Don't be late

October 25, 2012|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

My kids and I sometimes go for a morning run.

By that I mean that given my tendency to run late, we chase the bus up the street to the bus stop. Usually I'm wear not running shoes, but fuzzy mules because I can quickly slip them on. On good days, I'm wearing clothes, not pajamas.

I have a history with the bus stop fitness routine. When I was in high school, I made a sport of it. I lived on a quiet residential street heading out of one rural town toward another. Workers driving back into town after a night shift at the carbon factories would be lined up a dozen cars back behind my bus.

Red lights flashed as the driver, Norma, sat checking her rear view mirror to see how much farther I had to run. Friends told me she would shake her head incredulously while several of the more patient drivers waiting behind her rolled down their windows, beeped and cheered me on.

"Go! She just got here. Run faster," they would shout.

I'm not sure who these people were. I had my eyes on the ride. But my parents said that when they went to town, people would tell them they were rooting for me. I'm sure that made Mom and Dad swell with pride.

Thankfully, I had some redeeming characteristics. I was not lazy. In fact, I was quite ambitious. If there was a club, team, band or organization, I joined it. I didn't warm the seats. I was active. My grades weren't bad either. But for some reason, I could not get the time thing down.

To this day, if you give me a time frame and ask me what I will accomplish within it, my initial response, I am told, would be laughable. I think I can dust and vacuum, do Pilates, run errands, conduct an interview, cook dinner, respond to phone calls and emails, make a Halloween costume and teach a couple piano lessons in a few hours.

While I run out the door, I simultaneously throw in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, call the plumber and straighten the books on the coffee table.

During college, a counselor told me that running late was part of who I am and that I should accept it. I came across explanations for punctuality problems ranging from anxiety to power trips, and descriptive terms like "neurodevelopmental sequential ordering dysfunction."

I just wanted to be on time. I couldn't stand the stress my lateness caused other people and me. It tormented me that I seemed so thoughtless when I did care.

With the help of some basic tenets, I've made progress.

 Use a visual. As a young adult, an 8 1/2 by 11-inch vertical day planner listing each waking hour helped train me to think methodically and realistically. With four kids and a husband, I've transferred that concept to a big fridge calendar with space allotted for each person.

 Make a daily list. Like my old planner, it should at least roughly track hours. I start with a clean white sheet of paper and jot each person's activities in order by time. At the bottom left corner of the list is all the stuff I think I am going to do, like clean the attic or olive oil the plant leaves.

  Prioritize. I circle or highlight the nonnegotiable and keep the list with me to keep me on track.

 Don't try to squeeze in one more thing. Only if I definitively have enough minutes to spare do I venture into a bottom left activity. What doesn't happen that day gets moved to tomorrow's list.

  Don't underestimate your supporting role. When I'm in charge, I tend to be on time. When I'm in a supporting role, I think I am not as necessary. That's not true.

 Enlist support from a friend or family member. When I throw too many balls in the air, a firm "Focus, Alicia. It's time to go," helps.

  Set the clocks a little fast. When I'm tearing out of the house of in the last seconds before a doctor's appointment, it's nice to say, "Oh, yeah. I'm two minutes ahead."

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

The Herald-Mail Articles