Is that a real emergency or just a poor excuse?
Person A: I am so sorry I am late. I was stuck in traffic.
Person B: No kidding. Cause, ya know, I chartered a plane to get here!
I am so tempted to respond this way to every Person A who has been notoriously late to a meeting with me and arrives blurting out this ridiculous excuse. They may be friends, family, guests, co-worker, clients, or perfect strangers, it matters little who they are because tardy is a serious lack of respect.
Am I the only one left who feels this way about punctuality and tardiness? Please say it isn’t so.
Has our culture written off the importance of being punctual as insignificant and inconsequential?
Can we not have confidence enough to politely ask that people do us the courtesy to simply be on time?
Can we not have enough respect for the other person’s time and effort to show up at the hour that we said we would?
Are we really that incapable of handling ourselves and managing our time as adults with all gadgets of technology known to man?
The dreaded truth: what it really means to be late …
Let me dispel a few preconceived notions about being late. This quiet truth deserves a voice and it rarely gets heard.
Being late …
- … does not make you an important or special person. Whoever you are doesn’t reserve you the right to be late.
- … late once or twice in your life may be unavoidable but being late consistently makes you unreliable.
- … says you clearly do not respect the other person’s time, only yours.
- … affects your boss’s impression of you and damages your upward mobility at the company.
- … consistently implies you are rude and lack all consideration and respect for the other person as well as for the commitment you made.
Your apologies for being late, however profuse and sincere, do not excuse the tardy. I am not saying not to apologize, I am saying not to be late!
Your reasons for being late insult the other person’s intelligence.
Let’s state the obvious here: Emergencies are exempt from the list above. Emergency, however, is defined as an unavoidable and uncontrollable situation which puts you in a position that makes it impossible to comply with your original plans because something more important has arisen at the last minute.
No, that is not an emergency!
The short list below shows examples of what is not an emergency, and rather results from lack of planning and a personal choice:
- You spill coffee (or any beverage) on yourself on your way out the door.
- Your children making you late. For whatever reason.
- You have an argument with your spouse, your partner, your neighbor and then you are late.
- Your dog or cat or other four-legged friend does something to make you late. Anything!
- You answer an unexpected call which runs over and makes you late.
- You ‘lose track of time’ and are thereby, you guessed it, late.
- You forget altogether about the appointment and are embarrassingly late.
- You are “stuck” in ‘unavoidable’ traffic or re-routed due to construction routes.
The last one is my pet peeve. Calculating the distance between two points takes simple thinking. The two tools you need are access to Google and a device that tells time.
If you have never traveled that route and are not familiar with traffic patterns, give yourself at least 15 extra minutes on top of what Google maps or your GPS dictates.
Traffic is not a new phenomena in our lives. You can manage extremely well with minimal planning. Traffic does not control you, excuse you, make you late or hold you back. You do. Be smart, be responsible, and plan around it!
But some days, life has other plans and hands you a real emergency such as:
- Your punctual train or public transportation is delayed because of unforeseen circumstances.
- You have an accident or a punctured tire while in transit.
- You become ill and unable to go the meeting – in which case you will be a no-show not just late.
- Someone you care for becomes ill and needs your help.
May none of these real emergencies ever detain you. May you be healthy and outside the emergency zone at all times. But if they do, please immediately contact the other person and let them know. Communication is consideration when emergencies arise.
11 reasons why it pays to be punctual in life
Embracing punctuality is more than just an admirable trait; it introduces you to a brand new way of living that you will love! You feel content and happy with yourself rather than frustrated and guilty.
Why is the importance of being punctual in life anyway if there are far too many Person A types around.
Because it is the right thing to do – but I shall give you 11 more reasons just to be safe.
The best motivator I can give you is that if you are a conscientious Person A, being late adds unnecessary stress to your life and breaking the habit removes it.
Below are 11 more reasons why punctuality matters in a professional world among smart people:
- You show respect for the Person B in your life.
- You respect yourself enough to keep your word.
- You prove that you can be trustworthy.
- You are appreciated for being on time.
- You are regarded as a reliable person.
- You are seen as a professional.
- You are taken seriously and on your word.
- You build a strong reputation for your character.
- You open doors and attract more opportunities to yourself.
- You eliminate stress from your life by removing the anxiety of being late.
- You do the right thing and feel good about it.
What you should do when someone is late?
You have choices as in all things in life. The most popular choice is to never mention it, to be flexible with people’s schedules, and to convince yourself it’s no big deal and your time doesn’t matter all that much. After all, what’s a few minutes here and there?
Or (can you tell this is my recommendation?) you could bring it up gently once, make the point, request that they respect your time next time. If it happens again in the future, know that you have a choice about interacting with that person.
You cannot change any one except yourself but a kind reminder in a gentle tone will get the message across. Well, most of the time!
If you are on the receiving side of this, I would encourage you to see it from the other person’s point of view. Your time is just as valuable as theirs, regardless of your life circumstance.
In response to Person A being late, you could say:
John/Jill/honey/bro/sis/you, I just wanted to let you know that I also went through a lot of effort to be here on time and I still had to wait 10 (or more) minutes for you. I hope that this will not happen again in our future meetings.
Be polite, be sincere, be kind but be honest and have these tougher conversations for more rewarding relationships in the future.
If the late person continues to disrespect your time and ignores your hints, it may just be a strong sign to let go of the relationship or stop living up to their expectations.
We make our choices in a free world about lifestyle, commitments, priorities, and family.
If we are responsible individuals, we will only take on as much as we can handle and handle that which we take on very well.
If we are reliable individuals, we will meet our commitments to others or break the commitment professionally if we cannot make it.
If we are smart individuals, we will prioritize our activities.
And if we are considerate individuals, we will plan ahead, show up early and set an example to follow.
Have you seen The Birdcage? One of my favorite movies of all time, hilarious even on the 5th watch. In it, a dialogue takes place between Agador and Amand. When Agador, the house chef, announces that dinner is served as it is 8 o’clock, Amand, the party host, responds: “Yeah well, 8 o’clock – that means 8:15, 8:30, quarter to 9!” Agador scratches his head as he heads back to the kitchen.
Robin Williams may be hilarious in his role as Amand but he is wrong in this instance!
8 o’clock means 8 o’clock unless appended with a clause, such as “I don’t really mean 8 sharp.“, “8 is fine but we’ll be at least 10 minutes late.” or “We meet 8ish, give or take a few minutes.” Otherwise, 8 o’clock it is, baby. Be there or be square!
8 things you can do to heal your own tardiness
Listen, being late is not in your DNA. It’s not something you “inherit” from your family. It is not a characteristic trait. It is just a good habit and like all habits, it can be broken or preserved. It is a matter of personal choice and priority. Make the right one every time!
The real problem with being constantly late is that it makes you stressed and anxious. Why add this pressure to your life when you can live with inner peace? There is a better way to live than chasing the clock every day from too many commitments, too much activity and too many promises. So I put together a short guide for you if you find yourself constantly late, and if you swear it is “impossible for me to be on time!” – first of all, I disagree, it is very much possible. Here’s 8 things that can heal your tardiness:
- Simplify your life by thinking about why you are doing something before committing.
- Say no more often. “No, I’m afraid I can’t take that on right now, thanks for asking though!”
- Give yourself more wiggle room in between appointments.
- Be aware of your body rhythms. If you are not a morning person, don’t keep making morning appointments.
- Stop thinking of yourself as a perpetually late person. You can change your habits if you so decide.
- Aim to arrive 10 minutes early for every appointment for a week.
- Apologize if you are late and ask if there is anything you can do to make it up to the other person.
- Celebrate your success when you have been on time for 3 times in a row. Then repeat for 3 more times.
With these actionable tips, you may find it easier to develop your own punctuality even for the first time in your life. You are not ‘afflicted’ with tardiness. Your mind has the power to train and become the most punctual person you ever know. And when that happens, you may be sending this article to your friends and family, asking if they could please observe more punctuality in their appointments with you.
In fact, share this article with at least one friend that is ‘suffering from the tardiness syndrome’ and help make this a more punctual world! Would you?
If I have not stirred the pot with this one, I am lucky. Really, tell me, is it just me being so persistent on punctuality and respecting other people’s time, including the very minutes? Do you make an effort to show up on time? Do you feel indifferent about being on time or being late? Please share your thoughts!