Which limb are you missing?
That’s the way my uber-punctual friend and I greet each other if either of us is ever late (which happens once a decade). Our feeling is that if you are late, it’s perfectly understandable if you lost a limb on the way over. Especially a leg. What with the emergency room and all those insurance forms, it’s no wonder you couldn’t arrive on time.
If you don’t have an excuse on that level, however, then you don’t really have one.
How many of these excuses do you use?
“Traffic is horrible!” Yes, it always is and I managed to get here on time without my personal helicopter. “Kids. They always make me late.” If you gave birth to the kid on the way over, OK. If you’ve had the kids for several years, and they always make you late, then maybe it’s not the kids. Finally, my favorite, “I can’t help it, it’s genetics, I was even born late.”
Being late has nothing to do with genetics and unforeseen problems and everything to do with fear and thoughtlessness.
When I really dig deep into why people are late, it always comes down to fear and thoughtlessness. Specifically, the fear of showing up first and having nothing to do. As if that’s the end of the world. Interestingly, these people who are so frightened of waiting by themselves, have no understanding that they inflict this on others 99.9% of the time. Which leads to the second reason, thoughtlessness.
I don’t think Late People purposely try to be jerks or show up 30 minutes late just to tick off other people. They just think what they are doing is sooooo important and have not thought for one second that other people might also have important things to do. And then they like to think they have no control over being late. Once again, if they put a bit of thought into it, they would realize that while they have no control over traffic, they do have control over when they leave.
So if you are chronically late or have friends and family that always are, here are some proven tips to change that:
- Instead of fearing being the first to arrive, look at it as an opportunity to get stuff done without interruption. Always bring a smart phone, notebook or something to read when meeting so you if no one is there, you can get other work done. Like editing tomorrow’s presentation, reading some industry journals, or writing next week’s blog post.
- Never assume the best case scenario. Perhaps once you got out of the house without a kid crisis, no traffic and the train came right on time. Quit calculating how long it will take to get somewhere based on the one time everything went right.
- Stop thinking your lateness is endearing or quirky. It makes you rightfully appear thoughtless and arrogant.
- Stop thinking your time is so much more important than everyone else’s.
- Understand when you’re late for a meeting, you cause hours of wasted time. You may think you’re only 10 minutes late but if there are 12 people in the meeting — you’ve managed to waste 2 hours of company time.
- If you can see you’re going to be late call as soon as you know. I stress the last part because chronically late people think if they are meeting you at 6 they can call at 5:59 to say they are going to be 30 minutes late. Call as soon as you know so the other people have more flexibility.
- Say no more often. Stop committing to things you have no time for. If you can’t say no, learn to say, “I’ll think about it.”
- Enjoy the stress-free relief of not missing planes, trains, and appointments. Being late almost always creates more problems in your life. While being on time gets your mojo flowing.
Finally, remember the words of Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi: If you’re not 5 minutes early, you’re late.
Got some other tips for not being late or some crazy stories about people who are? Dish in the comments.
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