Stop Being Late

Have you ever been in this situation? There’s been a meeting schedule. Everyone is on-time except for the person who has scheduled the meeting? Or your friends have invited you out for dinner. Only they show up half an hour later with no explanation given.

How does that make you feel?

Tempus fugit

Image by Alan Cleaver

Frustrated. Upset. Abused. Uncared for.

Emotions like these course through my body when others are late. I’m sure they do for you as well. It’s only natural.

But what if you’re the person who always runs late? Do you know that people view you in a negative light?

They may think:

  • You don’t care about the people you made plans for
  • You’re egotistical
  • You can’t be trusted
  • You are unreliable

Being late lands crushing blows to your reputation. Friends will fade away. Business deals could be lost. Relationships are strained.

Wow! Those thoughts can be painful. That’s not how you want to be thought of, is it?

There’s great news. You can change your constant lateness and become someone who is dependable and on time.

All it takes is a practice and planning.

  • When you schedule an event, make sure there’s nothing immediately proceeding or following the start and end time. Give yourself anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes of leeway. It may seem like a waste of time but planning the time buffer helps save your reputation.
  •  Create an alarm that will alert you to the meeting. Make sure it goes off an hour beforehand. Then half an hour. And a third time at 15 minutes. The alarms will be annoying but they should catch your attention.
  •  Think about how you feel when others are late. Sometimes there’s no better motivator than putting yourself into the shoes of others and feeling their pain. Allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration your employees or friends feel. Let that motivate you to be on time.
  •  Ask a friend to be an accountability partner. This sure sounds ridiculous but having an accountability partner will make you accountable to someone else. If you continue in the habit of being late you will now have one more disappointed person. We don’t want that!
  • Start telling yourself that you’re a person that shows up on time. Sometimes we need to reprogram our thoughts. If you’re someone who tells yourself that you’re always late, you’re feeding into the negative system. Change your thoughts and you can change your attitude.

Begin today in your effort to correct this bad habit. Take the steps listed and work them into your scheduling system.

Before long you’ll begin to see the change start to take place. You’ll become someone who is on time.

People will see you as trustworthy, dependable, and caring. Who doesn’t want that?

Question: How do you feel when someone is late to a meeting? How does it make you feel about them? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • When I used to teach classes in church, I got very frustrated when I could never start on time because the childrens’ teachers were always 10-15 minutes late. Every single week. And we only had about 35 minutes for class if we started on time in the first place. It drove me nuts.

    Even now, a small group I meet with on Sunday can’t start on time because of people incapable of showing up prior to being 15 minutes late. 

    Being chronically late is frustrating. And disrespectful. And immature. 

    • That would be tough Eric. If the shoe were on the other foot for the teachers I bet they would have been frustrated. Unable to start classes because their students were constantly late.

      Any suggestions on getting people to change their habit of being late?

      • I’m not sure, Joe. I think being on time (or not) shows a person’s heart. Most people would never dream of showing up 15 minutes late to work every day, but think nothing of showing up 15 minutes late for church (or group, or ministry) every single time. 

        At one church I used to go to, I’d run the Power Point and recording computers, which were located in a room in the back of the auditorium. I would watch as the same people came in late every single week. The conclusion I came to is they don’t take church that seriously. I obviously have no idea what is actually on their hearts, but that’s what shows through. They don’t respect it enough to get there on time. And they don’t respect the time of others very much either.

  • I hate being late. I am occasionally and it drives me crazy. I don’t understand people who are habitually late. I used to drive girls I dated crazy because for me, the date started at 7. That meant I got there at 6:45.

    •  It can be mind boggling, huh Larry? I wonder if those who are late don’t realize how they affect those who are on time.

  • I once had a coaching client who NEVER kept time. Doesn’t matter how much I pointed it out. Something always came up and she’d be late or do cancellation last minute. I got so mad so many times. We never really finished out sessions in the end.

    I have been been late plenty of times as well. But i like keeping time cos i know how it makes others feel.

    • Wow… Did the sessions end because you were frustrated with the attendance of the client or because he fell away? Seems like it would be a waste to be coached only to not show up. 

      • She ended the sessions unfortunately :(. I was super sad cos i really wanted to help her walk through some stuff. She was one of my early clients – hence my heavy heart investment 🙂

  • my wife and i are the same, we TRY to be late to parties and still end up showing up five minutes early. late people bug me too haha

    • That’s great Tyler. It’s a good “problem” to have. At least it shows a respect for your time and the time of others.

  • Joe,

    A persons time is one of the most valuable things. Being on time shows others you care and value their time, this is important no matter who you are meeting with.

    I make it a point to be early if not on time when I meet someone. I can’t stand when someone is late to a meeting. I do try and show grace though if they have a legitimate reason for being late. Now I can just send them to this post:) 

    • I’m with you Dan. Our time is so valuable. It’s the one thing we cannot use and get back, though we may get a return on it.

      •  I was thinking today that at some point you should write a short eBook on this topic. Something like 10-15 pages. I think it would be a great topic to expand on. Just a thought.

        •  Hmmm… That could be a great idea Dan. I’ll look into what I have on my plate and if I could fit this in somehow.

  • I absolutely hate being late. Actually, I can say that I don’t remember the last time I was late for a meeting. Even the thought of being late gives me anxiety and I get irritable. I respect people time and I want them to respect mine. I rather be some where two hours early than being 5 minutes late. I just don’t like being late. When people are late, it makes me feel that my time means nothing, or have nothing else to do and that my life revolves around them. Do you get the sense I hate being late, Joe?  : )

    •  Juan, that’s awesome that you take such consideration of people’s time that you’re willing to get there early, even extremely early.  It shows that you care about others and want to ensure you’re not wasting their time.

      And I don’t know… There’s still a little doubt that you hate being late. (-;

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  • It drives me nuts when this happens.  It’s definitely rude when someone schedules a meeting and doesn’t have the courtesy to keep the time.  As a leader, I try not to let this happen, but it can sometimes be a challenge when problems arise.  One way I have prevented this is to schedule buffer times into my calendar.  This provides some time for overflow.  Scheduling meetings on top of each other can create conflicts when a meeting doesn’t end on time.

    • Great way to help reduce the times and possibilities of being late. And, I think we all know, we’ll all be late at one point or another. It’s learning how to knock those times down and doing our best to be on time. 

  • Being on time is important to me. But now that I have 6 kids, including 2 adopted ones that are still adjusting, it has become more difficult. We do everything we can to be on time, but really appreciate it when others understand. 

    •  I bet that can be a handful to get together and be on time. There’s always room for grace though.

  • This is one of those things my wife and I used to CONSTANTLY fight about: her lateness. I mean it was just make me livid. But thank God she worked on it and made progress with it. Great post Joe!

    • I bet Mike. There were times like that in our household as well. Glad to hear your wife worked on her lateness and has made progress. Any tips for those out there that just can’t seem to get it?

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  • Honestly, this is one of those issues I’ve had to work hard to overcome. My problem is I’m always too optimistic about time…thinking I can get more done in less time or thinking I can get somewhere more quickly than is possible. I was bad with other professionals, but I was even worse with my family. I finally had to admit that each time I was late, I was disrespecting others and presenting myself as arrogant and self-centered. Ouch!

    I do much better today, but still have to fight my “optimistic time” temptation. Bottom line, being realistic about time (i.e. being ON time) is a way for me to show respect to others. It’s been humbling to learn this the hard way, but at least I’ve learned it. 

    •  Thanks for being honest Kent. The fact that you’ve realized being late shows a lack of respect to others is a huge step. Keep on improving my friend!

  • jeff

    Resentful.  I can be absolutely resentful of friends who abuse my tolerance for their lack of punctuality.  10 to 15 minutes are fine.  I could tolerate it more, when we are going to spend more than a couple hours together.  But if we’re just going to spend 60 to 90 minutes together, and they’re pushing the button — even if they update me on their arrival time — I literally throw up my hands.  It’s not worth waiting 20 minutes, if the time spent together is only 75 mintues.  I work around them.  Oftentimes, they are friends that I enjoy the most.  I rationalize that I need to learn their perspective about time, but it just doesn’t work anymore.

    •  I really like your honesty Jeff. Too often we try to hide our feelings and it causes more issues in the long run.

      I’m not sure if I’m with you that you need to learn their perspective about time. Time is the one thing we spend that can never be regained. Once that second, minute, or hour has passed, it’s gone forever.

      • jeff

        I know that I’ve gained sanity ever since I stopped tolerating lateness (in myself or others), that’s for sure.

  • Bugsypugsly

    Having been on several mission trips, I’ve observed other countries don’t honor punctuality like America does. We are told before we go,”Blessed are those who remain flexible for they will not get bent out of shape.”

    • Now that’s interesting. Why do you think other countries are less bothered by lateness?

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