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Can Setting Your Clock Fast on Purpose Actually Cure Your Lateness?

There’s a sneaky trick to scamming yourself

We’ve written before about how there’s a cure for chronic lateness, which basically boils down to recognizing your lack of empathy and embracing your innately selfish nature:

“Chronically late people need to find a motivation for making punctuality a priority,” says Ron Helpman, a psychotherapist in New York City. “The idea that other people will be upset with them is generally not effective, and if anything, creates resentment that others don’t understand them. Instead, they need to see how this would benefit them.”

But for those of us who require an option that’s less psychological detente and more a shortcut to promptness, there’s another way: The classic game of self-manipulation where you to set your clock 10, 15, even 20 minutes ahead — whatever it takes to get you to work on time.

Obviously, the flaw in this trick is that you’re responsible for inhabiting the role of both the magician and the audience. How then do you trick yourself into thinking your watch isn’t just running 20 minutes fast, when you’re the one who set it that way? According to Linda Sapadin, a psychologist who specializes in time management and the author of How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age, it’s possible to tinker with your understanding of time. After all, time is relative, right?

“Be sure to change all your clocks, including your watch, alarm clock, the timer on the oven and even your phone and computer,” says Sapadin. “Of course, after a while you’ll be on to yourself and just start deducting that 15 minutes or whatever it is.” So her advice is that you change it up every week. “Make sure your clocks are 12 minutes off, then 16, then 24,” she adds.

The idea here is that if you’re constantly changing the time on your clocks, eventually, you won’t have a clue what time it really is. “It could take a while, but after a few weeks, you’ll just have to trust the time you see on your clocks,” she explains. “The actual time won’t be so obvious.”

Then all you’ll need is a cure for chronic disorientation.