the BLOG of stuart mcdonald

Can We Please Be On Time?
March 9, 2010, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There’s an old saying that goes, “If you are five minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, then you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.” I couldn’t agree more.

Perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves — the thing that consistently gets on my nerves more than anything else — is tardiness. Being late, consistently. I just can’t stand it. It’s tacky. I hate when I’m late and I can’t stand it when others are late.

I’m not talking about when you’re running behind schedule because of unforeseen traffic or an emergency (a real one; not, “I was checking my Facebook”). I’m talking about people who are consistently, day after day, week after week, about 20, 30 (or more) minutes late. You know you’ve got a few of those people in your life. If you don’t, chances are good that you are that person. Sometimes they’re so consistently delayed that you tell them the 8:30pm movie starts at 8:00pm just to make sure they get there “on time.”

Here’s my issue: when you’re late, what that says to me is that you don’t care, value, or respect the people that you’re meeting enough to consider how precious their time is. In essence, “I don’t care about you, or your schedule; I’ll be there when I get there.” Rude. Disrespectful. Unacceptable.

Personally and professionally, punctuality is very important. If people can’t count on you to be consistently on time, why would they trust you to do anything else? Especially things that require meeting deadlines.

I’ll admit, I’m not always on time. I do make a conscious effort to at least try to be on time, though. In fact, just the other night I was running late to a party (which, due to the fluid nature of most parties, may be the exception to the on time rule). I’ve lost track of time and been late to church before, too. It happens. But what I do notice is that the things I’m late for, I normally, for that instance, haven’t put a particularly high value on.

Case in point: Sunday I was late for church. I woke up, worked on the computer, had breakfast, and cleaned up around the house (I actually listened to the previous service live online). Before I knew it, I looked down and realized that I was going to be late. I hadn’t showered, and clearly wasn’t ready to leave. What happened? I had placed (perhaps subconsciously) more importance on cleaning up the house, than on getting ready to go to church.

I’d be remiss if I just told you that being late is a horrendous habit and left it at that. Here are four things to consider in order to help you be more punctual.

1) Know what time it is. Seems simple right? Apparently, it’s not as easy as you think. When it matters, be conscious of the time and know when you have to be places. If you have to, set your clocks 5-10 minutes fast. I do this with the clock in my car. At first you may realize that it’s fast, and take that into account, but after a while you’ll likely forget.

2) Understand how long it really takes you to do things. If I have to drive to a meeting downtown, it may only take me 15 minutes to drive from “point A” to “point B,” but I must also find somewhere to park, get out and walk into the building, and it wouldn’t hurt to account for any traffic or red lights I might encounter. In other words, I can’t leave a 15 minute window; it must be more like 25-30 minutes.

3) Plan to be five minutes early. You’d be amazed at how quickly five minutes can just slip by. If you plan to be five (for some people, you may need ten) minutes early, you’ll be much more likely to make it right on time.

4) Think ahead. Obviously, things happen at the last minute, but thinking about your whole day in advance can make things run a lot smoother. Think about travel times, where you’ll park, and what traffic might be like. If it’s a daily routine, chances are that you already know different obstacles that might get in the way. Thinking about those things ahead of time will ensure that you’ll be better prepared.

Hopefully reading this blog hasn’t caused you to be late, but in the event that it has, you, at least, have a good explanation. Now, go be on time.

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3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’m feeling you on this one, Stu.

Here’s my issue: when you’re late, what that says to me is that you don’t care, value, or respect the people that you’re meeting enough to consider how precious their time is. In essence, “I don’t care about you, or your schedule; I’ll be there when I get there.” Rude. Disrespectful. Unacceptable.


Recently a friend of mine said something like “Don’t waste my time. Waste something that belongs to you.” I can’t STAND people who are consistently late and my friends know I will leave them if they are.

I also have the ones I have to tell 8:00 for an 8:30 movie and I’m still praying they’ll show up by 8:45. I avoid planning things with them where I’ll be inconvenienced. So, I meet them places instead of picking them up or having them pick me up, etc…

But still, I’m having to alter my life to accomodate them. I think it’s such a selfish thing to be chronically late. I can’t stand it. And all your points are great and amount to one thing: Think ahead. When I was younger, my mom used to say to me all the time, “You can’t leave here at 4:00 and be there by 4:00.”

I do believe that what irks me most about chronic lateness is that I don’t understand why I can think ahead but you can’t.

Comment by A.Smith

I think ultimately people are people…as humans we have the power to accept or deny ANY action. If you have a friend thats CONSTANSTLY & CONSISTANLY late then maybe you guys shouldnt hang out if it bothers you THAT MUCH. If its an employee, loose ’em if it bothers you THAT MUCH. Whatever the reason, its THAT person’s reason. It has nothing to do with you…its NEVER a personal attack on YOU and if it is, that person need not be in your life.

stress is caused by the level of reaction to a given situation…SOOOOOOOO if youre stressin over somebody else being late then YOURE stressing over SOMEBODY ELSE being late…it has no wieght in your reality unless you give them that power.

quick tip: save yourself some grey hairs…dont rely on the unreliable

Comment by michelangelo

Ok, I am in that category of being “chronically late.” It is actually in the planning. Yes, there are those who don’t care. But, I don’t plan to be late. In fact, I make plans to be there on time. But, there are other things that seem to detour me.
A friend might call in crisis and I don’t feel that it is the right thing to do to just turn them away.
I have forgotten something that I was suppose to do.
Maybe a task took me longer than expected.
and, so on.
Since I have been late several times, I can sit patiently and wait for those who are late when I am on time.
Honestly, I am not always late. But, when I am, I apologize and continue on.
I do call, when I am running behind schedule and give the person the option to reschedule.
I also realize that there is a difference in the way we act professionally and informally. And, I take my consequences. If it really bothers someone, I note this in advance and readily accept the consequences.
Just MHO.
Also, when others are not on time, I wonder, “What can I do with this time? How can I effectively use it to my advantage?” Sometimes, I have gotten into some quite interesting conversations because someone else was late. I always bring a book to read, just in case. I just relax because: A. I have been late before – and B. I can’t do anything about it.
Doctors’ offices will cancel your appointment is you are more than ten or fifteen minutes late. But, I have sat in a Doctor’s office for more than two hours because he/she was busy and had to reschedule my appointmen

Comment by jamily5

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