Growing up I had a friend who was always late. I loved her (still do!), but it drove me crazy. As I grew older, I came to realize that many people struggle with being late. They rationalize it, downplay it, and resolve to change it, but it persists. Which begs the question, does being late really matter? I believe it does, and here is why:
TIME IS ONE OF OUR MOST VALUABLE ASSETS.
In this fast paced world, time has become a major constraint in our lives. For many, it is more valuable than money, hence the growth of convenience products and services. When we are late, we are wasting someone’s time. At a minimum, we are hurting ourselves, but we may also be causing someone else a hardship.
BEING LATE MINIMIZES OUR ABILITY TO HANDLE THE UNEXPECTED.
I often repeat the phrase “Good things happen when you show up early.” Being early gives us the chance to respond to situations we didn’t anticipate. For example, if I am early to a presentation and see that the AV system isn’t working, I have time to develop a back-up plan. If I leave early for a meeting, I may be thankful for the extra minutes that were swallowed up by a traffic jam.
LATENESS IS PERCEIVED AS INCONSIDERATE AND RUDE.
A common excuse from the late people in my life is “I didn’t mean to” or “I couldn’t help it”. While this may be true periodically, it isn’t true chronically. Others in your life are not allowing themselves this excuse, perhaps at great cost to them. Therefore, the excuses of the chronically late ring hollow. Lateness is one of the most common causes of conflicts in relationships, whether personal or professional.
LATENESS DAMAGES OUR REPUTATION AND SELF-ESTEEM.
If you frequently greet your friends & colleagues with “Sorry I’m late…” you are apologizing. We don’t apologize for behavior we are proud of, only that which we regret. Being late makes a bad first impression and makes us feel badly about ourselves.
The good news is that lateness can be eliminated from our lives. The bad news is that it won’t go away on its own. Like any well established habit (yes, lateness is a habit), it will take a good deal of effort to dislodge it. The best way to kick a habit is to get organized and replace it with a new one.
If you are chronically late by the same 10 minutes…
You need to give yourself a new message. You’ve given yourself permission to be late in the past, and you need to decide that this has been damaging and you won’t accept it from yourself. Having someone to hold you accountable can help, as can rewarding yourself for the times you’ve been early.
If you are frequently late, but the amount varies…
You may be underestimating how long it takes to accomplish your tasks. Track how long it really takes you to shower, pack your lunch, stop for gas, etc. Say “no” when asked to squeeze an extra task into your schedule if you can see you don’t have space to accommodate it.
If you lose the battle in the last 5 minutes before you leave the door…
You are succumbing to distractions. Resolve to leave on time, and ignore that “just one more thing” temptation. Setting out items you need for the following day in a staging area can also help by minimizing the stress of “making sure you have everything.”
If you fear being early will waste your time…
Plan two activities which you will do with the extra time if it presents itself. For example, designate some reading you need to do and have it with you. “Early time” can also be effectively used for deleting email.
Lateness is fixable, so don’t let it damage your reputation and relationships.
Submitted by Seana Turner, founder and President of The Seana Method