Why you're usually late (and sometimes early)

Illustration for article titled Why you're usually late (and sometimes early)

Ever noticed that, when you're hurrying through your daily routine, you always seem late? Ever wonder why, when you go somewhere new and unfamiliar, you're always the first at the door? It's the well-traveled road effect, and it messes with your head.


If you're the person who always arrives late for regular events, there might be an explanation that doesn't involve a major character flaw. When you first try to drive - or walk - a new road, you're on the alert. You're double-checking your directions. You're peering around looking for scenery markers or ambiguous intersections. You are paying close attention, and so every moment of your trip stretches out. It seems to take a long time.

After the third or fourth time making the trip, the time it takes to travel seems to shrink. You're used to the road and perhaps you know its quirks and shortcuts.

Or perhaps you're paying far less attention than you were before. It's called the well-traveled road effect and the phenomenon doesn't confine itself to roads. Whenever you get used to something, the time you estimate you need to complete it shrinks. True, gaining expertise in something will often reduce the amount of time it takes, but there's only so much "skills" can do when, for example, you are stuck going the speed limit along with every other car on the road. Still, the trip will seem shorter. As people relax and stop hanging on every detail, time starts to fly.

This might also explain why time seems to slow when we're stressed or in a hurry. Have you noticed that when you're running behind, every lane change in front of you, every red light, and every stinking pedestrian seems to take forever? It's not an unlucky break. It's the fact that you're paying attention like you used to.

Via Psyblog.



I'm never late. It's an obsession of mine. I'm usually so meticulous that I plan out every aspect of my day.mso that when I'm traveling, even just to work, I always leave early so that things like road conditions and traffic have enough of a time buffer that even if I get held up, I still get to where I'm going early.