his packing-for-a-trip anecdote) are always late by varying amounts of time; those with psychological issues (e.g., “I don’t want to be the one who gets there early and then sits around waiting for everyone else”) are always late by the same amount of time.

    I will say this: life is very sweet when I’m on time…glad to have gotten a handle on this one.

  • Gyo

    I am sometimes late as a form of protest: I’ve realized that when I don’t really like what I’m about to do, or be with, I’m really late. If not, I’m really on time, even too early sometimes :)). So it became like a sort of measurement of how I feel about something. Plus, I never know instinctively if 10 minutes have passed or an hour since last time I’ve checked the time. It’s a lot of stress for me to be punctual, because I have to check the time like…20 times in order to be SURE that I’ll be there on time. (I was once assessed by some management counselors and they told us that creative people don’t really have “timings” like other people, which would explain this continuously feeling of… “I have no idea what the time is or how much has passed since last time I’ve checked). Weird, I know. :))

  • Elena Mahno

    Something to think about is that time, or more specifically, counting it, is an artificial phenomenon created by humans to align ourselves to each other. The detail to which we do it (i.e. hours and minutes) is rather new in the grand scheme of our animal existence. Even after years of evolution to what we are today, there is INTERpersonal variation in the way we count time. A minute in one brain was shown to last a different amount of time than a minute in another by this study: http://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-have-identified-the-personality-type-that-makes-you-chronically-late In this regard, calling people with slower internal clocks ill or insane might be akin to labeling people who prefer oranges to apples likewise. From that point of view, being late is not about the late party’s respect for the punctual party’s time, it is about a mismatch in internal clocks, potentially as wired by biology. We’ve all felt even the INTRApersonal variation in the way we count time: the same hour can slip by or drag on while we watch the clock. In line with some of the thinking above, I’ve noticed that I’m late when there’s no intrinsic motivation or excitement about the task that follows but to carry it out requires more energy than to stay in the inertia. Think about the time you used to jump out of bed excited to go to a new job/start a new project, only to find yourself dragging your feet two years later to the same office. On a more-immediate scale, if you are reading an interesting book and have to leave to meet up with a friend, the latter might be very exciting but the immediate tasks that follow (get dressed, walk/take transport there) are not. They require you to stop the flow that the procrastination article talked about and switch midsets completely. Our brains are less effective at switching between tasks than proceeding with whatever is going on already; just like a car, it takes less energy to run it than turn it on and off. It is possible that some brains are better at switching than others and hence punctuality becomes an outcome.

  • db

    Its very interesting that tim took the time to sit down and write the above article. Did spaceX’s big explosion a few weeks back a throw a wrench into your article that I’m assuming you are in the process of writing? I dig your stuff, you are the man, but I’m curious what is you do on a day to day basis? Don’t want to pry, but since i read your first article, i wondered what it is that you actually do with yourself? From your personality id say days go by where you do absolutely nothing pertaining to your posts, which is normal, people need a few days a week to do their thing. Tim-time. But you sir have become to used to the non-working persons schedule. Im the same way, but i have to admit that I’m a selfish sob, and i just don’t schedule stuff if i think I’m going to be late. What is the point of showing up late and having to do the awkward apology and what not? That just sucks. Anyways, maybe getting yourself on a normal schedule will help you manage your time better, after a few weeks of getting into your groove, whatever that may be, i guarantee you it will become easier to not be late. Then again, you may just be insane. Im insane, and thats why I’m here trying to feed my brain as much random information that i possibly can. The fact that you wrote this at least shows you care about all of us selfish people who dream of reading one of your articles every tuesday. Wait, every other tuesday. No, every….

  • Sarah Adams

    The cartoon is me exactly. Every day.

  • Holy the cow, this post very much recreates my experience. While my desire to not be a jerk to others has gotten me out of being late when others are involved (thankfully avoiding Category 2 lateness and most Cat 1s as well), I still am usually optimistic about travel times and end up with a lot of Just In Time arrivals (after cursing traffic for 22 minutes), and when it comes to my own projects… well, lots of “this is the minimum time”, perfect intricate plannings, loathe to switch tasks, etc. Insanity! 😛 Working on each insanity one at a time…

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  • Dulcie

    I hate transitions, too! Although I’m never late, I think this is one of the things that contributes to my procrastination the most. I think I’m getting a bit better, but sometimes I still lie in my bed in some uncomfortable position because I don’t want to change it.
    I guess being aware of this is the first step. Knowing that you are just one, short, slightly uncomfortable moment away from infinite bliss helps.

  • angryculture

    I usually really like Tim, but this self-justifying writing just got me a bit angry, because it just proved me right again. CLIPs really only think of themselves.

    • kitsus

      It is really, really hard to change when you’re like this. That’s not an excuse. People who are late all the time should at least attempt to change, as Tim says in the article — because as much as they hurt themselves, they are also the bane of other people’s existence, and for good reason. But what he’s trying to explain here is that it’s rooted in deeply ingrained stuff — how your brain operates, how you solve problems, how you perceive time and how you behave second to second, which is not all rationally controlled. All of this is to say that changing your chronic lateness means a seismic shift in how you perceive things and how you conduct basically every second of your life.

      I’ve heard this comparison before, and it’s completely true — telling someone to “just be on time” when they’re like this is like telling an obese person to “just eat less.” It sounds extraordinarily simple, but it is not — and the proof is in how much chronic late-comers hurt their own selves and how much they tend to hate themselves for this quality (unless they fall into the asshole category, which from my experience is pretty rare).

      I know because I’m naturally like this, and for years I’ve thought I could change easily because, really, what does it take to just fucking be on time? But you can’t treat it like a simple problem to solve, because it is not a simple problem. You have to put a massive amount of effort in — and that’s precisely what I’ve done over the past few years. I made it a priority in my life, have become obsessive about time and checking clocks, have been setting alarms like crazy, have become fastidious about planning ahead — and I’m certainly better than before, but I *still* have a ways to go.

      The point is, *that* is what you have to do in order to change. That’s how deeply ingrained this is. If you don’t make it a large-scale, continuous project in your life (like writing a novel or losing 200 pounds), then that’s the way you stay. And not everyone can or will do this, because it takes a huge amount of effort and feels so unnatural, and people are often in denial about just how much they’re hurting others. And even people who really try might stay this way or revert back. Again… think again about someone trying to lose a lot of weight.

      Again, this isn’t to excuse chronic late people. And Tim wasn’t excusing it either, if you read it carefully. It’s just an attempt to explain it.

      • angryculture

        Thank you, I’ve never thought of it that way.

      • Bob W

        Seriously? Do you have a problem with jacking off in public too? Here is an idea just be on time if you want to. There are very few things in life that I want to be on time for and most I want to leave early. For those it seems no problem whatsoever to arrive on time. The rest, well fuck em.

        • kitsus

          Well, I’m sure some people have a problem jacking off in public, and most of them probably hate themselves for that, too. But you sound perfectly accepting of all your own shitty qualities, whatever they may be. Good for you.

          • Ruth Minkov

            Kitsus, I think I love you.

        • Ruth Minkov

          Seriously? -_- Do you have a problem with jacking off onto reality? ‘Cause buddy, to everyone else here, it looks like you do.

    • ML

      I felt like him saying he’s “in denial about how time works” is not quite right from my own experience. I’ve made massive efforts to try to correct my lateness, and the harder you try, the more you realize this isn’t a matter of willpower, it’s that you seriously must have some profound difference in brain function that prevents you from achieving this.

      Rather than being in denial about how time works, I think I lack some kind of time “depth perception.” Like if you covered one eye, you wouldn’t be able to gauge the distance to something in front of you until you’re right up on it. You could try, but you’ll often be wildly off the mark, because your brain literally just does not have the tools to perceive that without bifocal vision.

      I think the problem is more like that — you know in your head that something is 15 minutes away just like a one-eyed person might know something is 15 feet away. But you can’t actually sense that distance/time span ahead of you. So 15 minutes away doesn’t feel much different than 30 minutes away, and I don’t realize I’ve passed the point of no return until I’m already there, like a one-eyed person not realizing when they need to slow down so they don’t crash into something.

      That, and definitely the optimism of believing everything you need to get done will take 5 minutes instead of 20. But that also has to do with warped perception of time.

      But it’s not a matter of not thinking of other people. When you don’t feel like you’re going to be late, you’re not thinking about how it’s going to negatively impact people… because you think you’ve got time. Until you realize you don’t, but it’s too late, and then you feel horrible.

      • Stella Doro

        YES! This is exactly what happens to me. I don+t realize that the minutes are ticking away. My employer for many years was so understanding that he gave me a time span – I could arrive between 8.30 and 8.50 in the morning and naturally then I worked a bit later in the evening. Of course everebody concerned in the office knew about this, and it took away a lot of stress for all of us.

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  • Your article works for me much more than Tim’s, though I’d say an addition to “Not okay lateness” could be “I arrived late, the group started without me (say, in a meeting, and I missed something important.” I have someone I worked with was perpetually late for setting up for a workshop we run. I never did much more than poke fun at her for it, and then eventually just treated it as predictable (as in “I give up.”) Lately, she’s begun showing up earlier. Not sure if there’s a causal relationship to my perspective on it, but I’m glad she made the change.

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  • PepijnNL

    The article you reference pissed me off for a different reason… Being on time is actually one area in my life where the monkey does not hold much sway over me. I’m not always on time, but I am when it matters. This is not something that came naturally though, it took work to get where I am and I’m proud of it. So now this jackass comes and tells me that apparently it means I can not be an optimist? Because that’s what he says, all optimists are always late, ergo, if you’re not always late you can not be an optimist. I know I’m in the minority looking at things in such a logical way and that’s probably not what they meant, but they still say that and it still pisses me off.

  • Katie Duval

    I was raised in a family where not being on time was considered very rude so I’m a fairly punctual person. And as a good friend of a CLIP I know how frustrating it is when someone else is running late. Early on in our friendship it was really angering being kept waiting all the time. But I’ve learned to anticipate the half an hour time difference he seems to be on. If I’m meeting him some where I will show up half an hour late. If he’s my ride somewhere, I tell him we have to be somewhere half an hour before we do. It seemed like a mean thing to do to him when I first started since there was always the potential of him being “on time” which would actually make him half an hour early. But the one or two times that’s actually happened he’s usually so relieved because he’s never early for things!

    But the bottom line is I really value this friend and accept that this is a flaw he has. And I’m not a perfect person or friend either and he still values me. Obviously I want him to keep trying to be more punctual -as any friend supports another when they’re working on their self improvement- but being cross with him constantly isn’t going to fix it.

  • Gary Rick

    An alternate explanation that doesn’t imply intentionality or the presence of a character flaw: The behavior described by the author represents one manifestation of the ‘inattentive’ variant of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). ADD, a neurological impairment of the brain’s executive function, can be treated with medications (e.g., adderall, Focalin, Concerta, etc) and talk therapy to learn new adaptive behaviors.

    • Ruth Minkov

      I support this explanation. I have both. My behaviour is only beginning to change now that I am on medication, although I have been in therapy for years, dealing with the “life side-effects” of ADD-I (which I thought was just me being an utter lunatic). I like your concise explanatory style. Kudos.

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  • “…had no choice but to take a quick nine-hour break from …” As always, great writing, Tim.

  • Kunal Tolani

    This is so me. Especially the part about irrational resistance to transition. Right now, it’s 3a.m. and I want to read a book, or maybe sleep, but no, I’ll keep surfing and passing time reading stuff online till I can’t anymore. I usually deal with the instant gratification monkey by this: If I have to leave at 6.05 in the morning, I have go make sure that in my mind, the cutoff time is set to 5.55, and even if I leave 10 minutes late it’s okay as I’m not late at all. But usually I don’t even leave by then.

  • Sarelseemonster

    I have a solution that may help treat the symptom, but not the cause – but it takes a few good friends and some planning.
    A kind of “Intervention” for the Chronically late person.
    Set all his/her watches, Phone etc to be 20 minutes early. it has to be done by others, as if you do it yourself…you know if it says say 14h00 it’s actually 13h40.

    • Resethel

      Oh! we did it for a friend of mine, this is really, reaaalllyyyy effective!
      I recommend it too! For the symptom at least!

      • Sarelseemonster

        HAHA! Awesome! Good job.

  • Maryann

    I recently read an article that made me think of your procrastinators post. Curious to know how you feel it corroborates your ideas about lateness vs. flow

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  • Rebecca

    Your illustration nailed it. That is my life!

  • scooby

    This site was better when there were posts. The Tesla/Space X stuff really isn’t worth months of nothingness. Elon Musk has killed waitbutwhy.

    • nightowl

      I actually quite like the musk posts. They’re quite heavy topics so understandably Tim will take longer. I think all in all wbw is still as alive as ever, just that there’s more words less frequently.
      But, I can see where you’re coming from. I constantly refresh wbw for spaceX, and I am frustrated, trust me. Fret not, after the space x and solar city posts, Tim will be back to weekly posts (hurrah!)

    • Snowskeeper

      I mean… It kind of is? He’s talking about things that directly relate to humanity’s ability to continue existing, Scooby. I think he’s allowed to take a few weeks off to write them.

  • Kesesesesese

    I may be one of the worst procrastinators ever but I am obsessed with punctuality. I am the only one early to parties and always wake up on time. I have every minute perfectly calculated plus about 25% of required so I can “smell the roses”. I always overestimate so I’m more than 10 minutes early. So what if I’m a punctuality freak. I just do not like to disrespect people.

  • Shailesh Shenoy

    I actually hate to be punctual…. Coz I’m always there before time and then others come late and I hate myself for coming early as much as I hate them for being late…. And I always decide that next time I’ll come late so than I actually reach when everyone reaches but then again I’m there earlier …

  • Tufy

    Packing takes 4 minutes and 23 seconds. You open a bag, throw some clothes in, zip it and done. Fact, because I’ve done it before and timed myself.

    • Snowskeeper

      Sure is fun assuming everyone has exactly the same needs as you do, isn’t it.

  • Bob W

    Just so you know, in the time it has taken Tim to write his little write up, Robert Platt Bell over at livingstingy.com has put up about 20 posts. He writes these in the morning as he also has job. I think that Tim is just jerking our chains here.
    Of course the blog is named wait but why. The wait part is essential to understand. It seems to be a big marketing and contrived psychological aspect of the blog and garnering readers.
    Kinda like anticipating a vacation for month ahead. The vacation may suck or just be so so but most folks will repeat this behavior over and over due to the anticipation factor.

    • d

      Fun fact: wait but why website consistently loads much slower over a range of devices and usually takes at least 40+ seconds for the discussion part to load up, and it never works on my phone.

      • nightowl

        maybe this is a phone problem? from my experiences with disqus on my mac and on my phone on the subway, and my friends too, it seems like disqus lags a little, but it usually loads within 10 seconds, never more 🙂

    • Matt

      I’d never come across this blog. This guy thinks remarkably clearly for somebody writing so early in the morning. I still love WBW, but I’m kind of annoyed that Elon Musk has muscled his way in and essentially ruined it, regardless of how cool or great an opportunity it was for Tim. Whether the rot is temporary or not remains to be seen.

      PS: it’s actually livingstingy.blogspot.co.uk/

    • nightowl

      I’ve checked out this website, and I think I know why this guy posts much more than tim.
      1. Tim writes way more
      Tim’s average post is 3000-8000 words. That guy looks like he posts 1000 words per article?

      2. Tim has illustrations
      Tim literally has to draw pictures from scratch, and with his crippling perfectionism, he would probably redo them till he thinks they’re good enough.
      3. Tim writes about heavier topics.
      AI, Fermi, Tim has to research for days to become experts about all these things. WBW is no ordinary blog about what Tim thinks, it’s a content website. Robert doesn’t look like he writes about these things, and the topics he writes about like portable wifi hotspots and camping don’t need that sort of in depth research

      anyway, tim will literally be explaining ROCKET SCIENCE to us, so let’s try to sympathise.

  • Eilidh

    Also, only at 2.07 – time to LEAVE, will I suddenly realise that I have to print something to take with me, find my keys, check the weather forecast, etc, etc.

  • Friedrich

    Living as a CLIP is a strange exercise. What I find interesting is that when someone else is late, I’m never angry at them. I get a chance to cool down after the rush to make it on time (doesn’t happen). I get to collect myself and maybe even get to do some thinking and relaxing while waiting. The result is that I’m often thankful when other people are late, and that sure doesn’t help overcoming my own tardiness, because in a supplementary twist my monkeybrain convinces itself that others might also be thankful for me being late. Of course no one is.

    • carter

      I’m absolutely glad when the others are late, because I don’t have to feel guilty about making them wait. Except of course when they start apologising on arrival for making me wait, whereas I only arrived a minute or two before them.

  • Bob w

    Times up Tim. Dog ate your homework?

  • Annmcamp


  • Johnny

    Dude, this blogpost is so me that it’s downright scary. I found it while chill’n in the dark playground, but I’m glad that happend. Ordered your awesome Panic Monster plush and I hope it will kick my butt by just looking at it.

    Thanks, Tim. Great post!

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  • Lukas

    Amazing article! In two ways – that someone can exactly describe what I feel (and how I act) and because someone feels the same and I’m not alone in this 🙂

    I always want to make the most stuff just before I leave and the more I was procrastinating the more I want to catch it up. And of course I don’t like the changes.

    For example right now the Panic Monster is just arriving. I should be already 20 minutes on the way. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  • Violamadness

    This is definitely a work in progress area of my life. I used to be a CLIP, a really bad one. Now, because I have to take the bus to work, I have no choice but to be on time. If I miss my bus, I’ll have to take a cab. I A.) don’t have a lot of money right now, and B.) teach in the public school system, so I do Not have the option of taking a cab or being late. If I don’t get to school in time, there will be a small horde of children destroying my classroom 😛
    My biggest problem is just getting out the door on time. I’ll have figured out how long the walk is, when I need to leave etc. etc, but if I need to be out the door at 7:05, I’ll be at the door and realize I can’t find my other shoe, and that I can’t find my music, and I forgot to grab my lunch out of the fridge. To counter this for school, I pack my bags the night before. Problem solved! I’ve also started telling myself to get out the door ten minutes early in every day life as well- that way, if I’m running late, I’m not actually late.

    • Darby J

      Yes! THIS!!

      At some point in time, living as a CLIP, I believe that a majority of us take on a certain level of responsibility that binds us to keeping on schedule. I wanted to upgrade my job from level A to level B, and in order to do so, I had to get a wrap on my lates, and now here I am, working at level B.

      I’m sure if one is self employed, or their career doesn’t rely on a punch clock, it’d be harder to keep the instant gratification monkey in-check.

  • Dr M

    So, the analysis was superb…. and therefore enabling narcissists to understand their CLIPs….but how about suggesting solutions for folks to not be assholes….or CLIPs… Any insights there? Perhaps a topic for another eagerly awaited blogpost!

    • Dr M

      Ofcourse one needs to read the twin posts on procrastination for the answers!

    • Simplicio

      Mindfulness training.

  • Pained

    The reason he is late is that he is selfish and entitled. It’s clear in the comment ascribed to the IGM – “Continuing to do what we’re currently doing is a more enjoyable activity than packing up and leaving.”

    Notice the complete absence of empathy and care for the reason he is packing up and leaving — the people he promised to meet. Notice that having an enjoyable activity in the moment is the sole value he has and it is the strongest driving motivator.

    The entitlement that he gets to enjoy what he wants, and that such enjoyment is more important than responsibilities is narcissism.

    I don’t see any self loathing here. I see primarily a willingness to do whatever feels good in the moment at the expense of being an adult with responsibilities.

    • Andrew

      Not acknowledging the consequences is not being selfish and entitled. In that period of time, his mind was only focused on the present time, he did not processed and analysed all the consequences of his action then decide to take an action in expenses of others. I’ll say lack of notion rather than being selfish man.

      • Dan

        No…the monkey is selfish and short-sighted. The Rational Decision Maker is considerate and logical. The point is, the CLIP is a combo of both, and the CLIP’s consciousness is aware of how selfish the monkey is and feels horrible that the monkey did what he did.

      • Pained

        In the moment that the IGM says ‘more enjoyable’ it is clear that he is weighing his fun against doing the right thing. He is choosing over and over his fun over other people. It’s a conscious intentional choice and that makes it selfish.

        Oh sure he feels terrible LATER. What good does that do the person who is left waiting?

        Tim gets his bonus fun and probably sympathy from all of you here about how hard it is to feel horrible about .. getting what he wanted to do. I hope the person left waiting isn’t such a chump as to feel bad for him and leaves without him.

        • Snowskeeper

          You’re missing the point. He doesn’t choose to do either of these things. They happen because human beings are inherently irrational and stupid, and we have difficulty punching our subconscious in the face, even when we really need to.

          • Pained

            Why exactly do you have difficulty punching your subconscious in the face? Doesn’t that mean you realize you are choosing your actions?

            I understand they are difficult, and maturity and balancing selfishness — which isn’t inherently wrong — with compassion for others is leaning into that difficulty, choosing that difficulty because treating other people well is a value.

            If you need to do something you want to do, I’m certain you do it.

            • Snowskeeper

              I want to write a book. I enjoy writing. I have a world in my head, and I have a beginning, middle and end. I know who the characters are, and they all have their own stories and histories to draw on. On the rare occasions where I manage to sit down and start writing, I love the fuck out of it, and it feels great. But more often, when I sit down to start writing, I boot up a video-game instead. Or I go to one of the forums I’m on and violently smash the refresh key–sometimes for over an hour. Or I write something completely unrelated to my book, post it on the internet without editing it, then take it down half an hour later. And I feel incredibly shitty while I’m doing all those things.

              How does that fit into your “maturity and balancing selfishness” theory, exactly? Because I’m not seeing it. If I enjoy writing and want to write my book, why am I constantly ending up in the dark playground? Especially since I have no source of income (writing short stories would provide me with one), need to replace my computer, etc.? That puts this firmly in the “need to/want to” category.

              And asking “why exactly do you have difficulty punching your subconscious in the face?” is like asking a depressed individual “why can’t you tell your serotonin levels to just _stop_ being fucked up?” It’s not something I can control–at least, not without applying some form of outside stimuli, which is a problem because university profs aren’t going to help with that, my parents have had enough of my shit as far as that’s concerned, and _I’m unable to control it because I’m the person with the problem I’m trying to solve._ As for friends: don’t have any. Realized I was fucking them over in my second grade school, although they didn’t really seem to care. Made sure not to get any in my third. Have carried that practice over to university; have made this easier by taking mostly online courses this year.

              So yeah, this is a big fucking deal, and it’s not something that someone can just _stop_. It’s a character flaw, and it’s something that we should try to encourage people to stop doing, and it’s a fault with an individual, but it’s not necessarily the individual’s fault.

              Sorry. Went off the rails, a little, there. Talking about this is aggravating.

            • Pained

              You say it is not something you can control and then right after the — you explain how you can control it. Do that.

              My point wasn’t about how to address the character flaws associated with being late (and procrastination in general), it was that embracing those flaws and making them seem like they are acceptable in any way is condoning selfishness and narcissism to the detriment of the people with these problems.

              They are problems, as is depression, exactly. Drugs and CBT in particular are ‘outside stimuli’ that will change your character. Do that. Other tools are timers like Pomodoro (may or may not work for you, some depression drugs work or don’t work for someone…). There are tools, there are paths and it’s harder than anything else you have done, until you have done it. Then you reap the rewards of doing the really hard things that will bring you great intrinsic joy (note: you’ll always have procrastination problems, they will be controlled, like depression). I wish you the best.

            • Snowskeeper

              I’m on anti-depressants. Anti-depressants do not change your character. They affect your serotonin re-uptake levels. If you stop taking them, your serotonin re-uptake levels go back to the way they were. It’s like slapping a band-aid on a problem and hoping that it goes away, but it’s the best way we have to deal with it. There aren’t any solutions like that for procrastination. There are /solutions,/ but they’re insanely difficult to apply, because the problem is one where you have difficulty motivating yourself to do things.

              This article was not about condoning or embracing character flaws relating to procrastination. This article was about /explaining/ character flaws relating to procrastination. That’s a very key difference. Tim explains several times that this sort of thing is not acceptable behaviour; he was attempting to explain what exactly was going on in the heads of the people experiencing it, not attempting to say that it’s okay that this happens. In case it isn’t clear, I am not condoning this behaviour either. I fucking hate myself for it. But calling it “selfish” is wrong. It’s not selfish. The people who end up doing it hate themselves for it. It’s involuntary–it’s not something that people willingly do, any more than shouting at people for little to no reason is something that depressed individuals do.

              Again: my argument here is not that this behaviour is acceptable; it’s that calling the people who participate in it selfish is counterproductive and antagonistic.

            • Pained

              Once again you write the same point “There aren’t any solutions like that for procrastination. There are /solutions,/ but they’re insanely difficult to apply, because the problem is one where you have difficulty motivating yourself to do things.”

              Thus there are solutions. Being an alcoholic is selfish and I agree pointing that out isn’t very helpful to the alcoholic, but neither is saying you are just describing how they think …. and not in the context of how they are getting support and solutions to change.

              What I found most upsetting about his article is that he, and you it seems, are unwilling to address how your actions impact other people — because it is insanely difficult and you get pleasure out of the dark playground. That pleasure is a stronger motivator and the people who see over and over they are less valued by you get hurt.

              Could you, instead of telling me a third time it’s too hard, tell me how you could focus on someone else’s needs — you might be bored waiting or miss out on the 10 minutes of dark playground that would have made you late. Are you willing to choose that for someone else’s happiness in seeing you on time? Not doing so is indeed a character fault and the fault is selfishness.

              What Tim laid out so clearly is that he may say he fucking hates himself, but his actions are that he loves himself more than anyone else, and that fun of the moment is his highest motivator. That he also hate himself for making that wrong choice, shows that shame is also selfish.

            • hatch99

              Same poster here, finally registered. I think my language was unclear — it is my intention to call out the *behavior* of acting selfishly, while accepting that Tim, and you, are sound people. Feeling shame about acting selfishly — and you and he both talk about hating yourself which sounds a lot like shame — is selfish in that it makes the issue about you and not the ones who suffer as a result of your behavior. There has been a lot of work done recently about shame — Brene Brown.

            • Dmitry

              This guy understands it. High five, my man.

            • hatch99

              High five? More like a hug please.

              Being friends with someone who is late or procrastinates is sometimes painful (thus my anon name) — truly when Tim wrote ‘more enjoyable’ it was a knife in my heart because the other person knows it is exactly that.

              The person who is late considers their needs more enjoyable and is demonstrably unable to step past this. It helps to see the way he rationalizes it and tries to avoid agency by claiming it’s a monkey…

              Tim can talk about monkeys and monsters and make plushies all he wants. We who are left waiting get no comfort from them.

  • Dmitry

    You don’t have your priorities set right. It doesn’t matter to you that much to not let the other person down. If somebody (for the sake of argument) would shoot you in the head if you were late, something tells me you would be on time. Get your shit together. Or else people will eventually stop doing business with you because being late is the big sign of disrespect.

    • onesecond

      Somehow it seems you didn’t get the “insane” part at all. Somehow I envy you and pity you at the same time.

      • Dmitry

        It is not insanity – it is the lack of discipline. Which will eventually bite you in the ass down the road.

        • Snowskeeper

          So, uh. What have you done, today?

          ‘Cause you’re talking about someone who does shit-tonnes of research into fields most people don’t know or care about, uses that information to write enjoyable and interesting articles, and posts those articles to this blog on a fairly regular basis.

          Not saying that you’re not doing anything important, just. Y’know. Maybe insisting that his problem is discipline is a little bit silly in this situation.

          • Dmitry

            Don’t put up the White knight armor trying to defend author while showing how loyal you are to him.

            And nobody will start list all their good deeds in order to impress you, random internet guy. Personally I wouldn’t do that for anyone even in the real everyday life.

            The issue here is this. Letting other people down is not good even if you are the president (or even Elon Musk for that matter). And since you can understand only egocentrical reasoning: people will stop respecting YOU at the end. If you still somehow will be able to see the whole picture – people are depending on you and you make their lifes harder like a little kid does. Grow the fuck up.

            In my experince, non-punctual people usually have very low social skills to the boot . Wonder why is that…

            • Snowskeeper

              I’m not. I’m trying to explain your mistake to you.

              I did that to prove that discipline is probably not his issue. I’m sure there are plenty of other things I could have listed if I wanted to show you every good thing he ever did.

              Derpaderp, I know, and so does he. Look at the article. He says, clearly, several times, that it’s not a good thing to let people down like that. This article was not an attempt to jutsify it, it was an attempt to explain it. So, again, in case you missed that, in capital letters: HE’S NOT SAYING THIS IS AN OKAY THING. HE’S SAYING THAT IT’S A THING THAT HAPPENS, AND THAT IT’S DIFFICULT TO STOP DOING IT.

              In my experience, anecdotal evidence is worthless, and people who use it to make sweeping judgements about large groups of people are usually assholes. Wonder why that is…

            • Dmitry

              You unwillingly proving my point on social skills. Immidiatelly starting hysterics and trying to call people names.

              Author thinks it is OK to be late. Why? Because he keeps doing that. Person who waits for him doesn’t care. Actions matter more than words.

            • Snowskeeper

              You act as if you weren’t doing exactly the same thing with your ad hominem attack in the last line. Either you’re pretending that was somehow not an insult, which is stupid of you, or you’re so lacking in self-awareness that you genuinely don’t realize that it was one, which is even worse.

              That’s not how the human brain works, Dmitry. I praise you on your ability to exist as a human without a subconscious, but the vast majority of of the population has one, and the vast majority of the population experiences things that they are unable to control as a result of it. It’s not a matter of discipline.

    • PatientZer0

      Wrong, we would get shot in the head.
      Not the first, maybe not even the second time, but very very early in the experiment.

      • Dmitry

        You wouldn’t 🙂

        • Naoyusimi

          The article went over your head. You fundamentally do not understand the problem.

  • JBChrome

    Basically it comes down to the fact that (according to one of my favorite fictional philosophers) man is not a rational creature, he is a RATIONALIZING creature.

  • Katie Hannan

    A little bit of this, but also the fact that I was born two weeks late, how can I POSSIBLY CATCH UP!?

  • I am Strategically late. Droppingaline.com

  • onesecond

    I am so with you.

  • wobster109

    This is me exactly, and the best solution I’ve found is to live/work with a sane person. I’ll feed the sane person, and in exchange they will manage me.

    • v

      did you just describe my life?

  • Johns688

    Socially aware people will, subconsciously, recognise the inconvenience being late presents to others (e.g. for meetings).

    Chronically late people could have a host of “issues” related to seeking attention (being late will always guarantee attention, especially for an important meeting).

    Or an elevated sense of importance – “I can be late, like the PM, or President, no one’s going to complain”

    Or, it could be they are really wanting to avoid the event, despite requests, or demands etc.

    Or .. .similar issues related to some sort of non-empathic dynamic.

    • Naoyusimi

      Attention is actually the LAST thing I want, and one of the worst things about arriving late is all of the attention on me. I HATE IT.

      A desire for avoidance makes more sense, but it’s still not logical. “Insanity” is looking more and more accurate to me.

      Non-empathic is the opposite of everything I believe myself to be, so if I’m even a tiny bit CLOSE to being the way I think I am, that’s not it, either.

  • Simplicio

    For those wanting a solution, mindfulness training is a good proven start.

  • Snowskeeper

    You can’t have read the article if what you took away from this was that he “can’t be bothered.”

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  • cajar

    Hyper-focus, inattentive, lofty goals — believing you can “fit more tasks into a limited amount of time more than other people” — are all classic signs of add/adhd. We don’t mean to be selfish or inconsiderate, though recognizing how tardiness affects others has been huge in changing my MO. Even as I type, my original intent was to look up my pilates schedule, but the boyfriend left up this page, probably for my benefit. Bad move on his part, because now I have to look up my disqus password, after perusing several more blog entries with which I identify, and before you know it, I’m deep into various articles and have blown away most of my morning… and late for my pilates class.

    • ЯИNR

      I feel like this article and Why Procrastinators Procrastinate describe people with ADD/ADHD.

  • Hilrunner55

    Wow did this resonate with me…I’d also add that two subpoints of being in denial about how time works
    is chronically underestimating the time any given task will take 1) when tired, or 2) when SUPER focused.

    I’ve had to change up my lifestyle so that I do absolutely nothing in the AM besides dress myself and
    stumble out the door because I used to try and wake up early all like:
    “Wooo, I’m gonna magically transform into a morning person and start the day off strong! I may be in a caffeine-deprived stupor right now, but if this task normally takes twenty minutes at night, the same will be true in the morning! Wait, it’s already been forty minutes and I’m only halfway done because I had to stare mindlessly at the wall every couple of minutes?!?! AHHHHHHH!!!”

    The other scenario is that I start something small well in advance, but unexpectedly get “in my zone” and temporarily forget that time and commitments exist. I am convinced that I will die someday from one of the mini-heart attacks I get whenever I am jolted out of a period of intense focus by remembering that the world is moving forward outside of some problem that I allowed to consume my brain for several (unplanned) hours.

    I may be a CLIP at heart, but I admit one of the reasons it’s been so hard for me to change is that I also do have a bit of asshole in me. As terrible as I feel about inconveniencing others, I have developed a mistrust of people who place punctuality on such a high pedestal. I’ve encountered too many of them who were not focused on the actual results of any task, and consequently were under-performers who kept their positions (at least in the short run) only by not stepping on anyone’s toes with the small stuff. Being on time is a show of basic manners and professionalism that everyone should strive for, but anyone who hides behind it while doing a total half-ass job needs to GTFO. If I heard more people I respected making the noise about who was late, who dressed too casually, or who snuck an extra doughnut, I’d have a much firmer resolve to improve… I guess it aligns with what the article said, but it also reeks of a very assholish justification I use to get to sleep at night after I fail at one of life’s simplest tasks. :/

  • Channing Krulicki

    I respond today because I, too, am insane.
    I have this view regarding perpetual lateivity. ( notice I have a problem with i before e except after c, as well)
    By common, popular standards, I am chronically late.
    I refuse to uttter any excuse because I don’t ascribe to a concept of time as being tick-tocked away. I refuse to believe that a schedule that permits you only to wait for all participants is poor planning on your part.
    You (meaning anyone planning on my presence at a particular stroke of the clock) set yourself up for disappointment when you scheduled me. When I am invariably late, others involved should put their heads together and forge on. What would you do if I was dead or injured instead of late.
    I would be delighted to see that in my absence progress was made, new relationships were forged or issues addressed.
    Using punctuality as a cage to trap us in is ignorant and selfish. It denotes an air of “I’m better than you because I am so focused on my schedule that real, actual, honest-to-God life must not intervene.”
    Fuck off, you should be overjoyed that I live life instead of creating a world where the only criteria for being awesome is by running on your clock………

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