Hate Being Late? Those Waiting Hate It More

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.

The clock of someone never on timeHow 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Stop thinking your lateness is endearing or quirky. It makes you rightfully appear thoughtless and arrogant.
  4. Stop thinking your time is so much more important than everyone else’s.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”
  8. 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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  • http://www.sandysmemoir.com Sandy Asirvatham

    As a chronically EARLY person, I love this post.

  • http://www.mojo40.com Susan Kim

    As a fellow chronically early person, I love that there are people like you out there and not everyone is a Time Flake.

  • Deborah Zimic

    I have a new employee who is literally always three minutes early to every meeting. I love it!! and it bodes well for his career

  • Alison Romain

    I am one of the worst offenders. I always calculate my travel time on the best case scenario and just as I am about to leave, I remember a couple of things that have to be done on the way out…take out the trash, sharpen a pencil, answer that last e-mail, find my notes from the last meeting….

    I am inspired to try to do better, especially by having everything ready to go BEFORE the departure time.

    • http://www.mojo40.com Susan Kim

      That’s great that you are at least aware that it’s happening. I find that having 2 departure times— when you have to walk out the door AND when you have to start getting ready to go out the door are helpful.

  • http://laura-e-kelly.com Laura E. Kelly

    Totally agree with this! After years of enduring friends’ lateness (and then acting like it was no problem) I’ve recently taken to saying something like “I noticed you’re usually about X minutes late. Should I start planning to come late, too?” It’s a little thing, and it feels a bit rude to say at the time, but I’ve noticed calling it often leads to future better effort on the other person’s part, which is all I want.

    • http://www.mojo40.com Susan Kim

      I know it feels a tad rude to say, “Should I start planning to come late, too?” but these Late People are counting on us to be uber-polite and not call them on it.
      The thing is, they reward our niceness by being even later.
      Here’s the deal, most (not all) Late People are nice, too. They are just clueless. So nicely clue them in. Make it clear that this is important to you. I’ve done this because I have late friends that claim it’s nothing against me, they just don’t mind the time. I explain, going forward, it is against me. It definitely makes a difference.

  • http://www.mominthebalance.com/blog Heather Mundell

    I’m an on-timer and I find it really annoying when people are chronically late.

    My stepmother was from Paraguay, and in that culture (as I believe in Latin culture in general), the importance of time was way down the list behind the importance of relationships.

    She was late for everything because she was so engaged with what she was doing and who she was talking with that interrupting it just felt wrong.

    Although she was a university professor in the U.S. and was never late for class, in most other areas of her life, the concept of time was just not a guiding principle in her life.

    My father, someone who is always on time to everything, tried everything in their 23 years together to get her to be on time (changing clocks, lying to her about what time they needed to be somewhere, etc.) but at a certain point after no progress, he just let her be. Everyone was so charmed by her that no one really cared she arrived late to everything.

    Perhaps if she had been less charming, people would have been more annoyed.

    I’ve also heard that the Vietnamese use what’s roughly translated as “rubber time” – very different from us Americans.

    I think your tips for being on time are great and it’s certainly highly valued in the U.S. I also think it’s interesting to consider other culture’s views on time.

    • http://www.mojo40.com Susan Kim

      I have read how lateness causing billions of dollars in lost revenue for many South American countries.
      There’s a reason they call it Manana Time.
      While I think it’s great to forget about time when you’re on vacation and no one is waiting for you, it doesn’t work so well in the real world.
      I find it interesting that your mother in law could make it on time for the classes she taught.
      How frustrating for you to know she can be prompt but won’t.
      The best way to deal with that is to make sure your schedule is not affected by her lateness. For example, don’t agree to pick her up on the way to an event– she won’t be ready. Meet her there. Make sure you always have the tickets and leave hers at Will Call.
      And here’s the KEY– when she gets mad you didn’t wait for her, don’t get defensive. Just give her the same “Why are you getting so stressed out?” look to her that she gives to you when she arrives an hour late.

  • RM

    This is one of my favorite topis. I think I am generally an on-time person, but know that I sometimes try and squeeze too much in before going to a meeting or leaving for an event…although I always make it on time, I do sometimes stress myself out too much by not giving myself a few extra minutes. That I can work on…and the most relevant point is that I DO care about NOT being late. I do think it’s rude to be late. I can tolerate 3-5 minutes of lateness in meeting socially in a casual event because I think there are normal delays, etc. but constant extensive lateness is rude and shows disrespect among friends. In the workplace, even a few minutes late for a meeting is extremely unprofessional and its the kind of bad behavior (especially when I’m running the meeting) that is noticed. People are too busy to have their time wasted.

    • http://www.mojo40.com Susan Kim

      I think you make an important distinction. You do care about NOT being late. The most chronic late people don’t even understand why someone would stress out about it– because they certainly don’t. So the worst is to not even get a sincere apology for being late.
      I have definitely dropped people when that happens more than twice. Let them go drive up someone else’s blood pressure.

  • http://www.birthdayslam.com Jeff Robinson

    Hi Susan,
    Being late is plain and simple, unacceptable!
    I wrote this piece here, I hope you like it: 
    All the best from Barcelona, Spain
    Jeff Robinson

  • Late hater

    The clincher here in the late person is that they always start doing these “other” things when they know they are due to be somewhere. Why don’t they take out the garbage, answer emails, fax something AFTER their meeting? For some reason, they choose this important time they should be getting ready as free time to do a million other chores. I think these people thrive on this type of adrenalin and even get off on getting the other person mad because then they will be the center of attention. They may even be striking back passive aggressively at the other person for forcing them to a timeline, and are resentful that somebody else is dictating their life. Doing all these things last minute is their subconscious way of asserting their independence and detachment from rules and expectations. It screams “I’m special, can’t you see what your rules are doing to me?” (They are villianizing the poor person who’s stuck waiting.) On top of that, I disagree that saying nothing or accomodating them is okay. These people are never held accountable for this behavior. People working AROUND them is what they want. Until they are fired, lose a boyfriend/girlfriend, or some other guilt infused situation, they won’t even realize the stuff falling down behind them. (Unless it’s a building, they’ll probably justify it to themselves, “Good thing I was late!”) All you can do is assert yourself and try to get your life on even keel with theirs by not letting their warped concept of time ruin yours.

  • http://twitter.com/iMobileRescue iMobile Rescue

    So true (Lombardi’s quote). Early is just.. smarter. Late is just.. sloppy. Total thoughtlessness.

  • Sarah George

    I just would like to ask these chronically early people to wait in the lobby or car or something and arrive on time or just 5 (or maybe 10) minutes early from the start time. Coming 20-30 minutes early isn’t cute either, but I do like that things can get started on time. That is most important in the long run. But if we are considering that other people’s time is valuable. The person running the party or meeting may be coming from or wrapping up one other important task as well.

  • FG

    I flipped out on a very dear old friend today for being 1/2 hour late. She is always late. ALWAYS. I am not perfect, sure, I’ve been late here and there, we are all human, but I guess I reached my tipping point. I actually told this friend I was on my way to meet her- 15 minutes before I actually left, knowing she is always late, maybe she would be on time? NO. That did not work. So I actually got angry and let her know it was not acceptable. I’d rather not meet if she is going to be late. I felt bad, but I had to do it. I was pissed! I feel better now, and I hope she figures out how to add and subtract.

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