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Since I started working on May, I'm always late. Not by minutes, but hours. Last month I logged the hour I arrived at my desk every day and calculated I'm on average 1.5 hour late.

I've been trying very hard to change this behaviour. My boss tells me all I need to do to get a promotion is to consistently arrive on time. I like my job. I've been going to therapy to deal with my chronic tardiness. I've tried to regulate my sleep. Nothing seems to work.

It's like I don't have enough will power to simply get up and leave on time. I feel stressed and sad on a daily basis.

What should I do? I want to change and I don't want to be fired.

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migrated from Dec 10 '12 at 20:17

This question came from our site for members of the workforce navigating the professional setting.

Do you like your job? Why do you not want to be at work? – Oded Dec 10 '12 at 15:04
It seems like you have deeper problems than sleep habits and being late. Probably not something that can be answered here. That said, you did not mention exercise. Daily exercise helps a lot people with mood regulation circadian rhythms. – Angelo Dec 10 '12 at 15:12
What is your morning routine? Do you even have a morning routine? – ChrisF Dec 10 '12 at 15:47
@BeetleTheNeato - don't go onto Facebook before work. In fact don't do anything that isn't directly related to getting you to work. – ChrisF Dec 10 '12 at 16:08
Is this really a workplace issue? I think it would fit better on Personal Productivity. – DJClayworth Dec 10 '12 at 16:11
up vote 42 down vote accepted

Here's a miscellaneous list of things to try, I don't have an order of operations here - I'd suggest you keep trying until you find something that works for you. Being so wildly late suggests that you probably don't have a simple, tactical problem (just leave 10 minutes earlier and you'll be on time), but something strategic and probably somewhat mentally related.

I've wrestled with getting to work on time for most of my career - so here's a number of tricks I used from personal experience. These days my fix is actually public commuting - with a train schedule to meet, and the knowledge that 2 minutes late will mean either 1 hour, or $14 (parking at work), I have found a whole new motivator - but that is too specific to be useful. Here's a bunch of ideas from my time as a solo driving commuter.

I'm of the mind that "willpower" is something we attach to a hard to understand set of motivations and simply assuming we can build up will power by being more ?willful? is usually incorrect. When I hit a willpower issue, I usually look for what drivers are pulling my will in the opposite direction.

Massively change departure time

Try doing something really nuts - leave an hour or two hours early. You may need to go to bed MUCH earlier, and you'll be seriously changing any patterns that you rely on. For example, if you normally commute just after rush hour, you may find yourself in more serious traffic. Or if you take public transit, you'll be on a very different schedule.

It's really just to shake things up. If you find that even if you have 2 hour window, you will literally drag around the house until you are late, you really have to wonder whether you're real issue is the job itself (see below).

Eliminate barriers at home

Try removing any distraction. For example, I love coffee... but I won't have it at home, because once I start sipping that delicious hot java, I am slow to leave whatever chair I've settled on.

Also - don't check mail, don't plan to pick up the house, don't do anything that isn't directly related to being prepared to get to work looking suitably professional.

Know your Drop Dead Time

Know the time you really must leave. Be realistic with yourself. If you were 10 minutes late yesterday, know your drop dead time is at least 10 minutes earlier. I often get caught in the trap of "well... in 2009, it only took me 25 minutes this one time, so I can get to work by 9:00, if I leave at 8:35". Wrong! Yesterday, I left at 8:30, I got in at 9:05. If I want to be in on time, I had better leave by 8:25.

Don't let the Last Time to Leave get later until you have been reliably on time for a month. Mileage varies if you take public transit - obviously there are times when the transit will make you late. I find most jobs with high percentages of public transit commuters are more lenient for 1-2 cases of lateness-due-to-transit a month, so long as the incidents are truly unusual.

Go to something good

For me, it's back to my love of coffee. Having chased myself out of my coffee-free environment, I get coffee on the way in if I have time. It's good inspiration to get out the door 10 minutes early and it becomes the Coffee of Victory! (yes, I also sing to myself and raise it above my head like I have won a prize fight.)

I'd love to say there's healthy options too - walk by a nice peice of art, or a lovely park. Feed birds, or smile at people. There's got to be some healthier, caffiene-free, no-calorie, no-cost tricks, too. But for me... it's coffee.

It could even be that you'll save the thing you like doing most at work for the first thing in the morning thing, so you are going to the best part of your day.

Do you REALLY like work?

Quite honestly, everyone I know has an element of work that they do not like. There's a reason why it's something you get paid for, and not something you get paid to do. Even if you do work-like activities for fun, the fun part is often that you get to direct your own activities, and you can do more of what you love and skip some of the stuff you hate when you aren't getting paid for the time.

The human mind is a sneaky place. No one really wants to hate their job - and some personality types will even lie to themselves about whether they like their jobs.

I've had the lateness epidemic you mention, and I have noticed that it in hindsight, my lateness always preceded a growing dissatisfaction with my job. It could be coworker stress, hatred of certain tasks, a lack of belief in my company or our products, or other serious issues with the environment. But the core problem was I knew that when I walked in the door, I would not be glad to be there. My subconscious mind has always seemed much smarter than me about this - so now I know that when these delays start, I need to find and eliminate other issues at work, even if I haven't admitted to myself that I have issues.

About the only thing I've been able to do to dig up this root cause is to focus on the anxiety of lateness, do any and all of the above things to mitigate it, and then look into what else is causing the stress. For example:

  • Are there daily tasks that you're dreading?
  • Particular people you fear talking to?
  • Cases of actions where you feel you just can't win?
  • Is it just on the way in to work that you are stressed and unhappy or other times as well? Do you relax as the day goes by?
  • Are you on time for internal meetings? What keeps you on time for those?

It's a nagging thought that if everything else you do at work is good, then you are clearly competent and shouldn't have an actual tactical difficulty - I doubt that if you have a challenging job that getting dressed, washed and packed and out the door in a predictable timely way is really your issue. I suspect that there's something going on here adding to your stress and your relunctance to be at work is more than just the catch-22 of feeling like you've already failed before you leave the house.

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"Go to something good" works very well. It's fantastic for getting dawdling toddlers out of the door too, btw – Kate Gregory Dec 10 '12 at 16:28
I admit, there is precious little difference between me and a toddler sometimes. :) – bethlakshmi Dec 10 '12 at 16:53
I like this approach the most... It's motivational. And I'll get my therapist to help me with the subconscious part of getting late. Thanks! – BeetleTheNeato Dec 10 '12 at 16:56
I agree with changing your departure time, but I'd say do more... change your arrival time! If your hours are now supposed to be 9:00 to 5:30 with a 1/2 hour lunch, change them to 7:00 to 4:00 with an hour lunch, or something like that. Make your "Drop Dead" time 2 hours earlier, and make it a lifestyle change, not a temporary fix. – Bill K Dec 10 '12 at 18:32
For me it helps to do nothing except what I need to do to get dressed and out the door. Especially nothing that involves reading, sitting or Internet use. I get up and let the dogs out, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth,shower, dress and let the dogs in and then I leave the house. If you must have breakfast, then make it the night before and take it to work and eat it there. When I was younger and really struggled with this, I even prepped my clothes the night before so I didn't have to make any decisions about what to wear or spend time ironing. – HLGEM Dec 10 '12 at 18:48

The first question that came to my mind is: what time do you go to bed?

Going to bed very late will make it quite harder to get up early (even before 10 for that matter). It's true that this is subjective, but your body needs to sleep. You should be sleeping at least 8 hours per night (some need 6 hours, you know your own need), so if you get up at seven, you should be in bed by 11 PM. So, go to bed early. If you're not used to this, i.e. you stay awake in bed, do it anyways. It's just a matter of fixing your Circadian rhythm. If you keep going to bed at a fixed time, your body will slowly get used to it. This is also applicable to your get-up time, of course.

And one note: don't watch TV, play videogames or drink caffeine before sleeping. This is again subjective, but it's generally true. They will likely disturb you and it'll be harder to fall asleep.

Also, set an alarm clock. Doing this might be useless if all you do is clicking "snooze" and going back to sleep, so here's my advice. Set the alarm clock having in mind everything, so that when you're done, you have at least 15 minutes before work time. For example:

  • Do you go by car? Bus? On foot?
    If it takes 30 minutes to get there by car, take that into account.

  • Are you likely to encounter traffic?
    Add at least 15/20 minutes to the previous time.

And so on. Take all these things into account. If you plan ahead, it's highly unlikely you'll have problems. If you calculated you need 45 minutes to get to your workplace, set the alarm clock at least around 1 hour or 1 hour and 15 minutes before work-time.

When you have considered everything, put the alarm clock away from your bed, e.g. near your desk/door. Set it so that it sounds until you get up. This way you'll be forced to get up to turn it off. I tried it and it worked, however, you should remember that when you turn it off, you shouldn't go back to bed.

That is, assuming you do like your job. If you have doubts on that, you should work on that, too.

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in addition, try NOT to do entertaining things in your room, if your room is just for sleeping you condition your brain that this room is for sleeping. if you use it for gaming, playing etc you condition your brain to be active in that room, hence less sleep – RhysW Dec 10 '12 at 15:10
@RhysW Well that's good advice in general, but there's at least one very entertaining activity that I'd like to keep in the bedroom, regardless of how it affects my sleeping patterns. – Yannis Rizos Dec 10 '12 at 15:20
@YannisRizos: If that doesn't help you sleep, you're doing it wrong. – pdr Dec 10 '12 at 15:25
@Alenanno Ooops. Ironically, I'm sleep deprived this morning and managed to overlook that sentence. – Dan Neely Dec 10 '12 at 16:05
+1 for put clock away from your bed, probably the best tip for making yourself up. – Paul Brown Dec 10 '12 at 18:28

It might be sitting on Facebook some mornings, but I think the main problem is oversleeping. Overall, I lack discipline and don't know how to acquire it.

Ok. We've identified the root issue - a lack of discipline. If you are serious about fixing this it's likely going to be fighting a problem which is years or decades in the making. This is not going to be easy.

I've got a few very practical things you can do:

  • Get an alarm which you set far away. This is seemingly obvious, but, you must do this. Make it so you have to get out of bed to turn the alarm off.
  • Change your alarm sound. You are used to the current alarm sound. Change this to something distinctly different yet loud from your current alarm.
  • Practice getting up to your alarm. Set your alarm, and practice getting up. Focus on jumping awake - you want to make it so you immediately hear the alarm and wake completely up. But you want to get your body used to waking up, not snoozing or going back to bed or otherwise not getting started. Do this in the evening or when you have the resolve to fix this issue - you are quite unlikely to have the willpower in the early morning to adjust, so, take advantage of when you have the willpower. You've conditioned yourself to not want to get up for years. Do the opposite. This seems silly. But take some time before going to bed to literally practice and rehearse getting up to your alarm. Alarm goes off. Sit up. Get out of bed. Walk across room. Turn off alarm. You might be surprised how much this affects you the next morning.
  • Talk with roommates. If you have roommates, ask them to be obnoxiously persistent in helping you get up in the mornings. Tell them to douse you in water if you don't get up. Or throw something at you. If you don't have roommates, find a friend who is a morning person and ask him to call or you call him every morning for a month. Sometimes talking to someone will wake you up in a way that being alone will not.
  • Turn off router/smartphone overnight. If you have a problem wasting time online either late at night or in the morning, turn off your router before going to bed (and make sure it is inconvenient to turn back on). Likewise for the smartphone. Make it so you have NOTHING you can do to waste time in the morning. Or setup some filter to disable internet from 10:00pm to 10:00am (or whatever time is more appropriate).
  • If necessary, disconnect internet for a month. My hunch is this would go a long way - if you had no internet at your place, my guess is you would go to bed earlier, not waste as much time in the morning, and overall be more disciplined.
  • Don't do any of the activities which cause you to be late in your room. If you waste time on Facebook, stop yourself from being on Facebook in your room in the evenings. Etc.
  • Find someone who you can carpool with. If you drive to work, this will force you to have an "accountability" partner to some extent.

A critical thing to realize (which I think you have) is that changing a fundamental element of our life is not an easy thing. If you want to drastically change your life, you have to be willing to make drastic changes.

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These are very practical things I'll definitely try. Turning the internet off might be hard, though, but maybe it's necessary as a shock treatment. Thanks. – BeetleTheNeato Dec 10 '12 at 16:50
try two alarms I have my BB set to go off 5 mins after my actual alarm clock. – Neuro Dec 10 '12 at 18:06

Technically you have already taken the first step to fixing this issue, you have identified that you have a problem.

From the comments you have posted you say if you are up 10 mins late you already feel you have lost the whole day.

Try perhaps focussing less on how it impacts you and more on how it impacts others too. You turning up 10 mins late means you feel you have lost the whole day. but NOT turning up means you interrupt others who rely on you for most of the day too. Perhaps an outlook on how you affect others as a big picture rather than how you affect just yourself is a reminder you might need.

Another method would perhaps to take a gradual approach to this. If you are on average 1.5 hours late work on that over a month or two. try to bring it down to 1.25, then 1 then half an hour. if you tackle issues in bite sized chunks it makes life much easier to deal with.

A method you might employ to do this could include scheduling yourself, draw yourself up a schedule, e.g wake up, have breakfast, shower, etc. include times if you feel comfortable fitting to these later.

The idea is to condition yourself into a pattern, a repeating pattern that you can execute on a daily basis to get you into a rhythm, a rhythm to eventually rectify the problem.

You can find online a very good alarm that actually beeps constantly and rolls/moves away from you. Encouraging you to get out of bed and be active to turn it off. Once you have been active its hard to settle back into a lazy routine and easier to carry on with the previous schedule.

You've taken a big step in admitting the issue. Now just take it one step at a time.

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Coming from someone who's been there; it seems to me that you're describing the symptoms of clinical depression.

I'd strongly suggest you continue with your counseling and ask specifically about depression and it's impact/effect on your behavior.

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This isn't a comprehensive answer, but do you see a point in being at work on time? If not, you may talk to your boss about it, especially if you're usually one of those people that stay an hour or two later at the office in the evenings. For me, the "recommended" time is 9am. However, my supervisor is very leniant on that and it basically boils down to "do you spend 40 hours a week on average in the office/working".

For me, I see no point in being at work at 9am, so I don't even try to hit that anymore. However, every morning at 10am, there is a standup status meeting. This means there is a point to me being at work at 10am. So, I try to get myself to be at work by 9:30 so I can get coffee and such, but realistically I know that no matter what I must be at work at 10am. This is enough motivation for me.

However, if there isn't a daily meeting type thing for you, it might be hard. In my previous job there were no every day status meetings and I'd come in between 1 and 2 hours late, because I saw no point in being early. However, this caused many problems for me (that, and I really didn't like working there).

So, if you try everything and nothing helps, work with your boss to see if there is something that can be done so that you see a point at being in by some fixed time.

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It sounds like problem isn't your habits or routine, but something much deeper and systematic.

Based on my life experiences, I would suggest that you may be depressed and would highly recommend giving this a ton of thought and research.

This sounds like apathy to me, which is a big part of depression. You know you should care, and you want to care, but you just can't make yourself care enough about this problem to do what really needs to be done to fix this. I would also recommend asking yourself, "Do I really like my job?" You already said that you do...but I would do some serious introspection on this.

I have personally gone through something very similar. I started showing up late work often, despite the fact I used to be the type of guy who was always early. I liked my job at one time, and continued to insist (Even to myself) that I still did even when things started to get bad at work. I feel into a deep depression that really rocked the foundation of my life. I fought it for several years, consistently making progress over tme, but not much. It wasn't until I was fired from my job that I realized that I was in fact miserable with my job. Less than a month after becoming unemployed, I realized I was the happiest I had been in years. This was despite all the financial troubles and stress it put on my marriage. I should have been stressed out. But I felt great. It became clear that my job, while it may not have been the original cause of my depression, it was certainly keeping me from recovering.

So that is where I am coming from, in regards to the advice I offer. I hope it offers some sort of perspective.

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Whoowoo. That's very simple. (Since you like your job !)

So you are getting up late in the mornings ? You know very well that its late still you ignore leaving quick ? everything else is great?


  1. Wake up with a favorite feel.Have alarm , get up early and when you wake up do something you like very much. I listen to loud music.

  2. After you get up Clean your bed.

  3. You will not be able to go right time to office all of a sudden. Every week be 15 min early than the previous week.

  4. Don't worry about will power, depression , sorrows ... Remember we are born to live and not to work !

  5. Always remember, whatever you do to yourself, do the best of yourself. be perfect.

Will power has nothing to do... just screw your brain...

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