I'm Almost Always Running Late, So I Asked a Psychologist What to Do

True story: Shortly before I moved into my current apartment, my roommate-to-be (who also happens to be one of my best friends) told me that one of the things she most anticipated about living together was to "finally see what the hell takes you so long all the time." It's been two months since she started witnessing my chronic lateness firsthand, and she'd probably tell you that she still has no insight into this terrible, no good, very bad habit—and that's probably because I don't even have a clue how it got so bad.

I'm that friend who tells you she's "on her way!" when she's still scrambling to put her makeup on, the one who always fails to account for traffic and rushes into the bar, completely frazzled, to meet you for the drinks we were supposed to start having 20 minutes ago. I consider the fact that I've never missed a flight or a meeting to be something of a small miracle, if not indicative that I am technically capable of being on time. No one needs to tell me that my defiance of any kind of punctuality is rude or inconsiderate—I know these things. And it's not for lack of trying: I pick out my outfit the night before and I try to leave 10 minutes earlier. Still, I find myself scrambling as the clock runs down, searching for my keys and my phone and my lip balm even as I can sense the growing disappointment of the person or people waiting for me.

It's an interesting phenomenon in that I'm someone who otherwise cares very much that others see me as polite and respectful—and, quite frankly, as a fully functioning adult. When I'm running late, I am not unbothered or apathetic; to the contrary, I am painfully aware that I am wasting someone else's time and that this alone could reflect badly on how I'm perceived as a person. Nonetheless, the habit remains—which has made me start to wonder if there's something deeper at play.

It turns out I might be on to something. "Sometimes habitual lateness is simply a reflection of poor organization and planning skills," says Lindsay Henderson, PsyD, a psychologist who treats patients via telehealth app LiveHealth Online. But, she says, those organization skills don't exist in a vacuum. They're an extension of our psychological disposition—and there could be a number of factors that shape this particular habit. Keep reading to find out more about what contributes to habitual lateness and how to work toward being more punctual.