How I hacked my timing anxiety with my iPhone

how i hacked my timing anxiety

If you’ve been paying attention, or attended an event with me, or attempted to make a movie date with me, you know that I have intense anxiety. A large portion of my anxiety revolves around timeliness.

I am the most on time mother fucker you know. I’m the definition of “If you’re early, you’re on time, and if you’re on time, you’re late.”

Know this about me…

If you invite me over to your house at 8pm, I’m out front of your place at 7:45, sitting in my car, checking emails and Instagram, listening to music, and watching the clock until EXACTLY 8pm, when I walk to your door. You shouldn’t know this — but I’mma lay it on you anyway — I’ve been obsessively looking at the clock since, well, I woke up that morning. Then around 6pm I’m getting ready. When I’m fully dressed and ready at 6:30pm, I’m obsessively checking Waze to see how long will take me to get your place. What about now? Aaaaaaand now? Okay what if I left now? Oh, I’ll get there at 7:30? Well, it’ll take me a few minutes to grab my purse and walk down the stairs, so I should probably leave NOW.

Gods forbid that I should have a flight to catch at 9am. In that case, I’m going to bed at 9pm the night before. I’ll wake up every hour on the hour to check the time. Then up at 5am. No wait, I’ll get up at 4:45am, even though I set my alarm for 5am. Then I’ll head to the airport at 6am, because I like to leave myself two hours of airport waiting time before a flight, in case some catastrophe happens between my apartment and LAX. That’s the only way I can remain calm on travel days.

So much of my time is taken up by worrying about the time, that I can barely do anything else. I work, anxiety-ridden, with one eye on the clock. I don’t dare make other plans on days I already have plans, lest I lose track of time. And my heart is beating hard and fast for hours on end. In short, it’s exhausting, and it makes me not want to be social.

About few months ago my therapist gave me a suggestion in helping with my timing anxiety, and, after giving it a lot of time to see if it worked, I can honestly say IT HAS BEEN THE BEST THING EVER!

My therapist, Jessica, (yes, my best girl friend and my therapist have the same name) suggested that I set up alarms for all of my appointments. Well, first she asked how long I spend obsessing about time. To which I replied, it depends on the activity…

Is it a normal weekly thing? Is it a friend date? Is it a professional date? Is it a new plan? Is it a big event? All these things have different times.

For example: I see my therapist around noon on Wednesdays. I count down the hours, minutes, seconds from the moment I wake up, because this is a professional thing, and I’m also paying good money for my time. I also have weekly dinners with my best girl friend Jessica (yes, I meet with them on the same day each week — Wednesdays are my “Jessica days”) but I’ll only spend 15 minutes obsessing about that.

Therapist Jessica suggested that I set my alarms accordingly, so I did. Here they are for my weekly appointments…

anxiety alarms

It’s called paradoxical intention.

In psychotherapy, paradoxical intention is the deliberate practice of a neurotic habit or thought, undertaken to identify and remove it. The concept was termed by Dr. Viktor Frankl, the founder of Logotherapy, who advocated for its use by patients experiencing severe forms of anxiety disorders.

So basically, in setting alarms for myself, I can relax for most of the time, since I know that I’m giving myself a set time where I’m allowed to freak out an obsess. And you know what, it works. When I start to freak out about the time before an event, I remind myself that I don’t need to right now. I know that I’ll have an hour to 15 minutes worth of anxiety time, and I’ll do all my anxiety-ing then.

The best part: I don’t even NEED to get anxious about my weekly appointments anymore. Most of the time the alarms totally sneak up on me. …Which, if I’m being honest, makes me pretty anxious. But at least I’m not swimming in an infinity pool of anxiety for hours on end!

I’m still going to get there early though.

13 thoughts on “How I hacked my timing anxiety with my iPhone

  1. dootsiebug

    I am the least on-time motherfucker you know, but I have exactly this much anxiety happening. Setting alarms for the time of events never works for me because I always–consistently–underestimate how long it will take me to get ready or travel. But setting an alarm for “start worrying about this now”? That might just work. Thanks for buying me some therapy!

    Also, you have a thing called Poodle dinner.

    1. meganfinley

      Yes! I should write about Poodle Dinners. Every wednesday my friend Jessica makes me dinner at her house. We started calling each other “poodle” in high school, for reasons we can’t remember now. But it’s stuck. So every wednesdays we have Poodle Dinner!

  2. KathyRo

    ROFL!!!
    Is it wrong I’m laughing at this?? (But I’m laughing with you.)
    I’m pretty chill about time… until I travel. Then I’m a beast. International travel is the worst because the logic in my head goes like this “if I’m not early then they will change the gate and I won’t know about it and then I’ll sit at the wrong gate until the plane leaves and then… and then …[cue heavy breathing] … I’ll be forced to negotiate a ticket change in another language just like Frankfurt in ’08 and (gulp) oh God what if I missed some airport-specific security protocol like Heathrow ’11 and what if this time there isn’t a later bus when I land and I’m forced to hitchhike and even though I picked the friendly pregnant woman for a ride it turns out she’s a deranged serial killer and her baby bump is actually a chainsaw and I DIE”. So basically, not early == DEATH.
    And it doesn’t end there. The whole trip I’m on high alert, looking for small anomalies, making sure I trap small problems before they turn life-threatening.

    1. meganfinley

      THAT is EXACTLY me when it comes to travel. But, like, ANY travel. LA to Seattle? Yup. LA to Paris. Same.

      My therapist(s) have like to do the whole “what’s the worst thing that can happen?” approach, where you’re supposed to realize that the worst thing that can happen isn’t that bad. But with airline travel??? No yeah, it’s THAT bad. What’s the worst that can happen? I can lose lots of money, miss big life events, and die from chainsaw pregnancy.

  3. Catherine

    I did not know we had the same being-on-time anxiety! Mine is legit this bad, and I love your solution.

  4. maryr

    I have all kinds of anxiety about all sorts of things, though not really about being on time. I am wondering if there are ways I can use my iphone to help with other worries.

    1. meganfinley

      Perhaps there are apps for your type of anxiety? Or would alarms also work as well?

      I think it’s all about allowing yourself to almost indulge in your neurotic behavior. But giving it certain parameters so as to not ruin the rest of your life/day/whatevs.

  5. stephanieralls

    I absolutely do this, and I’m usually 20-40 minutes early to everything by over estimating how long it’ll take to get somewhere. A meeting two miles away? Better get ready an hour early and leave 30 minutes before it starts. But I also spend my day trying to distract myself from it (and end up late half the time).

    It drives me insane that my friends aren’t the same as I am though. If I invite you over for dinner at 6pm, why are you showing up at 6:15-6:30?! Now dinner is cold.

    1. meganfinley

      Don’t even get me started on late friends. I have a few who are chronically late — so much so that I know it’s just how they roll, and I don’t get offended. But it ANNOYS THE FUCKING SHIT OUT OF ME!

  6. kirstenlf

    For years, I thought that arriving hour(s) early was a control thing for me, but I’ve come to understand (about myself) that it’s actually an out of control thing. I am so OCD about everything appearing stable and orderly that I just assumed my time thing was part of that. But then I’d arrive early and begin to sense the anxiety I was causing, so my anxiety would then ramp up even more, if that were possible. In trying not to inconvenience others, I actually was the one making the situation awkward. No one wants the guest to arrive while they’re still getting stuff together. The worst combination of all time (pun intended) is for me to be the guest of someone who is chronically late! But I can’t help myself.

    Time, in all its renditions, causes me so much anxiety that I often feel like I will end up in a sobbing heap on the floor from the stress of it. I mean , if I knew how to actually, physically cry, that is. Instead, my heart just feels like it will explode and I begin snapping at people who “get in the way” of my arriving early or I bail altogether. For example, if I have a date to meet up with friends on a Saturday, even if it is the most casual of meet-ups, my anxiety ramps up around Tuesday. By Friday, I am thinking of excuses not to go. And, oh man, all day on Saturday I am freaking the fuck out! I cannot tell you how many concert tickets and plays I have wasted money on simply because when push came to shove, I couldn’t actually make myself go for fear of being late, being awkward, or just feeling too anxiety-ridden. To complicate matters more, I usually regret not going to whatever it was I’d bought tickets to.

    Oddly, I am also the world’s worst paperwork procrastinator. If I have a deadline, I wait until the last possible moment before I begin working on something. I am the queen of turning in my taxes on April 15th at 11:59 PM, even if I have a refund coming. My son told me once that when he was growing up, he didn’t realize that the 15th was the last day, thought it was the only day you were only allowed to mail in your taxes.

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