Is it really true that it is better to be late than to never arrive? In my experience with ADHD and tardiness, I’d have to disagree. I say it’s better to never arrive and claim some horrible calamity had befallen you than to arrive late. They’re more likely to forgive you.
I find it puzzling that in Hallowell and Ratey’s Diagnostic Criteria for ADD in Adults, they never mention tardiness. Could I honestly be the only ADHD adult on the planet who is later than a August 15th income tax filing on a regular basis? Preposterous! Google shows 223,000 results for “ADHD tardiness”. How could Hallowell and Ratey have missed “chronic tardiness” as a criteria?
Could Tardiness Be A Symptom of ADHD?
Perhaps they felt that tardiness is a symptom of the other hallmark ADHD attributes. Certainly, impulsivity, hyperfocus, and distraction factor into tardiness. Don’t forget to throw in an intolerance for boredom. Tell me to arrive 20 minutes early and watch me break out in a sweat. 20 minutes? What will I do during all that time‽
It certainly doesn’t help that I have created a lifestyle around the last minute. I remember once in college, I was busy working on a deadline for a comic strip when I realized I needed something to complete my work. It was 5:50pm and the college bookstore closed in 10 minutes. I bolted out of my apartment, whizzed across town like a deranged lunatic, and ran at dangerous speeds through people to get to the bookstore. The bookstore was separated from a convenience store by a metal gate which was mere feet away from closing the store for the night. Without breaking my step, I ran at the gate and slid under it.
Despite the stunned look on the gate keeper’s face, I got into the department I needed and bought my item. Whatever it was. Can’t remember. But I remember how pleased I was with myself. But for every slide in the nick of time, there are other mishaps where I crash against the gate in a horrible, humiliating jumble.
The root of ADHD tardiness is either distraction or an intolerance for boredom. Distraction speaks for itself, but boredom might need more explaining.
So adverse are we to boredom that we try to fit four into three in the small amount of time we have. Although not all adults with ADHD have this problem, many do, and they can’t stand to think of an idle moment. That’s why they cram every minute with activity, often overestimating the amount of time they have. In the ADHD mind, being bored is often worse than being tardy.
The solution is to not squeeze four into three.
This will take some training.
- First, make the goal to arrive early, but bring along something to do to alleviate your repulsion to boredom.
- Second, over time, gauge how much you can actually get done in, for example, 20 minutes. That way, when you need to be somewhere and you’re squeezing ToDos into your busy schedule, you’ll have a more realistic idea of how much time things will take.
- Third, never plan activities up to the last minute. Let’s be honest, with us, something always goes wrong.
- Fourth, don’t get a job that determines your worth based on punctuality. If you have even the slightest problem with tardiness, you’ll want a job that bases your worth on your work ethic and results while cutting you some slack in the mornings.
As for distractions, you’ll need to either set alarms or choose a designated time keeper to come over and rip you away from whatever you’re doing. With effort and practice, you will get punctuality under your belt—much like a kid who finally learns to ride a bike in his 40s. Good luck.